German researchers found that cows were not positioning themselves willy-nilly in their pastures. German researchers found that cows were not positioning themselves willy-nilly in their pastures. Where do cows fit into the grand scheme of things? (Photo: Symbiot/Shutterstock)

Humans are just a tiny fraction of all life on Earth

That’s one of the many findings from the most comprehensive global census of living organisms ever done.

There are 7.6 billion people in the world, but we humans are no match for bacteria, fungi and, in the biggest way, plants.

That's one fascinating takeaway from a massive, comprehensive study of all life forms on Earth, conducted by researchers at Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science and the California Institute of Technology.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science this week, found that humans make up a mere 0.01% of all life. The most dominant organism? Plants, by a pretty huge margin. They outweigh people by about 7,500 to 1, and make up more than 80 percent of the world's biomass.

We weren't sure what these plants were for. Either hummus, peanuts or something else. Plants: We eat them, we grow them, we decorate with them. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

The scientists poured through volumes of previous research and consulted with a multitude of experts in what they called a "meta-meta-analysis" of the living world. They're also calling it the largest study of its kind.

After plants, the study found, the next most populous organism in terms of biomass was bacteria, followed by fungi like mushrooms and toadstools.

Bacteria This stuff is literally everywhere. (Photo: Kristijan Puljek / Shutterstock)

It wasn't all wide-eyed discovery and fun science facts, though. A key focus of the study was each organism's impact on the environment. Despite our meager presence, we humans sure know how to leave our mark on this great planet. Eighty-three percent of animal and plant loss over thousands of years can be attributed to humans, the study said.

“I would hope this gives people a perspective on the very dominant role that humanity now plays on Earth,” Professor Ron Milo of Israel's Weizmann Institute said.


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Related Topics: Animals