Ammonia based life

Ammonia may be better than water for life, although it is less common, it takes electrons off of metals, but doesn’t use them, and free floating electrons could be very good for life, it would get rid of the need for most the processes used for moving around electrons, including breathing, but there are problems, if the oceans froze over, the ice would sink, crushing most life before it has the chance to get complex, and ammonia is liquid at very low temperatures, so an ammonia planet gets less light than earth, but this may be counteracted by plants having to use less processes for photosynthesis, also, both problems go away on a higher mass planet, because ammonia would have a wider temperature range for being liquid due to the pressure, and the planet could be closer to the sun, getting more light. There is another problem, though, its very easy for the ammonia to be turned into nitrogen gas, but any organisms producing nitrogen gas would eventually exhaust any nearby ammonia supply, and then they would die out.

Heres the video I got this from:

If we’re talking ammonia civs, the lack of breathing would be a pretty big problem, because there would be no oxygen, but if cells happened to produce chlorine as a toxin (a lot of it), that could be used instead.

(I think having an option to use different solvents for life in Thrive would be pretty cool)


As long as there is oxygen in the air, and resulting in water being produced. Oxygen may run out, so say bye to aerobic respiration.

The specific heat of liquid ammonia is slightly higher than water, so seasonally, there wouldn’t be too extreme temperature fluctuations. But could the temperature of a planet stay entirely between the freezing and the boiling temperatures? Earth has glaciers, so we didn’t escape it. If some global warming happens, the glaciers shrink instead of the water temperature increasing by 10 degrees. Some feedback loops in the planets climate may either make the ammonia freeze or boil.

If it orbits a yellow dwarf star (faint young sun paradox), the temperature would increase over the eons, and because of the requirement of never having the ammonia freeze (also, what if a volcanic winter happens?), the oceans may eventually boil.

Is freezing that bad? The oceans may become completly solid in the winter and only the top layer of it may melt in the summer. The microbes can survive that, because ammonia doesn’t expand when it freezez, rupturing the cell membrane. Also the sun only illuminates the top layer, the rest is useless anyway. The creatures can eat the marine snow as it accumilates on the ice layer. The sessile creatures in the frozen seabed may hibernate in winter, or always have some part of their bodies frozen, some part of it extending to the liquid zone, or the air. Thermosynthesis is also promising.

The cell still has to convert sunlight into an electrochemical gradient. Doesn’t this mean there is still a need of proteins such as plastocyanin embedded in the thylakoid membrane, and how would free electron movement in both sides of the membrane make electron transport chain more straightforward?

What about something like a Ross 128? Its a red dwarf, so it heats up very slowly, but it rarely emits solar flares for one.

Freezing is that bad, if something happens that blocks the sun for long enough, the entire oceans would freeze, the surface included.

What I was saying is it would be really easy to get high energy electrons, so instead of using chemicals to reorganize high and low energy electrons, you could simply get some more ammonia to change the concentration of electrons, which would work just fine because you’d still be getting more high energy electrons, while releasing the older low energy electrons, so ammonia would basically allow a simplified CO2/O2 cycle, ecxept without CO2 or O2.
(The video probably explains this much better)

1 Like

after it was over though the cells would just thaw as long as they didn’t take too long to do so because ammonia does not expand when freezing

True, but the sheer cold would most likely kill lots of complex aquatic life, it would be very hard for cryogenic stasis to naturally happen.

all anything really needs to survive being frozen on earth is something that prevents the crystallization of water within it’s cells (as seen in the wood frog which simply replaces it’s water with urea and glucose to prevent it’s cells freezing allowing it to go an entire winter with no oxygen intake) because crystals forming in your cells pops them but all the other metabolic pathways are slowed down enough by the cold that they basically just stop(seen in any organism that can survive having it’s entire body brought down below 0C or 32F like the wood frog or the gray tree frog) and the lipids in the membranes are moving less meaning less upkeep requirements due to less lipids escaping the membrane and if the fluid the membranes are filled with and surrounded in turns solid without expanding or crystallizing and drops below -107.9F(for ammonia based life adapted for the colder regions) then the membranes cannot decay because of lipids leaving them but not entering them because no lipids enter them or exit them and all of their metabolic processes are slowed down enough that they are basically stopped

I almost forgot I made this essay
And I need to do some grammar corrections on it
it’s from the day the above post was made though so that makes sense

another way ammonia life could work is just zinc and copper encased in proteins to keep them from dissolving to move around energy to eliminate the need for ATP but not for anything used for building protiens