Hideaki Sena's cult classic novel, Parasite Evil and it's video game sequels revolve around the premise of mitochondria gaining sentience and usurping mankind after aeons upon aeons of multicellular organisms evolving, owning back to their origins as separate prokaryotic organisms. Somehow, they also gained the ability to access the thoughts and memories of a host, implanting suggestions and even communicating or alter cellular structure and physiology.

My question is this:

How could sentient mitochondria logically evolve and what are some critical environmental or sociological factors that might come into play and dramatically impact their evolutionary process?


2 Answers 2


There are several ways to define a sentient organism, but all of them has in common something arising from the collective behavior of highly specialized cells.

As such mitochondria cannot be sentient, since they are not enough in a single cells to exhibit collective behavior, unless they walk the entire evolution path again and become first pluricellular organisms and then neurons inside a pluricellular and sufficiently complex body.


Nobody Knows

The biological basis for sentience is a currently a mystery. Hence your question cannot be answered in a hard-science manner.

One hurdle with sociological/environmental factors causing the evolution is the following: Whatever the sociological/environmental factors are -- since the two are bound together -- they effect the host humans just as much as mitochondria.

To trigger some huge change in the mitochondria, you need some event that causes humans to start dying out, and the easiest change to fix it involves the mitochondria evolving sentience rather than just the human behaviour changing.

Perhaps something that directly damages brain tissue, like radiation, and thus makes it harder for the brain to evolve different behaviours.

Soft Science

To make the sudden change more believable, I suggest you take advantage of the mystery of consciousness and say consciousness is already caused by mitochondria. They have not suddenly evolved sentience -- they have simply evolved to take direct control rather than giving the host free will.


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