We’ve conquered every terrain, climbed every peak, and explored the ocean depths. There’s practically nowhere on this planet that people don’t live. We’ve built mega-cities, dammed vast rivers, and drilled deep below the surface of the Earth. Yes, humanity’s colossal impact on the globe can’t be denied: for good or ill, we’ve reshaped vast swathes of our environment. Yet while there’s not a lot of debate about our dominance as a species, the reasons behind why we’ve managed to become so preeminent are less obvious – and you might be surprised by one theory that scientists have developed.
“Dominant species” is a term you might have often heard used by ecologists. It means that there’s a particular type of animal (or plant) that isn’t only particularly plentiful in a certain environment but also has a disproportionate impact on the other living things around it. If you remove the dominant species then it means change for the entire ecosystem.
For example, when it comes to the deserts of North America, then one dominant species is the kangaroo rat. It’s well adapted to the hot, dry conditions with its ability to save water by not sweating. If it does encounter a threat then it may jump an astonishing 9 feet in the air to escape. It’s no wonder it’s abundant, but it’s also essential to other species because it helps spread plant seeds and is a plentiful supply of food for various predators such as snakes, owls, and coyotes.