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Which life form really dominates Earth?

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In 2018, there are around 7.6 billion people on the planet, but weigh us all together on a giant scale and we only make up 1/10,000 of Earth’s biomass. What is biomass? And what life forms dominate the rest of the planet? Chickens? Ants? Fungi? Bacteria?

Dr. Joe Hanson from It’s Okay to Be Smart explores which life form really dominates Earth and how humans have significantly and disproportionately changed the planet’s balance of life, despite our small contribution to the total, in this surprising statistic-filled episode.

Plus, see all life on Earth in one staggering Vox chart, a visual translation of a 2018 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:

What you’ll see… is a kind of tower of life. Each large block of this tower represents a gigaton of life, and the blocks are grouped into broad kingdoms. There are the protists (think microscopic life like amoebae), archaea (single-celled organisms somewhat similar to bacteria), fungi (mushrooms and other types of fungus), bacteria (you’re familiar with these, right?), plants, and animals.

As you can see, plants dominate our world. If the tower of life were an office building, plants would be the main tenants, taking up dozens of floors. Comparatively, all the animals in the world — seen in gray in the tower — are like a single retail shop (a trendy one, to be sure) on the ground floor.

And if we zoom in on all animal life, we again see how insignificant humans are compared to everyone else in the kingdom. Arthropods (insects) outweigh us by a factor of 17. Even the mollusks (think clams) weigh more.

Related reading: To truly grasp what we’re doing to the planet, you need to understand this gigantic measurement.

Watch more videos on this site: How deep have humans dug into Earth? How deep does the ocean go? And what is the Biggest Organism on Earth?

And: Why is biodiversity so important?

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