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I’ve heard repeatedly that life in deep space is incredibly unrealistic, but I’ve had a (certainly scientifically stretched) idea for a race of ant-like creatures who live deep under the lunar surface in tunnels. They spend the vast majority of their time biologically ”shut off,” similarly to how tardigrades can survive in a vacuum, with some sort of natural ability to store radiated heat from the moon’s core for energy in the process. After a long “hibernation” (not sure how long would be necessary), having built up a supply of energy, the creature’s eggs will begin to hatch, and the new mother will “wake up,” nurturing its infant daughters to maturity. The adult offspring, their growth fueled by heat collected by their egg over time, will soon leave their mother, burrow their own nest, and lay their own eggs. Then the expecting mothers will shut off until their eggs hatch, and the older mother, having spent her last reserves of accumulated energy from the lunar core raising her offspring, will die in her nest, possibly to be cannibalized by other creatures if they find her in the future.

TLDR: Underground space bugs collect heat from the lunar core over a long period of time while in their eggs, then use the store of energy to mature and lay more eggs before death, making respiration and a digestive system unnecessary.

Is this a somewhat feasible concept? Without knowing the intricacies of their biology, is there a way to estimate how much time would they need to hibernate to get 10-15 years of rapid growth, burrowing through the lunar mantle, and laying eggs? Are there any known processes to collect heat in this way without access to a light source (maybe they could live on the lunar surface instead if not)? If this process wouldn’t work on the moon, would it inside any other planet/moon? I would appreciate any input on this. I’m not sure if this question was specific enough; if not, I can try to close/remove it.

Thanks, anyone who read that really long question! :)

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    $\begingroup$ Heat is a POOR source of energy for life, unless you have dramatic temperature differences between two points. Even stuff living off geothermal vents are feeding off of chemicals. While not entirely impossible, the energy doesn't add up. This is besides water, organics, etc. so it would need to be very different life than what we understand. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Sep 3 '21 at 0:34
  • $\begingroup$ DWKraus I agree that radiation is definitely not the ideal way to gather energy, but there isn’t much else as far as available energy on or in the moon, right? I just assumed even if heat is collected extremely slowly, the creature living off it would just shut off and collect it for longer, assuming it could simply stay shut off for indefinite amounts of time. Also, I didn’t think about the creature not having water. Fair point. $\endgroup$
    – Mark Price
    Sep 3 '21 at 0:46
  • $\begingroup$ Heat is generally the waste/lower energy state for reactions sustaining life. Heat is stored as thermal mass (and hard to keep for long) or as some other kind of energy. How is your organism going to "collect" heat? It's vibrations of molecules. physics.stackexchange.com/questions/64146/… $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Sep 3 '21 at 0:49
  • $\begingroup$ DWKraus I’m not sure how it would collect heat, that was part of why I asked lol. I know heat can be used to generate electricity, so maybe it has a biological “battery” that it charges using the constant heat of the surrounding lunar mantle? Not sure if that makes sense. I could always revert to photosynthesis instead if surface heat alone doesn’t work. $\endgroup$
    – Mark Price
    Sep 3 '21 at 0:57
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    $\begingroup$ DWKraus Makes sense. Maybe it is better to think of the creature from an engineering perspective as a machine than as life as we know it, since its environment is so much different than ours. I may go with solar power/photosynthesis instead if that makes more sense. Thanks for the help! $\endgroup$
    – Mark Price
    Sep 3 '21 at 1:47
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For all we know organisms living on planets with no atmosphere could be the norm in the universe. However this creature sounds like one of the less probable ways to do so.

Gathering its energy while in egg form is not easy as it can't move to take advantage of any temperature changes as it grasps at the slightest temperature gradient on this shell. It probably needs to convert thermal energy to some other higher density form for storage. Whatever the method to store the energy, it's going to need a lot of it to find a mate and nest location before its limited energy is depleted.

Edit: A couple points from the comments. It would not need to raise its young. Not all real live animals do; like a Snake, the young of this creature does not need to do anything to survive. It does not eat or breathe, it just needs to stay in its nest until its ready to leave.

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  • $\begingroup$ Kezat I was thinking the creature would reproduce asexually, I.e. there are only females, since the vacuum of space wouldn’t contain many genetic illnesses. As you said, energy is precious, and mating costs energy. Due to the inefficiency of the very small temperature gradient in its shell, it would probably be in its egg for a very long time to gather enough energy, but assuming the embryo can survive in a deactivated state nearly indefinitely, this wouldn’t really be a problem, right? I’m also entertaining solar power instead of heat transfer, but I’d assume the same issue would come up. $\endgroup$
    – Mark Price
    Sep 3 '21 at 2:02
  • $\begingroup$ Solar energy is not the same as heat, yes it would make a great power source. I already can think of a real planet who life relies on the energy emitted from a star :) $\endgroup$
    – Kezat
    Sep 3 '21 at 2:11
  • $\begingroup$ @MarkPrice If you are talking micromachines, then I don't know what mutates them. But "the vacuum of space" has no radiation shielding and would be an extremely mutagenic environment filled with hard radiation. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Sep 3 '21 at 2:51
  • $\begingroup$ DWKraus would that mean creatures with DNA would actually be vulnerable to genetic illness even in space? I was hoping giving the creatures an exoskeleton (possibly fitted with a bit of handwavium) would give them some sort of radiation shielding, protecting them from unwanted mutation/cancer. Ideally the creature wouldn’t mutate or even evolve at all, so each of its offspring are effectively clones of the mother, but if there is a need for genetic variation that could change. $\endgroup$
    – Mark Price
    Sep 3 '21 at 5:17
  • $\begingroup$ Kezat lol fair enough, I guess Earth already figured out this one. As for the mother not needing to raise the young, that’s true but for the story I wanted to write I wanted to have the mother and her daughters have a close relationship as part of the plot. Maybe the offspring are natural rivals and need the mother to keep them from killing and eating each other, or something? Not sure how to justify this scientifically. $\endgroup$
    – Mark Price
    Sep 3 '21 at 5:22
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Life doesn't only need energy to sustain itself.It also needs supplies of sort to build up its structures.

I.e. plants do not need only sunlight to thrive, they also need water, CO2 and other elements they absorb.

Energy without a mean to use it is pointless.

Without getting nutrients somewhere you creatures cannot do anything: laying eggs requires the substances for eggs to be taken from somewhere, and getting those substances cannot be done while in hibernation.

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  • $\begingroup$ That makes sense. Maybe the creature can eat/absorb oxygen and carbon from the moon’s surface before it hibernates? Not sure if that would be useful in its available state newscientist.com/article/… $\endgroup$
    – Mark Price
    Sep 3 '21 at 5:07

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