A multi cellular complex organism evolved to become nigh immortal and with the power to move through time both into the not-so-distant past and future. In this scenario the intelligent of such creature is similar to insect on Earth, they do not perceive the flow of time as our human's brain do.

Let's name this species "Species-ZYX" and the mechanism for leaping across time is unfamiliar to any existing known laws of physics as of this writing but we do know they are discovered somewhere in the Amazon Basin by a group of scientists and explorers.


There are many example of animals which are known to be almost immortal however are there any 21st century scientific methods to test whether Species-ZYX is really capable of time travel?

I'm neither asking for the mechanism behind time traveling bug nor am I interested being lectured by any self proclaimed "physicist(s)" just to debunk the myth of time travel.

List of unacceptable answers as follow:

  1. This gene is responsible for the...

  2. When the creature performed time jump it leaves behind trace of exotic...

  3. It can't just vanish into thin air unless...

Difficulty rating: Fiendish (partly due to my poor English)

  • $\begingroup$ What do the scientists know about the species? Do they know about its genetic composition and reproduction? What are the limitations on testing: Can they for example put a whole colony inside a big box full of cameras or can they only observe in the wild? $\endgroup$
    – Cyrus
    Nov 4, 2015 at 6:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Cyrus: yes they can get blood sample and maybe sequence the DNA but they don't know the habit or its diet etc since they are illusive. It is only by chance or caught on film etc that validate their existence. $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Nov 4, 2015 at 6:17
  • $\begingroup$ Are you looking for scientific methods, which universally demand control subjects and are probably not a good match for an illusive creature, or are you just looking to develop a suspicion that they might be time travelers? In these sorts of situations the answer is almost always a little side detail that you wouldn't even think to post in a question to SE. That little detail leads to a scientist saying, "Hmm, that's kind of funny." $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Nov 4, 2015 at 6:28
  • $\begingroup$ @CortAmmon: take mass of neutrino for example, they are illusive and can't be directly measured therefore the scientists invent ingenious way to indirectly determine the mass with great accuracy. $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Nov 4, 2015 at 6:31
  • $\begingroup$ The neutrino is also not sentient, obeying very very simple rules, and the sample size for the average study is in the quadrillions or pentillions, with regular enough properties that when a handful actually collide with something, there's little variance. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Nov 4, 2015 at 6:34

3 Answers 3


Tag a bunch of them with very small radio transmitters that include an on board clock. It's the same approach that has been used for a long time to study populations of larger creatures, and with current or near future technology it should be possible to build a suitable device small enough to stick to a large insect.

With that technology readily available, it would be quite reasonable to travel into the Amazon to study how long various insects live and how far they travel.

Depending on how the time travel works, you will soon notice the same tag showing up in two places at once, reporting the wrong time, or simply a much higher failure rate than for any of the other bugs in the study.

  • $\begingroup$ tagging the animal with unique radio signature sounds like a good idea however can you elaborate how such a method can use to prove that time travel is real maybe some examples to illustrate how to use the tag correctly and what result should be expected, I'll allow you to invent stuffs which I didn't include in my OP thanks a lot :) $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Nov 4, 2015 at 7:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If the tag broadcasts it's ID and internal time every minute or few seconds, your receiver station would at some point start receiving signals where the time is way off. Also, it might receive tag IDs that you haven't deployed yet. $\endgroup$
    – Cyrus
    Nov 4, 2015 at 8:12
  • $\begingroup$ I like the 'much higher failure rate' note. It it's a self-consistent time travel paradigm then you'll be catching loads of critters with broken transmitters that you may or may not have deployed, but that in itself would point to something odd happening. $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Nov 4, 2015 at 13:37
  • $\begingroup$ could the time jump also cause the transmitter to fall off? $\endgroup$
    – Flotolk
    Nov 4, 2015 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Flotolk That is certainly one possible failure mode, and it would get the scientists investigating how the transmitters came unstuck without either dissolving the glue or keeping part of the insect with it. There are plenty of alternative explanations for that, so it would be a while before someone suggested time travel. It all depends how difficult you want to make their job. $\endgroup$ Nov 4, 2015 at 23:50

I think @Quentins answer of using a radio transmitter is a good approach. However, having a technical device stuck to your species might not work, depending on the details of your timetraveling process. Who knows, whether only the species travels and the device remains untouched? Further, the device probably has some issues due to its size just like he already pointed out.

I would probably go for a more cemical/biological approach:

The possible timetravelling subject could be injected with a small amount of radioactive material with a high rate of decay, for example 24Na that has a half-life rate of 14,9590 h. So,

  1. injecting a sample of the isotope
  2. getting a blood sample
  3. waiting a few days
  4. taking another blood sample and
  5. comparing the results with the expected value

might point to better results.

I am by no means a biologist, and I have little knowledge as of how such Isotopes affect the Immunesystem of the creature, so another approach that might work by the same principle - and is surely more fun for the subject - is getting it drunk and measuring the degree of blood alcohol decreasing.

However, this presumes that the scientists have knowledge over the alcohol breakdown process for the species without having it timejumping. Maybe a monitored measurement first?

  • $\begingroup$ That would probably work well as a second study, after the radio transmitters started behaving strangely - without that you wouldn't have a reason to check the flow of time, and injecting insects with radioactive material is a pretty odd thing to just randomly decide to do. $\endgroup$ Nov 4, 2015 at 23:57
  • $\begingroup$ That is correct. This solution is only intended as a text, specific about the topic. There was no requirement within the OP, that statement otherwise :) $\endgroup$
    – T3 H40
    Nov 5, 2015 at 6:00

Your scientists and biologists observed some previously unknown species of bugs, so they caught a few specimens of each species and stuck them in separate terrariums to observe them. After a while of observing out time-travelling bugs intermittently, the researchers notice that suddenly there aren't just 5 of the bugs, there's now 7! "The bugs must have reproduced while we weren't looking!" they say, and so they try to observe increase the frequency of their observations to hopefully catch the bugs reproducing.

After a while of increased frequency observations, suddenly they find that the bugs are all gone! "Perhaps they died?" they say, so they open up the terrarium to see if they can find the bugs' remains, or perhaps some eggs or somesuch. But what is this, there's nothing bug-related in there at all?! "How strange, we should take better care with the next batch" they think. So they go out to catch a few more, but when they return with new bugs and look at the terrarium, they find that once again there's 5 bugs in the terrarium!

They now resolve to observe the bugs more closely, with round-the-clock observance of the bugs while taking shifts. Slowly but surely, their observations rule out the possibility of a rapid life-and-death cycle, but the number of bugs in the terrarium does seem to be increasing and decreasing at a moment's notice.

After a while, the biologists decide they aren't making much headway, so it's time for a more methodical approach. They set up separate containers, one for every bug, and put several camera's on the containers that will catch everything on film. They leave the setups for a while and when they start to interpret the results, they see that even with a single bug per container, their numbers seem to rise and fall! And what's more, the one that had a bent leg was observed to be in its container twice at the same time, then it was gone, and finally there was one again!

These results don't make sense...unless the bugs can travel through time!

TL;DR: have scientists observe the bugs long enough in a controlled environment and they will start to notice something's odd because the number of bugs seems to increase and decrease without any deaths or births. With enough different experiments, they will come upon the thought of time travelling bugs, and set up tests for that.


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