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What environmental pressures could drive evolution of a creature that has the ability to float in the air? How it floats isn't important.

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    $\begingroup$ Floats on water or floats in gas? $\endgroup$
    – glenatron
    Aug 6, 2015 at 16:48
  • $\begingroup$ Your creature may be riding the hot air rising from the desert floor to be easily become food for birds so that it can lay egg that when hatch the larvae can eat the host from inside out lol😋 $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Aug 6, 2015 at 17:06
  • $\begingroup$ @glenatron Floats in air. $\endgroup$ Aug 6, 2015 at 17:32

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If it has multiple stages to it's lifecycle and the final stage is fairly immobile then floating "spawn" would make sense. You'd also probably want to make it an R-strategy organism which produces many young of which only a few are expected to survive.

Seeds

You could also make the environment quite hostile such that food and stability in any particular area is unpredictable.

You could also model it on jellyfish lifecycles only with floating in the air.

jellyfish lifecycle

Floating isn't the best way to get around but it's cheap and easy: if you're producing a thousand offspring letting them float away is a good strategy.

Indeed a number of spider species use "ballooning" where they float away on para-shoots made of webs to reach new locations.

enter image description here

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Float away to breed another day.

Floating isn't the most rapid, stealthy, or graceful of transportation methods. So it won't as likely be used for a predator, unless it's something like a floating jellyfish.

But being able to float on water or in the air has a significant advantage over a predator that can't fly or swim. So it would likely be developed by prey animals for the purpose of escape.

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Perhaps it wasn't a species of the animal kingdom that originally developed the ability to float, but the plant kingdom. A floating plant would have a significant advantage over its earthbound competitors, in that it occupies the "ultimate high ground", gets first chance at the incoming photons, and can cast deadly shade on the unfortunate specimens below.

After that, floating animals could either evolve from those plants, or perhaps use those plants to achieve buoyancy somehow, or maybe just develop their own floating method through parallel evolution. The first species of herbivores to develop the ability to float will have exclusive access to the entire habitat of the floating plants, and completely escape their lower-altitude predators, both of which are significant advantages over their ground-bound cousins. The first species of floating carnivores will have exclusive access to the floating herbivores, which is again a significant advantage over their heavier competitors.

As always, evolution is an arms race, and air supremacy is a powerful strategy.

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  • $\begingroup$ Plants usually need ground nutrients. A plant that collects its nutrients while growing in the ground and later takes to the skies though, that could work. $\endgroup$ Aug 6, 2015 at 19:36
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    $\begingroup$ @OliverMarks there are also air plants that require no soil to grow. They do tend to succulent-like so there may be a limitation there. $\endgroup$
    – Green
    Aug 7, 2015 at 4:34
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    $\begingroup$ @OliverMarks Epiphytes gain nutrients from dust and debris they catch in their trichomes, which indicates these hypothetical floating plants could do the same, although they would likely be limited to dry environments with lots of sand or exposed soil. $\endgroup$
    – M S
    Jun 4, 2023 at 12:48
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The need for surprise attacks.

Most humans (and, in many cases, animals) don't think in three dimensions. All of the people we interact with are, in general, at the same elevation we're at, moving at the level as us. When you walk down the street, you don't often look straight up.

Something that floats has a tremendous advantage, because it can simply descend on someone or something. For example, if an animal lives on the surface of the ocean and floats using an air bladder, it can quickly descend on potential prey from above. They might not notice it coming, if it moves fast enough.

Floating is easier than flying or swimming, and takes less energy.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'll admit, I looked up to check for a floating panther. $\endgroup$
    – Samuel
    Aug 6, 2015 at 17:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Samuel Shh. . .He's right behind you. . . $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Aug 6, 2015 at 17:13
  • $\begingroup$ The whoopee cushion sound when they deflate their gas bag always gives them away. $\endgroup$
    – Samuel
    Aug 6, 2015 at 17:27
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    $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 no, he's right ABOVE him ;) $\endgroup$
    – Katai
    Aug 6, 2015 at 17:55
  • $\begingroup$ Floating on the surface isn't a huge advantage. Any creative looking up can see your outline against the brightness of sky. Fat better to be below and looking up towards the surface. $\endgroup$
    – Green
    Aug 7, 2015 at 4:35

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