A Weyland-Yutani like conglomerate wants to colonize exoplanet in the habitable zone of the orange dwarf 0.75 M of the Sun. The planet has

  • 2 X Earth diameter
  • 3g surface gravity
  • atmosphere 92% Nitrogen, 8% Oxygen
  • 3 X Earth atmospheric pressure
  • 45 degrees axial tilt,
  • Temperature varies between -70°C winter and +70°C summer
  • Mountainous terrain

Due to unsuitable condition for human life board decided to keep the human colony on the planet's large moon which is similar to Ganymede, and to genetically design small near human. The objective is to keep this "hobbit" as close as possible to humans while being able to survive & thrive on the planet.

What changes should they do to human DNA assuming near future technology where genetic engineering could tweak human organs and adapt human DNA to produce systems seen in other animals (like bird respiration, winter hibernation, Pentachromatic eyesight etc) ?

How smart would the hobbit be if it has similar brain to human but it's size is limited to <1M?

EDIT I would prefer if possible to keep them look like children and their IQ to be on a pre-puberty level children 10-11. The reasoning is that humans won't treat them as rivals, and they won't be smart enough to be competitors that could in the future chase humans out of the system. So the coexistence must be beneficial or the very least neutral to both sides. Using force to fight future insurgencies from the hobbits, or some colonists killing planet inhabitants because they look like monsters is definite no no.

The humans could teach them things like traditional agriculture, making cloth, hunting, make simple (adobe, plank houses), knowledge of herbs. But not advanced staff like engineering, pharmacy, etc. Trade with humans is OK if it's profitable for the humans, but they should be self sufficient as far as possible. Planet could support billions of them and conglomerate doesn't want to waste resources on them.


2 Answers 2


The genetic engineering modifications should include the following: --

  • fast reflexes from birds to help cope with the higher gravity, for example, catching falling objects;
  • musculature like that of an Orang-utan which will be four to six times stronger than a natural human;
  • oxygen transport mechanisms with rates similar to fish which have blood that is fifty times better at transporting oxygen than humans to cope with the low oxygen content in the planet's atmosphere;
  • bones that are wider and stronger, this will include the skull to protect the brain better, once more to cope with the higher gravity;
  • an improved vertebral column firstly to cope with the higher gravity but also to prevent unnecessary back problems;
  • improved mechanisms in repairing and maintaining bone density, again to cope with the higher gravity;
  • body hair or fur to insulate them against temperature extremes, as this will work for the hot and the cold extremes;
  • a generally wider and broader physique to make adaptation to the higher gravity easier*;
  • improvements to their cardiovascular system, this could include a second heart to ensure the circulation of blood under higher gravity.

*: Their broad and wider bodies will have the downside of them looking more like Tolkienesque dwarves than Hobbits.

Upon the reflection many of these genetically engineered modifications will be standard for human beings who travel in space. Even for humans who remain on planet Earth they may have been installed as standard features in normal human anatomy and physiology.

The size of the brain doesn't need to be much smaller than ordinary human beings, and especially for humans who are on the smaller size spectrum of normal human variability. The shape of the skull and the brain contained within it, can be flattened down to accommodate a normal sized brain. There is no reason to expect the colonial Hobbits to be less smarter than your average human being.

  • $\begingroup$ Excellent answer . I want them to look and to be smart like children. I guess fur is not necessary since they will be able to produce clothes, humans could teach them how. Is there any way to remove broad and wide bodies? $\endgroup$
    – Platypus
    Sep 18, 2016 at 7:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Platypus Presumably to make them more Hobbit-like. Only by engineering them to be better supported structurally, perhaps, with additional internal bracing. Having a stronger skeleton made from stronger materials. This will place high demands on bone growth, in getting the right materials in their diet, and the increased metabolic energetics to go with it. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Sep 18, 2016 at 13:49

Except for the things mentioned by A4android (not hobbit but dwarves), I'd add:

-very gregarious and friendly, much more than humans (would solve problems with prospective rebels, if local population would be really willing to keep good relations with everyone)

-you want a peaceful, child like appearance - what about neoteny? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoteny

-big ears - not only for hearing, but also for getting rid of excess heat

-actually there is no need for any adjustment for oxygen, as the partial pressure would be roughly the same

-bones including some protein from spider silk, to make them really tough

  • $\begingroup$ Adding spider silk proteins to bones is a neat idea. Good one! Nice that partial pressure solves oxygen intake issues. While I didn't mention it in my answer, another reason for increased oxygen transport was to power their metabolism to work against higher gravity. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Sep 19, 2016 at 13:17
  • $\begingroup$ Neoteny would scare the hell out of me... $\endgroup$
    – Skye
    Sep 19, 2016 at 14:22

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