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In my world, taking place sometime in the near future, scientists decide to mess around with genetic engineering. The goal is to create hybrid supersoldiers with animal genes ad have them perform espionage/assassination missions on high-ranking targets. But research goes wrong and the hybrids end up with some features that the researchers didn't intend for.

The hybrids should end up having the following characteristics:

  • Enhanced strength and speed (but not overly so - they will be stronger and faster than the average human but super powered or anything)
  • Avoidance of sunlight and bright lights, and more active during the night. Maybe they could be weak to fire
  • They have cannibalistic tendencies and specifically target humans as their food source
  • They are the carrier of an unknown but deadly virus that very few normal humans are immune to
  • Poor vision but very strong smell and hearing

What kind gene engineering, or rather, errors in the engineering, would be required to produce such a hybrid? Essentially, a lot of these features, such as avoidance of light and bad vision, are not exactly conducive to being good covert soldiers, so there would need to be some human error to produce these results I'm guessing

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    $\begingroup$ Are you honestly asking what I think you are asking? This is way way way way beyond anything we know today. We can't tell you what changes on the molecular level are required for such complex outcomes. If you truly want to build such a world, you need a university degree in biology or so, otherwise this is hopeless and even then, this is very ambitious. If you don't want to design your world in such great detail, this question doesn't have to be answered. Almost anything reasonable can be done in theory, it's sufficient to say: it's not impossible, so it was done $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Oct 20 '19 at 20:08
  • $\begingroup$ The basic problem is that the genome is not a blue print, it’s a recipe. Although some elements of the phenotype may be traced to specific genes, most tissue building within a phenotype is a collaborative effort involving thousands of genes in highly complex chemical processes. It’s not as if there is a specific gene for vision and another gene for smell etc. $\endgroup$ – Slarty Oct 21 '19 at 8:16
  • $\begingroup$ So basically you want to have bioengineered Zombies? $\endgroup$ – Julian Egner Oct 21 '19 at 15:18
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So... obvious preamble... we don't actually have any examples of this sort of engineering, nor any research on anything like it. Splicing in genes from one species into another obviously works (see Bt corn, for example) but that doesn't make a proper Dr. Moreau style hairy, angry, human-animal hybrid. So, y'know, just wave those hands and say a wizard sufficiently advanced genetic engineer did it, and everything will be great. Whatever you do, don't go into details of the techniques used, because that sort of scifi will zeerust like nobody's business. Don't even think about mentioning CRISPR.

With that said, lets move on.


Lets assume you've just thrown in a load of stuff from a selection of nocturnal mammalian predators, and maybe got rid of a load of boring human genetic load at the same time (unless you weren't requiring your species to keep its useful traits for more than a few generations, in which case feel free to throw in as many genes as you like, as who cares if they all break in the future?)

stronger and faster than the average human

That's easy enough. Depending on how you define average, 50% of humanity is stronger and faster than the average human.

Just, y'know, exercise. You don't really need genetic engineering to give you this.

Avoidance of sunlight and bright lights, and more active during the night.

Nocturnal vision adaptation might be associated with dislike of bright lights. Pupils that don't constrict as far as regular human ones, for example, but there are other kinds of hemeralopia you use as inspiration.

Maybe they could be weak to fire

You're weak to fire. Everyone is weak to fire. Animals get cooked. Stay away from the burny things.

They have cannibalistic tendencies and specifically target humans as their food source

They ain't really human, so they can't be cannibals. Just predators. Humans don't have any surviving natural predators, so not many things can be said to have a taste for humans. This might just end up being an unfortunate coincidence, what with starting out with a nocturnal predator base and having them effectively hunt humans, and all.

Maybe humans just taste really nice, like high quality bacon. Maybe you'd be joining in, if you knew...

They are the carrier of an unknown but deadly virus that very few normal humans are immune to

Aha. Now, this you can get from endogenous retroviruses that come from genes takes from other species, or organs transplanted from them. Most ERVs are fairly inert or even broken, but the process of engineering your critters could have inadvertantly fixed them, or the interaction of the spliced in genes with other things such as regular human transposable elements or other retrovirus reactivated them. May or may not be bad news for the carrier, potentially very bad news for both humans and the donor species, given the virulence of things like HIV.

Poor vision but very strong smell and hearing

Now, poor vision doesn't play at all well with the "nocturnal predator" vibe. Most carnivorous nocturnal predators with mammalian prey have pretty good vision. Might not be colour vision, of course, and there may be the possibility of other odd optical effects caused by the pupil dilation issues I mentioned earlier... large apertures are associated with a shallow depth of field, for example, and any focus issues would cause blurring that would be tricky to correct with glasses.

I'll assume better sense of smell and hearing come with the rest of your genetic engineering magic, so you can handwave that as you see fit. It isn't like there's real life xenogenetic splicing to take as an example, yet...

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I think that Starfish Prime's answer (and the comments to your question) are important - it's very difficult to implement these traits just through genetic engineering.

One way to make it more believable would be to make these traits (or some of them) acquired through the training that the super soldiers went through:

stronger and faster than the average human

As SFP mentioned, half the population responds to this criteria. But with intense military / strike team training, you'd be just about sure to have "peak performance".

Avoidance of sunlight and bright lights, and more active during the night.

Assuming that this project is more or less secret, if only to avoid espionage from other nations that would also want these super soldiers, having it all take place in an underground research facility / military base would mean that your super soldiers never really got used to daylight, and so would prefer to be active in the dark.

Maybe they could be weak to fire

"Weak to fire" is a bit too broad. What would be interesting is if your super soldiers were "tamed" by using hot instruments, sort of like an electric cattle prod. Any contact on the outside world with anything particularly hot would trigger intense fear in your soldier, and so they'd cower in a corner instead of fighting back.

They have cannibalistic tendencies and specifically target humans as their food source

As SFP said, they're just predators. You could maybe include that in their training, they were taught to use their teeth as weapons when necessary, and were trained on pigs or cattle to go for the throat asap. They would therefore go for the throat whether they're in front of a farm animal, a political target or just your average Joe who went out to buy cigarettes at 11 PM.

They are the carrier of an unknown but deadly virus that very few normal humans are immune to

SFP's ERV suggestion is just about perfect. Can't build any more on that.

Poor vision but very strong smell and hearing

As SFP said, doesn't work well with the nocturnal trait, unless you want to give them echolocation, but that's a whole other thing. Best to steer clear of it. I'd suggest to once again use their training to justify that maybe they're not as dependant on sight as regular humans, but they still have good vision.

Apparently, cats have weak colour vision, so again as SFP said, if you want they may only be able to see in black and white (or blues) if their "nocturnal vision" trait was taken from an animal like the cat.

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