In my universe there is a planet that harbors a super cell organism created by an ancient precursor species. If you don’t know a super cell is theoretical idea where the cell can do just about everything including seeing, eating, breathing, thinking and just about everything else you can imagine.

This super cell creature can adapt extremely quickly by rearranging itself to basically change its shape. When putting it into a different environment it while attempt to adept. For instance if it was tossed in water it could form flippers.

My question is: what would be the most effective form of transportation for this creature to use while on land? Would wings, legs, or tentacles be preferred? Please provide pros and cons.

Edit: Consider the creature has a significant source of food, energy consumption is not a concern. I am purely focused on the movement itself.

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    $\begingroup$ Effectiveness is measured against a cost function which you do not define. We cannot answer. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    May 11, 2022 at 17:43

2 Answers 2



  1. No legs: Even with no limbs it's possible to move with waves of muscle contraction like how snails and worms move. It's slow but requires no shapeshifting and is all terrain. (suction cups or slime for adhesion.)
  2. Rolling: Again, with no limbs it's possible to move by offsetting the bodies balance in the desired direction. Gravity does the rest of the work. Fast but can't go uphill.
  3. Slithering: When rolling doesn't work the body can unfurl in a serpentine form better suited for uneven terrain. This form of locomotion requires specialized scales on the underside.
  4. Bipedalism: When the terrain is too uncomfortable for slithering, standing on two legs reduces the contact area and is much faster, not to mention requires less effort. Running, jumping and all that cool stuff. It just takes a good sense of balance to stay upright.
  5. Quadrupedal: For a stable stance four limbs is ideal (three is the minimum). More limbs means more speed and power but also greater energy consumption. Walking on two is more efficient so this would be better as the stationary stance.
  6. Flight: When walking doesn't get you anywhere, wings do the job just fine. All that's needed is to grow a membrane and powerful flight muscles, turning the legs into wings. A tail for stability might also be nice. Flying is great for overcoming obstacles but also very taxing.
  7. Floating: If flapping a pair of wings is too much effort perhaps a more relaxed approach is in order. By accumulating lighter-than-air gases into a balloon-like organ it would be possible to float with no effort whatsoever. A breeze can throw you off course so you might want wings for propulsion after all.
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    $\begingroup$ Great list! I would question whether bipedal running is less efficient than rolling or serpentine movement. It just takes greater processing power. Humans are the all-time champion for long distance running. It just requires specialized musculature to absorb and reuse the energy for the limbs hitting the ground, and a good sense of balance. $\endgroup$ May 11, 2022 at 20:27
  • $\begingroup$ Why, thank you. Slithering is the least efficient because the whole length of the body is used. Walking is more efficient because legs are swung forward with relatively little effort. Rolling, if done right, won't require that much effort at all. $\endgroup$ May 11, 2022 at 22:53
  • $\begingroup$ Consider the percentage of body weight that needs to deform in order to perform each action. Slithering additionally requires a low-friction surface, but I presume our biomorphs can manage that. I suspect that the deformation cost of rolling would be high, even though it largely uses "falling forward" as a movement strategy. Running is actually high-efficiency rolling, as it also uses falling forward, but deforms less of the body. $\endgroup$ May 12, 2022 at 3:27

It changes

It is a super adaptive organism. The solution is easy. It'll adapt on the fly. It can even plan ahead. Knowing or guessing it's current and future movements allows it to optimally change. Even with abundance around you, you're unlikely to waste in excess.

That means you fly when it's difficult terrain. Use mountain goat feet when winds are too high in difficult terrain. Walk on all fours when needing to go long distances. Maybe even slither around a jungle through the trees if need be.

It is much like a human. You walk, cycle, use public transport or a car in different scenarios.

As said, change to an optimal, or at the very least proficient way at that moment. Earth has varied creatures with great differences in movement for a reason. That is because the terrain is varied and movement has different proficient per terrain.


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