In the jungle book song "Be like you," King Louie says

Lay the secret on me of man's red fire...

What I desire is man's red fire

To make my dream come true

Give me the secret, mancub

Clue me what to do

Give me the power of man's red flower

So I can be like you

It got me to thinking, what would happen if all animals could make fire? Only certain ones? What if they not only could make it, but learned the secret(s) to controlling it?


closed as too broad by JDługosz, Hohmannfan, Vincent, John Dallman, TrEs-2b Sep 5 '16 at 18:10

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    $\begingroup$ "make fire" in this context means "the way humans do it", right? Not the way dragons do it? $\endgroup$ – Erik Sep 5 '16 at 11:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Erik that tickled me. I am also wondering about this factoring though $\endgroup$ – Sarfaraaz Sep 5 '16 at 12:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Erik yes, the 3 factors of a combustion triangle of: heat, fuel, and an oxidizing agent $\endgroup$ – Jesse Cohoon Sep 5 '16 at 12:10
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    $\begingroup$ Isn't it ironic that by mastering the art of pyrotechnics they could voluntarily created an eternal winter! But it's still consider natural disaster right? $\endgroup$ – user6760 Sep 5 '16 at 13:13
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    $\begingroup$ Reality check: all your animals are intelligent. Wields fire is so good a test for intelligence that its answer is never doubted. $\endgroup$ – Joshua Jun 2 '17 at 1:24

Wow, there's a lot to contemplate in this question!

Ok... ants. No tundra anywhere in the world because carrying embers around, ants keep the ground from freezing. Their tunnels can be built to allow airflow, and there's a new worker ant job to keep bringing down kindling. A new queen flies to a new site bearing a small cinder, mates, then burns the male's body as kindling for the new home to keep her warm until the first workers hatch.

Elephants: these giants already reshape their environment to provide better resting places, moving trees to provide defensible areas. Now they can build fire breaks on the savannah. Small controlled fires, which they roll on to extinguish (mud on their backs first) create zones where natural fire doesn't spread. More species adapt to "live in the elephant's shadow" (potential book title) to be safe.

Antelope: nightly patrols with fire sticks in their mouth keep the herd defended. Predators have a harder time approaching, and the prey has a new defensive weapon. Hunting hyenas do not carry their own fire -- they scavenge from the prey they bring down, cooking the antelope with its own defense torch, ironically.

Locusts: every 11 or 17 years, the American Midwest burns. The locusts erupt out of the ground and in great clouds descend on prairie and farmland. They devour everything, starving the local birds. To combat this, sparrows and other birds have learned to collect pitch from natural seeps. The males dip sticks in and fly high to drizzle it over the locust swarm. The females build smaller-than-normal "fire nests", which make excellent kindling, light them, and scatter the burning twigs over the locusts. Eventually something catches when the birds come swooping in flocks of hundreds. The locusts burn. Many escape, and the scene plays out again the next day a few miles away.

Cats: a happy cat is a human's friend. An angry cat, well, historically they would crap on your laundry to show displeasure. Now, they might just burn it. Cats and humans live together in a nervous detente since the feline acquisition of fire.

Lizards: look to the heavens and see the burning stars. Now look across the desert and see the heavens reflected in the campfires of every cold-blooded lizard. Millions of them enjoy warmth in the desert nightly chill. During the day, they scavenge fast-growing cactus, plucking the prickly-pear parts and leave it out to dry in the unrelenting sun, providing good coals come nightfall. The cactus regrows as quick as it can. If cactus becomes sparse and weather particularly chill, some lizards have been known to break off and burn their own tails.

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    $\begingroup$ Those antelopes would have a hard time seeing predators that do not carry fire of their own. Ever sat around a campfire at night? Sure, you can see quite well right where you are, but not so well a short distance away. Carrying a burning stick in your mouth, disregarding the issue of heat, puts the light source much closer to your eyes, which would exacerbate this effect. You would need something like what's discussed in What adaptations to a mammal's eyes would allow it to see large contrasts well, and what other effects would those have?. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Dec 10 '16 at 11:59
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, the first generation antelope fire-users was wiped out by that problem. Today, antelope use a partner strategy. The one in front watches. The one behind carries the torch. That way the one in front is backlit, looking away from the flame. :-) $\endgroup$ – SRM Dec 10 '16 at 15:43
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    $\begingroup$ In an update to this question... Austrailian raptor birds now confirmed to deliberately set fires in order to spook prey: cosmosmagazine.com/biology/… $\endgroup$ – SRM Jan 21 '18 at 1:15

Bears Discover Fire won the Hugo award for short story a couple years ago. Set in US south, it's a realistic approach to the idea. You can read the tale here: http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/bears-discover-fire/ You might use that as a starting point.

"City" by Clifford Simak is a series of short stories that Dogs tell while sitting around their campfire about the legend of Man.


A lot of animals use scare tactics to move their preys to a certain place where they can haunt them, so maybe intentional fires could be used that way. Maybe a short habit though, since the poor haunters may destroy their ecosystem by doing it.

Scary thing if they do get to control properly the fires and use them to attack wood cutters and so.


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