I watched a youtube video on the Darwin IV probe mission to this planet has lower mass than the earth, about the size of Mars, and has a single sea. According to the movie, the microbes that resided in the early oceans somehow recognized that the oceans were evaporating due to some unknown catastrophe. For all intents and purposes, these single-celled organisms act as one, preventing the total evaporation of the seas and mixing with them to form a gelatinous mass.

My question is this:

Is this single-celled oceanic soup possible? If so, how long would the evolution of these colonial organisms take and would that timeframe fit in with the evaporation of a near planet-wide ocean, assuming this planet is in the inner-most ring of the goldi-locks zone?

  • $\begingroup$ For some reason the link to the video is broken, or at least appears so in my iPad Safari Browser. $\endgroup$ Mar 4, 2015 at 16:09
  • $\begingroup$ Tried to fix but didn't work. $\endgroup$ Mar 4, 2015 at 16:10
  • $\begingroup$ Also, typed wrong title. Was having a conversation when I typed the question :). To clarify further, how fast could this oceanic soup evolve? $\endgroup$ Mar 4, 2015 at 16:25
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    $\begingroup$ That movie is based on the book Expedition by Wayne Barlowe en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expedition_(book) and ofcourse to be a movie they had to cut a lot out. worth a look just for the amazing art. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Apr 8, 2018 at 1:06

2 Answers 2


Well it partly depends on what kind of organisms they are to begin with, but it would take a long time naturally.

I would think that instead of an Ocean deep level of 'jello', that it would be a surface of 'jello'. The whole surface of the ocean could be a shell, like the congealed fat on the cooling water after you take out the roast. By capping the Ocean, it would seal it in and reduce the 'evaporation' significantly. As the outer most layer continues to bake and dry it would become more like a pie crust, getting harder but also heavier, but it would have a lot of displacement so as long as the 'jello' under it is thick enough to support it and still be bouyant it could work.

It might work this way just by having plentiful microorganisms that live on the surface of the oceans and as they 'shrink' they get more dense etc.

Either way would need plenty of convection currents in the oceans to keep nutrients flowing to feed the shell.

  • $\begingroup$ Out of curiosity, there is supposed to be a link on the "Darwin IV probe" sentence. Does it show up on your browser? The reason I ask is it does not show on iPad's Safari for some reason. $\endgroup$ Mar 4, 2015 at 20:35
  • $\begingroup$ @DustinJackson nope, no link in your post $\endgroup$
    – bowlturner
    Mar 4, 2015 at 20:37
  • $\begingroup$ hmmm... I checked it for incorrect format ten times now. Seems to be correct. Maybe if you edited the question you might be able to help... $\endgroup$ Mar 4, 2015 at 20:39
  • $\begingroup$ @DustinJackson I got it to work $\endgroup$
    – bowlturner
    Mar 4, 2015 at 20:46

It's possible. There's a subset of bacterial biofilms that are hydrogels. This is specifically what you want.


These aren't really jello, though, because that's a supersaturated solution of proteins. These biofilms are usually made of long chains of sugars, which are attracted to water.

Bacteria form biofilms to protect themselves from their environment. One of their other adaptations is entering a cyst stage.


Finally, bacteria are able to swap DNA.


It's possible that as the sea shrank, bacteria were left behind in pools. As these pools evaporated, the bacteria that were fittest to survive these changes were the ones able to develop hydrogels and the ones able to become cysts. After the pools dried out, the cysts could be carried by animals or other lifeforms to another pool, where the cysts would begin their life cycle again. At some point, the cyst-bacteria swapped DNA with the hydrogel bacteria. This created a new variety that could both extend its "active" period with hydrogels, allowing it to multiply many more times than the cyst-only bacteria, and able to survive the complete evaporation of the pools by forming cysts around themselves when the hydrogels eventually dried out. Eventually, the same way macro-lifeforms carried the cysts from pool pool, they eventually carried them to the sea. This allowed the bacteria to come out of their cysts and begin colonizing the sea with their hydrogel.


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