Humans already exterminated more than 50 % of wild vertebrates individuals since 1970 1, 2.

I was wondering if it is possible to wipe out the remaining 50 % in less than a year ?

Note that, in this (alternative?) reality, Humans decide to spare no effort in this endeavour and desire to safeguard domestic species.

Bonus question : Is the Earth still liveable after the extermination ?

  • 8
    $\begingroup$ We’ve not lost 50% of species, we’ve lost 50% of wild vertebrate individuals. The proportion of species lost is far far lower. $\endgroup$
    – Mike Scott
    Aug 13 '18 at 13:39
  • $\begingroup$ @MikeScott You're right, question edited $\endgroup$
    – user53220
    Aug 13 '18 at 13:41
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Kepotx Agreed, but I don't think we can say we are "wild" vertebrates $\endgroup$
    – user53220
    Aug 13 '18 at 13:55
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Are they including themselves? If not definitely no, pest animals that live around humans ,like rats are very very hard to exterminate. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Aug 13 '18 at 15:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @tbrookside The source is linked from the question. $\endgroup$
    – Mike Scott
    Aug 14 '18 at 5:09

No, it’s not within our power to kill all the deep sea fish within a year. Vertebrates that we kill higher up in the ocean will just fall to the sea bed and become food for them. And even if we could stop any organic matter from falling to the ocean floor, some vertebrates would still survive around geothermal vents.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ But we could maybe poison vertebrates that we kill higher up in the ocean ? Radioactive wastes could also help $\endgroup$
    – user53220
    Aug 13 '18 at 14:02
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ @user53220, radioactive waste does almost nothing in water, it's one of the best insulators against radioactivity there is. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Aug 13 '18 at 14:11
  • 20
    $\begingroup$ Another point in favor of this answer: We've been actively fighting some vertebrates (rats and mice) for thousands of years without wiping them out. Seems unlikely we would suddenly succeed in a year. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Aug 13 '18 at 14:15
  • $\begingroup$ @user535739: My original thought on seeing the question title was glass the planet, which would get the rodents. Then yeah I realized it won't get the deep sea fish either. $\endgroup$
    – Joshua
    Aug 13 '18 at 23:33
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @user535733 modern efforts to wipe out rats and mice are always moderated by our desire to not wipe out other wild animals: pesticides are formulated and dosed to prevent non-target populations from being exposed. This does not necessarily reflect our inability to make a go at an all-out effort. If humans really committed themselves to causing ocean acidification, it wouldn't matter how deep down certain fish are: buildup of decaying organic matter would create an anoxic environment that would kill all water-breathing life. $\endgroup$ Aug 14 '18 at 2:14


Humans have been trying to get rats to stop living off our largesse for millennia. Nothing has worked so far. If the survival of the human race meant we needed to no-fooling kill them all, we might be able to figure out something out. Eventually. But we are not going to develop and test new ways of killing off our rat problem, then deploy them everywhere around the globe (including in the poorest slums of the country with the worst GDP), and accomplish all of this in less than twelve months.

  • $\begingroup$ This is a great answer with a real world example. $\endgroup$
    – Firelight
    Aug 14 '18 at 13:17

Concerning your bonus question: probably not.

In some parts of the world (especially Africa), giand herds of herbivores forage and eat literally every single blade of grass, leaving behind tons of manure that fertilize the soil for the next generation of grass. Take these herds away and the circle of life stagnates. Young plants are suffocated beneath old grass and one spark sets the whole mess ablaze.

Same in the water: without herbivore fish, reptiles and marine mammals like sea cows to eliminate tons of algea and seaweed, many rivers and coast lines would become impossible to cultivate for domesticated aminals (fish farms).

This may not sound too bad at first, considering that humans wanted to get rid of all wildlife, but it could influence the locale climate and remaining wildlife quite severily.

  • Noone wants bushfire to endanger the lifes of humans and domesticated animals
  • Lack of vegetation results in lack of rain, causing draughts and crop failure
  • If pests and parasites (like mosquitos) can't feed on wild animals, they will turn to domesticated animals, causing epidemics
  • Invertabrates like jellyfish, insects, snails and octopuses will increase explosively, with unforseeable consequences

2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin, also known as TCDD, a part of Agent Orange

destroys the

Aryl hydrocarbon receptor

vertebrates have, killing them if they consumed enough.

so if your humans really want to wipe out all wild vertebrates, they just have to spray everything with tons of TCDD, killing all vertebrates on land, and then pour it into the oceans, killing all vertebrates there. it is solid, you have to solve it in something else (chloroform) to be able to spray it properly. but because it is not a gas, it is easy to keep citys save. (of course you have to kill rats etc per hand)

so humanity could kill all non domesticated vertebrates.

but earth stays liveable after that since some crops sustain TCDD.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ tons in this case being oceans of the stuff, which is likely beyond our capabilities to produce in a year. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Aug 13 '18 at 15:48
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ How do they avoid it killing all the domesticated vertebrates (including humans)? $\endgroup$
    – Mike Scott
    Aug 13 '18 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ @MikeScott part of the collateral damage will be, of course, the death of all domesticated animals that are exposed to the TCDD. So keep them indoors, or accept that they're going to die. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Aug 14 '18 at 2:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @RonJohn If you’re not spraying it indoors, you won’t kill all the rats and mice. $\endgroup$
    – Mike Scott
    Aug 14 '18 at 5:06
  • $\begingroup$ And probably killing people in the process? My home region was the testing ground for Agent Orange and there have been long held accusations of it causing cancer in locals. So that might covering the world and water ways with it will probably have unintended consequences for humans. $\endgroup$
    – Firelight
    Aug 14 '18 at 13:16

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.