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It is apparently canon that there are animals and plants on the Earth's surface in Neo's day.

However, in the first movie, The Matrix, Morpheus tells Neo that one of the things known for certain is that humans "burned the sky" in order to deny solar engery to the machines, which in turn led to the humans who survived the War being plugged into the Matrix to provide bioelectric energy to supply the machines.

If there's not enough sunlight for solar power, how can there be enough to grow plants to serve as food for animals? Low levels I can understand -- house plants, at least, thrive in conditions too dim for solar panels to produce cost-effective power -- but every surface scene we see in the trilogy is as dark as a cloudy night; light coming only from the machines. That wouldn't begin to support photosynthesis, which means all animal life would starve in, at most, a matter of a few years.

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    I'm not sure what more could be said than in my answer to the linked question. One of the panels in The Miller's Tale says that life "somehow persisted" and another suggests that wheat acquired a mutation to thrive despite the relative lack of sunlight.
    – Null
    Aug 1, 2017 at 18:39
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    @void_ptr They will for a while, but eating meat produces about 10% as much meat as it consumes. Without plants, animals will starve, unavoidably. Null points out that low-light wheat was hand-waved, but that won't explain a monkey -- most monkeys don't eat grain, and they won't evolve fast enough to avoid starvation.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Aug 1, 2017 at 18:44
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    @MagikarpMaster With dozens of previous Ones (as shown by the Architect when Neo reached his office), the middle figure seems a reasonable minimum. And wildlife can't evolve in the (at most) fewer than ten years after the plants die before everything starves.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Aug 1, 2017 at 19:20
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    This is assuming that the Architect wasn't messing with Neo. Remember that the Architect had to demoralize Neo enough to realize that he can't win, but not demoralize him enough to prevent him from starting the new Zion. The human resistance is a necessary pressure valve that keeps the Matrix running. So one can make the case that the Architect was lying. And there was a time in which the Earth's entire atmosphere drastically changed yet life persisted. There is bacteria that lives in boiling tar pits. Life could have evolved from that. Aug 1, 2017 at 19:28
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    The film basically ignores the obvious consequences of the humans blocking off the sunlight to defeat the machines, which would be to immediately plunge the world into an Ice Age of epic proportions. Lack of sunlight would be the least of their worries as ice sheets eventually cover vast areas of the globe and average temp dropping below zero everywhere. The oceans would gradually freeze over, also the death of all photosynthetic plants would mean the end of new oxygen production and oxygen levels would eventually diminish to below the level required to support any human or animal life.
    – user22478
    Aug 1, 2017 at 21:07

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The surface isn't unlit, just very dim. We see numerous views of the outside world in the Matrix, Animatrix and Matrix Comics and all of those portray the surface as being very gloomy rather than utterly eclipsed.

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The Matrix - Revolutions

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Animatrix - Final Flight of the Osiris

enter image description here Matrix Webcomic - Hunters and Collectors.

That being the case, robust low-light plant species such as fungi, various lichens, mosses and water-borne plants like duckweed and Sagittaria would survive just fine even with the general collapse of the ecosystem. We see in Miller's Tale that certain larger species such as ducks have survived, presumably by eating plants and insects and we even see that high-light species like wheat are able (with mutation) to live on.

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We do know, however know that there are No Flowers in the Real World

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  • It's worth pointing out that while there is heavy cloud cover that is opaque to visible light, it probably isn't opaque to the UV part of the spectrum. Also worth noting that life persists in even more inhospitable conditions, such as in the very deep parts of the ocean. To quote Jurassic Park, "Life finds a way."
    – Irishpanda
    Sep 1, 2017 at 19:40
  • @Irishpanda - Except that it's not opaque. Humans can see unaided, which means that it's at least bright enough to grow low-light plants, fungi and parasitic feeders like mycoheterotrophs. Animals can survive by eating those
    – Valorum
    Sep 1, 2017 at 19:52
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    True, my point is that it may not even be dim in other wavelengths. Now that I think of it, I'm surprised that no one has mentioned that something similar has already happened on this planet (well, minus the bit about fields of radioactive glass). Just ask a dinosaur.
    – Irishpanda
    Sep 1, 2017 at 20:06

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