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  1. #1

    Default If Humans Went Extinct, Could Another Species Evolve To Occupy Our Niche?

    If humans were suddenly wiped out but all other species on Earth survived, do you think another would eventually evolve to a similar state and take over our niche? Could one of the apes (chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, etc) evolve over several million years to a level comparable to our current development, and if so, would they look similar to modern Humans and have similar civilizations? If not apes, could birds or another species evolve to occupy the niche left open by extinct humans? What would an advanced birdrace civilization look like; would they even build a civilization comparable to ours without opposable thumbs? What about sealife, do you think there are any ocean-dwelling species that could potentially evolve to build underwater civilizations? Could another mammalian branch eventually evolve to our level of sentience and beyond? Superadvanced cat people? Dog people? Etc? What about rats or raccoons? Could they evolve to an intelligent bipedal species?

    I realize technically species don't evolve into more advanced versions of themselves but rather deveop and adapt over time to the point that branchoffs aren't even the same species, but humor me. I want to know if super-intelligent Cat people and reptilians and etc. is a possibility.Vould any species follow a path, via convergent evolution, to develop into intelligent bidedal organisms?

    Also do you think it's possible on Earth or a hypothetical life-supporting planet for multiple super-intelligent species to evolve at the same time? Our own evidence would suggest no, as there were several species oh intelligent hominids at one point, but homo sapiens won out, but could it be possible, like the Xindi from Star Trek Enterprise? If they developed in relative isolation from one another, I don't see why not. Imagine for example an advanced bird-like race and an advanced cat-like race occupying separate continents.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    I can see reason why is would be impossible. The question is more a matter of probability.

    If humans went extinct, one certainly wouldn't expect a replacement over night. It took quite a while for the earth to get even one species with civilization. The question is whether the earth would still be habitable after the time it takes for another one to arise. We have almost nothing to go on to answer this. The earth is are our lone sample, so just about anything that happened here could be normal or it could be an aberration. Maybe it doesn't usually take that long for civilized species to appear, and earth would actually get one reasonably soon after human extinction. Maybe we were unusually quick, and the odds of a successor are very low. Who knows, maybe when there's life on a planet, the odds of species becoming civilized increases over time. I don't just mean in the sense that time for it to happen is passing, but in the sense that life on the planet increasingly evolves into forms that can readily be civilized. *shrug*

    I've thought a lot about what a civilized species would have to be like, and my conclusion is that it can be pretty damn different from a human. All it needs is some kind of fine manipulators that it can keep free for a good part of the time, some acute senses, and a sufficient degree of intelligence. I strongly suspect that all technologically advanced organisms would be social, and they'd have altricial offspring. For that, they'd probably need a fast, projectable form of communication. So sight, hearing, electrical detection like a shark, those would probably be good. Outside of that, the sky is probably the limit. So I don't think a civilized life form, even on earth, would necessarily have to seem much like a human. Look at some of the most intelligent non-human animals already on earth. Parrots. Dolphins. Elephants. You could even say octopuses. There's not a lot of resemblance. And given the uncertainty about how long this will take, who knows what there will be in the future. It might not be an organism closely related to any of the intelligent animals I just mentioned or apes. Seeing as how we and the cephelapods do not share an ancestor that even had a brain intelligence can clearly crop up pretty independently.

    With multiple intelligent life forms on one planet, I again see no reason it couldn't happen. It undoubtedly sounds less probable, first of all just for basic statistical reasons. I do think there's also a risk of fatal competition, but it depends on a number of things. How advanced are we talking? If we're looking at paleolithic type creatures, that seems like it would be much easier to work out than two industrially civilized creatures, because industrial civilization is very greedy. It also depends on the planet, how big is it and how hospitable is it for the life that's on it? It would be a mistake to assume that life is equally easy for organisms on every planet. Life probably struggles to developed on some planets much more than it does here, other places are probably a comparative paradise for their host organisms. The less difficult it is to survive, the more plausible the co-existence of intelligent life forms become. Lastly, it depends on how much they share interests. Part of the problem for the various hominids is that we were extremely closely related and physiologically similar. That meant we all basically needed the same things, and fought over the same things. But could humans co-exist will civilized parrots? That seems a lot more viable, because we want different things and neither of us need directly prey on the other. There are other ways this could work, animals that need much less water but hate humidity vs ones that just the opposite. One could take the Congo, the other takes the Sahara. And since I mentioned dolphins and octopuses, any intelligent life that forms in the water will probably have very reduced conflict with intelligent life on the land.

    Based on the absurd quantity of solar systems in the universe, I'm almost sure this is happening somewhere. There's probably also a solar system that has multiple planets that independently harbor intelligent life at the same time.
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  3. #3

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    I thought it was implied it wouldn't happen overnight. Let's assume we'd be looking at millions of years of evolution in the very least. Barring a major catastrophe, this planet should be able to support life for a very long time.

    How about apes? Do you think any of those species might evolve to where humans are over the course of millions of years? Given their close relation to Homo sapiens, would they eventually resemble something very similar to us in their culture and appearance? It could be argued they already do resemble us in many regards, with chimps bearing the closest resemblance to humans in terms of social development.
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    Talk to me. Merced's Avatar
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    mosquitoes
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    Senior Member Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anaximander View Post
    I thought it was implied it wouldn't happen overnight. Let's assume we'd be looking at millions of years of evolution in the very least. Barring a major catastrophe, this planet should be able to support life for a very long time.

    How about apes? Do you think any of those species might evolve to where humans are over the course of millions of years? Given their close relation to Homo sapiens, would they eventually resemble something very similar to us in their culture and appearance? It could be argued they already do resemble us in many regards, with chimps bearing the closest resemblance to humans in terms of social development.
    Well, I would think that if it were apes, which are as small a denomination as a super-family, and are currently damn near extinct outside of humanity, would suggest that this would have to happen in one of the scenarios of pretty immediate succession. So I think it could still happen, but that makes it seem less likely to me.

    I would think that if a different group of apes became civilized, you would likely become bipedal, with the necessary anatomy that entails, because that's clearly the easiest route to being to freely manipulate things. One would expect a brain change, but it's not necessarily clear it would go down the same path as us in terms of having a huge forehead, but we'd expect a higher encephalization quotient, and I bet longer brain developed post-gestation. I don't know how finely any apes can communicate, so they might have changes to their mouths, tongues, vocal cords, etc. But again, that may resemble human beings, but it may not, as I would think there are other ways to achieve that.

    I suppose the humanlike quality I'd least expect is hairlessness. As far as I understand, our lack of hair came from circumstances that have jack squat to do with our intelligence. We lived in a hot place and we ran a lot, and that's basically the story. So I think it's easy to imagine some other ape getting around to advanced intelligence without going through an evolutionary phase that causes hair loss.

    Quote Originally Posted by Merced View Post
    mosquitoes
    That is the worst possible future.
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    I'm going to write a longer post advocating why birdpeople should exist. Yeah, that's the ticket.
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    Senior Member Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Osprey View Post
    I'm going to write a longer post advocating why birdpeople should exist. Yeah, that's the ticket.
    Is this an election now?

    "I nominate birds to succeed human civilization"
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    This reminds me of a picture-heavy book about this that I found in the library once as a kid. All I remember about it is that the hottest contender for the former human niche was tentacle apes. They were called squibbons (squid + gibbon). Yes. I am bringing this up not because of any expertise on my part, but because "squibbon" is an awesome word that I wish I'd come up with first.
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  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Magic Poriferan View Post
    Well, I would think that if it were apes, which are as small a denomination as a super-family, and are currently damn near extinct outside of humanity, would suggest that this would have to happen in one of the scenarios of pretty immediate succession. So I think it could still happen, but that makes it seem less likely to me.

    I would think that if a different group of apes became civilized, you would likely become bipedal, with the necessary anatomy that entails, because that's clearly the easiest route to being to freely manipulate things. One would expect a brain change, but it's not necessarily clear it would go down the same path as us in terms of having a huge forehead, but we'd expect a higher encephalization quotient, and I bet longer brain developed post-gestation. I don't know how finely any apes can communicate, so they might have changes to their mouths, tongues, vocal cords, etc. But again, that may resemble human beings, but it may not, as I would think there are other ways to achieve that.

    I suppose the humanlike quality I'd least expect is hairlessness. As far as I understand, our lack of hair came from circumstances that have jack squat to do with our intelligence. We lived in a hot place and we ran a lot, and that's basically the story. So I think it's easy to imagine some other ape getting around to advanced intelligence without going through an evolutionary phase that causes hair loss.



    That is the worst possible future.
    So you think chimp men in 10,000,000 AD may look a bit like Connery or Robin Williams circa 1977?

  10. #10
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    The periodic table for instance would be the same in any civilization, as would relativity and quantum mechanics, as would natural selection, as would cosmology. Any civilisation would think the same things we do, except for religions.

    However we know that large celled animals like us have short evolutionary life spans, so we can assume we will become extinct in a relatively short evolutionary time.

    So far we only know that civilisation has evolved on only one planet.

    And we know that natural selection is not teleological, it does not have a direction, so it doesn't have a direction towards consciousness.

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