I have recently read about exporting animals to different planets (Asimov's Foundation's Edge for example), and I wonder what impact that would have on the animals, both physically and psychologically.

In the book the planet's environment and characteristics are either similar to Earth or have been modified by humans so.

I guess that for Intelligent Human who can adapt (psychologically, conceptually) to a different planet with the same environment it might be easier to fit in, I just find it hard to believe animals will find have it the same way.

How would that really affect the Exported Animals?

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    $\begingroup$ If the animal can survive on such a planet, I don't think this would be any different from introducing animals to any foreign ecosystem as it has happened a billion times on earth $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Dec 14 '17 at 10:56
  • $\begingroup$ Animals don't really have higher thoughts, so why would they even know the difference? It wouldn't be any worse than being captured and taken to a zoo, and animals survive that all the time. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Dec 14 '17 at 11:00
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    $\begingroup$ There's a vast amount of research done on handing invasive species on this planet, that's probably a good place to start reading. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Dec 14 '17 at 11:07
  • $\begingroup$ Would humans be able to derive nutrition from foodstuffs found on alien planets? seems relevant. After all, humans are just a special case of animal. Full disclosure: My own question. $\endgroup$ – user Dec 14 '17 at 11:53

How would that really Affect the Exported Animals?


As already stated there are numerous considerations, and a lot of this will also depend on what type of animals you are taking. Let's focus on land creatures first. Magnetic fields, the specific environments/biomes that exist on this planet, the gravitational pull, the cycles of the moon and the seasons, etc. all affect animals. During the voyage a lot of them would likely be deprived of sunlight, their typical territory specifications, and the ability to exert their instincts. Any creature would likely be peeved in that situation.

Also, what are the animals being used for? Farming/domestication? Wild animals?

Aquatic animals I think would be the most challenging, particularly amphibians like frogs that absorb everything through their skin. The chemical composition of a different planet or a spaceship would likely be harder to control for these creatures.


There is ample research to suggest that animals can become depressed, violent, withdrawn, etc. due to long confinement. You can look at documentaries like Blackfish or the Cove and studies such as Learned Helplessness. Birds, especially crows, have demonstrated high levels of cognition.

I bring all that up because, for certain creatures, being confined against their will with many physical changes and no explanation would be almost as distressing for them as for a human. You will need to consider how to illustrate their depressive nature without words (unless they talk or you can hear their thoughts, I guess).

There are plenty of creatures who will be distressed without a high level of cognition, just because things are changing. But I don't think goats or lizards would display that in the same way a crow, dolphin or gorilla would.

I don't think conceptually is something we can really get into without making some decisions about the status of animals' consciousnesses and level of awareness, which I think would vary greatly from animal to animal.

I hope this bit of ramble helps! ;)

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Moving animals to a different planet would probably have massive implications. As is often the case the devil is in the detail of “the planet environment and characteristics are either similar to Earth or have been modified by humans so”. Assume there was no life but the world was modified to be habitable by humans. In this environment the animals would probably suffer the least effects as the living matter on the planet is of earth based origin.

Assume the planet had its own life forms and that life just happened to be based on exactly the same chemistry as that on earth DNA etc (very unlikely but perhaps possible). The imported animals are at a disadvantage as the locals are already very well adapted to the specific conditions of their environment rather than a “similar” environment.

Assume the planet has life that evolved independently along its own trajectory and has an earth similar environment. This is probably the most likely scenario. Any alien evolutionary trajectory will in all likelihood not use the same basic chemical building blocks that occur on earth.

The number of alternative chemistries is mind bogglingly huge even for an earth similar world. Assuming that the aliens have an equivalent of DNA (likely) what is the likelihood of that it involves exactly the same pentose sugar that we have? What is the likelihood that it will use pyrimidine and purine as bases? Or even if it does the same four that are used in our DNA? That would just be the start of it have a look here:

This is just a tiny part of the reactions involved in human metabolism, then there’s the biochemistry of other animals, plants etc.

The alien environment is not going to be chemically ‘wired’ in the same way so chances are it will be toxic and the animals will be poisoned by alien organic chemistry. If they are very lucky indeed the environment might be simply inedible but not toxic, in which case they might just starve or end up on the losing end of an evolutionary arms race the locals are much better adapted to. It would take a lot of god like hand waving to produce exactly the same chemistry as exists on earth.

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As Raditz_35 said in the comments, for the animals themselves that's not different to being transported to a different location on Earth, or to a zoo. As long as the environmental conditions are suitable, they'll adapt and survive.

Note that there are many tiny details of the environment which can affect them, though. Several animals are said to use the Earth's magnetic field or the stars for orientation. In a different planet they could find themselves lost, which could (or could not) make them vulnerable. Subtle variations of chemistry could have a severe impact on survavility, which is most of the time overlooked when writing science-fiction about terraforming. But for the most part, they'll adapt and thrive there fine.

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    $\begingroup$ "Subtle variations of chemistry could have a severe impact on survavility, which is most of the time overlooked when writing science-fiction about terraforming." That's one part of the reason why I asked Would humans be able to derive nutrition from foodstuffs found on alien planets? $\endgroup$ – user Dec 14 '17 at 11:55
  • $\begingroup$ I've read the question as "the planet is terraformed or (unlikely) very similar to Earth, an it has plants and bugs from Earth (or pretty much edible), and we are trying to get some animals there too". So is, those animals (and humans) would be eating the same kind of plants there are here on Earth, not some alien lifeforms. The OP is asking about adaptative problems, providing that mere survivavility problems, like breathing and eating, pose no major problems to the animals. $\endgroup$ – Rekesoft Dec 14 '17 at 12:14
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    $\begingroup$ Fair enough. I read it as "adapting" in a more general sense. In fairness, that just might make the question unclear... $\endgroup$ – user Dec 14 '17 at 12:17

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