Could underwater creatures with the intelligence of human cave men or possibly the intelligence of apes create technology (that is, more complex technology comparable to what we have now rather than simple stone age equivalents)?

If so, what energy source and materials would they depend on, given that they don't have any access to materials on land.

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    $\begingroup$ It's worth noting that the intelligence of a "cave man" is pretty much identical to the intelligence of modern humans; education is whats made the difference $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 11, 2014 at 15:11
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    $\begingroup$ One big reason that I've often heard for why they can't is because no fire means no metallurgy, and therefore no building things out of metal. So I hope that the answers address the issue of how such a species might be able to accomplish underwater metallurgy (or somehow be able to bypass it). $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 11, 2014 at 15:16
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    $\begingroup$ @ratchetfreak Actually pressure is free, you just go down :) $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Commented Oct 11, 2014 at 16:12
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    $\begingroup$ Also possibly relevant would be the (non-)existence of wood, or a wood-substitute. See also: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/1406/… $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 11, 2014 at 16:33
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    $\begingroup$ @CalebHines: theoretically could be possible to harness underwater volcanos as ovens and furnaces for melting metal. $\endgroup$
    – Hannes R.
    Commented Oct 12, 2014 at 17:03

9 Answers 9


Technology could develop, arguably would automatically, if aquatic creatures reached a certain brain size.


The first major impediment to the formation of technology underwater is the lack of oxygen. Water in general is not an efficient solvent of oxygen for example, a human would need gills several times their body area IIRC something over 15 square meters in order to exact enough oxygen from even well oxygenated water. There are plastics that form osmotic membranes in water that selectively pass gasses but not water. Ordinary polystyrene will do this. But you need such a large surface area that nobody had been able to make a practical breather.

There is also the problem that oxygen content varies significantly with depth and vertical and lateral currents. Sometimes, fish hit a dead zone and simply suffocate before they can swim out.

That's the biggest brains in the sea belong to aquatic air breathing mammals. Gils just won't cut it. The biggest non-mammal brains belong to octopi who "breathe" by inhaling a lot of water, compressing it then jetting it out again. Even so, they are limited to brains much smaller than mammals.

Postulating alternative chemistries really doesn't help because such chemistries won't have the energy flow of an oxygen based one and therefore couldn't support large, energy intensive brains. An ecology based on sulfur compounds, like those in "black smoker vents" won't likely support large brains.

Better to postulate an alternate neurology which use a different and lower energy mechanism than electrically charged membranes. Can't think of plausible one off the top of my head.

So, you're probably looking at something that is air breathing or as some other means of obtaining excess oxygen e.g. has symbiotic plants that generate or cache oxygen for it in a form like hemoglobin. Air breathing doesn't require land. Many surface dwelling fish have a primitive air breathing system from absorbing oxygen from swallowed air. Lung fish breath through their gas bladders which are attaches to their digestive track. Something similar could evolve eventually to air breathing "fish" with no land ancestry.

The other problem is the vast majority of the ocean floor is a desert. Once you get down passed 60-70 meters, there is no light for photosynthesis and away from the continents, there isn't a lot of minerals, like iron, floating around. The seas both in terms of area and volume, are relatively dead.

So, the planet would need broad, shallow (<100 meters or so) oceans like those which dominated earth in the permian.

Hands or manipulators are not much of problem. If you look at fish, octopi, anemone and other organisms that live in and on coral reefs in shallow water, it's clear that streamlining isn't much of selection pressure. Speed is important in the open but in more confined spaces, the ability to maneuver precisely, anchor and push-off seems more important. Octopi, for example, have manipulators on par with human hands.

Besides there are options to hands. You could have a hive species that uses swarm tactics, like bees, ants etc do, using the coordination motion of dozens of individuals to provide all the control vectors. Swarm robots are all the rage now because it's a lot easier to control and object with a lot of small controlled shoved that trying to control it with large vectors arising from a single point, e.g. a human shoulder joint giving rise to all the vectors of the arm and fingers.

So, once you have big brains and manipulators what could you make?

Aquatic species primary senses would likely be those that work best underwater, sonar, electrical fields, combined smell/taste, ambient vibration detection etc. Visible light vision would be a secondary sense. The underwater senses would likely give a sentient species something close to x-ray vision. Dolphins and whales appear able to scan the insides of living animals with their sonar. Likewise they can detect buried objects. Electrical field detection likewise gives the ability to detect living organisms and some structures in sand and coral. Smell and taste sensors wouldn't be limited to the mouth or nose but could be spread out all over the body or concentrated in manipulators.

In short an aquatic species could extract a lot more detail about objects in their environment, especially the chemical, electrical and internal structure, than air/land based could.

So, they could examine their environment and manipulate, the question is why bother? As much as we like to flatter ourselves, intelligence isn't always an automatic game winner, especially when it comes from such high metabolic overheard. It requires a payoff. For humans, it was cooperative hunting/scavenging for meats and fats, combined with stone tools to cut up tissues and bones that our muscles, jaws and teeth could not. Lastly, fire let us digest a wider range of nutrients without any metabolic or structural specialization similar to that found e.g. in vultures.

It really looks like the primary driver of large brains is not technology, but social coordination. Large brains let animals work in larger and more effective teams. E.g. wolves, meerkats, dolphins etc all have large brains compared equivalent more solitary species but they don't use technology as we think of it. (Dolphins seem to use their large brains to plan and carry out gruesome coordinated military campaigns against other dolphins, largely for kidnapping females. Most dolphins are killed by other dolphins instead of predators. Those scars are from bar fights. "Flipper" they ain't.)

In the same way, large brains might get started in an aquatic environment because of a need for coordination. That could be some form of hunting but it could also be obtaining oxygen or creating reefs for symbiotic food species and defense.

Imagine a bunch of air breathing octopi, whose primary primitive technology was building coral reef structures to provide air, food and shelter. From there, they could figure out how to make cutting weapons from coral.

Tools underwater would be much different than we think of them. For example, swinging a lever like an hammer or axe, is not efficient under water because water resistance robs all the energy. Plus, rapid high energy motions stir up silt and generate vibrations that telegraph one's position.

Instead, grinding, raking and drilling would be the orders of the day. Repetitive motions over short ranges would work better than rapidly moving levers. Water jets, with or without injected abrasives, could take the place of knives and saws.

Various forms of bicarbonate and biosilicate would likely take the place of stones. Likely, a form of coral topiary would be an early technology on par with making mud bricks was for humans.

Rocks, especially specific types like flint, might be hard to find because in the sea, everything gets covered with silt and biomatter. On land, plants needs a certain minimal amount of soil and won't grow on bare rock save in very humid conditions. In the ocean, however, plants, fungi and sessile animals simply use hard objects as anchor points. On land, a pile of flint will have not plants it and will be easy to spot. In the sea, it will be covered up with something. Nothing will just laying around.

On the other hand, as noted above, sentient sea life can probably probe through materials so perhaps it wouldn't be that much of problem.

It's important to remember that you don't need as strong of materials to build underwater as on land. Building on land requires materials with great compressive strength because air is compressible and provides little buoyancy. Air provides no structural support at all. All the strength comes from the materials. (Foams with trapped air are an exception but they are weak because they compress.) On land, to lift something you have to put a lot of compression resistant mass under it e.g. stone, steel etc. Under the water, you attach a balloon to it and lift it up. If you want something to resist compression, you make a sealed cell of a high tension material and then let the incompressibility of water carry the load.

The structures of an underwater civilization would likely be lightly constructed and gain strength from buoyancy and incompressibility. The equivelent of a skyscraper could be just a bunch of netting will a balloon of gas or low density oil at the top. The problem wouldn't be keeping it up, but floating away.

Fire is not as important as we think. It's important to humans but that is because humans used fire to pre-digest foods and for light. In the sea, Pre-digestion could be done chemically (like a ceviche) or by enzymes borrowed from symbioses. Light would not be a big benefit because sight would be a secondary sense and in any case, could be generated by bioluminescent sources.

Neither is metal. Modern humans existed for 40,000 years at least before the first metals, and the civilizations of Meso-America built vast cities without using metals for anything but decoration. Metals are not necessary to technology. The primary use of metals was as wedges of different forms, e.g. knives, plows etc., but with slow motions like sawing, grinding, raking etc being the primary means of transferring energy, a wedge would not be quite as important. Hydraulic pressure could take the place of wedges when needed, especially if speed was not as important.

But, an aquatic species could develop metallurgy using electrochemistry which would be easier to develop in seawater, especially given they have electrical field senses to begin with. Magnesium is abundant in sea water and easy to extract with even primitive electrodes.

One could postulate a sentient species that has a anemone like symbiotic that radiates a powerful electrical detection field. The sentient starts out just anchoring the symbiotic around as a kind of early warning system. Selective breeding leads to stronger and strong field generation until they end up with something like an electric eel. (Which is how electric eels evolve.) Now they have a powerful, controllable and regenerative source of electricity. They would already be aware of calcium carbonate and silica precipitation by electrical fields so electrical metallurgy would be a short step.

They would also have an advantage in long distance communications. Sonics carry for hundreds of miles in the oceans and can carry multiple bands at the same time. Even at very primitive levels, they might coordinate millions of individuals over tens of thousands of hectares with the ease of which humans coordinate a small village.

I could imagine a civilization of highly cooperative, air breathing, squid-like critters, who used swarms to carry out manipulations and with strong division of labor e.g. that might have some dedicated to shuttling air bubbles, or a chemical oxygen store, to and from the surface, all coordinated over long distances and in large numbers by electrical fields and sonar.

Their primary structures would be made of carbonate and biosilicate foams, made buoyant with waste gases and strong by filling the cells with water or oil.

For mechanical energy, they could harness currents like a combination waterwheel, windmill.

Humans are so sight oriented that we have dull senses of smell, taste, hearing and touch compared even to other mammals. It takes us centuries to divine chemical compositions but a sentient species that evolved in salt water would be like living chem lab equipment by comparison. They would use those sense to develop a bioelectrical and enzyme based technology.

They would probably skip over iron and other ferric metals and instead go to aluminum and magnesium alloys, then perhaps various graphemes.

Their technology would emphasize skill, senses and complexity, all made possible by living in seawater, over velocity, shock and heat like most human technologies.

They might have trouble getting into to space because of their relatively low energy technology but then again they might try alternate technology like balloons that could rise to the edge of space and then form into sails to catch the solar winds and the planets magnetic fields. (There are similar designs tossed about here on earth but we haven't bothered thus far because we know a lot about fire.)

Once in space, they would have an easier time of it because living underwater is closer to microgravity than living in air.

So, yes it's fairly easy to postulate a plausible technological species once you stop seeing fire as something special and necessary. Once they have enough oxygen or other source of energy, the need to grow big brains for organization, manipulative organs and something to profitably manipulate, off they go.

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    $\begingroup$ I think another important technology for them would be rope, which could be built out of long strands of seaweed (which could even be farmed, and harvested with simple bone, rock, or coral tools). The rope could be used to haul larger quantities of stuff than one could carry, similar to how we use the wheel to push stuff around. It could also be further weaved into baskets and nets, and other similar items. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 12, 2014 at 5:37
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    $\begingroup$ @CalebHines - Structures serve many purposes apart form sheltering form weather. They're really about environmental control, keeping a volume in a different state than the ambient environment. This would very important underwater because of the ability of water to move anything forcefully and rapidly. That includes oxygen, CO2, heat, toxins, etc. Aquatic organism struggle against suffocation, siltation etc. Note that all aquatic lifeforms are either constantly under powered movement or firmly anchored. Even algae and diatoms control their depth. Water is a hyper dynamic environment. $\endgroup$
    – TechZen
    Commented Oct 12, 2014 at 18:14
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    $\begingroup$ @dohaqatar7 - there's lot of energy there but like all ambient energy harvesting systems currents suffer from the same problems: The energy is always intermittent and unpredictable so you can't base continuous systems on them. The energy is diffuse so you have to utilize a great deal of energy to create the interfaces that capture the available energy. Because the energy is diffuse, the capture interfaces have to be large and lightweight but are subject to often extraordinary peak forces. They require huge amounts of maintenance energy as well. $\endgroup$
    – TechZen
    Commented Oct 12, 2014 at 18:25
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    $\begingroup$ @dohaqatar7 - The above is why wind and tidal mills have historically found their niche in intermittently but continuously over long time, pumping water. There is always a buffer to store the water when the energy input pauses. It's also a bonus that the work, the pumping occurs right at the point of energy harvesting. Unfortunately, electrical harvesting systems have neither buffer nor good locality. We can't store electricity and we use it far from where it is generated. An underwater civilization would be less affected by such restraints. They would likely use it as mechanical energy anyway $\endgroup$
    – TechZen
    Commented Oct 12, 2014 at 18:31
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    $\begingroup$ It's important to not get to stuck in our own human experience or perspective. I imagine that somewhere in the universe, an underwater species is having a discussion about how difficult it would be for an air breathing species to launch into space. Gas composition, ventilation, static charges, sparks,shorts, fires, dust etc might seem like huge problems compared to saved mass. In fact, a surprising number of capsule failures, related to the air inside the capsules. The worst being the Apollo 1 fire that killed the entire crew. Soviets had several fires and failures from static charges in air. $\endgroup$
    – TechZen
    Commented Oct 14, 2014 at 18:47

There is an interesting science fiction short story by James Blish that tries to answer this question. It's titled "Surface Tension" and can be read in Galaxy Magazine (August 1952). The story proposes that technological life could develop under water, but not without a few challenges. Keep in mind that the life forms in this story happen to microscopic as well, so their struggles come from more than one source.

The story presents three main challenges for the developing civilization: producing heat, creating stronger materials, and chemistry.

Producing Heat

Blish hypothesizes that heat produced under water would dissipate much to quickly, often resulting in explosions.

Because heat produced in open water is carried off as rapidly as it's produced. Once we tried to enclose that heat, and we blew up a whole tube of the castle and killed everything in range; the shock was terrible. We measured the pressures that were involved in that explosion, and we discovered that no substance we know could have resisted them.

Creating Stronger Materials

The above quote leads into the second issues that Blish presents. A source of heat is required to create stronger substances, but stronger substances are required to control the source of heat underwater.

Theory suggests some stronger substances - but we need heat to form them!


Finally, Blish surmises that chemistry would be difficult to develop in an underwater environment, mainly because it would be nearly impossible to maintain a solution at a constant concentration.

Take our chemistry. We live in water. Everything seems to dissolve in water, to some extent. How do we confine a chemical test to the crucible we put it in? How do we maintain a solution at one dilution?

All of the quotes were take from page 13 of the magazine I linked to, but I recommended reading the entire story if you want to fully understand Blish's reasoning.

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    $\begingroup$ If you live in water, you control chemical concentrations the same way living things do it, with membranes. Our bodies are nothing but vast numbers of chemical reactions isolated form one another by thin membrane. $\endgroup$
    – TechZen
    Commented Oct 12, 2014 at 4:25
  • $\begingroup$ Also, Blish's story was about adapting humans to live underwater, in fact to be miniaturized to live in water puddles. The "surface tension" was to them an impenetrable barrier until they made a "spaceship" to break through and go tuttling about on land. $\endgroup$
    – TechZen
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 1:56


The main problem with underwater technology is the lack of fire. Fire was a major component of everything from metallurgy to even flint working and fire-hardened spears. It provided light and heat and allowed people to move to areas where the climate would normally be far too hostile.

Everything else can be worked around but without fire everything else is going to be really hard.

There are some potential alternatives, for example thermal vents in the deep sea provide extreme heat - but there would be serious difficulties accessing them without coming to harm.

There are some techniques and some metals that work without heat but the options are few and far between.


Hands would most likely not evolve underwater. Something like a sentient octopus might get some grasping ability but the arboreal lifestyle that leads to the development of grasping digits doesn't exist underwater. Even creatures like sea horses that spend a lot of time holding on don't need strong grasping hands to do it.

This means underwater creatures are not likely to have fine motor skills or dexterity needed for effective tool usage.

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    $\begingroup$ Effective? Perhaps not, but newscientist.com/video/57069207001-octopus-tool-use.html $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 11, 2014 at 16:02
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    $\begingroup$ I doubt that hands are mandatory - squids and octopi can be very dexterous, and crabs can use their claws very well to cut, open, grasp and manipulate objects (some hermit crab species can even gently pick sea anemone and relocate them to their new shells...) - and that's not even considering what some other animals can do with their mouths, beaks, tongues, or, in the case of the elephant, a prehensile nose of all things! Where there's a benefit for fine manipulation and applying strength on objects, creatures can develop these abilities. Fire (and heat) may be an issue, though... $\endgroup$
    – G0BLiN
    Commented Oct 12, 2014 at 6:56
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    $\begingroup$ A species also doesn't need hands if it operates in swarms. Some ants precisely move relatively large objects just by collectively head butting them. I've seen schools of fish move feeding stations around the same way, albeit, not with intentional coordination. Military dolphins use teams of three to move almost any buoyant object. "Hands" are really any means of providing at least 3 controlled force-vectors against an object. However you provide those force-vectors will get the job done. $\endgroup$
    – TechZen
    Commented Oct 12, 2014 at 18:45

I'm actually going to answer the question from the opposite viewpoint of TimB, if only because there are some loopholes to a lack of fire. They primarily apply to deep-sea civilizations, but still, they're moderately feasible.


Heat would be a very big problem for an underwater civilization. They might need to stay warm if they were in a cold climate but had not yet adapted to the cold, or if a sudden cold spell or ice age fell on the planet and drastically lowered temperatures. Like TimB, hydrothermal vents were the first thing that came to mind for me. They exist at the very deepest levels of the ocean, and arise because of geologic features (i.e. underwater valleys or ridges where plates meet). They can sustain a lot of life! The first thing I noticed when I first saw videos of these vents when I was a kid was the tube worms and crabs surrounding them. Why are these creatures there? Well, the vents feed bacteria that perform chemosynthesis - creating energy by using minerals from the vents. This creates a food chain that eventually attracts a wide range of life.


To properly interact like a typical land-based civilization, this civilization would need light (I realize that a whole lot of deep-sea creatures get along just fine without it, but that's a bit boring, and user93 basically implied a civilization similar to ours, so I figured it's okay to ignore that very important detail). Some creatures use bioluminescence for various tasks, such as attracting prey. Others use it for the mating season (fireflies, anyone). The point is that there are some creatures deep in the sea that are at least partially bioluminescent (e.g. the anglerfish), and not all of them are animals. I would imagine that an undersea civilization could harness bioluminescent plants to create enough light to live comfortably.

So deep-sea creatures could indeed find substitutes for fire, and although it would be difficult for a shallow-water creature to go to a hydrothermal vent or somehow capture bioluminescent bacteria, I imagine it could be done by creatures who have already adapted to places where those resources are available.


Absolutely a water breathing intelligent civilization could arise on an other planet or even on Earth under the right conditions. There are countless trillions of planets and moons in the universe but let's focus on Earth. It's proven that intelligence has arisen in the oceans. We know of two aquatic species that have intelligence that are off the chart.

Although not water breathing the dolphin is likely the second most intelligent living animal on the planet. They're arguably more intelligent than a chimp. They have actual language and create names for one another via pitch frequencies assigned to individuals.

The second aquatic animal to evolve intelligence is the octopus. Although not as intelligent as a dolphin it's certainly in the top 5 of intelligent animals. The octopus evolved intelligence probably because its body design isn't ideal for underwater hunting; it's not streamlined like a fish. It has to always out smart its prey and over time this adaptation improved. What is so interesting about the octopus is its ability to manipulate objects. There is a case where an octopus learned how to climb out of its aquarium and turn off a light simply through observation. Added with its intelligence I believe given a few million years the octopus could develop technology.

They will often come to the surface for several seconds they have even been known to hunt on land. They are certainly well aware of the difference between water and this strange environment called land that they can't breathe. I believe it possible that in a few million years the octopus could create a structure in their habit that could sustain a dry air bubble environment. This structure if built properly could be the first step towards having the ability to create fire. They are conscious of the concept of fire and hotness through under water lava flows and thermal vents. If this is the case the sky is the limit and they could build virtually anything. They could build vessels to explore the surface and eventually start to wonder what is beyond.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to World Builder David. Thank you for your answer. $\endgroup$
    – Jim2B
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 5:55

Heat/Fire They could use underwater volcanoes as source of heat to craft metal tools. Probably not easy to handle but they could always find a way. This would also imply that only certain civilizations living close to the volcanoes would have this capacity.

Electricity There is plenty of creatures capable of generating electricity. They could use those as "generators"

In a more general view, consider they could develop some kind of bio-technologies, i.e. based on living creatures rather than machines.


Well, I believe we are looking at this question in the wrong way.

It's not about the technicals, but rather the philosophy whether an intelligent life species can prosper in the ways such that it can propagate its species and can have mastery in controlling and modifying its environment.

The question we should ask is: How did humans develop our technology? Is it that the universe in its 10 billion years of existence was always waiting for a living organism to appear who would have qualities such as ourselves?

Our average weight, strength, life expectancy (if we were to live for one season like butterflies and equally intelligent would we be so advanced?), ability to detect air pressure vibrations in the 20 to 20000 Hz range and detect a minute fraction of electromagnetic spectrum (how we see) and able to generate upto 1000 N (this is just my assumption) of muscle force per individual (I assume the first machine have to be build by physical force, or if even if we are to use animal power then we should at least be able to tame them).

Also, we should not assume that for an underwater organism to be advanced. It should be able to achieve the same things as humans did. For example, they should not necessarily have electricity conducting computers to maintain their information (some other information technology could be developed).

In my view, if you get an access to an intelligent early man and an intelligent underwater species (assuming that you can communicate with both of them) and if you were to show them today’s technology, they would both be amazed in a similar way. (I said intelligent underwater species, not a dumb fish... There is no intelligent underwater species as advanced as an early man, not one I know of).

Of course, the while you are giving them a demonstration the fish might think “Why the hell do I need a flying machine. I can already fly”.

Also Anthropic principle might be interesting to read.

Well, I know many can disagree with me, but the same can be said about the existence of the aliens.


I assume you are talking about the planet Kepler-22b. I will also assume you are talking about advanced technology.

This question is a definite yes, though the environments are different.

Water carries small amounts of electric charges, so creating electric technologies underwater would definitely be possible.

Electricity would be 100 times more efficient on a water planet than on a planet like earth.

Human intelligence didn't just happen, and it took several decades for nature to develop a specimen that could improvise and manipulate its surroundings. As intelligent as humans like to believe we are, we really are quite insignificant. We are one of the most capable species on our entire planet AT THIS TIME, however from observing water specimens such as dolphins (the most capable on our planet) they are very very intelligent.

I believe what led the humans down the path to solving mathematical equations is thumbs counting began with sticks and drawn representations of objects.

Mathematics led humans to being able to calculate educated guesses on our environment.

Those educated guess lead to studies in the subject, then that created the education system we know today.

For humans mathematics is key. If the species can not conduct a simple equation in mathematics it will never evolve into a species of recognizable intelligence.

If a dolphin had thumbs I would definitely say they would be far superior to humans. __

How an extraterrestrial life form would look on a water planet:

You have three classes for survival in the water the species that live on top, in the middle, and on the bottom of the ocean.

Those that live on top would be victims and would not have a very long life span, and this would play a large role in the intelligence of that species. Species that live on the top of the ocean are usually flat and floating on top to bask in the sun.

Those that live in the middle would be very quick and agile, making their abilities of perception extremely high. For speed you would need a narrow face, fins, and don't forget for intelligence you would need thumbs.

Species that live in the bottom of the ocean are not very smart on earth and I suspect that this is because of the water pressure. So I doubt intelligent life would ever live on the bottom.

If intelligent life were to exist on a water planet I would say it would be a species able to survive in the middle and feed on those on top. (By the way, usually species that live on top are plants so this intelligent life could be either herbivorous or carnivores or both!)

On earth:

  • Herbivorous are slow and not very smart.
  • Carnivores are extremely intelligent due to its survival instincts.
  • Omnivores vary in between herbivorous and carnivorous.

If intelligent life existed on a water planet I would STRONGLY believe that the specimen would be much more intelligent than any land specimen.

Even though a species is in on a different planet, the species would be VERY similar to life forms on earth. And when I say VERY I mean VERY despite the misconception that other people may have, though the species may be bigger, smaller, etc... It would pretty much all be the same.

  • $\begingroup$ Nice spot of Kepler-22b. Note that the question doesn't restrict itself to worlds that actually exist, so you can expand your answer if you want. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Oct 11, 2014 at 21:54
  • $\begingroup$ Okay i will edit my answer now, but i like to keep in the frames of logic :) $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 11, 2014 at 22:15
  • $\begingroup$ Intelligence is one thing, but the question asks specifically about "technology" which is different. In its most basic form, technology implies some sort of tool-usage (though not necessarily the same tools we use). That requires raw materials to make the tool from, and a process to convert that material into a tool. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 12, 2014 at 1:42
  • $\begingroup$ Your right, i forgot about the question and just started rambling on, but in my defense you need intelligence to use any form of technology. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 12, 2014 at 11:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Richard Grant - you don't need intelligence to use technology. Consider a termite mound. If termites were the size of dogs, the mounds would be skyscrapers and we'd immediately recognize them as "technology" i.e. a completely artificial structure, built up grain by grain from scratch. Yet highly complex and dynamic with ventilation (passive and active) humidity control, active and passive defenses, special purpose cells/chambers etc. All built by a genetically encoded cellular automata program with (IIRC) fewer than 200 rules. "Intelligence" is required for speed, not outcome. $\endgroup$
    – TechZen
    Commented Oct 12, 2014 at 18:58

Electric long lived octopus. The octopus people use their own electricity or that of domesticated animals to build seacrete, a concrete made by mineral accumulation. they purify metals by electrolysis. cold forging by slow pressure, molding by scraping. water will rob the energy of fast movements, projectiles, etc. better to grapple and stab or use nets. they can still use fire by building above the water level and using levers pulleys and son on to control the process. chemistry is hard underwater because everything is floating and dissolving. theyll learn to make polymer insulators on the above water structures. eventually theyll make hydrogen airships, high altitude wind turbines, and of course hydro. long before they get to that stage theyll use seaweed or leather tubes for hydraulic systems powered by waves. once in the air theyll want to explore the stars. theyll build remote controlled robots and send them on rockets to the asteroid belt to build an orbital ring to get them and their water heavy environment off the ground. then theyll see how humans eat octopussies and theyll eat us in return. you can ignore that last part, but I bet Id be delicious.


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