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Specifically trying to create an alien species that can survive most environmental stressors and find a way to create an environment that justifies the species developing its characteristics that allows it to do this. I want the species to be a large animal like species with ability to survive extremes in temperature and pressure change, hypoxia or anoxia, extremes in electrical and magnetic fields and rapidly changing weather, low availability of food resources, tolerances of toxins and toxic gases. I was thinking a moon orbiting a gas giant may be appropriate with widely varying but periodic magnetic and gravitational fields and its tilted on its axis more than Earth is therefore creating more variable weather patterns or seasons. Maybe it's tidally locked with cold and hot sides??

If anyone could offer input of any sort then that would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

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  • $\begingroup$ Two questions 1) are you looking for an adaptive species that adapts to these environments, or a species which is adapted to hostile environments in general, and as a result does not need to adapt to any particular environment? 2) If it's the former, are you excluding humans? We are famously adaptive to a great many environments. We've even been crazy enough to go live in the shadow of Everest, where the barrel sized lungs of sherpas are essential survival traits. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Feb 28 '16 at 16:54
  • $\begingroup$ I'm excluding humans for this idea. Overall, the idea was to create a species with ability to adapt to as many environments as possible which I saw as being achievable by focussing on particular stressors e.g. pressure, heat etc and providing the logical reasoning why such a species would develop. In my head such a species would have a complex genome and variable phenotypic traits, it would be like a library of physical attributes that can be called upon when necessary. $\endgroup$ – MICHAEL TAYLOR Feb 28 '16 at 20:22
  • $\begingroup$ I think your word "focusing" may actually be a very important part of building such a creature and understanding why it came about. Much of evolution's greatest work are creatures which don't have to focus, they do everything at once. As a result, the complex genome that tends to show up is one which is far more subtle than one would typically associate with "focus." What you describe sounds remarkably like Darwin from X-Men, actually. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Feb 28 '16 at 23:11
  • $\begingroup$ This idea reminds me of the Zerg from Starcraft, Who can literally eat another Zerg and evolve within minutes. They got like that through unknown means, but it was literally an eat or be eaten world they lived on. You ate to evolve to get bigger and/or stronger in order to eat more. the biggest were the size of shopping malls. though im excluding Leviathans (freaking MOON sized) and other big Space Fliers who are probably not due to natural selection. $\endgroup$ – Ryan Feb 29 '16 at 16:50
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So this means you are looking for the following environmental factors:

  • Extremes in temperature and pressure change
  • Hypoxia or anoxia
  • Extremes in electrical and magnetic fields
  • Rapidly changing weather
  • Low availability of food resources
  • tolerances of toxins and toxic gases.

These can actually be grouped together.

Nothing needed:

  • Low availability of food: This can be a consequence of the other conditions changing. Certain conditions allow plant growth, then when things go crazy the plants all scatter seeds and die or go dormant.
  • Electrical and magnetic fields: These already only have moderate effects on life, look at the strength of magnetic fields in an MRI scanner. If electrical storms are a real problem they would either take shelter or maybe even have some sort of "lightning rod" built into their skin/carapace/whatever to route electricity around themselves. If you do want them though then the gas giant moon is a good way to generate them: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Io_(moon)#Interaction_with_Jupiter.27s_magnetosphere

Climate:

  • Extremes in temperature and pressure change
  • Rapidly changing weather

These would most likely be linked, with rapid temperature or pressure changes also changing the weather. I like your gas-giant solution for this. Passing into the shadow would cause rapid cooling for example. You could extend on it even further by having the gas giant orbiting on an eliptical orbit or even being part of a binary star system. Depending on the position of the stars and how they line up you could have wide swings in seasonal temperature.

Gasses:

  • Hypoxia or anoxia
  • tolerances of toxins and toxic gases.

The gas giant sounds like a good solution to this as well. As the tidal forces from the gas giant squeeze and compress the moon it will cause large amounts of volcanic activity on the surface. This will cause frequent eruptions of volcanic gasses like carbon dioxide, sulfur and sulfur dioxide. Carbon dioxide is heavier than oxygen so will tend to form pools driving all oxygen out of an area until it disperses. For example see:

Conclusion

Yes, your idea sounds good. Being in orbit around a gas giant could conceivably provide all the environmental factors you desire while still in theory be survivable, if hard to live in. Add other moons around the gas giant to increase the tidal squeezing effects and maybe binary stars to give some really wacky seasons and you are good to go.

Tidal locking won't actually make a big difference here since most of the heat comes from the sun anyway, but it's highly unlikely that the moon would not be tidally locked.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answer you have given me some things to consider and think about. In regards to your lightning rod idea for electrical protection in the skin, any thoughts on what would work? Only tolerance of electrical current/voltage I know of is people having very rough and dry thick skin that increases the resistance of the skin as a barrier to conducting the electricity. Maybe an organic insulative layer that makes the body opaque to electricity is plausible?? $\endgroup$ – MICHAEL TAYLOR Feb 28 '16 at 20:29
  • $\begingroup$ You can either insulate or you can act like a lightning rod and route the electricity around yourself. Essentially the surface of the creature acts like a Faraday cage: openenlightenment.org/faraday-cage $\endgroup$ – Tim B Feb 28 '16 at 20:32
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the biggest problem with this is that you still have to have a way for life to evolve in the first place while not being intrinsically resistant to its environment. to answer this requirements, how about something like this: the planet and its star were originally well-suited for normal terrestrial-style life. in these conditions, a form of life that would be recognizable to us as such would evolve, without being naturally able to survive extreme conditions. but suddenly (!), some outside force (such as a rogue planet/star/singularity approaching the system, the star aging and expanding, etc) begins changing the conditions on the surface of the planet at an increasing rate over a relatively short time (millions of years). the increased pressures placed on the native species of the planet cause most to die out, as the normal limits of evolution make it nigh-impossible for normal life to change fast enough. but one or more species manage to evolve around even this: not only selected for adaptation to environment, but for adaptation itself. these species gain the ability to do in a few dozen generations what the rest of the universe does in a few hundred. some possible mechanisms to actually achieve this: 1. like you already said, having a built-in selection of various traits and adaptations that can be emphasized or de-emphasized at will. this could manifest in two ways: either the individuals are able to selectively modify the traits present in their young well they are t=still being developed, or they are able to modify their own genetic code, allowing them to take different forms as their cells die and are replaced by new, better-adapted cells. a problem with this is that it still limits the general pool to traits which are specifically focused on survival on the single planet the species developed on. 2. to take the above even further, this organism could theoretically be able to alter its entire cellular structure at will, allowing it to change in response to any environment. in some ways, though, this is less likely and maybe even less useful than the first idea stated; to start, the creature would have to know what adaptions it needed to develop, which would also require it to be very good at analyzing and sensing its environment. additionally, this raises questions about how much of this control is conscious and how much is automatic; if it is entirely a conscious ability, how does the organisms deal with mental trauma? and if it is controlled by instinct or the subconscious, how does this limit the possible forms that the organism could take? and this ignores the questoin of what mechanism is used to transmit precise, widely varied signals to every single cell of the organism. may be too much trouble to justify and explain if you want a hard sci-fi story 3. finally and least possibly, say the organism exists partially on another dimension, allowing it to retreat to avoid damage. if this dimension is time rather than space, this also lets it anticipate when to withdraw and when to return to best maximize survival, along with any other time control powers you feel like throwing in there. or just make them sentient, that has worked out pretty well for us so far! ;D

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