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I want my aliens to have some very interesting adaptations, but with these adaptations comes the question "why do they even need intelligence in the first place?". My solution to this is predators. It will make the planet more interesting and add conflict.

So my question is: What kind of predators would be perfect to cause this creature to evolve human-level sentience and intelligence?

  • their diet consists of decaying organic matter and waste, which is found all over the floor of most of the planet
  • they can cause very cold gas to erupt from openings on their bodies, which flash freeze at short range and fog up the atmosphere at long range
  • they are slimy
  • very good vision with large eyes that would rival pigeons and Mantis Shrimp on earth. Most of their other senses are weak and they have no sense of smell
  • around the same size as humans, but weaker with less endurance
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closed as primarily opinion-based by Aify, L.Dutch, Bellerophon, LSerni, RonJohn Mar 24 '18 at 19:13

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Here is my semi-answer to this. Generally, predators aren't the only thing that causes awareness of surroundings. There is probably a social aspect to it too, and gaining sentience is generally a fuzzy area in biology. $\endgroup$ – JavaScriptCoder Mar 24 '18 at 0:49
  • $\begingroup$ Intelligence, like any other trait, is selected for on the basis that the parents are better adapted to the environment and so have more offspring than ones who are not as adapted. Given the environment you describe, better adaptations would be the ability to hide, mimic the environment or project even more powerful jets of gas. They are much simpler to select for and have immediate utility for creatures having these mutations. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Mar 24 '18 at 3:24
  • $\begingroup$ Another solution you might like to consider, rather than predators, is social dynamics. It requires intelligence to deal with different individuals and to get them to do what you want, and remember your history with them, and so on. Sort of a chicken-or-egg thing, but there's a strong link between brain size and social group size for monkeys, can read it at scientificamerican.com/article/… $\endgroup$ – Bug Catcher Nakata Mar 24 '18 at 7:46
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    $\begingroup$ @JavaScriptCoder sciencemag.org/news/2013/10/did-snakes-help-build-primate-brain $\endgroup$ – Amoeba Mar 24 '18 at 12:50
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    $\begingroup$ You may be in error assuming that beings evolve intelligence to help survive. On Earth there are many species of mammals with bodies large enough to support large brains. Some of those large mammals do have large brains and exhibit behavior indicating intelligence ranges that may overlap significantly with the human intelligence range. It is possible that they evolved large brains to handle sensory input or to control their bodies, etc., and that intelligence is a side effect of having those large brains instead of what drives increases in brain size. $\endgroup$ – M. A. Golding Mar 24 '18 at 19:37
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Your aliens are their own predators.

These aliens have food everywhere, but accumulate needed mineral or other resources in their own bodies. Cannibalism is a good strategy to quickly acquire these resources. The big ones eat the small ones. The fast ones eat the slow ones (or bite off big pieces then run). Team up with your siblings and overpower singletons, then share the meat.

The smarter you are, the better you eat. Outwit your conspecifics and dine on their succulent flesh. Be careful of your offspring though. They might be smarter than you.

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