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If you were air dropped onto another planet, where multi-cellular non-plant life did not evolve, could you survive on what was only around you? The planet in question is a clone of earth, in almost every detail. Plants are almost the same as on earth, except for features evolved because of animals and insects.

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    $\begingroup$ Is the question could you survive, or would you want to? $\endgroup$ – workerjoe Nov 19 '19 at 14:48
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    $\begingroup$ Is your question basically "can you survive on algae and wind pollinated plants"? $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Nov 19 '19 at 14:48
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    $\begingroup$ @workerjoe FYI, both cannabis and hops are wind pollinated. Cocoa is out, but coffee might still be in. It needn't be all bad! $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Nov 19 '19 at 15:40
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    $\begingroup$ Life is carbon based. Humans are carbon based. Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches and fibers found in fruits, grains, vegetables. You eat carbs you live. Love. Laugh. You just need to avoid the poisonous ones. $\endgroup$ – SZCZERZO KŁY Nov 19 '19 at 16:02
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    $\begingroup$ Does this include multicellular life inside your own body? $\endgroup$ – Snowshard Nov 19 '19 at 17:58
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TL;DR: yes, probably. But wind-blown-pollen-world is going to be bad news for hayfever sufferers.

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Given the absense of most fruits and berries and the total lack of things to hunt or fish, the challenge of surviving by gathering everything you need is going to be much harder than it would on Earth. It is already a challenge to survive as a hunter-gather on Earth if you're not familiar with the environment and techniques required to survive in it, and there will likely be many places in your world where you just can't get a balanced diet and you'll die in reasonably short order.

The rest of this answer, therefore, is about the general existence of stuff you can eat, and the implication that one could survive. The specific availability of enough food species in any given location is a bit too broad to be dealt with here, and whether a random person dropped in a random place could survive won't be considered (though you probably should).


To start with, many major staple food sources such as corn, wheat, rice, soy and sorghum are either wind pollinated or self pollinated. Obviously, without a few thousand years of selective breeding you won't have many of the modern crops, but their forebears (or analogous species) should still exist. Greens like spinach and chard will also be available. Lots of nut trees are wind pollinated... hazelnuts, walnuts and pecans, and things that are called nuts but are actually seeds, like pine nuts. Pretty certain you'll get a lot of mushrooms, too. This list is very much not exhaustive, but even this short list will get you fibre, carbs and protein (and feedstocks for alcohol production, which is very important... hops are also wind pollinated, so you could probably rustle up some beer, with a bit of work).

Seaweeds will of course also be able to reproduce just fine and have lots of edible offerings, and less tasty but still nutritious things. What you won't get will be any fruits and berries that are intended to be consumed and spread by animals, obviously, and that takes away a big source of interesting flavours and nutritious things.

What is harder to predict is what the various biomes in which these plants grow today would look like on your alternate world, in the absense of grazers and browsers. The chances of them remaining perfect clones of earth is pretty slim (though to be honest the evolutionary history of such a world is deeply suspicious, and clearly the work of an intelligent species rather than chance) and you'd get a lot of new species arising and a lot of existing habitats would change drastically. Whether you'd be able to eat the new species or their seeds and nuts is anybody's guess, but no plants would be evolving toxins and irritants and spines and other things to discourage things from eating them, so you may find that a much wider variety of plants are edible in your new world, though that isn't quite the same as nutritious.


The obvious cheat is to bring some animals with you to eat the things that you can't, and then eat the animals. This is a common approach on grasslands across the world and through history.

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You might actually find that you can eat more plants than on a world with fauna. Most poisonous plants are theorized to have evolved poison as a defense mechanism against animals trying to eat them. Without any fauna around, there would have been no evolutionary pressure for plants to become poisonous.

But on the other hand, you will have difficulties finding any plants with nutritious fruits. The reason why some plants cover their seeds in soft, sugary and flavored fibers is because they want their seeds to be eaten by animals which will then spread them over a larger area. Without animals, this procreation strategy won't work. But you can still try to eat any other plant parts. Seeds, bulbs or tubers are great candidates, because plants use them for long-term nutrition storage.

But then there is the question: Will you actually get all the different nutrients you need, including the large variety of vitamins and trace elements necessary for sustaining a human body? This, actually, might require some handwaving. Humans evolved to utilize the resources provided by their ecosystem, and as a result are dependent on a very large variety of them. So it is not very far-fetched that the local plants might be completely devoid of one or more vitamins or metals which are crucial for human health.

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't think 'eating other parts of plants' will work very well. Humans cannot digest wood and most other pieces that are not fruit for most plants. Various other animals can but a human can't get any nutrition from say a pine tree apart from the pine nuts. $\endgroup$ – quarague Nov 19 '19 at 16:22
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    $\begingroup$ seeds and tubers will be good sources of food just like they are now. they make up the bulk of the human diet now. $\endgroup$ – John Nov 19 '19 at 16:56
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There is one thing you need to worry about: Vitamin B12.

On earth, this vitamin is produced in the guts of virtually all animals, us included, by some bacteria. The trouble is, this happens later in the digestive tract than the part of the intestine where we can actually absorb the Vitamin. Some animals deal with this either by rumination (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruminant), or by eating their feces one more time.

Animals typically have quite a significant store of B12 in their liver. That is why carnivores don't need to bother with rumination and such, they simply get their B12 from the stores of their prey's livers. Most humans live a carnivore lifestyle, so they fall squarely into this category. Some don't as they are vegetarians, and those need to supplement B12.

As I said, the store of B12 in the liver is usually quite significant, and can keep you happy for at least two years, or so. However, after some time of strict vegetarian diet, those stores are depleted, and then you start developing the symptoms of B12 deficiency.

So, if your humans only need to survive a year or two before they are picked up from the planet, there's no fundamental problem. If they need to survive longer, you need to give them a source of B12.

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