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Could a planet's biosphere be as insanely violent a la War Against the Chtorr or Fragment?

Pretty much every organism, even the plants, is omnivorous and voracious. The two biggest obstacles to this than I can think of are:

  1. where the energy comes from the power that ecosystem and
  2. how anything lives long enough to reproduce.

For the first, I imagine that the planet's sun produces more intensive radiation than ours and the ecosystem is largely dormant punctuated by occasional bursts of violent activity where the predators feed and mate.

For the second, I imagine that everything is hermaphroditic/parthenogenic and organisms are able live in colonies or symbiosis that defend one another long enough to reproduce. This is explicitly mentioned in both of the books listed.

Of course I have probably missed or overlooked something.

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  • $\begingroup$ 3) What happens to all the excrement and bits of dead animal that can't be eaten. If you leave all that stuff around, then some kind of a process needs to reinsert that into the food cycle. If not, everything will grind to a halt when there's no more protein. $\endgroup$ – Snow Dec 19 '16 at 14:23
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    $\begingroup$ @P Perhaps a fungus which relies on the violent periods to spread its spores, then grows and decomposes things during the inactive periods. $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Dec 20 '16 at 17:37
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Yes. Though you'll have to give careful thought as to why it came about.

With regards to energy: This doesn't actually matter all too much. All more energy means is that things happen faster. If you look at the competition for light in rainforests or for a good spot next to the vent in marine thermal vent environments you'll see competition that is no less vicious just for being slow. Ants end up in wars that would make medieval kings question the existence of god. Microbial colonies use chemical weapons against each other. Even ivy will literally suck the life out of it's host. If you want these creatures to be a threat to humans then they'll need a decent energy source, but don't go thinking that slow means nice.

With regards to reproduction: It's all about making sure that you are the one that comes out on top, not anybody else. To that end how vicious you are really doesn't matter, as long as you're only vicious to things that aren't your progeny/going to mate with you. Thank of it this way: In any fight the victor is going to be the one that reproduces. The more vicious creatures get more food and have the chance to reproduce: the less vicious creatures... don't.

The biggest issue here is why. Why has your biosphere evolved to the point where literally everything has teeth? For the answer to that we need to look at what drives things to be/not be vicious here.

1: Plenty.

Plants here aren't vicious: unless you look at ones that grow in resource starved or high-competition environments: then the knives come out. The reason for this is that their foodstuff (light) is comparatively plentiful. They don't have to compete with each other for it. If they are in an environment where there isn't enough to go around then you'll see various survival strategies arriving. In the jungle, for example, where space and sunlight are at a premium this takes the form of trying to block the sunlight from reaching other plants (as that's the resource that's required) or killing for nutrients that other plants may already have leached. In the desert water hoarding is the norm: and some plants and creatures develop stunningly dangerous ways of defending their stash. For your world you'll want to make sure that there are plenty of most resources, but also that every creature is competing for the same scarce resource.

2: co-operation

Your animals are much simpler. Why are they vicious? It's the only way to survive. The only issue here is that groups that co-operate with each other outcompete those that don't. In the short term there may be a downside, but in the long run the group (which may be composed of multiple species that don't try to kill each other and instead only kill plants) will come out on top. So you need a way to stop co-operation being advantageous in the long run.

3: Stability

This is the big one. If an environment is stable then a species has time to specialise. Omnivores become herbivores/predators. Predators become hunters/scavengers. The scavengers are no longer in conflict with the omnivores, and so they don't try to kill each other. Avoiding stability gives no one species a chance to specialise in any way that doesn't involve ripping resources out of the cold dead mandibles of their competition.

If your world is constantly beset by natural disasters (high vulcanism or extreme weather associated with high solar energy input) you create a situation where no stable equilibrium can emerge, there is no long term for co-operation to be advantageous over and resources, though plentiful, are often torn away by Mother Nature. This will turn the brief pools of respite from the chaos into vicious gladiatorial arenas where only the most brutal and adaptable creatures can thrive. Hoarding behaviours are pointless, as your work squirrelling away resources for next year can all be undone with a single tornado, so you may as well live fast, kill as much of the competition as you can and lay your eggs in the corpses, trusting that your young will survive long enough to evade the next apocalyptic event.

Oh, and if any of your young do survive and come back to meet you: They'll be trying to kill you before you eat their prey. So kill them first.

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  • $\begingroup$ Even as simple as irregular seasons could keep the biology unstable. Perhaps a big moon or co-planet creates irregular and long eclipses. Or a binary star sometimes adds to the mix and sometimes not. $\endgroup$ – SRM - Reinstate Monica Dec 22 '16 at 14:41
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A violent biosphere offers a couple of problems, but when you start to play with growth rates and the general rate of metabolism in a creature much can be done that way without the need for creatures to work together or live in symbiosis.

Important to note is that there still is a food chain so you inevitably get layers in the ecosystem.

-Micro organisms These are already very virulent on earth as they can rapidly exploding population (Culture). On your planet with a biosphere as violent as the one you're aiming for you could up the rate of mitosis to feed the layers above.

-Small/rodent sized predators. These can be predatorial to attack prey its own size, it could also eat plants and micro organisms in order to get energy. (It can live on the micro-organisms and plants, but need the prey for nutrients to grow or reproduce.

-Everything else. You could follow the same basic guidelines as the one above. Plants for sustenance, meat for growth and reproduction. Some could be kleptoparasites, stealing kills from others or just straight up scavengers. Especially for smaller species, scavenging might be a viable way to survive since the bigger species will leave a mess and not fully consume their kill. (Some might, but it's likely not all will or leave behind some parts of the carcass).

Anyways, the key to having an ecosystem like this functioning is the accellerate the metabolism and reproduction at the bottom of the foodchain in order to justify the violent biosphere which demands a lot of energy. As you have mentioned in your question, having the planet irradiated with more energy is a good way to have autotrophs and micro-organisms reproduce and grow at accelerated rates.

Furthermore, it's very likely some creatures might develop very good tactics to avoid being eaten. Camouflage, poison, living subterranean, think of it and it's likely to develop in order to sustain the species in a less ideal environment.

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You may wish to find a copy of "Forbidden Planets" edited by Marvin Kaye. It is 6 short stories, but the key one for you is from Allen Dean Foster, titled "Mid-Death". Everything in that world is out to kill everything else, and four crack commandos try to brave the elements to rescue a science mission. The biological explorations are fairly detailed. https://smile.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/1582882118/ref=mp_s_a_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1482417384&sr=8-3&pi=SY200_QL40&keywords=forbidden+planets+in+books&dpPl=1&dpID=31oo7IMJMIL&ref=plSrch

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I'm getting ideas about insect type creatures here, like how the birthing mite is eaten by the babies. Maybe just a super evolved (disgusting) insect type world. The energy could come from more amounts of hydrogen and methane (or something) in the air, and or something from it's sun / suns/ nearby exploded star / cloud of forming star / etc...

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