Dilithoids or as I call them candy-creatures are the lowest animals on the food-chain on my arid alien planet. What distinguishes them from other alien fauna is their simple body plan and their extremely high sugar content, which they get from eating a type of sugarcane. Their metabolism, though fast, isn't enough to burn through all that sugar. So to compensate they form sucrose crystals on their bodies, which serves as energy stores and protection against germs (sugar halts bacterial growth). They're basically natures candy and so they must run from everything, which is made easy by their fast movements, small size and rapid reproduction.

My question is the following: what happens to Dilithoids when they get wet and how to prevent it?

These creatures are basically everywhere and so are likely to encounter water in a form or another. You see not all of the planet is arid and dry. The lack of oceans is made up for with oases that feed plant life. Though rare, there is some rain on the planet. I expect osmosis and dilution to be a problem and am unsure of how they would defend themselves against it.


8 Answers 8


They Release Eggs:

The candy coating of your species is actually an adaptation to the generally arid and sometimes inhospitable conditions of your world. Being mouth-wateringly delicious and melting in water is not something to be avoided, it's essential to survival.

Like trees that can only release seeds when a fire happens, the eggs of your candy creatures are embedded in the sugary coating. This high-sugar environment is the ideal conditions for the eggs to gestate in. The life cycle of this species is centered around the infrequent rains that mean there are ideal conditions for eggs to hatch and new candy creatures to grow.

When it rains, the sugars dissolve and the eggs are released. Until the new candy creatures have a chance to live and eat successfully, they are not sweet candy. Only the individuals who are so successful that they build up a sugar-rich, egg-supporting layer reproduce.

Some variants of the species are symbiotic. Under conditions where there is enough food to form candy but not enough rain or water to support eggs, an alternate life cycle is used. When these individuals have matured enough to produce sufficient eggs, their candy coating becomes patterned and colorful, attracting animals who want to eat the sugar. The adults are eaten, sucked on or licked by predators and the eggs are then deposited within the predators. There, the digestion-resistant eggs are released from the sugar inside the moist predators and are incubated until the eggs hatch and the predator passes the non-sweet larvae into the environment.

Didn't your mother teach you eating too much candy would give you a tummy ache?

enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ Sticking eggs to themselves, clever. But candy-creatures that bait creatures into licking/eating them?! You have good tastes. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 14:25
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    $\begingroup$ Symbiosis is an interesting idea. Perhaps the "predators" aren't really predators at all, and don't typically eat other creatures, but are baited by the candy-creatures (when ready) to consume not the whole creature, but just the sugary crust? Beneficial for both parties. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 17:15

Plain sugar is soluble in water, therefore it seems straightforward that these creature would dissolve to a certain extent under water exposure.

However polymerized sugars/carbohydrates like starch or cellulose do not dissolve in water, like you can see from the amount of trees and plants which withstand rain or even grow underwater since forever.

Your creature can simply develop a polymeric shell made with that sugar and will be safe.

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    $\begingroup$ How are you so fast, are you even human? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 11, 2021 at 16:16
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    $\begingroup$ @LiveInAmbeR check his profile, he lives in the Restaurant at the End of Time, which means he is a time traveler. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 11, 2021 at 16:17
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    $\begingroup$ Note that using sugar polymers will probably give you a different sort of creature than you want. A common sugar polymer used for defense is chitin, the basically bug exoskeleton. $\endgroup$
    – user88782
    Commented Nov 11, 2021 at 17:21
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    $\begingroup$ @LiveInAmbeR I thought he just has a book with the big friendly words "don't panic" on the back and a towel around his neck. $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Commented Nov 11, 2021 at 17:23
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    $\begingroup$ Once they've developed a polymeric shell, be sure to find a way for them to evolve an "m" pattern on their sides :) $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 19:07

They make something like chitin.

enter image description here

This is a modified form of glucose, and it's not water soluble.

This can be used to make an exoskeleton like many insects.

enter image description here

Presumably, since they're candy creatures, organisms in that world have some way to digest chitin, perhaps in saliva. As such, after a brief wait after biting into one, you could taste the sugary goodness.

  • $\begingroup$ Great answer. The picture reminds me of the many arguments I've had about woodlice (chiggypigs in the US) - "It's not a woodlouse, it's a pill-bug", only to get into the same argument months later. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 11, 2021 at 18:42
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    $\begingroup$ I can’t say I like this idea, it robs the creatures of their candy qualities (and they won’t taste the same when you lick them). $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 11, 2021 at 19:04
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe they do taste like candy. We in earth have stuff to break down carbohydrates. Maybe people here have stuff to break down chitin, and so they can lick it and taste the sugar. It might taste even better than candy, depending on what is in their shell. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Commented Nov 11, 2021 at 19:05
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    $\begingroup$ @LiveInAmbeR Well, I'm sorry, but you can't have the cake and eat it. We taste sugar because it dissolves in water (saliva). If you can taste it, it will dissolve in rain as well. $\endgroup$
    – Neinstein
    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 15:57
  • $\begingroup$ @LiveInAmbeR what if the chitinous outer membrane were in the form of a papery rectangular sheet that could easily be unwrapped and discarded? $\endgroup$
    – N. Virgo
    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 16:04


These creatures secrete grease, which is lighter than the sugar and which rises to coats the crystals in an oily layer. The grease is of course water repellent.

Unfortunately the grease smells like french fries cooking and so these creatures not only taste delicious, they smell delicious from a long way away.

Rolling in salt does not help the dilithoids with their problems at all. But they still do it.


Three perspectives

1. You lost it

Well, shmucks, it rained and you lost your sugar crystals. Guess you'll have to replenish your sweet reserve. As sad as it may seem, plenty of animals do this with their fat stores, so your dilithoids can definitely survive this. Heck, maybe this helps the dilithoid. Think about it; they get that sugar from sugar cane, but why not from other dilithoid? Dead dilithoids or puddles of dissolved sugar left by your less fortunate brethren are like sweet gold!

And, remember, there's a chance that the desert sand will absorb the water but not your sugar, leaving sugar deposits you can eat to recoup your losses. Or if something else gets your sugar, maybe you can eat that something.

2. You never lost it

Gelatin, the main ingredient of jelly, is made mostly of collagen. This protein is common amongst Earth organisms, so what if your creatures store their sugar in masses of jelly instead of crystals? Additionally, non-dissolving sugar is a thing; just add a fat coating and voila! Your sugar is safe! Granted, this will likely result in a lumpy creature, as this would lead to your sugar crystals being stowed beneath a layer of blubber.

In nature, you adapt or you die, and these Dilithoids will be no exception. Either they avoid losing their external sugar to rain by avoiding rain, or they store their crystal securely inside themselves. (Or, perhaps they simply form non-soluble crystals?)

3. The circle of life

Finally, perhaps the Dilithoids sense the rain coming and take shelter, or perhaps the Dilithoids go lemming-style, more or less. Before the rain comes, they mate and lay eggs, hide the eggs where the water won't get to them, and then they wait. The predators come, they eat the Dilithoids, and none of them struggle. Why? Because the flood is coming.

Each foolish predator who came to eat them has brought upon themselves their own doom, ensuring they'll drown in the flood and their sugar-saturated bodies will become food for the baby Dilithoids. Every candy-loving predator is storing sugar in their body, massing it, and once they die, that sugar-and everything else composing their carcass-will feed the next generation of Dilithoids.

Because of this, and their gift for repopulation, Dilithoids don't often resist predation, as the predator's success will become their own. Sooner or later, the sugar will return to their kind.

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    $\begingroup$ Very similar, especially the last part. And grounded in biology. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 5:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Alendyias Very imaginative. I like it. They would look like running gummy bears that stash eggs. Baiting predators into a flood is very cool concept, though very risky. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ I like this answer. It's doubtful a creature could live on sugar alone, protein needs to come from somewhere at some stage, unless the biology is entirely foreign in which case why sugar? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ @LiveInAmbeR: Is it though? It doesn't matter if they die, because the eggs will be fine. Ergo, assuming the eggs have adapted to survive the floods, the risk is gone. $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 23:23
  • $\begingroup$ @coppereyecat Not just sugar. They’re herbivores so they get fibers and carbohydrates as well as proteins. It’s just that there’s so much sugar. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 13, 2021 at 9:15

Nothing dissolves immediately

How quickly does sugar dissolve in your coffee? You need to really try to get it to go. Your critters can certainly take short exposure without any problems.

Anti-wetting agent

If they combine (or coat) the sugar with some kind of waxy secretion, the sugar will be much more protected from the elements.

Large animals don't need to rely on vulnerable external stores

If you're mammal-sized, you have the space for subcutaneous stores of energy, whether that's fat or sugar. Worms don't do storage generally - they simply keep eating. So almost by definition, this means we're looking at insects with an exoskeleton.

All insects need to avoid water because it's hazardous to them anyway

At insect-level scales, the risk from water is not drowning or dissolving - it's surface tension. Insects may find it hard to break out of it (hence scenes in Antz and A Bug's Life), and it can damage the delicate scales on wings of flying insects, so it's important that they avoid it. So in this, your insects are fundamentally no different to our insects. Some of your critters may form nests (like ants, bees or wasps) if they're social animals. Some may dig their own holes in soil (well-drained soil will naturally be dry), or hide in cracks in wood or rocks. Some may simply hide under leaves. The types which don't hide very well (like small flies) will die in droves in a storm, sure, but they reproduce by the billion so it's not a problem for the species.


Evolutionarily developed umbrella? The sweet little guys much away on their sugar cane all day long, when the the rare evening rain shower comes along, they pop up their naturally evolved umbrellas. (umbrella, peacock display, common basilisk frill. Whatever you would like to call it.)

Sour powder coating? The little guys sluff off the top layers of their skin constantly like humans. However the coating clings to their bodies and when dried out is water repellent and quite sour to taste.

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    $\begingroup$ I also imagined them popping up umbrellas (their tongues). You took me by surprise! Have a +1 $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 14:58
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    $\begingroup$ Tongue is genius! Or at least the umbrellas could funnel the rare rainfall into/near their mouth. $\endgroup$
    – Gillgamesh
    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 15:14

If you are filled with cane sugar, do what sugar cane does

Sugar cane is highly soluble in water, but a lot of valuable content on the body of any living being is soluble in water, and very often already dissolved in water inside of the body. Avoiding water doesn't seem a reliable strategy for any land animal or plant, and it is even worse for aquatic life.

However, a solution was devised some billion years ago by evolution (or by the master worldbuider of your choice, if you prefer so): membranes.

Living being are enormously diverse, but all of them have in common some kind of membrane that keeps apart their inner fluids and soluble substances from those outside, including water. We have skin, trees have bark, sugar cane has its cuticles, unicellular organism have cell membranes... In fact, complex life forms have internal membranes to avoid its content being mixed, and to prevent it from being lost in case of the external membrane breaking at some point.

Therefore dilithoids just need to have some kind of skin. Inside, sugar may be solid or may be kept dissolved (as syrup or jelly) without being lost.

Needless to say, dilithoids skin can't be made of soluble sugars - just as any other creature's skin - but there are plenty of alternative materials and structures.


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