Alien food chain


Let us not launch the boat ...
Valued Senior Member
Ok. I'm convinced that the conditions exist elsewhere in the solar system to support life. Soon, hopefully, we will bring back from Mars or any number of moons either living extraterrestrial organisms or else evidence that they once existed in the body's geological history.

This is all well and fine to argue; all I need to nail the coffin shut on this is water. Water, water, water. Not "We think," but "We know" there is water there. But I thnk there's a compelling question here:

"What is at the top of any given alien food chain?"

Low-grav, harsh environs, unknown species diversity; whatever's at the top has got to be a fascinating organism.

So, as we learn more about the possibility of life on Europa or other satellites, what do you think we'll find out about ... the origin of species?


"Let us not launch the boat until the ground is wet." (Khaavren of Castlerock)
Life on mars is not possible in the present or any time soon. There are many factors on what a "living planet" is. Mars happens to have no volcanic activity, no H2O, (the polar ice caps are frozen CO2 by the way), the soil is composed of Iron Oxide with no planetary source of nitrogen or any other nitrates, (which is what plants need in the soil, and is about 60% of what we breathe).There is also a very thin atmosphere which also has very low presure, (if you were to walk outside of a space suit on mars, your veins would expand and burst). I could tell you right now how to terraform mars:

1. Detonate a nuclear device in the planets core to set off a chain reaction and restart volcaic activity.
2.Wait a million years.

Volcanic activity is what recycles nitrates and other atmospheric components. Eventually the dust thrown and to the air would thicken the atmosphere, create more presure,and raise the temperature, melting the ice caps. But would the planet need with all of that now unfrozen carbon dioxide, it would just add to global warming. Mars would turn in to something like a smaller Venus.

Congratulations! You just terraformed Mars, but into what? Even if we could dig through the layers of mars and deploy a nuclear device, it might not work. The problem is that you need a high concentration of nitrogen and other nitrates to support what we know as carbon based plant life. Without the high concentration of nitrogen on mars, or even its existance, there is no hope of terraforming it into a livable planet. Even if there was nitrogen, and enough of everything else, it won't happen over night, or in anyone's lifetime.

I will agree, but only in part, with your first statement, that life is not ... possible ... and not likely in the forseeable future. Certes, the present conditions are such, but to respond, I direct you to my only reference to Mars, that we might bring back from that planet, or from a number of natural satellites in the solar system either "living ... organisms or else evidence that hey once existed."

Of course that has nothing to do with the current search for water or evidence thereof on Mars, the terran moon, Europa, or anywhere else in the system, for that matter. Where you find water or its evidence, you may find life or evidence of its passing. Thus, are the ice caps accumulations of crystalline water or did water once rush over the surface of Mars?

So, allow me to thank you for the lesson in Terraform 101: Using a Weapon of Mass Destruction to Create Life. And now I shall move on. Oh, and thank you for the lesson in basic geology and climatology. I never realized that you could heat a planet by throwing tons of crap into its atmosphere; I mean, we've never seen that before, have we?

As to the sections you chose not to address ... care to enlighten me on the best way to nuke Europa? Or maybe we should just build a Death Star and blow the whole thing to dust. Of course, if we did something so fun, it would threaten our chances of finding life on that body; there's ice, what looks like it might be liquid water, and what looks like evidence of volcanic activity. Now, before we go nuking the volcanoes or exploding Uranus to make a nearer light source, let me remind you that light is not needed, as such. Life flourishes along volcanic vents on the oceans' floors.

So let your imagination run a little here ... arguments over the Drake equation can be set aside for right now because it looks like we're going to find neighbors in the system. Well, it seems more possible now than even three years ago. Let the imagination go--it's a cute little fella, ain't it? And tell me: You land on the ice at Europa and begin searching for life; you send equipment down for the liquid water and then search the depths for life--What is at the top of that food chain? C'mon, take a gander. The only thing you stand to lose is a little tension.


"Let us not launch the boat until the ground is wet." (Khaavren of Castlerock)

[This message has been edited by tiassa (edited August 10, 1999).]
Y'know, I think what cheeses me most here is that it seems you would rather see the universe as a dead, depressing place; I'm asking about what could be a food chain only a hundred species deep, or a thousand--even a million variant species is a distressingly anemic biodiversity.

Part of it is that I don't see what makes Earth so different from, say, Mars or Europa. Certainly, humans have prime real estate in the cosmic scheme; and, yes, we have a massive abundance of water; and, yes, life visibly flourishes here.

But Mars did have volcanic activity. Could life have existed there? Or were the volcanoes so far from the polar caps that there was never any liquid water anywhere on the planet?

And Europa? Hello? Cracked ice? Tectonic drift in the surface ice? Good morning, Odd!

I can't believe you find it more fun to imagine a lonely planet in a dead universe than imagine the amazing things that will, soon, happen.

A lot of what the majority media has reported in the last year is simply jaw-droppingly simple. When I read "Liquid Ice on Europa?" in condensed Associated Press capsules, I wonder why I never thought of tectonic heat.

Face it: Just don't argue that life can't exist at any given point on a planet. It doesn't fly. Look at how meticulous terran nature is. Look at how subtle it is, how persistent it is. Life, whether divine or a logical result of this universe, must also occur at an atomic level. Nothing occurs in biology that can't be broken farther down into particle physics.

If there is liquid water and tectonic heat on Europa, then I guarantee you at any price there will be life. Anywhere in the universe you find water and heat, life will find a way.

So I ask you: Are you capable of imagining a Europan food chain? Are you capable of imagining anything that doesn't already exist? I thought new things were what imagining was for.

C'mon--if people didn't imagine, there'd be no Kermit the Frog; there would be no Star Wars; there would be footprints on the moon.

Imagination leads to discovery.


"Let us not launch the boat until the ground is wet." (Khaavren of Castlerock)
This is in reply to tiassa's last post. There are so many things that bothered me about that I should simply sum-up my reply before point-by-point rebuttles...

OH PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

First, why should facts upset you? The solar system (for that matter the universe) is by no means dead; the simple fact that WE would be dead in most places should not be used as a judgement. Further, why should this depress us? That seems a bit subjective.

Second, if you really don't see what makes Earth so different from other planetary bodies in our solar system, feel free to take an evening stroll on one of these other bodies. The differences will become painfully clear.

I can imagine a EUROPEAN food chain, but a EUROPAN? I think the formation of life is probably a little more complicated than water and tectonic heat, but hey, I'm only a scientist.

People can imagine a lot of things, this is true. But imagining and believing doesn't make it so (I pray Odin doesn't punish me for this blasphemy).

Given our current understanding of how life works, no body in our solar system could support life. Now granted, 90% of scientific knowledge is obselete within the next 20 years, so these hypotheses may be subject to change.

Given the context of your comments, I assume you have read 'Beak of the Finch'. Keep in mind that the intricate and powerfull balance of life depicted in that book was on a planet where life allready exists.

First of all, Pookums, thank you: The solar system and the universe are by no means dead. What distresses me is a separate issue altogether. I merely asked what would be at the top of the first extraterrestrial food chain we discover, and seemed to find myself in a discussion of whether or not the Earth is alone in the common sense of biology.

So setting your pale sarcasm aside, I was wondering if you might answer a couple of things. Once upon a time on this planet, there was naught but water and tectonic heat. Though it is dangerous, I'm assuming that, as a scientist, you do not subscribe to the six thousand year-old Earth of certain religions. Thus I ask you: What happened to cause life on this planet? What specific processes occurred in nature that cannot occur elsewhere in the solar system?

Okay, try this from the other direction: Take the "grey" alien of the Ufo stories. Regardless of whether or not they exist, we can theoretically ask in what kind of environment would such a creature have evolved? Could higher gravity on a home-world account for the compact size? Is that related to their commonly described quickness?

As humans travel out into the universe, I believe the first extraterrestrial life we encounter will be microorganisms trapped in ice on a nearby celestial body. So I'm curious, if everything in nature has it's place, where would that first-encounter organism fit into the local food chain. That's actually the question at the heart of this mess.

Okay, I haven't read Beak of the Finch. However most of what I'm seeing of it on the web has to do with affirming Evolution and the religious implications thereof. I don't need another book to tell me how evolution works, unless a chaos mathematician works out a pattern.

What I don't understand is how evolution theory limits where life can occur. What was present here, on Earth, that isn't or wasn't once present elsewhere in the solar system? Sure conditions might be extreme, but life does enjoy finding a way.


One thing Earth has in abundance and Europa has very little of is energy flow. All life on Earth's surface and most of the life in the oceans depends on the sunlight. Sea-bottom volcanoes, known as "black smokers" support their own ecosystems, which depend for energy on hydrogen sulfide black smokers put out. If Sun went out and Earth surface froze over, these sea-bottom ecosystems would go on living for as long as Earth mantle was hot enough for plate tectonic - probably billions of years. The problem is, Earth generates about one-thousandth as much heat as it gets from the Sun. It means that under the best circumstances total biomass of black smoker communities can not be more than 0.001 of the surface biomass. In practice it is much less than that, because geothermal energy comes out in metabolically useful form (hydrogen sulfide) only under rather special conditions. Most of that energy is wasted in earthquakes.

From tidal stressing Europa gets about half as much energy, per square mile of surface, as Earth gets from radioactive decay in its core. Europa may have some radioactive elements too, but they can not more than double that amount. We have no reason to assume that volcanic activity on Europa is any more (or any less) "bio-friendly" than it is on Earth. Hence we can expect about as much life per square mile of Europa sea bottom as we find of "black smoker life" in Earth's oceans - that is, very little. The top predators are probably the size of guppies, if that.

I will use small words so you can read better. It seems to me that you think that life can only happen on Earth. I quote you: "There are no ET's . . . ."

Unless you think that all life is fake. Of course, when you get a few years on yourself, you'll see that all life really is fake, but in another way.

And you should know better than to let the web stand as your only source. Think: You post . . . what other kinds of morons are out there feeding you bad info? Of course, I understand if your young mind hasn't figured that out yet. I also understand that your multi-dimensional mind might skip past ideas like "before", so that you never sequentially obtain knowledge: page 1, page 2 . . . . For you pan-dimensional pipsqueaks, I guess knowledge just appears in your mind. Tell me, does gravity occur to your kind "before" or "after" you jump off the barn roof? And when you land do you usually land with your foot jammed down your throat?

I'll answer one of your dumb statements as best I can: What qualifies as an ET? Or do pan-dimensional squirts like yourself dislike limiting prefixes like "extra-"? If you say that ET means little grey or reptilian men . . . well, I'll give that: I'm quite sure the first ET we find will be about the size of a spyrogyra. If we find something so big as a hydra on our first attempt, well, I'll be shocked. But that's the best answer I can give you, since you think life can only happen here.

"There are no ET's ..." I can think of two ideas in history that are that dumb: Flat earth theory and the the Spice Girls.

I hope none of the three-syllable words messed you up.


"Let us not launch the boat until the ground is wet." (Khaavren of Castlerock)
Xeno: Yes, and you are reinforcing a notion I thought I had rejected long ago: that children should be seen and not heard.

Incidentally, have you ever reviewed Crowley's "Naples Arrangement?" For you tenth-dimensional mighty-tykes, I think there's a philosophical value there.

I might also remind you that, even before Crowley, philosophers were "pan-dimensional". Crowley himself achieved pan-dimensionalism through the use of C. purpurea, an hallucinogenic mold.

Just because I'm curious: Pan-dimensionalism must offer a great many benefits. I'm wondering why a multidimensional being of such wisdom as yourself has nothing better to do than proselytize like a PTL preacher over an internet discussion board?


"Let us not launch the boat until the ground is wet." (Khaavren of Castlerock)

[This message has been edited by tiassa (edited August 27, 1999).]

Guppies, or thereabout? I can live with that. Let me add that I well appreciate the approach of your reply; I'm not fully prepared to debate your numbers, but that's not my intent either.

Thank you ... your assessment of the "biofriendliness" of Europa is exactly the kind of thinking I was hoping to see. As much as I would like to encounter intellectually and emotionally evolved lifeforms, I'd be happy with slime mold.


"Let us not launch the boat until the ground is wet." (Khaavren of Castlerock)
why do people think that life can only evolve in certain condissions? its totally bogus, dont u think that if we could evolve from oxegen, others should be able too evolve from other settings, but they evolve into different organisms completely, adapt too there surounding.


That's reasonable. However, a stronger restriction would be that all naturally-evolved life must be organic (carbon-based). Also, as pointed out by Letticia, one has to take into consideration availability of energy. The more abundant is the energy, the greater the chance of more complex lifeforms.

I am; therefore I think.