Land Mammals of the Earth and their Wild Brethren

Randall Munroe used data from Vaclav Smil’s The Earth’s Biosphere: Evolution, Dynamics, and Change (“plus a few other sources”) to create a visualization of all of Earth’s land mammals, which include us, by weight.

Land Mammals
[click to enlarge]
Link to the original article in here. I guess I have to buy Smil’s book to learn more about what the other green blocks are, besides the elephants. I have not verified that data, but if it’s valid, it is astonishing.

According to Smil’s data, the animals in the world are humans and their food. Humans, cattle, pigs goat and sheep make up the almost all the mammalian biomass on earth. All other mammals, the wild animals of the world, all of them together have less biomass than the goats. 34 million tons of wild animals versus 39 million tons of goats.

When I see this, suddenly I am just a bit more proud for being a treehugger at heart. I want to do more to help preserve nature for the wild animals to have a chance.

An interesting concept to keep in mind when looking at this: Should something happen to humanity, like a major disease or an apocalyptic war, our food animals would quickly disappear. Sheep, goats and cattle are not independent and smart enough to survive on their own in the wild, and their populations would quickly be decimated to a minor role or possibly even extinction. They only exist in their current form because humans created them that way. Massive amounts of habitat would open up again for the wild animals, their predators would thrive again, and the world would quickly become “wild.”

This reminds me of two books: Stephen King’s The Stand and George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides, both excellent books, by the way, dealing with what the world would be like after humans are decimated.

Here is an example of wild animals returning to nature that recently made headlines. An excellent video of the effect of wolves in Yellowstone, how the literally change the flow of rivers.


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