I was reading this question, and it made me wonder if something like this is possible or not.

So, the question is, Is it possible to have an alien species in whom, the newborns are bigger than adults and as they grow up (or grow down), their size reduces?

They have to be an intelligent species, though I am not particularly looking for space-faring civilizations, cavemen type aliens will work too. And no DNA tweaking or artificial enhancements are allowed, It has to be a natural evolution.

Edit: What if we allow DNA tweaking and artificial enhancements. Like some advanced alien race performing experiments on cavemen like aliens for some reasons.

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    $\begingroup$ Well, they wouldn't give live birth, that's for sure... $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Commented Nov 20, 2019 at 4:14
  • $\begingroup$ I have a memory fragment of a cheesy 80's scifi show that had exactly this issue in one of their episodes. Buck Roger's, maybe. $\endgroup$
    – David Elm
    Commented Nov 20, 2019 at 6:02
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidElm If you look at the attached link, It's the same $\endgroup$
    – V.Aggarwal
    Commented Nov 20, 2019 at 6:23
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidElm, I remember that episode, it was as bad as they come. Classic Buck Rogers. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Commented Nov 20, 2019 at 8:18
  • $\begingroup$ @V Aggarwal Teh difference between cavemen and space travelers is merely cultural, if you are talking about Homo sapiens cavemen. Cavemen were less educated in science and technology than modern men, but had similar intelligence. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 21, 2019 at 7:34

2 Answers 2


Only if they are two separate life cycles and the transition brings advantages.

The juvenile could be like a caterpilar: not particularly mobile but great at building bulk. It would be hard to hatch gigantic (you would need equally gigantic eggs and egg-layers) but maybe it takes up water quickly after being born and surpasses their parents within a week or so as a living water-sack.

Then after some time of creating reserves they molt into the adult form: smaller and more mobile and maybe with some organs that take a lot of energy to build (thick keratin plates or the like).

Maybe this species evolved in a desert full of difficult to digest food where children hatch at the start of the rains, drink the wadis empty and then spend the rest of their childhood digesting rocks. The parents spend their time gathering food and protecting the baby-caves.

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    $\begingroup$ I think it would be possible for the smaller adult to lay an egg which is say about 1/3 the size of the adult (it would be very strenuous), and the "larva" would grow quite big inside the egg before hatching. It could then continue to grow after hatching, but I think there could be a fair amount of growth within the egg too. $\endgroup$
    – Whitehot
    Commented Nov 20, 2019 at 8:34
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    $\begingroup$ @Whitehot yup, that is why I mentioned eggs. Placental babies top out at around 1/10 of the adult. $\endgroup$
    – Borgh
    Commented Nov 20, 2019 at 11:16


Or, more correctly, it violates the laws of evolution as we understand it. There are tradeoffs that are made for offspring in nature. The general rule is that the quicker it takes for a creature to develop, the less complex it can be. A fly, for instance, is capable of all fly behavior within 24 hours, give or take, but fly behavior is very simplistic. An intelligent species requires far more time (humans take ~23 years to fully develop, physically and psychologically). Thus humans need to be protected as babies.

This species would need to be protected as well in child form, something which being considerably large than the adult would hinder. Then there's another thing as well. You see, the reasons humans grow larger to adults is that adults are better at doing things, like crafting objects, and/or defending themselves. That is, an adult human is physically superior to a child human, thus a child grows into an adult.

Accordingly, in order for a large creature to turn into a smaller creature, it must be advantageous. Therefore, for your alien species, a small size is better than a large size. This, itself, is not problematic - there could be a myriad of reasons why smaller is better than larger (mostly external, i.e. predators or the environment). However, this is when evolution is violated - if the smaller, adult, is better than the larger child, why is the child large to start with? That a complex process which consumes incredibly large amounts of energy, all to be discarded, with no benefit, as we know, because the adult is smaller.

It's not impossible for an alien to grow during a life cycle for specific reasons. But a child-to-adult growth large-to-small would not be selected against a child-to-adult growth small-to-small when small is advantageous.

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    $\begingroup$ While I agree with the general idea - there could be exceptions if adults and children effectively leave in different environments or are vastly different in another way - consider e.g. frogs and tadpoles, many examples of marine creatures, or caterpillars and butterflies as @Borgh suggested. $\endgroup$
    – G0BLiN
    Commented Nov 20, 2019 at 7:55
  • $\begingroup$ @G0BLiN Notice how both examples you gave are both small-to-large and (more importantly) aren't intelligent! An intelligent species needs time to develop, and must be nurtured by an adult during the time period, which means its the same environment. I'm not saying this species is biologically impossible, I'm saying it goes against our understanding of the forces of evolution. $\endgroup$
    – Halfthawed
    Commented Nov 20, 2019 at 18:36

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