What would be the next dominant species on Earth if humans were to disappear, would this next animal adapt to use our technology or create its own?
Evolution is wonderfully unpredictable. A million years ago, if you were plopped down in Africa and asked which animal would soon become the dominant species, I pretty much guarantee you wouldn't have selected the soft little hominid with the big head and funny gait. So any answer you get is going to be highly speculative.
The reason we became the dominant species on Earth is this:
It depends how we define dominant. We hardly dominate the oceans that cover more than two thirds of the planet's surface. Nor do we dominate in terms of numbers and you could argue also, that many bacteria could compete with our power to change the environment.
But if you're asking which species might occupy the evolutionary and physical niche that we have carved for ourselves, should our species disappear, I'd argue that there would be a free for all. Rats and cockroaches that already share our cities, would enjoy the built environment, but possibly not as much as they do when we're here to give them free lunches on all our waste.
The plants would quickly invade a depopulated world and mammals and insects would move in to the urban jungle in greater numbers, competing just as they do in the natural world.
But it's unlikely that any one species would dominate in the way that some of us might claim to dominate from our human-centric perspective. Who's to say that dolphins do not believe they rule the oceans, or other ape species, the rainforest, or lions or other big cats the great plains? What would Wilderbeest or Orca think about such assumptions, should other members of the animal kingdom choose to think about such things?
We're possibly the only species that possesses the hubris to think we are so special. We invented religions to tell ourselves as much. But the idea of dominion is our own creation. As far as we know, other species simply don't care about such claims. But quite a few, such as domestic dogs and cats, would be sorry to see us go, exchanging their comfortable lives for those that are red in tooth and claw.
Our technologies would be lost on our fellow species, other than those, such as dams, for example, that have already created favourable habitat for some. Most of the livestock would disappear through predation apart from an isolated few that might adapt to a feral existence. Birds would seek to nest on high building and pylons, as they do already. But don't envisage a planet of the apes. Our fellow primates are simply not equipped to take our place assuming, and this is a conceited assumption, they should have any desire to do so.
There is no guarantee that, if humans were to disappear, that ANY species would become "dominant". The current situation, with one species species as dominant and as successful as we have been, spread around the globe and the major player in nearly all terrestrial ecosystems, is a highly unusual circumstance. The more typical pattern for evolution and ecology is for there NOT to be any single dominant species, for multiple species to be the major players in each particular ecosystem and for it to be different species in the different ecosystems of the planet.
If a second dominant species eventually arises after humanity's disappearance, there is no guarantee that it would be intelligent or technological.
The last time a single species dominated the earth to an extent that resembled what humans are doing today (arguable even more so!) it was these guys:
If you have ever studied dolphins and if these guys had arms and legs we would not be the dominant species on the planet. They would kick our ass!
I know Godzilla is out there somewhere and maybe the radiation from Fukushima (Japan nuclear power plant disaster) has migrated into the DNA of the dolphins and now Ginzo is coming for payback!
I am cheering for Ginzo!
DOLPHIN WITH ARMS – PREPARES FOR BATTLE
Dolphin Arms! Sounds Like a Boozer To Me
By Frank Lake
TOKYO - Ginzo, the dolphin with human arms, is leading a dolphin fight against Japanese fishermen.
You must mean "apex predator," as the other answerers are suggesting.
I think wolves (in this biome) and the other canids in other biozones are the most likely candidates.
The big cats are not showing a lot of toughness and bounce-back.
Bears are kind of non-starters, and the marine species are not in the running.
But I wonder if you have considered the definition from a point of view other than mere fierceness?
I think that the Insecta are already ensconced as the peak of invertebrate evolution -- they are already the most "dominant" species.
Or maybe I should have said "microbes."
Microbes can fell an entire pack of apex predators. In fact, they do it all the time.
Once upon a time the sun claimed he was the strongest -- until a cloud claimed the honor when he covered up the sun -- until the wind said he was the strongest because he pushed the cloud around -- at least until the mountain said he was the strongest because he stopped the wind.
But it was a little mouse who dug holes in the mountain.
Homo sapiens swaggers around saying we are the dominant species -- at least until bubonic plague nearly wiped Europe out -- and measles and smallpox wiped out Central America -- and cholera decided which pack of us mighty predators will win the wars -- and then ... well, we don't know what the next pandemic will be.
We know it will be a microbe though.
Not if, when, and it won't be far off. We either evolve into a space faring civilization or go extinct, it looks like we'll choose extinction. Several of the apes and monkeys have recently been found to have moved solidly into Stone Age technology, improving their stones for tool use, so they have begun their climb up the evolutionary mountain from base camp.
The three that I see most likely in the final shake down are the gorillas, chimpanzees, and Orangutans. Hopefully it will be the Orangutans, they have the gentlest dispositions. Chimps will end up like us, failing evolution due to ego driven violence. I think very likely it will be Gorrillas, and that will likely work out ok. Gorrillas are large and powerful enough, and competitive enough in their ability to use intelligence with the Chimps, that they should be able to prevail. I don't think Orangutans can prevail over chimps, but their distance habitat would hopefully keep them out of the competition until they meet up with Gorrillas, and then we'll see what happens. Maybe there will become a crossed species as happened with us.