This was an idea I had for an alien life form but i thought it made so little sense for a science-based story that I didn't further it.

The idea is a tree-like life form that instead of bearing fruit or releasing its seeds to be caught by the wind, the seeds or fruit were a mobile sentient creature, that has a short amount of time to travel as far from the tree as possible, burry itself in a suitable location where it will die but a new tree will grow out of its body.

I could have fun designing the tree and life form but I don't think something like this could evolve or exist.

What are the chances something like this could evolve or does it make no evolutionary sense?

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    $\begingroup$ Many human teenagers consider the older generation to be not-quite-sentient. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Feb 25 '20 at 3:35
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    $\begingroup$ Very very very many species of sessile animals have mobile larval stages. Barnacles. Tunicates. Mussels. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Feb 25 '20 at 9:47
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP good point, I thought there might be something in the sea similar but didn't know about sessile larval stages. $\endgroup$ – user69935 Feb 25 '20 at 13:17

I see two issues here. First, the transition to mobility would be tricky. Plants already spread their seeds wide pretty far just using simple mechanisms and wind power. Why doesn't that work in your world?

The next would be that it seems somewhat likely that intelligence at least partly stems from the need to outsmart your prey. You'd have the same issue as "intelligent herbivores," but your seedlings don't even need to outsmart plants.

I don't think these are impossible to overcome, though. Maybe the ground on your planet is fairly inhospitable. Perhaps they started out as dandelions seeds. But the locations where trees can grow are rare enough that simply spamming seedlings was wasteful. Perhaps the dirt they can grow in is not very reflective, so they evolved eyespots and controlled gliding to help them aim for that. Better eyes mean better targeting. Better brains mean better ability to find air currents to lift them, leading to long distance gliding.

A bit fanciful but not impossible.

  • $\begingroup$ Nice, good idea, thanks. $\endgroup$ – user69935 Feb 25 '20 at 3:10

You only need a mobile seed, what evolutionary advantage being a "sentient seed" brings into the picture? Maybe if you add a parasitic component to it, like immobilize/kill some animal and bring the body into an appropriate place before seeding it? At least this way some elements of world perception and tactics may be necessary.

Another problem: "sentient" vs "intelligent" - if you slide into asking even low level elements of "intelligence", you have the problem of passing the knowledge between generations: the progeny of mammalians learn behaviors for their parent(s) - well, their mum mostly.

May work if you allow the seed a longer period of growing within a social group before seeding - something like the first 30-50 years of the human life.
Something like the fertile period of life is long but the entire energy from metabolism doesn't allow for higher brain functions, so the fertile period is spent in a vegetative state, like a tree.
It is the "mobile seedling" phase when learning and "societal advances" occur, when all the "territorial wars" happen, when "intelligent choices" (or just "hormonal fitness") about the place where to "live happily thereafter" are made. Lots of opportunities for "coming at age" stories, telling about individual transitions to a part of the life when "ignorance on world matters is a bliss" and "one is living the dreams for the future offsprings".

Oops: I just realized I almost described the Pequeninos in the Orson Scott Card's "Speaker for the dead" - the only difference is the totally deep slumber in the sexually fertile period of life. Depending on how you do it, you may need to ask Card's permission to play with his toys.

  • $\begingroup$ Good suggestions, thanks. $\endgroup$ – user69935 Feb 25 '20 at 3:28
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    $\begingroup$ Using a species like the Pequeninos isn't violating copyright as long as you make yours distinct enough - after all, while 'Hobbit' is copyrighted by the Tolkien estate, that hasn't stopped halfings from existing. Also, Pequeninos, in-universe, are not a natural evolution, in fact they're a very unnatural species which is a plot point in later books. $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed Feb 25 '20 at 3:43

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