I am still working on my intelligent detrivore alien species and so far I have gotten some great help from you guys. But after searching online a lot about detrivore psychology I still cannot find anything to help me so I go here. And my question is: what kind of psychological differences from a human could you expect in an intelligent, detrivore species?

Based on the fact that y’all need more info and I am very happy to give it to y’all, here is an info dump of everything I have developed so far...

  • Physiology

sketch of the detrivore's anatomy - hope it doesn't look too gross


The planet has about 20% less gravity than earth, a much hotter and more radioactive core, and stronger electromagnetic field(on the surface about 2.55 Gauss). It also orbits a dwarf star, so other than that it is very similar to earth.


Most of the ecosystems on the planet are thick forests, but not like an earth forest as the tallest autotrophs are called the ZXyphernics and they look like super tall(about 500-1,000 feet) pail blue mushrooms with multiple stems(30-50 per ZXyphernic). They absorb most of the light so it is dark below them, but not too dark so you can’t see(think of the nigh time with a full moon).

The other autotrophs have adopted a clever strategy and now instead of photosynthesis they use a made up process I call it thermalsythesis, it is basically the autotroph sucking up heat with its dermal layer that contains ethylene glycol saturated cells.

If you're wondering where all the heat comes from on an earth-like planet well I got your answer. Their are vents all over the plants surface that give off a lot of heat and carbon dioxide (fun fact: if you go deep enough into the vents you can find super critical carbon dioxide). Now for the major consumers on the planet, well their are super sized herbivores(for common size think of the titanosaur) and the predators are small, fast, strong, mean, and work in packs.


This one should be obvious cause because detrivore is in the title, but I will go into more specifics about the specifics and maybe answer the question of why they stay detrivores. So basically the ethylene glycol has a similar effect to how cow’s milk reacts with human digestion.

The giant herbivores cannot digest all the nutrients in the plants and can only get some because the ethylene glycol in them block some nutrients from getting in so the herbivores so they just excrete it. This is where the detrivores come and get their energy, they evolved the very rare ability to separate ethylene glycol from the nutrients and eat the poop of the herbivores as an easy food source.

But this separation takes energy and they aren’t just gonna waste a perfectly good PCM like ethylene glycol so instead of just excreting it they use it in their own biology and mimic the thermalsythesis of the bottom autotrophs. They now have energy from two sources and can now support a big brain.

Now for why they have these big brains, well the floor ps of the planet are covered in detritus, yes, but the detritus isn’t very nutritious and what they want is the herbivore poop. But their is a problem, to avoid being tracked by the predators the herbivores adopted congregational pooping habits(similar to the hyrax) and where changes very frequently even in the basis that one herbivore is slightly nervous.

So to get this poop you need to have a great long term memory and super advanced eyesight, leading to an advanced brain. And to evade or overcome predators they need to clever and have abstract though with great problem solving skills.


They breed parasitically, and to understand why you need to understand yes they may be in the minority for it but do it is as old as the lymbic system is for earth creatures. Most of the consumers on the planet don’t but that’s simply because they are as different from the other consumers as fungi is from plants and split off very early from each other in their evolutionary history.

And the system never hurt them and was energy efficient so why change it? It’s a lot like angler fish but with the genders reversed and the brains don’t eventually dissolve in the female but they meld. And don’t worry the females aren’t intelligent until they meld with the males.

Life Cycle

They all start out as small goop blots that are about the size of a quarter, and then grow really fast after the third day of their birth and the females stop after day 8. The males start puberty at 2 years old and the females never go though this puberty (think Osedax with the genders reversed) and then the males grow even bigger and gain all the stuff they will need to make babies. After 17 years of this they are finished and adults, and live another 110 years on average.


I haven’t gotten to this one much or gotten very details because I wanted to design it after their psychology. But what I have is so far is an idea of cast system and it is signaled by how you commute. They tend to be very individualistic and touch and interact with each other more than a person on ecstasy.

Child Care

When born all the larva are placed into pairs alone into holes for two days to bond, then on day three all the pairs are shoved into a very large hole for two hours without supervision, and in these two hours, lets just say all of the larva start out as hermaphrodites and by the end of two hours, all but one pair are female and the and the still hermaphroditic pair, are taken by some adults and made to be male. At day eight the females will have been fully developed and fuse with some males, and the males are raised for 17 years by the group, kinda like Capybaras.


uhh basically a rigid cast system based on 17 year gaps between the generations, having kids outside of this will have you killed and your child kick outside of the clan. You gather your own food(poop) and give a portion to the oldest generation, as they are looked on as feeble and foolish. They are kept out of respect and love more than for any practical reasons. They are also a theocracy, that's all i got sorry...


Quick membrane color flashes and color changes(microwaves to UV light) along with hisses and that's about it.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ OK, are they communal or individualistic? Do they build above ground or below? Do they reporduce sexually or asexually? Do they have individual offspring or litters? Are their young dependent or independent? Are they naturally territorial or are they symbiotic with others of their own kind? Finally, is it more important to reward the individual or the group for any achievement? $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Apr 20, 2018 at 1:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Your starting point would be: what do they use their intelligence for (as a survival tool) and then when you answered that question, you can extrapolate on how they would react to different situations. There's not enough information about how they even evolved an intelligence to determine their psychology. $\endgroup$ Apr 20, 2018 at 11:52
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It would be much more efficient (and hence where evolution would go) if they just developed a sense of smell instead of a brain. I still say they have no need either for thinking much or socialising with each other, not even for breeding. And you haven't described a relationship between parent and child, where one would have to teach the other means of survival. $\endgroup$ May 3, 2018 at 12:10
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This Quora answer about intelligent herbivores may be relevant, as both herbivores and detrivores typically don't need to be very clever to get their food - but they may benefit from intelligence e.g. if they are social, or if they are large enough that their brain/body ration makes having a highly developed (=energy hungry) brains worth the trouble. $\endgroup$
    – G0BLiN
    May 3, 2018 at 17:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Len I actually just posted a question and my favorite answer was a stiffening of gelatinous membrane in certain areas to make pseudo muscles and support as it shape shifts to move and make pseudo-pods so kind, but the muscles are being constantly moved, made, and destroyed to move and function. $\endgroup$
    – Amoeba
    May 3, 2018 at 20:32

8 Answers 8


As with all species, the psychological features depend greatly on the enviroment and on the food available.
So for the most part the answer is : It is up to you.

You will need to further define the social life (for example what kind of structures they build/live in), the evolution of social structures (are/were they Nomads, when did changes happen) etc.

Enviroment is a factor because based on landscape , competition and other attributes of the biome, other attributes will be evolved.
This is not confined to physical attributes but also to psychological attributes as the brain evolves in vastly different ways.
(A good example are the different brains in human subspecies which lived during the same era, but in different enviroments)

The food is important too, because the ingredients are one of the main factors for the features the brain can develop. Therefore directly impacting the abilities of the species. Including social structures and the ability to think in more complex ways.

There are some things that can be assumed : due to the lack of arms and legs the part of the brain that is responsible for movement is probably underdeveloped compared to humans.
The existence of three eyes would result in :
a) a more developed region of the brain for optical inputs.
b) less developed eyes (for example less colors and/or a lower 'resolution')

Tl:dr the physiological aspects have a great impact on the psychological impact of a species, therefore nobody can accurately depict the psychology of a creature without direct observation and/or and accurate description of enviroment, social life, physiological traits etc. Since there are no intelligent detrivores on earth (I assume this is because of lower energy and nutrient gains from their food compared to other food types) there are no comparisons available.

Either you a) come up with alot more details than you have already provided.
Or b) you take the reverse route, come up with the psychological traits you want and ask a new question to get information on how these are achievable. Note that you will need to provide alot of information for the second aproach too (since you are developing a whole new alien world we need to know the conditions).
The benefit of the second aproach is that, as a response you will (hopefully) get multiple possibilities, from which you can take the one that fits your world the most.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Are you answering the question or trying to suggest improvement to the question? $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Apr 20, 2018 at 9:27
  • $\begingroup$ A bit of both i guess. As it stands the question doesn't give enough information to give the kind of detailed answer the OP wants (if i understand the OP corrrectly). So there is the 'suggest improvement' part. At the same time the question "do detrivores have a different psychology in general" is answered by saying AFAIK there are no necessary differences in psychology, here is what is important. $\endgroup$
    – Mindbomber
    Apr 20, 2018 at 9:32
  • $\begingroup$ Okay hope that fixes it $\endgroup$
    – Amoeba
    Apr 21, 2018 at 0:08
  • $\begingroup$ i also put in a pic $\endgroup$
    – Amoeba
    Apr 21, 2018 at 1:57
  • $\begingroup$ @user45751 did i understand correctly that they a) dont build any kind of structures and live a nomadic lifestyle since they follow the herbivores? PS: nice detailed additions you made. Since it is 4:40 in my timezone right now i will update my answer tomorrow. $\endgroup$
    – Mindbomber
    Apr 21, 2018 at 2:44

Apart from the mating factors, what these creatures most seem to represent is elephants.

Nutrients are sparsely located in specific places, based on the routes of migratory herds. While the leader of the herd knows the way to many such locations, the younger members haven't yet learned the way so they follow the leader, learning as they go.

In bad years they travel more widely, visiting sites that are normally far out of the way, and only known to the oldest members of the group.

So elephants culture is where you may want to go with this rather than comparing them to humans. Tightly knit, nomadic, highly social and intelligent, led by a matriarch, in your case a patriarch who knows the way to the water/food sources in bad years.

You'll need to work out some way to transfer genetic material between groups, which will be a key part of their social structure.

  • $\begingroup$ So from this, how would their one on one behavior be different than the one on one behavior of humans, great answer btw! $\endgroup$
    – Amoeba
    May 3, 2018 at 0:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Amoeba, you're thinking too like a human, if you encountered one alone it would likely be in a heightened state of stress and agitation due to the lack of the family group. As an outsider you'd only deal with the patriarch standing front and centre with the family standing around him. Consider this footage of elephants to see quite how much it's about the group rather than the individual. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    May 3, 2018 at 6:53

It might be helpful to consider the range of psychology that already exists within closely related species. Bonobos and chimpanzees, for example, are both highly intelligent, tool using, jungle dwelling apes that are close relatives. They occupy very similar ecosystem niches. But slight differences in food abundance led to stark psychological differences. Bonobos are egalitarian, polyamorous, nonaggressive, and generous. Chimps are aggressive; they wage war, kill and eat each other.

EDIT: added the below

There is a pretty intense debate about how this divergence came to be. One popular argument is that food scarcity in the evolutionary past of chimps led them to be more aggressive; bonobos are friendlier because they can afford it. This is not universally accepted, however. More food can also just mean a larger population, which would then lead to less food. An alternative explanation is that a species can became aggressive by ending up in a prisoner's dilemma feedback loops: one group of individuals became aggressive by chance, and now no one can start being nice without getting punished for it. Aggression is costly, however: it diverts energy towards managing endogenous threats that could otherwise be spend on exogenous threats. If a species were designed by an engineer rather than evolution, I'm willing to bet it would be a cooperative one. Compare the selfishness that leads to human traffic jams to the efficiency of an ant colony's swift and organized march.

Note that when I say "cooperative and friendly", I mean towards other members of your species. Orcas are very cooperative and friendly with each other while taking great pleasure in literally torturing seals to death. Behavior towards other species is an entirely different topic.

In short, there can be a huge spectrum of psychology even within a single ecological niche: bonobos and chimps are incredibly similar in so many ways, but their societies are radically different. I can't think of any reason to think how the information you have currently supplied regarding your detrivore would lock them into any one particular psychology - they could at this point be either bonobo or chimp. I'm not sure I agree with the other comment that physiology is a strong determinant of behavior. If you look up videos of octopus, cuttlefish, and squid social dynamics, you will see a wide spectrum of psychology. Example: cuttlefish and some octopi are very maternal, while squids are often egg scatterers. They're all Cephalopods, and yet the breeding habits of cuttlefish are more similar to goats than squid.

Given that, I think you should feel free to first come up with the pyschology you want them to have and then decide what additional ecological/evolutionary impacts you want to add to their background that might have led to that behavior. Perhaps create a new question post with the psychology you would like your creatures to have and we can suggest how they might have gotten that way!

  • $\begingroup$ I edited your answer a bit as answers are expected to fully answer the question on StackExchange. If you have improvement suggestions that's what comments are for. Posts stating that they are not full answers are often flagged as "Not an answer - should be a comment" and can get deleted. $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    May 2, 2018 at 14:57
  • $\begingroup$ Chimps sound more like my aliens, aw beautiful carnage, great answer but would their psychology mimic the psychology of omnivores? $\endgroup$
    – Amoeba
    May 3, 2018 at 0:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Amoeba Thanks! I'm not sure what you mean by "the psychology of omnivores". That's a huge spectrum. Some omnivores are very peaceful and cooperative, others are downright vicious. I guess the point I was trying to make with my answer is that there can be a huge spectrum of psychology even within a single ecological niche: bonobos and chimps are incredibly similar in so many ways, but their societies are radically different. That gives you a lot of room for discretion in deciding how you want your species to behave. $\endgroup$ May 3, 2018 at 1:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Amoeba Ignore the above comment. I've incorporated it, as well as a bunch of other new thoughts, in the above edit. $\endgroup$ May 3, 2018 at 1:23

If females are completely parasitic that only leeches off males without giving anything back to them, they are going to be inherently disliked by the males. And the males can find ways to get rid of the parasites from their body, or even completely avoiding any interaction with the females. So, the males must really like the females, or the two sexes will need to have a little bit of mutual relationship.

Since detrivores are smart, they are going to realize that working together is going to increase their chance of survival, which means that they are going to be social creatures. Their social structure is going to be different than humans, though, since they have extremely different physiological characteristic and different developmental stages between the males and females.

Detrivores are going to live in groups with male leader, since males are much bigger and stronger. The females in the group are going to compete against each other to get place on the body of the dominant male. Only the best females can copulate with the best male in their group.

It's a little weird because the females are going to fuse with the male, which means that technically the male is the one that's going to be pregnant, and not just with one, but multiple babies. This means that male detrivores should have the ability to control the growth of the baby and can absorb the baby back when food is scarce, which is kinda fun. Without this ability, the females with their babies are only going to make him weaker and make him can't maintain his dominance.

So, one of the biggest psychological difference between humans and detrivores is how members of one sex see the other.

  • $\begingroup$ Well they give them something, easy reproduction when ever they want, but I see your point, good answer! $\endgroup$
    – Amoeba
    May 3, 2018 at 0:25
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    $\begingroup$ Why assume females are going to be inherently disliked by males? Most creatures have reproduction "hard-wired" into their behavior - males are likely to be ecstatic about absorbing females (at least up to a certain number). Exactly because a male with aversion to females won't have offsprings, such a trait isn't likely to become common in the species (especially if the parasitic reproduction is something that evolved before intelligence). Consider how birds are happy to incubate their eggs, even though they "don't get anything back" from them, and could eat better if they didn't bother ;) $\endgroup$
    – G0BLiN
    May 3, 2018 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ I admit it's something that I overlooked. $\endgroup$
    – Momok987
    May 3, 2018 at 20:06

I can't see the actual sketch of the creatures for some reason so this is based on the written description.

from what you have describe I take it that they are rather defenseless against predators (much like us) so they rely on their creativity. they are probably organised around family's and said family's would inbreed. they are herd animals and they probably farm, and have cattle for the manure and most likely store them in some sort of structure. speaking of structures, they most likely dig shelters into the stems of ZXyphernics (I love that name).

  • $\begingroup$ Okay think of shape shifting gelatinous, goop piles with plenty of pseudo-pods $\endgroup$
    – Amoeba
    May 3, 2018 at 20:34
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    $\begingroup$ It looks a bit like a half-melted fire hydrant with some dirty rags drooped against the sides. $\endgroup$ May 3, 2018 at 21:37
  • $\begingroup$ i reviewed the question and description and i think that the family clans still stand $\endgroup$ May 9, 2018 at 16:06
  • $\begingroup$ although are the "dirty rags" like a hide or something? if so then they might be a bit more brave when it comes to adventuring, (i picture them as mostly content and staying in one place.) $\endgroup$ May 9, 2018 at 16:09

I think that your aliens would be an egalitarianism tribe. Within the tribe, there is caste ranked by age.

From what I understand large litters happen when your alien reproduces. Do the tribe decides to reproduce small litters at one time so to educate the generation better and more quickly? So the litter born is ranked in a caste system in comparison to when other generation where born. Since they are through together then they should be very egalitarian among their own castle and submissive to higher authority, but also commanding of younger generations. Among the tribe, there should be lots a Pearce, and intelligence. With the oldest generation ruling in an aristocratic oligarchy. Through between caste, there is little friction. Between tribes, they can be aggressive really quickly but otherwise are okay if not threatened. They are nomadic and not territorial through it can happen. They are a tight night group they value aid of the group higher than aid of the individual. Tribes do not become too large without losing some of that unity. But otherwise, they are not territorial nomadic peoples who are not aggressive to other tribes unless they feel threatened. There is little friction between caste and the elders have the finale say because they are older. This is just my best guess though. It would help if you would be a little more explicit. Like you imply that they are nomadic but do not secretly state it. You also do not mention what their structures are. You give hints but never say. Please be more explicit.

  • $\begingroup$ thanks for the great answer, i just added what i have for society so far $\endgroup$
    – Amoeba
    May 4, 2018 at 2:59
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding, A Person Who Likes Pie! If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. You may also find Worldbuilding Meta and The Sandbox useful. Have fun! $\endgroup$ May 7, 2018 at 0:34

Humans tend to be uncomfortable in environments that smell of rot, mold, mildew, decay, and death.

Detritovores will tend to be comforted by smells (and other reminders) of other species' deaths. They might (or might not) be discomforted by reminders of deaths in their own families or species. If they are discomforted by reminders of their species' death, it might be due to a chemical signal released by their species' dead bodies that evolved to have this purpose.


Your description makes it sound like they are very self reliant (since the females seem to offer nothing more than mating upon demand and individuals who aren't old do all of their own food gathering). So you won't have the equivalent of farmers, less specialization and job classification. That would slow technological development much in the same way that big cities on earth didn't evolve until farming did. If these are correct, then their species would be older than ours at the same level of technological development. Depending on what sort of form of history they have (written versus oral versus no sense of history) could change their psychology a lot (cultures with a strong sense of tradition -- a result of a strong emphasis placed on the past/history) tend to be less mutable than others for example.

It is hard to give specific suggestions as to how they are different than humans even with all of the information you provided. Knowing what sort of emotions they have would help with an answer. Same with their culture (if they are individualistic then the differences would be similar to the differences between United States culture and say Japanese culture.)


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