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Life After Humans: Racoons

  1. Oct 10, 2016 #1
    Okay, first in a possible series of thought experiments*. Humans fall prey to Captain Tripps (the SuperFlu for you East Coast gangstas) and is wiped out. This leaves room for another species to take over as the dominant critters on the planet. What challenges do they face?

    Raccoon are a favorite of mine for this. They have reasonable hands, they're clever, and they adapt easily to different environments. They're now a urban species and doing well in our shadow.

    Would they necessarily need bipedalism? They can carry limited items now and a boost in size would help that further. (I've seen speculation that we gained size/stature before our brain developed, leading to a chicken/egg debate.


    *Octopi are on the list, anyone can start that one, I'm not territorial. Bound to be some I haven't thought of.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 10, 2016 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    How will they eat if there are no people to put food in garbage cans for them?
  4. Oct 10, 2016 #3
    MacDonalds will still be producing garbage. ;)
  5. Oct 12, 2016 #4
    How about this fellow....

  6. Oct 12, 2016 #5
    I think he ruined it for everybody else, what with the bleak picture he painted of the process. Serious, FOUR BILLION UNITS!!!
  7. Oct 13, 2016 #6
    He was my favorite in that film, but if you don't like Rocket, perhaps a candidate from the distant past?


    It always kind of bugged me that dinosaurs had millions of years and, as far as we know, they never produced what we would consider a sentient being. Troodon looked like the very basic beginning of such a creature. The section in the link above takes that notion to a theoretical conclusion had they not been cut off by mass extinction.
  8. Oct 13, 2016 #7
    I'm familiar with that thought experiment. A Nobel awaits the person that fully describes the reason one line of mammals did in 65 million years what dinos didn't do in twice that amount of time.
  9. Oct 14, 2016 #8
    I agree. We can't absolutely rule out that an intelligent life form similar to the one described in the link did not emerge at some point. It's possible that a non-mammalian, primitive sentient being walked the Earth at some point in the distant past and was wiped out. It does seem, however, that for a long time nature favored brawn over brains until very recently. Whatever that Nobel-worthy answer is, it would likely shed some light on Fermi's Great Silence.
  10. Dec 29, 2016 #9
    I think raccoons would be an excellent species to step in and fill our shoes. Given time, they could develop greater dexterity.
  11. Jan 9, 2017 #10
    I doubt there is another species poised to evolve in our absence and take over humanity's role right away. Even Raccoons. So there'd be a lot of evolution involved, and evolution takes time. Time enough that there's no way to know what might have access to the resources and pressures needed to evolve into something intelligent enough to wonder if humans ever existed.

    My personal guess though is Jellyfish. Yeah, they're less than stupid. But, they are aquatic, diverse and populous. They can act as a group and can communicate between them. And frankly, I like the idea of a hive mind. :)
  12. Jan 9, 2017 #11
    I think it would depend on what happened to US. If it was a Armageddon then we'd be looking at something that could survive that to eventually replace us. If it was a virus that specialized in humans then some other mammal would be at the head of the line, I think.
    For aquatics I'd go for the octopus, if they could either get the male to feed the female while she's watching the eggs or have the male take over the young when the female dies. This would be, I believe, the only two ways knowledge could be passed on. (And now someone will come up with six other ways...)
  13. Jan 11, 2017 #12
    To answer one of your questions, human ancestors stood up long before our brains started getting much bigger. Lucy stood upright, but was mentally just an ape.

    In 2014 in Rising Star Cave in South Africa, Lee Berger found a treasure trove of hundreds of humanoid fossils dating to about one million years ago. Humans were still a long way off and our other relatives at the time had pretty small brains. These guys did too, but what made the cave special was the fact that it was incredibly hard to access. Furthermore, it would have been equally difficult to access a million years ago, so they didn't fall in. There was also ONLY the humanoid bones, no other animals so it was not the den of some predator. Additionally, the ages of the skeletons were either elderly or almost newborn, with a gap in the middle. That's exactly what'd you'd expect when digging up a burial site, but from a species that predated us by a million years. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rising_Star_Cave Burying your dead, to that extent is ridiculously complex, abstract behavior, we're not even sure Neanderthals did that.

    I highly recommend the 2015 documentary on it, it's on YouTube.
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2017
  14. Jan 11, 2017 #13
    I've watched the Homo naledi video a blue million times, plus the additional material on Youtube.
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