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I am a huge Minecraft fan and just realized, this hasn't been asked before, so I wanted to ask a live-long (31. August 2009) question, and pay my obulus to the Anatomically Correct series.

I have done some research, and found this picture: Pictureof a creepers imagined internals

source: https://img2.minebook.me/gallery/63097_creeper.jpg

So, these are the more specific characteristics that I am interested in:

  • What substances or properties can cause a living being to spontaneously explode? (And I mean explode, not only combust)
  • The Image above shows a connection of the brain to the explosions source, acting as a trigger. As the neuronal network functions by electric impulses, the trigger for the explosion has to be an electric charge, send by the brain.
  • If possible, explain the (rather long) 1.5 second delay between the brains charge and the actual, externally noticable explosion. A possible explanation I found is, that the explosion is triggered by an impulse of pain. These are the slowest human impulses, traveling the human nervous system at 0.61m/s, taking 2.84 seconds to travel the 1.73m from top to the bottom of the creature.

Bonus Points for anyone who can give some plausible evolutionary explanation on why spontaneous explosions are a desireable trait for a species, andhow it could evolve.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hm, I'd like to improve my question, as there seem to be problems with it. Is it unclear? Too broad? Off-topic? Not well enough researched? I cannot see the problem I am afraid. $\endgroup$ – T3 H40 supports Monica Nov 1 '16 at 11:09
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    $\begingroup$ You should watch this Game Theory video. I won't post this as answer as it is just link and I can't watch it right now to write out main points. $\endgroup$ – Tezra Nov 1 '16 at 13:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Tezra - I just watched the video and I must say It provides a really good answer. I am certain, an answer formed from this theory will do well for this question $\endgroup$ – T3 H40 supports Monica Nov 1 '16 at 15:25
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    $\begingroup$ It doesn't need to be because of the brain (or lack of current) that cause the 1.5 sec delay... it could be a chemical reaction that takes time to reach the critical mass required for the explosion. $\endgroup$ – Phil M Nov 1 '16 at 16:09
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    $\begingroup$ Having a delay in blowing things up seems like a very good way of avoiding lethal false positives. $\endgroup$ – PatJ Nov 2 '16 at 12:45
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Trinitrotoluene (TNT) is entirely formed out of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen. Since we're talking about speculative biology here, I see no reason why TNT or a similar explosive could not be manufactured by some evolved process.

For a solution that exists in nature already: cows produce methane en masse (relatively) in their digestive systems. Methane is a viable rocket fuel, so I'd assume it could serve as explosive. We can imagine, then, a large, possibly pressurized "methane bladder" internal organ occupying a creeper's body. Elevated internal pressure, if necessary, could be maintained by building the walls out of a very dense, thick layer of tensile tissue (some kind of cartilage? tendon?)

To generate enough force to explode the creature, methane might be utilized in two ways:

  1. Pressurized methane is mixed with oxygen in the explosive bladder, then sparked when needed.
  2. Pressurized methane is excreted through vents or ruptures in the body that open up prior to detonation, blasting out methane to mix with atmospheric oxygen in the manner of a fuel-air variety of thermobaric bomb. This could also explain the explosion delay time.

For the sparking system, we might imagine something like the shock generating organ of an electric eel connected to a nerve. The explosion delay could also simply be a matter of the creature deliberating whether or not it really wants to die, heh.

I can imagine at least two possible benefits of exploding:

  • Disperse eggs. As for why they target humans before exploding? Maybe injured people and human remains are particularly good environments for their eggs to incubate.
  • Root out the enemy. Creepers are (eu)social animals which send out "infiltrators" to track down other social predators (humans) and follow them to their dens. By detonating in a crowded camp at night, they stand a better chance of taking out multiple threats at once when they're most vulnerable, or at least severely ruining their day.

A more boring answer is that explosion doesn't necessarily have to be an evolutionary advantageous trait; it could simply be that Creepers reproduce well enough that it hasn't really mattered up to now. But considering their size and probable nutrient requirements (presumably on par with a human), this seems less likely.

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    $\begingroup$ Considering the equivalent evolution of the Swamp Dragon (Draco Vulgaris), something that explodes when you try to eat it wouldn't have a lot of natural predators. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Nov 1 '16 at 10:53
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps the notorious "hiss" the Creeper makes before exploding is it either sucking oxygen into its methane bladder or venting the methane out into the atmosphere? $\endgroup$ – ApproachingDarknessFish Nov 1 '16 at 16:47
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    $\begingroup$ Uh, now all I can think about is that creepers are spreading an infection that changes all the reptoductive genectic material DNA with creeper genetics....My mind can go to disturbing places. $\endgroup$ – Necessity Nov 2 '16 at 3:39
  • $\begingroup$ I find it unlikely that methane is what causes the explosion, as creepers killed by fire die normally instead of exploding. I would expect the explosion to be something more along the lines of whatever it's called that requires two specific separate chemicals to combine in order to explode, like Tom Cruise's chewing gum in the first Mission Impossible movie. $\endgroup$ – Trevortni Nov 23 '16 at 17:33
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Spores.

The creature isn't really a creature at all... rather its a genetically modified host to a fungus who seeks to reproduce by attacking humans. After a human is infected, the colony of spores reconfigure the body into the above shape including repurposing the skeleton of the host into the new form.

The explosion is really a design of the reconfiguration, expelling the "human" flesh much the same as a porcupine expelling quills (and other examples in nature). But the primary purpose of this "self destructive behavior" is reproduction... in order to expose the now mature spore colonies ready to infect the next victim.

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  • $\begingroup$ I like where you are going with this answer. It answers the OP's bonus points category very well. I would love to see if you have answers to some of the bullet points too. $\endgroup$ – VampyreSix Nov 1 '16 at 18:54
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So from the information MatPat gathered, The properties of a creeper already exist in our world. Peat moss is...

1) The same color

2) The same texture Notch described

3) Contains the key ingredients of gunpowder (sulfur and carbon) (and explode to release their spores)

4) Have great electrical storage potential (like super charged creepers, but I don't know if this helps with the exploding or not).

I would hazard to guess that the 'hiss' (aside from game balance reasons), is a chemical reaction that builds up pressure in the creature faster than it can escape till it explodes. (This would also explain how they can cancel it safely as they seem to do)

Now, I've never seen a creeper eat, and moving is a tremendous 'waste of energy' So I'm going to borrow some features from a certain fungus. Ophiocordyceps unilateralis is a fungus with the fun property of 'taking over a hosts mind' before killing it to reproduce.

So our creeper could be an evolved fusion of these 2... things... that explode near you to infect you, convert you into new creepers, who than seek new humans to infect. (Why do the hard part when you can just take over someone else's body? X3 It's like a zombie apocalypses! Maybe that's why you are the only human in single player Minecraft?) Another option is that creepers are herbivore... but their body design is kinda terrible for any kind of foraging... So if you don't mind changing creepers to look like green monsters of their hosts, this could totally be a thing!

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  • $\begingroup$ Actually, considering that leaves in minecraft are only a little higher than creeper's heads, they could easily eat a lichen with similar properties to peat moss, stalk a human, lay eggs in the ground, and explode, killing the human and burying the eggs. $\endgroup$ – Dofork Jun 19 '17 at 13:34
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I'd like to just say, that exploding is beneficial for the creeper community, if one takes an possible enemy down others have a better chance at surviving. Also it might provide the surviving creepers with something to eat.

There is no delay with the detonation as such, since the creature is perfectly able to defuse the charge if explosion would not bring a satisfactory result.

Charge could very well be gaseous, I actually have been hoping Mythbusters would do a Minecraft episode. I'm betting on gases and an sturdy internal organs used to house and mix them. Detonation is either by electrical shock, or by pressure detonation, such as in diesel engines. The organ housing a combination of gases at volatile mixture rapidly contracts, and as such causes the explosion.

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