I've always enjoyed stories that explore ideas about life in the clouds of gas giants. The Algebraist by Banks is my favorite. Though one thing that never quite rang true to me about stories like The Algebraist and A Meeting With Medusa (by AC Clarke) was the lack of... weather.

Jupiter appears to rotate every 9.9 hours. For such a large planet, this is violence. There is nothing to stop storms from building and building and persisting for centuries-- no landmass to disperse their energy, no mountains to stop their progress. The great red spot extends deep into the atmosphere like a stormy iceberg. Though, this particular storm has appeared to be shrinking in recent decades, a reservoir of anti-cyclonic motion deep below the upper layers of clouds has been growing stronger, more compact, faster-- some even predict the spot will only expand again in the future, perhaps to greater proportions.

This is, let me remind you, a hurricane, a typhoon, a monster storm that could eat the whole earth.

No balloon animals, humans with ornithopter wings, or majestic sky whales could survive a world of such chaotic violence.

But, I'm not just interested in nit-picking perfectly imaginative and wonderful existing gas giant ecologies. I want to try to imagine life in a gas giant with all the excitement such "weather" provides.

Perhaps a shift in perspective is needed: Take the great red spot. It's dangerous and moving very fast... but also in other ways it still and persistent. How could this aid gas giant life a provide stability? By living in an anti-cyclone one might stand a better chance of keeping all of ones parts at least somewhat associated with each other. Maybe the creatures of such an environment are like small cyclones in structure. Swirling masses of durable pods, that when close enough together to exchange chemicals and information can reproduce, and communicate. Maybe the spot itself is alien-made. (It would go a long way to explain the eerie symmetry of those rosettes of storms on the poles!) For anything to call such a place home all of the things we see as destructive must instead be ordinary.

I'm imaging these creatures use "anchors" long cables that catch on the lower atmosphere to create constant storms and navigate these eddies. The anchors aren't hooked on to anything more than greater friction in the dense layers of gas below-- but, I'm having trouble with exactly how such an anchor would be connected to the clouds of swirling pods that make up the organisms.

How could these cyclone lifeforms move and shape their stormy environment?

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    $\begingroup$ When I proposed to my wife, I did it in a hot air balloon. On the day I was worried it wouldn't happen because the wind was up. Though getting it inflated and airborne wasn't smooth. I was surprised when we were aloft, at how calm it was. there was only a slight breeze. since we were essentially moving along the same speed as the wind, relatively there was no wind. I imagine in those bands girdling a jovian planet. There is little violence except on the borders where the bands meet. $\endgroup$
    – Gillgamesh
    Commented Jun 26, 2023 at 13:02
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    $\begingroup$ an anchor seems counterintuitive. would it not simply cause you to move more slowly relative to the air currents around you, thereby causing you to feel more force from the wind? $\endgroup$
    – M S
    Commented Jun 26, 2023 at 14:15
  • $\begingroup$ The idea is to create a vortex causing the distributed durable parts of the organism to stay in a whirl together, but also the ability to move... $\endgroup$
    – futurebird
    Commented Jun 26, 2023 at 14:19

1 Answer 1


Your creature could be a siphonophore. Composed of billions of airborne bacteria, it forms a large structure with an 'anchor' to the lower atmosphere. These creatures move by retracting the anchor, which removes all 'friction' but is then pushed by wind. During a sufficiently powerful storm, the colony forms hard shells and splits up, being pulled to new areas rapidly. Sometimes, your creature will form 'super colonies' that have hardened exteriors, able to withstand the force of a storm, and inside there is a unique micro environment where creatures eat each other and the bacteria of the colony.

I can't think of any other way for visible life to exist. To answer simply: The creature drifts in the wind and can use it's body as an environment.


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