Last of the Giants: The Rise and Fall of Earth’s Most Dominant Species by Jeff CampbellToday, an ancient world is vanishing right before our eyes: the age of giant animals. Over 40,000 years ago, the earth was ruled by megafauna: mammoths and mastodons, saber-toothed tigers and giant sloths. Of course, those creatures no longer exist, due to the evolution and arrival of the wildly adaptive human species, among other factors. Many more of the worlds biggest and baddest creatures - including the black rhino, the dodo, giant tortoises, and the great auk - have vanished since our world became truly global. Last of the Giants chronicles those giant animals and apex predators who have been pushed to extinction in the modern era.
How Humans Evolved to Dominate Earth
Persistence truly does pay off, even if you have to endure the perspiration that comes with it. This is true right down to the biological and evolutionary level, and is in fact how we got here, as the apex predator of the planet. Millions of years ago, digestion consumed most of the calories we ate.
How did humans come to dominate the Earth?
In the newly released film, "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," humans and apes vie for dominance after a virus has made apes hyperintelligent while wiping out most humans. But though apes riding horses, reading and writing in English, and hunting like Stone Age humans is probably far-fetched, the idea of another species or life form dominating the planet isn't, scientists say. In fact, depending on how dominance is defined, other creatures may already be in charge, experts say. With humans around, it's very difficult for another superintelligent species to evolve, said Jan Zalasiewicz, a paleobiologist at the University of Leicester. Over several million years of evolution, modern humans have already outcompeted several primates and other human species, such as Denisovans, hobbitlike creatures dubbed Homo floresiensis , and Neanderthals , he said. Still, the movie's premise isn't too realistic. Apes are unlikely to supplant us, given that gorillas and chimpanzees are already struggling in the wild, with slightly more than , gorillas worldwide and less than , chimpanzees worldwide, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
I think this is something that most people would agree with, but probably for different reasons. I mean that as humans, we can physically change our environment based on what we learn from the environment. And we can collectively do that to a greater extent than any other species. The list of physical systems that have some control over their own persistence is pretty short. Everything else is fully at the whim of its environment. Life persists outside of equilibrium with its environment.
It should be obvious to anyone by now that there is something special about the human species. We are the most dominant species the planet has ever seen. How did this happen? Does intelligence always lead to dominance once it passes a threshold? Are we the most highly evolved or most advanced species? Does it even make sense to say that some species are more advanced than others?