When humans are eradicated from the planet, rats may become Earth’s new overlords. At least, that’s the result of a new thought experiment done by a group of researchers led by Jan Zalasiewicz at the University of Leicester. According to their research, rats have a proven talent for survival, having infiltrated almost every land mass and island on the planet and surviving despite all kinds of adversity. Because of that, it is likely that they will survive even when most other species die off.

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Mass extinctions are nothing new for Earth. Events like the dinosaur extinction and the Great Dying that took place 251 million years ago happen from time to time, wiping out the majority of creatures on the planet and leaving only the most resilient behind. Scientists believe that we are probably about ready for another mass extinction, whether it be from an errant meteor or man made climate change.

After surveying the current sample of life, the Leicester researchers found that the common rat may well be the most able to take over the planet. Other animals, such as cats and pigs, are also proven survivors, but none of them are as tough or ubiquitous as the rat. And if rats do take over, they would grow to much, much larger proportions, meaning that the future may not only be overrun by rats, but by massive rats. Luckily, it would take about three to 10 million years for this to happen, based on previous planet repopulations after a mass extinction, so humans are probably safe from a giant rat takeover – at least for now.

Zalasiewicz acknowledges that the idea is just a thought experiment. There is no way to test for and verify the idea. But it is an interesting way to bring focus to the issue of human-driven climate change. “We are very quickly, as humans, altering conditions on Earth, and that is remarkable and without precedent in Earth history,” Zalasiewicz told Live Science.

Via Huffington Post

Images from Tony Hisgett and Jean-Jacques Boujot