Electric bois

Organisms using electricity to their advantage as a biological response is real. So can cells use them? Generating electricity or maybe collecting it from the ions in iron?

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That could be a cool organelle upgrade. Perhaps the iron organelle/mitochondria could be upgraded to the point of that being feasible. I’m not sure how generating electricity could benefit a microbe at this stage beyond energy, but the multicellular stage could definitely see this weaponised.

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Well, first off, it can be used as a means of cellular communication. A small shock being, “bro, I’m low on food. You mind sharing from your vacuole?” and a bigger shock being, " NO! ". Maybe you can call in massive swarms with this. Another less hostile way to use electricity can be to sense predators (and prey) like sharks and dolphins. Or even using it to navigate and create maps of where you’ve been using your planets magnetic field (if it has one) to your advantage.

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The latter two would be more Aware stage scenarios, so we need to get there first before we can implement such a concept.

The first two are indeed natural occurrences, but I don’t believe they warrant the implementation of electricity since there are already more robust concepts regarding cell communication and swarming. For now, I believe the best bet on introducing electricity within the microbial stage would basically be a simple organelle upgrade for the mitochondria which allows you to use Iron to fuel the generation of ATP.

Keep working on the details of this concept, however. I can definitely see this being used in the multicellular/aware stage, so think of a way to implement the development of usable electricity in a way that makes the game more interesting. Perhaps you could do this through expanding the upgrade path.

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I’m not an expert on this topic, but I think that the major issue here is going to be that a single cell doesn’t generate enough of an electric potential for it to be effective in water. Electric eels have huge organs dedicated to generating their electric shock, and I think that while cells would need much less power to stun other cells, it might be just physically impossible to create enough energy inside a single cell for it to do anything useful.

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Got deja vu with that comment?

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I didn’t even remember making that another comment.

This just shows how little people research their ideas before posting something for the thousandth time.

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Yeah, single cells are entirely incapable of generating electric fields that stretch more than a few nanometers beyond their outer membranes. Managing their electrochemical gradient is however a vital concern for even the most basic organisms, so if one player wants to find a clever alternative way to perform photosynthesis as a prokaryotic cell without chloroplasts, playing around with ion channels and membrane compositions could be the feature for him. But for now, even the most basic starting cells in Thrive seem to have already developed a basic grip on it, so adding this might also just turn out to be an unnecessarily complicated and confusing element. .

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I don’t mean electric fields able to produce shocks as a single cell, but just little pecks of electricity, maybe to expel as waste, or share some sort of “jolt sensitivity” to other cells (Not in offense in this case). I would guess that with large clumps and swarms of these (like how phytoplankton can be seen in patches) they could produce that shock, but I would agree this might be rather multicellular (unless you add colonial cell patches.

Alright from what I’ve found, a cell can withstand 80-200 millivolts and the average electrolyte produces 150 millivolts. Unless a cell hyper specialized in being an electrolyte it’s electric charge would be lower so about 100 millivolts if you want it as a weapon. Electrocytes function by pumping positive sodium and potassium ions out of the cell via transport proteins powered by ATP. You could add an electro organelle as a way for the cell to make these transport proteins (mainly as a designator that you’re going electric route). Electric resistance stat would have to be added to cells, and this would be affect by multiple factors such membrane composition, natural electric current (from mitochondria). A simpler way to calculate electric resistance is to make it based off mitochondria count (the more you have the higher).

I feel like you are missing a critical part of the equation, namely the sea water’s resistance to electric current. Which I think means that really small voltages can’t be transferred through water.

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Yeah you’d have to touch the other cell for the shock to even do anything.

To be honest, if touching counts as communication, then maybe that’s what I mean. But I’m still not sure how much resistance the cell phospholipid membrane has. Maybe they can use iron particles to their advantage? Using specialized vacuoles to squirt iron clouds out and electrocute them right before they exit the membrane?

Creative idea, but iron is quite a rare resource and too valuable to be used for such a purpose, when other ions would do the trick just as well. And reduced iron particles wouldn’t work, unfortunately, since cells (atleast all known ones) are unable to store iron in any form other than oxidized ions. And the resistance of the phospholipid membrane is truly ludicrously high. We are talking resistances of 100 000 000 Ohm*cm² here (without specialized ion channels).

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You must realize that although iron seems rare here on earth, there are planets that can exist made up mostly out of iron on the crust. Maybe even using copper can help. Also, cells can simply fix the resistance by leaving out iron/copper chunks sticking out their membranes.

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Unfortunately, this would not work. The high electrical resistance is there for a reason after all. High non-selective electrical conductivity would be an instant death sentence for any cell, even the toughest extremophiles. The reliance on an electrochemical gradient, that has to be maintained, is something all forms of life share, and for good reasons.
Uncontrolled influx of calcium ions would immediately deplete almost all ATP via the generation of useless tricalcium phosphate.
Furthermore, pH couldn’t be maintained and most enzymes would cease to function properly because of this.
In addition, heavy metal ions like divalent copper ions are an irreversible inhibitor to many crucial enzymes in most known life forms, and their concentration could not be regulated with massive “chunks” of reduced copper or iron in the membrane, not to speak of the complete collapse of any form of regulated redox chemistry inside the cell.

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