Why haven't other animals developed effective defense mechanisms against humans?

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by YourOl' UncleEarl, Jan 9, 2018.

  1. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    31,068
    Hi,

    It depends on which animals you're talking about. Humans are large mammals, and we tend to compete for environmental resources most directly with other large mammals. On the other hand, we have enormous impacts on ecosystems on a global scale, mainly because there's just so damn many of us. To take a random example, there are currently about 750,000 elephants in existence, as an upper estimate. But there are 7 billion human beings: that's 7,000,000,000. So, for every elephant on the planet there are roughly 1000 human beings.

    As a species, humanity's big advantage over other mammals is our large brains, and tool use - technology. The current level of technology we have has developed in an evolutionary blink of an eye, which has meant that we have out-competed every other major predator on the planet in only the last 10,000 years or so.

    Restricted to "natural" defences, other animals are limited in what they can hope to achieve in encounters with human beings, especially in numbers. The best thing they can do, in general, is to hide or run away when they see humans coming - and most of them do exactly that.

    Moving away from large mammals, many species that do not share such close evolutionary niches with human beings have, until relatively recently, managed to co-exist with human beings without much conflict. However, non-domesticated species that we used for food are all suffering; witness the over-fishing of the oceans, to take one example. Many species are also "collateral damage" of human expansionism and activity. We cut down forests. We spoil otherwise pristine environments all over the world. We dump our waste on land and into the oceans. In the process, many species have been made extinct or brought to the edge of extinction.

    Now, of course, we are conducting an uncontrolled experiment in global climate engineering, which is already having negative impacts not only on other species but also on millions of human beings. And it will only get worse unless we get serious about doing something to mitigate the harm we are causing.

    Some species, of course, actually benefit from being around human beings. There are far more cats and dogs in the world than there would be without so many human beings. There are lots of microorganisms that thrive on human bodies and on human products.

    Having a bullet-resistant hide doesn't come without cost. Maintaining a thick hide means the animals probably needs to eat more food. It might also restrict its freedom of movement. Everything in evolutionary "fitness" is a tradeoff. An adaptation only makes evolutionary sense if, in context, it gives a net survival advantage.

    It could well be that if you're a tiger, it would be evolutionarily more advantageous to simply hide from human beings in the rainforest rather than growing a bullet-proof hide.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2018
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  3. Write4U Valued Senior Member

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    We have 5 cats and they run the house....

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  5. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Most of evolution has been co-development by various mechanisms - competition for resources engendering niche adaptations and predator/prey interactions engendering arms races, among them, but also symbiosis, mutualism, cooperative behaviors, essentially social structures. Any being that "won" would doom itself by destroying the relationships that maintained it.

    Viewed that way humans aren't "winning", but learning and teaching a new cooperation game. If they can figure it out, they will be successful and stay around as they are for ten million years or more. If they can't, they will destroy "themselves" (the foundations of the new game), the current era will have been a boom followed by a bust, the game will fall apart, and humans will be quite different beings in the future.
     
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  7. Gawdzilla Sama Valued Senior Member

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    Unless they adapted to the new situation. We have critters that live solely on specific other critters or one type of plant, and their fate is intertwined with those other lifeforms. But humans, as noted above, is a generalist.
     
  8. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    One can hope. But the situations to which humans can adapt and remain the humans we know do have some limits - and we probably don't know what they all are.

    Also, there's the incoming asteroid, glaciation, etc - even if all we lose by "winning" against various other beings and aspects of the world is the modern civilization, we fall into extreme vulnerability.
     
  9. Gawdzilla Sama Valued Senior Member

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    Thanks, Capt. Obvious.
     
  10. Write4U Valued Senior Member

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    Conclusion, leave the ecosphere alone at all costs. It is the earth's most precious asset. Rob it from its resilience to withstand local disturbances and you open Pandora's Box.
     
  11. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    Nope. Too late for that.
    At this point, it must be actively conserved if it is to continue. Humans already have too much impact on the ecosphere to just let it be.
    For example:
    - habitats such as forests are already divided up by human barriers, leaving large swaths of treeless, paved land that animals have trouble crossing. They will not be able to maintain their breeding population unless we actively help them.
    - cod require millions to breed. We may already have extincted them by weeding their numbers down too low.
    - passenger pigeons, like cod, breed well only in flocks of millions. Once we'd wiped out enough - even through there were still millions of them around, they were already biologically extinct.
     
  12. Write4U Valued Senior Member

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    You are right, the damage has been mostly done. My statement was more philosophical than practical.

    Problem is where to start fixing the problem, there seems to be many parts to the puzzle, each which might be critical. Of course restricting CO2 emissions is a must, but the domino effect is already becoming clear, so where can we break this cascading phenomenon?

    I have already suggested massive use of industrial hemp, instead of wood or plastic products.
    The beneficial results would be manifold. 1 acre of hemp, produces as much biomass as 20 acres of trees, due to its short growing time, producing several crops per year. Cut a tree down and you have to wait 20 years to grow it back. OTOH, Hemp actually fixes the soil and makes for excellent crop rotation. And of course, due to its short maturing period, Hemp is a CO2 hog.

    I was glad to hear growing Hemp has become legal again in the US, though it has been used for centuries in other countries.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2018
  13. birch Valued Senior Member

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    its mindblowing when it dawns on you how much of a dumpster fire people actually are. it endlessly amazes me in a not so delightful way to realize that i'm not the smartest cookie in the jar yet i don't even do half the stupidity and nonsense most people do to cause or add problems on this planet such as over-consume, waste, cause problems for others, or don't mind their own business. just those simple things i mentioned make up for most humans that populate the earth and that doesn't even include the worst people and the greater damage they do with no conscience.

    humans kind of as a species don't really deserve to exist as they think, at least most, to be honest.

    i've deduced it to some type of insanity (most) or that basic wisdom (sanity) is the more rare quality in people. this is probably true pattern wise to most lifeforms.

    it's also contemptible when you realize that you aren't rare because you are fuked up (as the rabid, narcisssitic and unethical majority have stomped on you to believe), but you are rare because the majority are actually the real crazy ones. you realize this when you live by a better code, real ethics and higher ideals and vision for the world than they do.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2018
  14. Gawdzilla Sama Valued Senior Member

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    That was fair warning to our successors.
     
  15. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    Is it possible to have any discussion on Sci-Fo without the obligatory "See? Humans are dicks!" digression?

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    birch likes this.
  16. Gawdzilla Sama Valued Senior Member

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    "If all you have is a hammer..."
     
  17. birch Valued Senior Member

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    lol
     

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