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Pando is a system of clones, each clone is connected and genetically identical to the others and they all share the same roots.

Pando is the heaviest and oldest living organism, with a size of 430'000 square meters , a weight of 6,600 tons ($6.6 \times 10^6$ kg) and aged over 80,000 years.

How could an animal-like creature use the same system as Pando, but with the ability to move and eventually develop an intelligence, not through traditional evolution by creating offspring, but by evolving during its life time?

This organism can clone its components, like Pando does, to live without limits.

Example: Lost an arm, leg or head, replace it with a cloned one.

This organism has to have the ability to reproduce and "give birth to" other similar systems.

It has also to be something considerably more complex than just a bacterial colony.

The system can have any size but has to look like one single organism from outside when observed by an ordinary person, so corals are partially excluded and metaphors/ideas like humanity being only one organism are completely excluded.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm having a difficult time visualizing what "10^-18 the size of earth" really means. Assuming the planet Earth: the what of Earth? Radius, volume, ...? (You ruled out mass by specifying that explicitly.) Could you please edit to clarify what you are referring to? $\endgroup$ – a CVn Jul 9 '16 at 14:34
  • $\begingroup$ it's the size of a tiny forest, 40'000 trunks over 43 hectares of ground, one hectare is 10'000 square meters (32800 foot) $\endgroup$ – user22398 Jul 9 '16 at 14:37
  • $\begingroup$ That still doesn't answer the question I asked: the what of Earth? "Size" is ambiguous. Please use a more specific term: radius, volume, surface area, whatever you like, but something specific. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Jul 9 '16 at 14:39
  • $\begingroup$ When trying to build a gestalt animal the size of Pando like this, it may be effective to dig into the roots of what defines a "living creature." What separates you from me? You may find that a society, like we have, actually meets your requirements. Societies evolve, and some of the ways they have evolved suggests some level of intelligence forming in them beyond that of its constituent human parts. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jul 9 '16 at 15:19
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not against the idea of a society itself being alive since the definition of life is mostly based on opinions... Do you suggest that a society could develop it's own intelligence ? $\endgroup$ – user22398 Jul 9 '16 at 15:23
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Having such a thing evolve is actually very hard. It reproduces by cloning, so there is no genetic variation between members of the community. The variation that occurs in sexual reproduction, when genes are mixed from two parents, is important for evolution: it means that some offspring are better adapted to the environment, and are thus more likely to reproduce themselves than those who are less well adapted. Hence "evolution by natural selection."

Without sexual reproduction, the only source of variation is mutations during cell division, which is much slower.

If your setting allows for inheritance of acquired characteristics, this may be more practical, but "Lysenkoism" has a really bad reputation.

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  • $\begingroup$ And what if one part of the many organisms that make up this creature is a sperm producer ? would it still count as cloning or it would be sexual reproduction ? $\endgroup$ – user22398 Jul 9 '16 at 15:19
  • $\begingroup$ Self-fertilisation is still sexual reproduction. It has several drawbacks compared to fertilisation by another creature, but it still allows for reasonably rapid evolution, and is not cloning. $\endgroup$ – John Dallman Jul 9 '16 at 15:36
  • $\begingroup$ Self fertilisation would not be the same organism however. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Jul 10 '16 at 13:36

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