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On an Earth-like planet, you would assume oceanic plankton and terrestrial microorganisms would exist. But, could there be plankton in the sky? While there are certainly nutrients floating through the air (pollen, seeds, etc.), they are not frequent enough for a steady supply of food. If you somehow had an animal or plant that produces millions of pollen-like spores at the same time, would this allow for a hibernating air-filter-feeder?

The producing organism would live in dense groups and frequently release spores, maybe every two weeks or so. As this occurs, the filter-feeders awaken and eat all of the food. The reason for such an extremely wasteful process is that the filter-feeders benefit the producer. This could be in the form of nutrients, protection, or maybe reproductive reasons.

Is this symbiosis a feasible system that would work?

Clarifications:

  • Every two weeks, the producing organisms release millions of spores, some fertile some sterile
  • Every two weeks, at the same time, the formerly hibernating filter-feeder awakens to feed on the spores
  • The feeder can be terrestrial, aquatic, or airborne
  • After this two week period, the producers die off while the filter-feeders go back to hibernation

Bonus points if you can answer this question without saying "because evolution can do anything"

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Evolution can do anything

Ok, I'm kidding. In reality you have to balance the biological need for life to survive and reproduce with the Prinicpal of minimum energy, that all systems take the lowest possible energy when presented with options. The main barrier to large amounts of airborne life is the need for propulsion or spending energy to stay airborne. Even pollen, while certainly airborne for short distances, relies on air currents that naturally occur, and spends no energy itself.

In your world you'd need to have energy sources naturally occurring in the air that are sufficient for keeping such life forms afloat. Maybe they can have chloroplasts and get their water and trace nutrients from mist and rain. In addition your planet would need a smaller gravity well and/or a denser atmosphere to allow such creatures to stay afloat using either no energy (neutrally bouyant) or such minute amounts that their natural energy sources can keep up.

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