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The Grameozoic & The Ascogene; Post Apocalyptic Scenario - Life Forms 150 and 250 Million Years in the Future
Topic Started: Jul 17 2010, 10:58 PM (8,320 Views)
Clarke
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Earth in the Near Future
Note: I do not claim this scenario to be an accurate prediction of the next three hundred years. While I believe a good deal of it is at least partially accurate, no doubt some of it, including the severity of the extinction event, is unfounded. This is not because I want to see the end of the human race, but because I wish to establish a world in which only a few groups of organisms survive. One might also consider the tendency humans have to destroy things, whether it be intentional or not. :P

The apocalypse that was to establish the great orders of life for the rest of Earth's existence, like most other extinctions, was a series of smaller events punctuated by a great cataclysm. Whether it be the gradual shrinking of sea levels prior to the cosmic fury that ended the Cretaceous, or the numerous changes in climate leading up to the sudden increase in volcanism that marked the end of the Permian, extinctions have always been a slow decline leading up to "the straw that broke the camel's back". The only differences between these and the H-G disaster that ended the Holocene were the cause of the disaster and its severity. Of course, the disaster was caused by humans.

Tool using organisms, while rare, are more common than you would think. Certain octupi, crows and ravens, even otters can use tools. What marked the difference between them and humans was how they thought about tools. For all of those animals, tool use is a useful advantage and nothing more. Most use it to get slightly more food, or to provide shelter, but could easily live without it. For humans, tools became essential. As the great forests of northern Africa shrank, early hominids were forced out onto the grassland. They already used tools, but it was ingrained. A hammer used to crack nuts wasn't passed on from mother to child, but was an instinct. Shoved out into a hostile environment, however, tools became the only advantage the hominids had. And so they adapted. Their brain grew larger, and started to see connections between things in the natural and social worlds. Suddenly, a tool was something that could be refined, not through the slow process of natural selection, but through the far rapid process of innovation. Hominids blossomed, waves of adaptive primates radiating from their homeland, until the first anatomically humans lived, died, and innovated, causing havoc everywhere they went. Most animals larger than a human were extinct by the industrial revolution, and the destruction only grew. By 2010 C.E., the extinction event wrought by humans was already the sixth largest in Earth's history.

But there was hope for a turn-around. The internet and other information technology made the public aware of the global climate change and extinctions; groups rallied around saving the remaining large mammals and birds. A host of funding for new, "green" technologies led to a seemingly exponential growth rate of "renewable energy". Farmers markets and reusable tote bags seemed to be the new style, Hummers became even bigger objects of ridicule, and events such as the Gulf Oil Spill forced the government to make changes to environmental policy. The global population seemed on the verge of uniting humanity over environmental issues, and hope for the future overshadowed the problems that were sure to go away as long as mankind pushed against them.

Of course, it was soon after when things started to get bad. Almost all energy still came from fossil fuels, transportation still released ludicrous amounts of CO2, and industrial meat farms still contributed up to a third of greenhouse gases. But far more sinister were the threats that were not being watched by man. They were aware that the ice caps were melting more and more rapidly, but expected a slight rise in sea levels to be the result. All but a few thought about the vast quantities of methane lodged underneath the caps in permafrost, and as large sections of ice gave way, things started to get ugly.

People were well aware that, if all the ice caps were to collapse, the sea level would rise considerably. They were not aware, however, that if all ice were to melt, the sea level would raise an astounding 100 meters. Of course this didn't happen at once. Indeed, by 2061, the total sea level rise was "only" 10 meters. Almost all coastal cities had had time to react, and had gradually transferred further and further inland. Already there were refugees, however. Almost all coral atolls had vanished, and the entire southern half of Florida had been covered in water. The reason 2061 is a significant date is that it was at that time the west antarctic ice sheet begun collapsing. By 2087, the world had hit the important 100 meter mark, and was completely different than the world today.

100 Meter Prediction

As you can see in the photo linked to above, the consequences would prove to be devastating. The four major population centers had become archipelagos, if not completely inundated at all, and almost all national capitols had been flooded. With a population of near 11.4 Billion, the world descended into near-anarchy. Corporations, growing in power since their creation, quickly imposed some order. Large, walled-in enclaves provided shelter for those workers higher up in the company hierarchy, about .4 percent of the total world population. The rest, the vast majority, experienced a type of poverty unmatched in current third-world countries. The land was stripped of almost all vegetation, and soon items such as "grass stew", "fried roach", and "boiled bark" became dietary staples of the world, and even the flora and fauna that composed those food items became progressively rarer and rarer. What remained of the rainforests(and, indeed, most forests period) were soon demolished. An aerial photograph of the earth would have seen the blue-green marble of today, but vast swaths of mud-colored land, seemingly bleeding into the sea as the topsoil was washed away. Massive farms consisting of genetically engineered corn were where the poor found their food, but we shall get to that later.

This arrangement, a total anarchy the likes of which the earth had never seen before, proved to be remarkably stable. Indeed, it lasted for over two hundred years. But already, things began to fall apart. Even now the very best genetically engineered corn could barely make a living on what pitiful, sandy soil remained, the oceans were polluted wastelands, and the poor began to mass riot as food became virtually nonexistent. As their great gates collapsed, the corporations scrambled to retain what scattered remains of their world order were left. This was perhaps the worst time for Yellowstone to erupt. Actually a great volcano, Yellowstone had been hibernating for millennium. Often the focus of doomsday scenarios, it is ironic that the time it chose to erupt was a time in which almost nothing else could have gone wrong. Then again, it had to be something. As the great clouds of gas choked the remaining photosynthetic life, and all infrastructure collapsed, the final corporations chose to lease their nuclear stockpiles, remnants of wars centuries past, on one another. The toxic cloud resulting from this made the short nuclear winter promised by the eruption magnitudes worse. As photosynthesis hibernated, the fauna of the world were left struggling with what little resources they had left. Cold reformed the icecaps, and cannibalism along with it and the pure toxicity of the environment started to kill the vast majority of humans still left. But still swarms remained, and these ravaged what little species were left standing. Gradually, these humans lost their trust in each other, lost their social nature, lost language, lost tools. We can only imagine what the last human left alive felt, gazing at a flat landscape covered in toxic snow and devoid of all life but himself. Perhaps he didn't comprehend what he saw, as some argue language is the key to consciousness, and language had been lost generations ago. What he certainly couldn't have realized that out of this disaster would emerge a completely different order of life, one in which would seem eerily familiar and disturbingly alien at the same time.
Brahma
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Wow, great post. :) .
What survived this extinction.
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Clarke
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Thanks! :D I'll get to what survived in a bit - probably either tomorrow or the day after. There's a hint to the type of dominant flora in the name "Grameozoic", though.
Edited by Clarke, Jul 17 2010, 11:20 PM.
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dialforthedevil
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This seems to be a very well thought out project :D i am looking forward to more ^_^
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Clarke
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The Grameozoic - Age of Grasses

The following multicellular species survived the H-G extinction event. Each's story will be told in greater detail later on.

Kingdom Plantae:

- Some members of Genus Polystichum(Genus of ferns widely distributed-to the point of being considered invasive-in the later half of the 21'st century because of their use as hardy houseplants.)

- Genetically modified members of Division Ginkgophyta(Ginkgo Tree).

- Genetically modified members of Tribe Bambuseae(Bamboos).

- Highly genetically modified species modified from Zea mays(Maize).

- Various species of highly genetically modified and hybridized "common" grasses - most notably species which share many genes with Cynodon dactylon(Bermuda Grass)

Animalia:

Terrestrial Animals:

- Gallus gallus domesticus(Common Chicken)

- Rattus norvegicus(Brown Rat)

- Heavily genetically modified "decedent" of Rhacophorus nigropalmatus(Wallace's Tree Frog)

- Many Insect species went extinct due to the H-G event, as well as all Arachnids, Myriapods, and terrestrial Gastropods . Most notable extinctions were the demise of Superorders Orthoptera(Grasshoppers, Crickets, and Locusts), Mantodea(Mantis), Phthiraptera(Lice), Hymenoptera(Ants, Bees, and Wasps), and Siphonaptera(Fleas).

Marine Animals:

- All marine animals that survived the H-G extinction are decedents of members of Phylums Gastropoda and Annelida, as well as Subphylum Crustacea, that inhabited various hydrothermal vents before the extinction.

Kingdom Fungi

Nearly half of all multicellular, specialized fungi survived the extinction. Most Lichens became extinct, though they rapidly regained diversity.
Edited by Clarke, Jul 22 2010, 08:53 AM.
Brahma
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The human extinction can't be worse than the P-Tr.

Anyways, how are vertebrates supposed to even survive if almost all invertebrates go extinct??? I mean gastrapods yes, but amphibians if it's that bad? Also, how can 99% of all insects go extinct? At the very least at least 50% will survive, and that's looking at a very bad extinction.
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Canis Lupis
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You did WHAT in my abscence?!

I've got to agree with Pando on this one. Loved the introductory post, especially the way it was worded.

But P-Tr, the worst extinction our planet has so far faced, only wiped out 95% of life on Earth. 30% of that was arthropods.

If I may make a suggestion, this seems like P-Tr on steroids. P-Tr left a world ruled by dinos, crocs, and birds (forget the group name. Anapsids, right?) and it wiped out most of the synapsids and other notable groups. In preparation for a portion of "The Future of the Kinds", I found this was mostly due to the intense volcanism and oceanic methane escape, giving anapsids (with efficient lungs) a huge advantage.

For your extinction, I might suggest looking at the P-Tr extinction (which bears a striking similarity (with a touch of humanity ;) ) to your extinction) and bumping the death toll up a bit.

30% of arthropods in P-Tr? 50% in H-G.

Most synapsids in P-Tr? All synapsids in H-G.

And so on and so forth.







Unless of course, you're goal is to produce a world from a small stock of animals and see how they diversify. If that's the case, your current extinction list will do just fine. But if aiming for plausibility, I'd lessen the severity a bit.
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Ook
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i can imagine earth in future,where many local species of insect go extinct.Biggest biodiverzity of insects are in rainforests,which are most vulerable ecosystem and many species live in relative small areas,like one valley etc.

i caint wait to see gastropod and annelid analogues of fish
maybe that frog could produce tadpoles,which will be adult,just like axolotl,and later they could became neo-salamanders,or more crazy idea,analogues of crocodiles
Edited by Ook, Jul 19 2010, 02:17 AM.
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The Dodo
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I think the word your looking for there Canis is Archosaurs, anapsids are things like turtles.
I agree with Pandorasaurus and Canis Lupis, the extinction on the athropods needs to be toned down a bit. I think at least some arachnids and myriapods would survive.
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Clarke
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Well, what I was aiming for was a bit similar to a combination of the books Oryx and Crake, On the Beach, and The Road. I imagine three steps:

- Normal Pollution, over hunting/fishing, and slash-and-burn agriculture kill many species. Marine cycles especially disrupted, coral reefs, cetaceans, and penguins dissappear. Over fishing reduces fish populations to a fraction of today's levels.

- Mass human starvation on a scale much greater than that seen in third world countries, or in any famine, caused by large population and constriction of by massive flooding-basically 12 billion humans attempting to lead a hunter gatherer lifestyle on less productive and less available land; anything remotely edible is ingested, even if it isn't digested, just to keep their bellies full. Remaining trees are chopped down to serve as wood for fires, and the land becomes basically lifeless except what remains underground. Meanwhile gated communities are established for the remaining aristocracy. Mass farms limited to the most profitable animals and plants, chickens and corn, provide some food for the poor that work in factories, while bamboo replaces hard-tree wood farms The gated communities host the remainder of the world's wealth and .4 percent of the population: their suburbs maintain a relatively healthy stock of various newly created forms of ginkgo and grasses modified to withstand the rampant pollution of the era, as well as various genetically modified "toy" organisms. Pests such as pigeons, rats, and insects are not tolerated, various plagues are engineered to spread through their populations. The mindset of this era seems to be "the world's gonna end soon, might as well splurge while we can". Corporations become highly aggressive, and a mere few remain, all practicing extreme vertical monopoly, and these actually war against each other using masses of poor promised food. Nuclear stockpiling as well as acquiring the world's previous stockpiles, which at the time of the great flood hesitated around 30,000(in contrast, today's number hangs around 24, 000), gave the nations a combined stockpile of around 50,000. The massive amounts of soot from fires already thrown in the air have actually reduced the temperature by a degree, and reduced light levels slightly. At the same time increased tectonic activity is being observed around the world. Some geologists theorize its origin to be in the rapid melting and slight reformation of ice redistributing the weight of water on the tectonic plates.

- Yellowstone erupts, as a symptom of the global climatic change. Seeing the final apocalypse, the corporations unleash their nuclear stockpiles on one another. This nuclear winter, along with both Yellowstone and other volcanoes that are either forming or emerging from dormancy due to the increased volcanism, creates an environment of both constant cold and constant near-night. Lasting for a few centuries, photosynthesis becomes near-impossible. Humans quickly reduce in numbers, but the resulting cannibalism keeps them afloat for a hundred and fifty years or so. All land life becomes focused on what food remains underground, and a few vertebrae manage to survive off of the insects that subsist on roots and decaying vegetation. Marine ecosystems suffer worse. Plankton quickly either die or become endospores - destroying the overwhelming majority of all marine life. Even the organic particle rain that feeds much of the abyssal plains stop, and even the sulphuric whalefall communities run out of food in a century or so. A few low food-chain animals manage to survive around the hydrothermal vents.

So as you can see, the purpose of this is to produce as few survivors as possible. You're right though - 99% of insects is stretching it quite a bit. I'll leave out a percentage and simply update those super orders that went extinct.
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ATEK Azul
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I think Canis Lupus was looking for the word Diapsid.

Also I completely agree with how the extinction goes though I am more optimistic about the number of surviving species.

Also I like how your wording and displaying your scenario.

One thing I would like to say is that recently it has been found that activity in the earth like major earthquakes(which is how they found out) and volcanism can shift the orbit and/or tilt of the planet. and most likely mass nuclear detonations would also work. Now I am not entirely sure if it effects both tilt and orbit or only one but I would bet both.

Over all good job.
I am dyslexic, please ignore the typo's!
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Clarke
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Kingdom Plantae Survivors

The plants that would survive the H-G extinction were to have a profound effect on the evolutionary history of Earth. Indeed, the Grameozoic is named after the dominant group of plants of that era - grasses. Grasses were already beginning to displace other angiosperms before the H-G extinction. While the traditional human image of "wilderness" conjured up images of dense forest, ridden with thick vines and undergrowth, this was actually a creation of humans. Pre-humans, the landscape was dominated by large herbivores, their size suited to host large stomachs capable of breaking down the cellulose in their diet of grass. The adaption that made grass so successful was that their stems were actually contained underground - what was visible were the leaves of the plants. This allowed them to withstand both the trampling of large mammals and those same organism's constant eating, as it is much easier to regrow leaves than stem. The herbivores also found small saplings to their liking, and so trees found it hard to encroach on habitat dominated by grass. For a time before the evolution of humans, much of the world was dominated by a mixture of grasslands and forests. To an observer looking back at those times, it might appear that the grasses were poised to dominate the world just like angiosperms had done in a world of gymnosperms, and gymnosperms in a world of ferns and horsetails, and so on. Perhaps they would be correct in that assumption. However, time didn't lend the grasses favor. Ironically, as grasses reduced the coverage of forests a certain group of early hominids were pushed out of their native habitat and forced into a hostile and alien world, spurring brain development. It was not long before these over-hunted many large animals in Africa and almost all animals larger than themselves elsewhere; with no large mammals to cut down saplings the trees began to spread once more. This was just a brief respite, though, as soon man was burning down the forests to provide nutrients and room for grasses they had selected for their own use; corn, rice, wheat, and barley were grown to feed rapidly rising populations, and domesticated grazers such as cows and goats soon required pastures to feed. Genetics produced better strains of these crops, and as humanity entered into its final death throes they remained some of the last survivors of the plant kingdom. Thick-trunked strains of bamboo had long ago replaced hardwoods in wood farms, as they were both hardy and grew at ridiculous rates that were sure to turn a profit even in the weak soil that was left. Corn had been engineered to more resemble "common" grasses - plants could originate from runners, and after farmers had cut them down-selling the corn to be processed into raw materials for food industries and the plant itself for use as fuel-the corn could regrow from its roots. "Common" grasses were among the only plants left in the wild, and better and better drought and pollution resistant strains were being produced frequently.

Ginkgoesand ferns were another story. All three survived because of humans, one way or another. Ferns became popular houseplants, and often became invasive species in some areas. Engineered to become hardier than their natural ancestors, a fern's leaves could die back during a drought and regrow from the base when rain fell. Ginkgo became the choice tree in those same communities; already used frequently in cities before the flood because of their hardiness and resistance to pollution, genetically engineered strains only further developed those abilities.

Not surprisingly, the plants that survived the extinction were all genetically modified. All managed to survive the centuries of darkness because of the hardiness of the plants, much of which was imparted to them by human engineers. The grasses and fern's roots managed to survive, most perishing to decay but a few surviving the apocalypse, not the least because of their natural resistance to bacteria and the environment's toxicity to even microbes. One or two stands of Ginkgo out of thousands also managed to miraculously survive, all leaves falling off but a few bits of stalks remaining, poking up through the snow.
Edited by Clarke, Jul 22 2010, 08:55 AM.
Brahma
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What about moss, lichens and algae, do any of them survive?
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Cephylus
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A very interesting project. :D I also like how you are wording this project.
I'd also like more on vertebrates
Edited by Cephylus, Jul 21 2010, 06:55 AM.
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Clarke
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Jul 21 2010, 02:24 AM
What about moss, lichens and algae, do any of them survive?
Moss didn't survive. Lichen and Algae did, its just that they're not in Kingdom Plantae. Well at least Lichens aren't, I'm not sure if some green algae is or not, especially because Kingdom Protista is in limbo while they're still reclassify stuff. I'm going to cover algae when I get to marine animals, anyways.

And yeah, land vertebrates up next.
Brahma
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