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Back in highschool I had a teacher who was adamant that rocks were alive; stating things like "They reproduce when you break them". They might have been a bit on the "outthere" side, but I was thinking recently: How could a rock be considered alive?

In my story, there is a particular organism called a gemite bloom. It is a crystalline flower-like life-form. As I have it planned, it works very much like a plant with a few differences. At the start of it's life cycle it looks like a crystal seed, with a small organic core at the center. You can plant the seed and it will absorb nutrients through the soil, through microscopic pores in the crystal. The organic core will begin to grow overtime, growing tendrils that stretch and start to drill through the crystal. As it reaches the outside of the crystal the tendrils start to secrete a substance that hardens and becomes an extension of the crystal.

This process repeats until the tendrils reach up through the soil and reach sunlight. The center organ will then begin to shift upwards, dissolving the crystal and replacing it as it moves to reach the sunlight. It undertakes a photosynthesis procedure (lots of light can easily pass through the crystal exterior) and begins to develop a stem to reach higher, a core support tendril and eventually a bud. The bud then grows larger and the central organ takes hold in the center, creating hundreds of tiny very efficient photosynthesis filaments that extend through the bud. When ready it blooms, opening it's petals and gathering even more sunlight. Eventually the core organ begins to subdivide and new "seeds" are formed which then, after growing to a self sustaining side, drop out of the bloom and become their own organism. Thus what is left is a flower-like organism that is composed of a very beautiful, but brittle crystal and living core.

EDIT: I should add that if you stripped the crystal from the organism, it will not survive, it needs it for protection and in the case of the filiments, they are so closely linked that it's nearly impossible to seperate them. In case that helps.

So, with that process somewhat explained (I wish I could draw well, I feel pictures might help a bit), I have a few questions.

A) Is this feasible as a life-cycle?

B) Would this be considered a "plant-like rock", or "rock-like plant"?

If "rock-like plant" to B: C) Is it possible, by definition, to have a "living rock"?

D) Is it possible to extend this type life creation to a crystal Golem that develops a consciousness and is self-sustaining by photosynthesis. (Cause I don't think it could really live by eating "non-living" rocks, but maybe I'm wrong.)

EDIT: I'm looking for a mostly scientifically backed answer, but since this takes place in a world with magic I've included the magic tag. Magic can be used to bridge the gaps that science doesn't have plausible stance for, but refrain from hand-waving if possible. (Not that I have, haha.)

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  • $\begingroup$ so basically a flower with mineralized warts? $\endgroup$ – Erik vanDoren Mar 21 '16 at 18:59
  • $\begingroup$ I think that description would detract from the beauty, which is what people like it for. Lol, probably accurate, but not advertised as such. $\endgroup$ – JGaines Mar 21 '16 at 19:04
  • $\begingroup$ well, people might admire a small plant full of galls, not knowing what they are, if it looks pretty then what something really is its often overlooked $\endgroup$ – Erik vanDoren Mar 21 '16 at 19:16
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    $\begingroup$ There is such a thing as a lithotrophic organism, which ingests strictly inorganic substances for access to energy. This process is pretty inefficient, so sapient life won't come from this, statistically speaking. But it's worth noting that nothing actually prevents that - like nothing actually prevents the existence of "organisms" that aren't carbon based, or don't use protein chains and biological cells to function. It's just statistically extremely unlikely that the energy balance would work any other way. $\endgroup$ – Sean Boddy Mar 22 '16 at 3:52
  • $\begingroup$ @ErikvanDoren I imagined the "warts" as glamorous crystalline flower petals that sparkle in the light, but I guess warts works as well. $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Mar 22 '16 at 3:54
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To start with: We've already got several species of rock like plant, somewhat handily called 'living rock plants'.

But your species seems to be somewhat more like a caddisfly larvae, encasing itself in a hard, rocklike material in order to protect it's squishy innards. Anyhow, onto your questions:

A: The biggest issue here is resources and logistics. The environment in which these 'plants' grow is going to have to be very high in silicates that are compatible with being turned to crystal, much like how our plants can only grow when given a decent supply of carbon. This is complicated by the fact that they also need a source of food for their innards. If they're a carbon based lifeform wrapped in a silicate shell then they're going to need two distinct resource sets, and two methods for managing the different resources. If they're a silicate lifeform then they pretty much fulfil the criteria of 'living rock' all on their own. :D

B: Rock like (or covered) plant. Unless it's silicon based biology, in which case: plant based rock.

C: By definition? If we discover a species that uses anything other than carbon as the fundamental building block of it's existence then we're going to have to look at redefining a few things, so I'm sure we can work 'living rock' in there somewhere!

D: No. Not really. Unless this golem lives in a crazy hot world it's not going to be able to garner enough energy through photosynthesis alone to be able to cart around a load of rock. It could evolve into the equivalent of a herbivore, however, and feed on the 'plantlife' around it, using both the resources from the tasty innards for energy and the minerals from the outsides to repair it's own hide (which would be constantly wearing and cracking at the joints). If you're going down the path of silicate only lifeforms then eating 'non-living' rocks would be somewhat akin to a human eating a lump of coal. Technically it's got the right materials, but they're not in any kind of a useful structure that their bodies can metabolise. They've got to wait for the next gemtato harvest.

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  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking of the "core" as more of a heart/brain organ and crystal akin to human skin or insect's exoskeleton. I've seen other places that mention high heat worlds would be necessary for silicone based life, but not a really clear reason. I'm pretty sure it is a chemical reason, but could you elaborate a bit on that? Could could a high internal temperature get around that? $\endgroup$ – JGaines Mar 22 '16 at 15:08
  • $\begingroup$ The reasons for high heat being needed for silicon lifeforms in this case is basically because they'll need to get so much energy from light that it'll heat up the world. The heat is less of a requirement and more of a byproduct of the intense energy flux you'd need to pull enough energy from photosynthesis alone to be an actively moving, sentient being as opposed to plantlife. The other reason for high heat being needed is basically that it takes more energy to move silicon into the right molecules than it does to do the same with hydrocarbons. The extra heat is needed to provide that energy. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 22 '16 at 15:39
  • $\begingroup$ I see, so do you think a combination of the photosynthesis and aforementioned lithotrophism (?) could make getting enough energy to move a rock body feasable? If not that's fine, the Golem was just an afterthought, but I think a silicate rock man could be pretty cool. $\endgroup$ – JGaines Mar 23 '16 at 18:34
  • $\begingroup$ Not a clue I'm afraid. I'm not enough of a biochemist to offer a working opinion on that one!! But if you have plant analogues that can absorb the sun and your golems can get that compressed energy from the plants then sure. There is a question somewhere about organisms that absorb methane rather than CO2 and the knock on effects somewhere that you might find useful. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 23 '16 at 19:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Jgaines: Here ya go $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 24 '16 at 7:43

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