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Setting

There’s a nuclear war and it ends the world. Most people evacuate to shelters, but most are left on the surface and die from the nuke itself or radiation poisoning.

But, some people weren’t killed.

They were transformed into a race of mutated creatures called Screamers, because of their deafening screams. This is not just because of radiation, but also due to the fact that an experimental super bug activated by radiation infected people.

My question is: could the above realistically happen?

About the screamers

  • Screamers can either be as intelligent as a human, or they could lose all their mental capabilities and become wild animals.
  • Screamers usually live 30 years longer than humans, as their cells are able to regenerate themselves at much faster rate.
  • Screamers are usually on the tall side, being on average 7ft tall.
  • Screamers skin is usually green, and most of them don’t have hair. But the ones who do have hair only have it in shades of white and grey.
  • They have twice the strength of an average human, and have increased muscle density.
  • Most screamers are very slow however. Their topspeed being about 9 MPH.
  • They are much more resilient to hot weather than humans are, though they are very vulnerable to cold weather, as their body temperature usually is under 81.4 Fahrenheit.
  • They also have much more of a resistance to radiation, but in high amounts it is still deadly to them.
  • They can eat everything a normal human can eat, but need less water than humans.
  • There are about 1 billion screamers

About the super bug

  • It was created by the United States military in order to create a stronger, more resilient, population, that could help them in the event of nuclear war. - It was designed to make them live longer, be more resistant to radiation, and need less food and water, though it was never fully completed.
  • The researchers made it so that the bug did not make people less resistant to cold, slower, and get rid of the cosmetic effects. But they didn’t have enough time, and they were ordered to let the bug out so it could transform the population.
  • It was released into the water supply effecting some but not all of the population.

Relationship with pure humans

  • Most humans hate screamers, and many intelligent ones are lynched by ramping mobs.
  • Though they prefer to be called by their scientific name, Homo murmorarionis, many politically incorrect terms have come to use, including Screamers, Green Faces, and Rad-Monsters.
  • The screamers are the minority to humans, as they are outnumbered 5 to 1.
  • Many screamers have banded together to protect themselves from the discrimination they face.
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  • $\begingroup$ Is this your idea, or are you testing someone else idea? If it's yours, consider asking question with more freedom for answerers, describing setting you want and effects you want your monsters on your world & story - then people may help you to get what you need. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Feb 5 '18 at 9:21
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    $\begingroup$ You really need to break up that massive paragraph about the screamers, as it's far too long to read clearly. $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Feb 5 '18 at 9:29
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Mutation due to radiation isn't going to turn people into anything but cancer-ridden, diseased corpses. As popular of a trope as it was in the 60s, it just doesn't work that way.

However, regular old evolution in a harsh, radioactive environment could cause some changes over multiple generations. Let us explore the plausibility of the particular changes you are looking for:

Radiation resistance: Likely: If (and that's a big if) anybody is going to successfully reproduce in a post-nuclear wasteland, those people are likely to be resistant to radiation, and their children are likely to inherit this. You're likely to see this change within a single generation, because anyone without the trait is dead or sterile.

Slowness, hairlessness, and need for less food and water: Likely over a few generations: There isn't a lot of food in a desert, so most animals that live there tend to conserve energy. A few generations of evolution may cause people dwelling in this desert to adopt such survival strategies.

Increased strength: Possible: Larger muscles take more energy to maintain, but they could be useful for an ambush predator that needs to make sure its prey doesn't escape once it's grabbed. Desert predators do like to kill their prey fast. But it might not offset the cost in tool-using humans.

Increased height: Maybe, but unlikely: When food is scarce, any increase in body size is going to have to provide a pretty significant advantage to offset the cost. Perhaps longer legs may help wasteland-dwellers travel further, which could be useful for outlasting prey during a long chase. This depends on whether the screamers mainly hunt through persistence hunting (like ancient humans) or whether they use ambush tactics.

Fast regeneration: Unlikely: Humans already have one of the best regenerative capabilities among mammals, and one big reason for that is because of our social nature - Most animals, if injured, are likely to starve or be eaten, so there's no point in bothering to regenerate, but an injured human can survive for months as other humans feed and protect them. In a harsh environment with little food, humans are probably not going to be more compassionate to the injured. In addition, fast regeneration increases vulnerability to cancer (which is essentially cellular reproduction without limitation), and that's exactly what you don't want in a radioactive environment.

Long lifespan: Unlikely: Maximum lifespan and likelihood of death from other sources are correlated - the more likely an animal is to die from other sources, the quicker it will tend to reach reproductive age and the shorter it will tend to live. In the harsh environment of a post-apocalyptic wasteland, I would expect humans to die sooner rather than later. Also, longer periods for cells to replenish themselves increases cancer risk.

Lowered body temperature, heat resistance and vulnerability to cold: Unlikely, but possible over enough time: There's a reason why reptiles tend to fare well in deserts - maintaining a high body temperature in a cold environment burns through a lot of food, but warming the body from the ambient environment becomes more viable as the temperature increases. If the world becomes a desert, it might be worthwhile for mammals - including humans - to reduce their overall energy consumption and adopt "cold blooded", reptilian traits. But this is a non-trivial change, requiring significant alterations to body functions. It is unlikely to happen without a few million years of evolution at least.

Green skin: Unlikely to happen ever: The main reason why animals become green is to hide in foliage - and there isn't much use for that in a desert. Deep black would be most likely to protect from the increased radiation and sunlight.

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No, it’s utterly implausible. A mutant isn’t a person with special powers, it’s a person with a genetic disease, varying from trivial to fatal depending on the nature of the mutation. A very very few mutations give some selective advantage and enter the general gene pool of the species, but your screamers need a completely impossible number of different favourable mutations.

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    $\begingroup$ Well, I guess I’ll just B.S it then $\endgroup$ – Bryan Feb 4 '18 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ It's not like these "mutants" are super-powered. The only thing that raises an eyebrow is the number - a billion is way too much. A much more plausible outcome would be most people dying, with a few tribes here and there turning out resistant (and/or lucky) enough to "thrive". $\endgroup$ – Luaan Feb 5 '18 at 9:53
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Impossibly improbable

There are a lot of mutations that would need to happen at the same time for even one of these traits listed to occur. Each of those mutations has an extremely low chance and they all must happen in order for even one trait to be present. However, for purposes of showing how unlikely this is to happen lets increase the chance for each trait to 1% chance.

Breaking down your question I come up with the following list of mutations:

  • Live 30 years longer than humans
  • Cells are able to regenerate themselves at much faster rate
  • Taller
  • Green skin
  • If they have hair it is shades of white and grey
  • Twice the strength of an average human
  • Increased muscle density
  • More resilient to heat
  • Very vulnerable to cold
  • Increased radiation resistance.
  • More efficient with food
  • More efficient with water

In addition to these I would add one more: Able to reproduce with other screamers. So that is a total of 13 mutations meaning that each human getting nuked would have a 0.000000000000000000000001% chance of mutating into a screamer. Then to top it off it would need to happen twice one with a male and one with a female, and they both would have to be geographically close enough to each other to find each other and reproduce in order to start your new species. So to get even remotely small number of screamers as you described would be extremely challenging and getting 1 billion of them impossible.

Need some other factor

For other worlds that occur in post apocalyptic setting that want mutated creatures they typically add some other contributing factor. An example of this would be the Forced Evolution Virus from the Fallout series.

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  • $\begingroup$ You don't need the same mutation to happen with both a male and a female. They could just happen in one person, and then passed on (roughly said, each gene has a 50% chance of appearing in the offsping). Or 6 of the mutation could happen in a male, and 7 in a female, with all 13 appearing (and being dominant) in the offspring. It's still extremely improbable though. $\endgroup$ – Abigail Feb 4 '18 at 22:13
  • $\begingroup$ The mutations will occur within the DNA of one cell, for it to effect the whole body it needs to grow from that one cell that has been changed, not be one cell in the body with a mutation. So it gets even less likely, not only does the mutation need to occur it needs to occur in the sperm or egg cells - a very specific target. $\endgroup$ – Ludo Feb 5 '18 at 8:32
  • $\begingroup$ To be fair, some of this can be accounted for by pleiotropy. There’s no such thing as a gene for muscle density or white hair, there are only genes for proteins. And those proteins can and will have more than one effect on the body. So perhaps the gene that indirectly causes white hair also causes increased muscle density, and only one mutation is needed rather than two. $\endgroup$ – Mike Scott Feb 5 '18 at 9:23
  • $\begingroup$ @MikeScott Yes, and looking at the list many of those would logically be connected. Not that it makes any real difference. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Feb 5 '18 at 9:29
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In theory yes but in practice this is highly unlikely.

Radiation through DNA could be compared to throwing a ball at a scrabble board. Yes if it hits it can change the words on the board but, with all likelihood, these words will make no sense at all. The most common result of radiation through DNA (that we notice) is for it to damage the part that pertains to the cell's growth, this is what causes tumors.

You also cannot effect all DNA in all cells all over the body so your only hope is to have the radiation effect a sperm, egg or the fertilised combination of the two.

From here you could have your new species grow but, with the chances of this happening, you're probably better off waiting for this process to occur from natural mutation of DNA.

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This could happen. Evolution can be fast. You can invoke a prevalence of mutagenic radiation as the event which started things and also the selective pressure that allowed Screamers to evolve.

Strong selective pressure together with a founder effect could cause the screamers to evolve from human stock because the Screamers are better at coping with post-apocalyptic conditions.

Consider: white people evolved in only 8000 years.

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/04/how-europeans-evolved-white-skin

Now, a new study from the same team drills down further into that remarkable data to search for genes that were under strong natural selection—including traits so favorable that they spread rapidly throughout Europe in the past 8000 years. By comparing the ancient European genomes with those of recent ones from the 1000 Genomes Project, population geneticist Iain Mathieson, a postdoc in the Harvard University lab of population geneticist David Reich, found five genes associated with changes in diet and skin pigmentation that underwent strong natural selection.

So too your Screamers. Maybe even faster than 8000 years if there are hardly any surviving humans to compete with.

Suppose there were an individual who was, by chance, more resistant to mutagenic radiation (better DNA repair)? Fortunately for him his mom has the same gene. He grows up in a world where all of the other children his age gradually die.

He is perceived as being special because of this: the chosen one. And he is an unusual man; the repairs his system makes on the damage are not perfect and he acquired some unusual attributes. As a teenager and then a young man he accumulates a following, like a cult leader: he is reasonably charismatic but more importantly he has energy and in a world when many survivors are sick most of the time that is a big draw.

The children he fathers among his followers are the only ones to grow up - those without his repair gene miscarry. He leaves more offspring than people without this advantageous mutation. In this generation there are a limited number of humans around total, and so his offspring produce offspring with each other. The inbred grandchildren of this founder individual might get a double dose of his mutation resistance - but also will concentrate any weird genes he might have - and he might have a few.

The selective advantage of the DNA damage repair gene together with the founder effect and inbreeding lead to your Screamers within a few generations. Or more than a few - in this question How long would it take for one hundred couples to have one million descendants? I calculate that with a very rapid reproductive rate it would take 230 years for a small starting population to produce a billion individuals.

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