We Homo sapiens did us very well. We have built whole civilizations and used the resources of our planet to build suitable homes in inhospitable parts of the world. We have found out how to fight infections and overcome many hereditary diseases. We can visit almost any part of the world relatively easily and even begin to explore the universe outside the cozy atmosphere of the earth. We made it to the top of the food chain.
We deliberately put distance between ourselves and most of the other animals. In a way, that's a good thing. But it also means that we often do not appreciate how incredible these other species are.
Behold, the greatest creature that ever covered the earth, the blue whale. At about the size of 1
Blue Whales are the largest members of the Rorqualwale family, which in turn are the largest of the Baleen Whale order. In fact, scientists believe that they are the largest animal that has ever existed on the planet. They could also be the largest animal that is physically possible. We are about as tall for her as the main food source for krill blue whales.
In the beginning it helps to live in the water: living in the ocean means that gravity does not pull on the bones of a mammal as it would if they lived on land. But there are still physical limitations on how big a sea creature can become.
Blue Whales eat up to 8,000 pounds of krill a day, which means they have to take large amounts of water into the room, which they filter through dense keratin bristles lining their mouths. All of this water creates an unbelievable amount of resilience that exerts its power on the whale's jaw – a blue whale exerts about 1000 calories each time it takes a sip. That's why blue whales have huge mouths that make up about 25% of their bodies. According to Nick Pyenson, paleo-biologist of the Smithsonian Institution and author of Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth's Most Ingenious Creatures Their mouths can not grow larger. Because if the whales were to absorb more water, the resistance would prevent them from actually closing their mouths. Unbearable resistance occurs when the mouth of a whale is greater than about 27 feet – or a quarter of 109 feet, the largest whales ever taken.
Blue Whales are not just big. Man currently seems to be dominant, but Homo sapiens has only been around for about 300,000 years. It is believed that blue whales existed 10.5 million years ago. Their lifespan is estimated at 80-110 years, but there is evidence that some whales have lived for more than two centuries – all without vaccines, antibiotics or organic avocados.
The scale on which whales live is so much bigger than our own. It's like they've gotten to know a different world. It is a great feeling to know that as much as we have learned about our home, we are not the sole authority – if we really are one. There is a certain freedom in knowing that although we have tried, we have nothing to do with the giants of the earth.
Or the smaller animals of the planet.
If creatures that have reached the upper limits of size are not I do not want to impress you, consider their fuel source: the krill. It is easy to forget that these tiny sea creatures even exist because they are relatively useless to humans. We have tried to find ways to use krill as a food source, but have largely failed due to the peculiar biology of crustaceans. First, their bodies carry fluoride concentrations that are toxic to humans. On the other hand, krill swim and eat constantly and consume 20% of their weight daily in tiny bites of plants and animals. To do this, Krill has developed the ability to develop digestive juices that are so powerful that their bodies begin to engulf themselves as soon as they die. Without adequate storage, within hours of catching, these digestive juices apply the krill and the creature turns black and inedible.
So most of us have no reason to think about these tiny krills. But that can be humbling in a good way. According to Stephen Nicol, they are the most abundant creatures on earth in The Curious Life of Krill . Although small, Krill sometimes travel in swarms that are so huge and dense that they can be seen from outer space.
Think about it: The thing we humans ever built is the Great Wall of China. Krill, only by being alive, is more than the achievement of civilization.
It is easy to consider ourselves as the center of the universe. Humans have managed to dominate the resources of Earth, despite the fact that they make up such a small percentage of their lives here. This can lead to an overwhelming and possibly unjustified sense of individual responsibility. The reality, however, is that each person's mistakes and weaknesses are likely to be irrelevant to the planet's course. And that also means that there are no earth-shattering consequences for success, so there is no reason not to take risks.
And consider how little we actually know about our own planet: despite their prevalence, we do not actually know much about krill. Although there are 85 krill species, we only know one, the Antarctic krill, which lives in cold waters off the coast of the least explored continent on the planet. The other species are even smaller than the Antarctic krill and live in even harder for people to reach parts of the ocean.
The fact that there is so much we do not know about our unbelievable neighbors makes it all the more impressive that we have dominated the earth. In a sense, it does not seem to be as much evidence of our ability as species and more of luck. For that we should be humbled: Although we are capable of incredible accomplishments, we are not the only ones. And most of the life on this planet definitely does not matter to us.
There is a certain liberation in recognizing our limits. We will never really be able to know the nature of krill or whales, or how they experience the world, and that's fine. Realizing that there are some things we will never understand or overcome will relieve us of the pressure to do so. Instead, we can simply enjoy the fact that there are some life forms that are really great.