What would conditions on a methane world be like?


As mentioned in the linked question, Titan is the second most likely world in the Solar System to harbor life. One of the answers also mentions that 'warm' days would cause the oceans to boil.

Taking this into account, how would complex animal life evolve on a methane world and what common features would it evolve?

Bonus to answer written using a single organism as an example and describing how it evolved its features and what they do to help it cope with its environment.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You mean Unggoy? :) $\endgroup$ – Spacemonkey Apr 14 '15 at 18:54
  • $\begingroup$ Kudos to you for capitalizing "Solar System" correctly. I'm always annoyed when I see it written wrong. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Apr 14 '15 at 21:46
  • $\begingroup$ Considering even NASA writes solar system some places you seem to be fighting a losing battle. They also refer to planetary systems not orbiting Sol as "solar systems"... $\endgroup$ – Tom Anderson Apr 15 '15 at 6:19
  • $\begingroup$ The current Scientific American suggests Europa as the most likely place to find life, not Titan. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Apr 16 '15 at 1:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Cow would fart and burp oxygen, and people would be complaining about how "That terrible icehouse gas - oxygen!" will be ushering in the next ice age. $\endgroup$ – Adam Davis May 21 '15 at 15:21

Alright, if we're assuming life formed in around the same timeline as on Earth, that means it would start with archaebacteria, or bacteria that don't have nuclei. Some of the bacteria that fall under this classification are INSANELY resistant to hardcore environments.

From there evolution would take place. Let's assume some of these bacteria can absorb methane in a process similar to mitosis. Mitosis is the process of water going in and out of a cell to maintain cell structure and it helps in various other functions. So from here we're forced to look at the question of "How does it get energy?" A process similar to photosynthesis might work, using the intense sunlight as a source of raw energy and the extremely reactive chemicals and elements that would have to exist, especially methane, to produce a usable, working form like ADP and ATP. (Adenosine Diphosphate and Adenosine Triphosphate)

It would most likely involve chlorine and fluorine. This is because chlorine and fluorine have pretty high energy outputs when mixed with Methane and react VIOLENTLY with light. So it would probably absorb the chemicals necessary and act as an autotrophe. (Produces energy on it's own)

From there, basic evolution would occur. Eubacteria (Bacteria with nuclei) would form. Later, they would form multi-cellular organisms similar to fungi and plant life. Then once heterotrophes (Eats others for energy) started forming, they would probably absorb things lower than it in the food chain and use some kind of limiter to prevent too much energy from being expressed at once. Other elements would be used to form solid structures, such as shells or organ linings. Metals would be most likely bone structure, with lighter elements forming softer solids. It'd be the same as how calcium forms our bones.

Genetics would probably occur using freons. Freons contain carbon and fluorine. Maybe methanol, formaldehyde, nitromethane, chloroform, or carbon tetrachloride would replace Adenine, Guanine, Cytosine, and Thymine. Transcription and translation (The process of writing RNA and the process of forming amino acids), occurring in similar way to ours. Mutations would occur in a similar fashion as well. Something interesting to note though, is that temperatures wouldn't matter to them, with all of the chemicals and elements found there having a high enough melting point where that is no longer a problem.

If we approximate using the lifespan of life on Earth, it's now been about 3.8 billion years, with archaebacteria taking up about 1/3 of that time, eubacteria another 1/3, and plants about 1/6, with animals and heterotrophes taking up the rest.

Hope you enjoyed this answer and found it interesting!! ^-^

All of the information involving methane can be found here in detail: http://scifun.chem.wisc.edu/chemweek/methane/methane.html

  • $\begingroup$ "Mitosis is the process of water going in and out of a cell" are you sure? Isn't mitosis when a cell split into two new cells? $\endgroup$ – Ender Look Jan 31 at 23:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.