I just wanted to dump my ideas here. Anyway here are 17 non-LAWK ideas.
- Large scale chimerism
Essentially, what chimerism means is that a creature has cells its body with different DNAs. This doesn’t normally occur in nature, maybe a few cells swapped between a mother and its child during pregnancy. Organ transplants are one instance of we humans imposing large scale chimerism on ourselves.
What I suggest is that during the pregnancy, either an egg cell divides into a few thousand cells and each of these cells are fertilised by a different sperm, or we start with thousands of different egg cells and they all are fertilised with different sperm cells.
What benefit would this trait bring to the organism? Well, assume that both of the parents carry a recessive genetic disorder which causes the liver to not synthesize an important enzyme. This means that a fourth of their kids are unable to survive or survive hardly. But if their kids were chimeristic, all of them would have three fourths of the cells in their livers able to synthesise that important enzyme, giving them a clear survival advantage.
- Oxygen rocks
So we get our energy source by ingestion and the oxidant from the air. But is this way really necessary?
There could be a planet where the soil holds large amounts of oxygen but the air, not so much. The species living on that planet may constantly suck air from the ground to not suffocate, or have large organs dedicated to storing oxygen which they receive in the form of delicious oxygenated rock meals every few hours.
- Land piranhas
On earth, the fastest land species is the cheetah which can run at 100 km/hr but can only maintain its top speed for about 30 seconds. The reason for that is because its body temperature quickly rises, and it must slow down before tissue damage starts.
The question is this: can body temperature be weaponised? Enter the species which I am going to call land piranha. This species has a very small body size, but hangs around in large packs and hunts large herbivores. Its strategy is this: they move slowly and silently under the cover of long grass, or wait for their prey to come near a tree that they are hiding behind. When the distance becomes small enough, they catapult some of their members on top of their prey. Of course, the prey starts running away. But if one of them manage to land on the prey, it bites it with its long and hollow teeth and injects some almost boiling hot water. The water was stored in an external sac (as to not hurt the piranha itself) and was heated with either brown fat cells or a chemical reaction. The prey is forced to slow down, allowing more piranhas to reach it, and slow it down even further until it is cooked and the tribe of piranha feasts upon it.
- Self sacrificing kids
Young cheetah cubs are pretty defenceless. But they have come up with a way to convince their predators to not hunt them down. They copy the fur patterns of honey badgers (which no one messes with) and live their childhoods away from any danger. But what about the opposite?
Imagine a species that when decides to not procreate, they subject their kids to different hormones so they are born in a different stage of their life cycle, one which regular cubs don’t go through. The cubs at this stage they mimic a defenceless species’ looks, so they do want to get preyed on (but still run away to not to make the hunters get suspicious). When they are eaten, the stuff in their bodies either make their hunter poisoned, or make its bodys excretes have a unique smell, which allows the cubs family to follow it to its familys nest to hunt them back (all of them this time). Also you know the zombie fungus infecting ants? This may be a good way to get some mindless servants.
- Methane atmosphere
It is known that methane can arise from non biological processes. So what if there was a planet where, maybe not enough to combust the atmosphere but there was a constant digestible substance appearance? Well to start off in the early days of life every cell would be using it to power itself. During the later ages, when it gets scarce, similar to plants a new type of exclusive autotrophy would emerge. These would be giant lungs on land filtering the air for its low level of methane or another molecule (similarly on water). Since they don’t have to keep showcasing their leaves to whoever passing by (an inaccessible hole would be okay) they would be less interacting with the animals around them other than making them carry their seeds. Considering early humans ate so much fruit that it was okay to lose the ability to synthesise vitamin c, maybe this helps intelligent life. But this may be an extremely rare geography, so I return speculating about biology.
- Hybernating balloon epics
Have you ever thought about how could a species like the (natural) epics and hyper epics in Spore could have come about? Well I have, and I present my thoughts to your judgement. This species is like a meaty cloud on air. Most of the upper part of her body consists of hydrogen and there is a layer of water on top for lightning protection. She releases her children to the surface for them to eat everything they can see and she knocks down T-rex’es or the big trees herself. The children transfer some of the nutrients they extracted (and anything else that is more efficiently digested with a giant oven) to the mother organism (after the extraction is over they all will be absorbed). She uses those to grow and get ready for the next hibernation. She leaves a limited number of “generals” which can only asexually create haploid “soldiers” and assigns them areas for resource extraction. In case of a mutiny or unsatisfactory performance, taking out a general would mean its army is unable to pose a permanent threat. Since no ecosystem can keep this thing alive, she places herself outside the system. She wakes every thousand years, devours everything she finds, then goes back to sleep to wait for life in hard to reach patches to recolonise the wastelands. If she notices a trend where resource extraction becomes harder than previous times, she takes the decision to evolve, which means she chooses her most successful general as her heir, and allows that slightly changed descendant to eat her and grow to take over her place in the next iteration (and access the males). Multiple generals may also take over different parts of her as a chimera, if evolution isn’t fast enough and genetic diversity is seen as a solution to that. Luckily, she is vulnerable to conventional weapons, you can even take her out in medieval or tribal times if you manage to burn down forests, store a lot of food and build a giant crossbow/catapult/trebuchet able to reach and penetrate her hydrogen reserves in a sort of prehistoric Manhattan project, but you need to have developed enough science to have theorised about her anatomy first. She may also decide to reproduce and send a colony if she finds herself awakened in an area more than she can cover. A fight between two of these organisms would be costly and favouring a third that did not join the fight, but if resources become scarce, is considerable. As the life cycle of this organism is extremely long, it would also take a really long time for it to evolve in the first place. So a red star and a not already colonised galaxy or one with nature reserves is needed.
- Island whale
A sea animal can agree to allow trees grow on top of it in return for some of their food. It may get down the water during storms for protection.
- Dandelion body shape
Aliens looking like humans are called humanoid, which is very common in earthling science fiction. That got me thinking, what would be a common body shape in a low gravity planet? First off, they would most likely move in a way explained in the book Artemis. In that book, the main character in the moon colony took a step (or a jump) and every time she landed, she pushed herself a little more, adding momentum each time, and reaching high speeds. In the presence of an atmosphere, I think this is still doable. Since it is hard to maintain orientation in low gravity without an organ that has a rotating part with adjustable speed, I propose they would be circular, like a squid, and tentacles coming out with roughly radial symmetry. When moving, they would also rotate at a speed that minimises damage during contact. They would also have really long hairs. When they charge their hair with electricity, the hair strands trying to maximise the distance between them would form a circular shape like a dandelion, and this could be used as a break mid flight (or jump). Their normal standing version would also include the charged hair, since the probably sensitive hair would allow them to feel the environment, air currents and each other.
- Communal milk lake
Would there be a way for a goat like species that has access to exposed minerals in steep cliffs and a bear like species with access to high energy loot to trade in order to increase both of their descendants chance of survival? I mean you red the title. The plan is for everyone to lactate to a small body of water which is tolerably fresh but does not have a permeable bottom until it turns white. You then release your recently conceived kids there. But make sure there is a sea monster there like in spore which eats anything it can locate. After your kids reached a certain size and filled their storages you can have them back and continue to raise them like marsupials.
- Grappling hook
I can count four occasions where a grappling hook would be useful. The first is when you are a monkey spider maning your way through the forest. The second is when you are a crocodile drowning your hope to be next meal. But this one is not necessary. You can use your hind legs to hold on to a water plant aspiring to grow to the surface and not get broken. A way to pull yourself down the water would be beneficial for a drown killer. Plants themselves may even do this, if they are low on nitrogen, but this time they would need a stomach more sealed off from the outside world than the venus flytrap. For ideas 3 and 4 look at 11 and 12.
- Kite trees
The highest trees get the most sunlight, and this drives an evolutionary arms race to be the one that is the highest. Of course, all the trees could agree to not waste their resources growing more than, say, 1 meters, considering the total sunlight that hits them is the same, but that is not what happens.
Enter: the kite tree. This species starts its life cycle as a vine. It climbs another trees trunk to get to a high ground. When it can get no higher, it releases its leaves connected to the main body by a rope and allows them to get higher with this planets ever present winds. The kite tree is now above every other plant, it can very well thrive. Interestingly, since most of the time its shadow falls on other trees (unless by bad luck the wind patterns constantly keep it between the sun and its tree) the tree it is tethered to has no reason to fight its presence. The tree is not affected, that is, until the entire sky is filled with these things, in which case, all the trees are affected the same amount, and we know how unlikely it is for the trees to unionise.
The main problems of this niche would be water, reproduction and predation. Going by the order, as a kite, I presume this species needs to be light. But it can’t be pumping water to its leaves, because the trees below it had already hit the limit. So what it does is that it stores a lot of water at its base and only takes the minimum amount required for photosynthesis. When it runs out of water, it simply lowers it leaves, reloads, and re rises. To refill its storage it waits for the next rain and during the rain the water would already be following its rope part towards the its base because of cohesion and adhesion (I don’t know what to call it outside of high school terminology). There may be more adaptations to increase the water holding capacity like hair or concave shape.
To reproduce it can release its pollens to the sky and after pollination it would raise its descendant as a bud attached to the body. It would release the bud as high as possible (to spread as away as possible). The bud would glide downwards and try to attach the first thing it touches. From there, it would climb upwards and this is how the life cycle completes. The reproduction for this species greatly depends on the winds so the sentient life on this planet could have a campaign that goes like “stop burning fossil fuels. the climate change it causes change the wind patterns and results in the extinction of the rare kite tree species”.
I don’t know if plants are nutritionally worth eating for a flying species but the rope part is a weakness. Any attack would trigger the same mechanism in reproduction but that can’t be repeated forever. I think the best strategy is investing a lot of evolutionary points into poison so that maybe outside of storms there is no reason to stay retracted and it is not a surprise.
- A head inside a head
The brain can relocate to the spine and the front ribs can form a new, bigger skull encapsulating the previous one. But none of these matter because the species on another planet may or may not have very different “ribs” or “skulls” and still end up with two heads. Why am I telling this? Well.
Imagine you are a hunter hoping to catch a large herbivore. You have three options that I can think of right now. You either hope to not be seen and have a quick burst of speed to catch it, be seen but run faster than it and catch it, or run slower that it but be the last one to stop. You can see that the last two are terrible choices. Not only you waste a lot your energy on not as high certain victory, having lost the element of surprise you face the full might of your opponents defences.
This idea concerns the option one. You use your second head just like how a chameleon uses its tongue. The same thing scaled up. It can expand a few times you, the carnivores body length. After the small head bites and gets a hold of the preys body, it pulls and depending on the masses, you go to it and it comes to you. After you catch it with your main body too, you can direct your second head as a long appendage for the throat. It would be quick and easy. If you are scared of the herd, you can even kill, run away, wait for them to mourn the death, see them consider more fatalities and leave, take the flesh. Since you accelerate a rather small part of your body with all of your force and not all of it, this could be the hunting technique with the highest chance of success, given that you can approach in the first place.
- External skin for deserts
Other than shells, the animal kingdom doesn’t seem to carry stuff around themselves. While you can have fur for cold, the best solution for hot could still be clothes, like the ones worn by the nomads in Sahara. The black surface of these loose clothes absorb both the burning sun and your bodys black body radiation, so it is like carrying an umbrella on you. If you have the ability to sweat, or lose water passively because you don’t have scales, the effects stack. So what are you waiting? Start shedding your skin like a snake, but keep wearing it.
I don’t expect a laser that can be generated by a living organism not connected to the citys grid to be anything close to something from the X men. But it can still have two uses: lighting fire and blinding other living things (and seeing at dark?). Starting fire can be both used offensively and defensively, until everything around you evolves to get rid of fur. Blinding works only defensively. If it can’t see you (or risk opening its eyes for a time enough for you to aim) it can’t hunt you. So how does this work? If you have more than two eyes, you can empty one of them and fill it with bioluminescent symbiote bacterias. After that all you need to do is reverse use your eye lens to focus the light. Nothing now scares you, except maybe echolocators.
Earth’s oceans are full of salt. If life could have found a way to separate the sodium in it (which can be stored in oil) it would have gained access to explosives. What use do explosives have? Fishing of course! 120 decibels does nothing to someone with no ears. But water, being more dense, is able to carry shockwaves better. If you can create an explosion on the surface of a body of water, no living thing with a lung or an air bladder is likely to survive below. So if you unlock this ability, you would never be hungry again, until fishes go extinct.
While teeth hold their place and claws move, damaging different parts of the targets body, swords, especially the curved ones have the ability to move and keep damaging the same part. This is my attempt of trying to give some technical definitions to these things. Maybe swords protruding from the body could have evolved on another world.
I guess for thermosynthesis, there would need to be a high temperature gradient. The current human technology pumps water from 1.000 meters deep to have a gradient of 24 degrees Celsius. I think the biggest non volcanic heat difference that life can access is a frozen lake during the winter. There, the temperatures on the outside and in the waters could very well be -30 and 0 degrees. Such a life would employ a great deal of antifreeze and hibernate during the summer (like how some trees shed their leaves during the winter. If there is no ice melting summer, the lake would eventually completely freeze). It would be located at the floating level of the water and have radiators extending to the water and to the outside/snow. These would carry their respective temperatures to the two sides of the thermosynthesising tissue where all the sugar is being generated. Their interactions with the animals would be through flowers and fruits, and if they made their radiators from the wrong material, we could see them being eaten.