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Lifeforms made of metal that live on electricity that are NOT artificial robots. Not just a metal shell. More than just soft metals. Metals that look metal- stuff like iron, steel, titanium. Creatures that might look like Skarmory or other steel type Pokemon.

What would they be like? Would they need to breathe, have blood, organs? Live on worlds too cold for regular life? Need to have any that function like photosynthetic plants in their ecosystems?

I know this might be a bit too vague but I don't know where else to look. I don't even know if there's a proper term for such life that I could search for. I am in need of knowledge of how these things could function.

I have a couple of ideas for such creatures. One species lives in social colonies in giant metal hives in space and mine from passing asteroids for building materials. Another lives on a planet orbiting a red dwarf and use their electricity to spin multiple blades like a helicopter on its lower half to fly.

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    $\begingroup$ Based on metal how? & you do know calcium is a metal right? if you just want a metal skin, shell or skeleton we already have that, there are snails that use metal (other than calcium) for their shell as well : but that aside, yes, this is too broad, you probably need to narrow the question down some. $\endgroup$ – Pelinore Dec 5 '19 at 1:34
  • $\begingroup$ Questions along the line of "What would (something) be like?" tend to be too broad, try changing your perspective from "what could be?" to "what does already exist?". Reword your question in the form of an inquiry on what already exists that wouldn't be common knowledge and you'll be fine, like the snails using metal other than calcium @Pelinore mentioned. Also considering this is about life, biology could be a place to ask the same inquiry, just don't stick too tight to your expectations of what a "metal" life form would be. $\endgroup$ – V. Sim Dec 5 '19 at 2:33
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    $\begingroup$ @ChickenpeepChickenpeep if you knew, you wouldn't be here. I only meant that you should ask for examples of life with qualities that are similar or closer to what you expect rather than opinions of something that doesn't exist. Just a suggestion on how to make your question less broad. $\endgroup$ – V. Sim Dec 5 '19 at 3:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Pelinore That's basically the backstory for en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_of_the_Lifemaker $\endgroup$ – Logan R. Kearsley Dec 5 '19 at 4:24
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    $\begingroup$ @LoganR.Kearsley : Never heard of it, what can I say, would 'great minds think alike' seem immodest ;) $\endgroup$ – Pelinore Dec 5 '19 at 4:28
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What you're describing is (on balance of probabilities) Chromium Based Life.

First of all we need to address what we mean when we say 'X-based life'. Carbon based life for instance means that the organic compounds on which that life is based relies on Carbon as a 'binding agent' (simplification but functionally correct). That is to say, Carbon forms the basis of all terrestrial life because it allows several other elements to connect to it at once, allowing for the highly complex molecules on which life relies to create things like DNA and store energy in chemical form.

The property that Carbon has that allows this to happen is called Valency. Carbon has a valency of 4, and for life to form the complex compounds necessary to replicate itself this is pretty much a minimum number. So, the first thing you need is a metal of high valency on which to base a metal-based lifeform, and second, you need lots of it.

The reason why Carbon works as an essential ingredient for life is that comparitively speaking, there is so much of it lying around. Estimates tell us that around 0.5% of all mass in the universe is Carbon. This may not sound like a lot, but by comparison to other elements, it's positively abundant.

Unfortunately, while there are a few other elements with high valency, most are either non-metals (silicone) or they are very rare. On balance, the best mix of valency and abundance that is also a metal is Chromium.

Chromium is capable of a valency of 6, meaning that it is capable of even more efficient complexity than Carbon is, but it's also less abundant, with only 0.0015% of the mass of the universe being Chromium. This is more than 30 times less than Carbon, so it is less likely to form by a long way. Hexavalent Chromium is actually quite toxic to humans as most exotic organic candidates are, but if you have a world where you just happen to have a great abundance of Chromium and a lack of Carbon for some exotic reason, then such a life form may occur.

What would it be like? Exotic. That's about all we can tell for sure. Not all metals act or even appear the way you think of them doing so; it is possible that Chromium based life would have heavy hard metal shells and the like but bear in mind we are carbon based and are not made of diamond, and certainly aren't as hard as it. If carbon is scarce, then potentially so is oxygen so this increasingly exotic lifeform may well breathe fluorine instead. If it did, then you're probably dealing with life that exists at very low temperatures by comparison to us. They may have come from fluorocarbon lakes instead of water - there are so many unknowns that it is almost impossible to predict how such life would function or what they would look like.

As for such creatures being electrical, well technically so are we. Our muscles, senses, brains etc. are all connected via an electrical network called the Central Nervous System. If there are animals among your Chromium based life, they would likely be electrical as well for the same reasons we are; it's the most efficient way of operating.

But, the idea of helicopter or other vehicle based life is less likely. We're not talking transformers here; we're talking organic shapes and forms that evolve according to the needs and environment of their planet. Spinning rotors and wheels, while great in theory, are a function of being able to break down a machine into parts which is something evolution doesn't like. Making a creature with a wheel is impossible if you want to keep the entire creature within a single skin as much as possible. That said, we're already in a hypothetical conjecture that is pretty remote in terms of probability, so (as they say), anything is possible.

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    $\begingroup$ The problem is there's a mismatch between the OP's expectations & the reality here, just because the DNA analogue at the heart of the cell doing service in lieu of our DNA is chromium (if that's even possible) doesn't mean they'll look any less organic than we do, chances are they wouldn't, or that they'd run on electricity any more than we do .. I'm still convinced the OP is asking from a position of fundamental miscomprehension. $\endgroup$ – Pelinore Dec 5 '19 at 4:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Pelinore agreed; that was why I put in the part about us not looking like diamond. In point of fact while it would be exotic by our standards, we are probably more likely to recognise it as organic life before realising it's chromium based than the other way around. $\endgroup$ – Tim B II Dec 5 '19 at 4:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Pelinore So if all life runs on electricity, then perhaps what I'm trying to say that it uses more electricity, more like an electrical device, more conducting metals and circuits. Might give you a shock if you touched one with an injury. $\endgroup$ – Chickenpeep Chickenpeep Dec 6 '19 at 17:31
  • $\begingroup$ @TimBII I figured that this creature with more electricity running through it than life as we know it, would then have enough electricity to make things spin fast. And I was thinking when the spinny bits aren't in use they have a way to reconnect to the rest of the body for nutrients and stuff. $\endgroup$ – Chickenpeep Chickenpeep Dec 6 '19 at 17:35
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What would metal-based electrical life forms be like?

If you can find a metal that can serve in lieu of the carbon in 'carbon based lifeforms' & they evolve from first principles starting with something analogous to the simple self replicating DNA chains we started from then they will perforce most likely appear to be as organic as we do at first glance.

So they'll almost certainly appear to be just like us, in the sense of looking not metallic, but organic.

But you want them to look metal & be powered by electricity?

Your best realistically plausible bet for the look & feel (I think) you're after is to start with some small simple self replicating drones set to some task such as resource gathering on an uninhabited planet.

These will be their evolutionary equivalent of the first single celled life on Earth.

If for some reason their makers never come back for them after a few billion years of copying errors in the instructions & data files downloaded to their 'offspring' you'll have a full metal 'ecology' .. including plant, herbivore & carnivore analogs of all shapes & sizes .. even intelligence if you want it.

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As the other answerers already mentioned, there is a chance that on some distant planet non-carbon based lifeforms could exist, but that they wouldn't look metallic (like we also don't look like coal). Those planets would be highly toxic for carbon based lifeforms like us.

Another idea (if that doesn't collide with the "no artificial robots" restriction) is that the Gray goo scenario became true and nanorobots wiped out all biological life on earth. The nanorobots are able to build factories for reproduction but behave chaotic and can be seen like single-cell organisms. After many years the data transmission errors during reproduction sum up to some weird behavior, so that many nanobots form bigger structures. Some kind of mechanical evolution is going on, that works similar to biological evolution and eventually forms sentient beings.

What they would actually look like, is unpredictable. They would need some kind of muscles, the ability to move, some kind of nerve system, some kind of energy distribution system, sensors for sound, vision etc. They could produce energy with solar panels on their surface but that might not be enough, so maybe they have a digestive tract that is able to digest smaller creatures. If smaller creatures can be digested, the metal-animals also need an immune system that prevents them other nanobots rioting in their bodies (like bacteria). So in the end they may be not much different from biological life.

Maybe we are even the Gray goo of some other species that lived on earth. Who knows

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