I want to develop an intelligent species that communicates almost exclusively through touch. Their entire epidermis serves as a conductor like an electrode, so that when they touch they share thoughts. When they are too distant to touch, they can use sound vibrations to send simple messages, (such as "danger!"). They have developed metal crowns that connect to their electrode like epidermis to act as transmitters to allow for more complex distance communication. Their intelligence and complexity of communication is on par with or above that of humans.

Assuming this species is otherwise human-like in form and function, how would the environment of their home planet have to differ from Earth's environment to allow this communication method to naturally flourish?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I don't think it is possible. On Earth organisms with greater reach of communication have advantage over others - can warn against predators, coordinate pack hunting etc. Some electric communication looks OK. Exclusively touch does not. Not posting an answer because this isn't a reality-check. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Jul 7, 2017 at 19:03
  • $\begingroup$ how does a metal crown enhance the ability to send or receive sound vibrations? $\endgroup$ Jul 7, 2017 at 19:11
  • $\begingroup$ @A.C.A.C. Metal crowns would amplify/transmit their skin's ability to function as an electrode, not utilize their basic sound vibration abilities. I've edited the question to clarifiy that. $\endgroup$
    – user40179
    Jul 7, 2017 at 19:41
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Can they see or hear at all? If so I can't imagine they wouldn't find another way to communicate that would be superior, at least over distance. And if they are blind and deaf I can't see them surviving long enough to evolve intelligence. $\endgroup$ Jul 7, 2017 at 21:42

2 Answers 2


Murky water.

Your creatures will need both an electric sense, and the ability to generate electric charges. Electrosensitivity basically doesn't exist in land animals, but it is reasonable common in aquatic animals. The ability to generate electric charges is less common, but both abilities are combined in animals like the famous electric eel, which live in swamps and in muddy bottoms of small rivers and floodplains.

So, you want a species that lives in a watery environment where sight doesn't do them much good, such that as they develop into social creatures, they rely on their electroception and electrogenesis organs (at low power!) for communication. When they later evolve to move onto land (whether before or after they develop high intelligence), their electroception and electrogenesis will no longer to be useful for hunting prey, but there will be pressure to conserve it since it has been co-opted as a communication channel. Out of water, however, communication would then require close physical contact.

  • $\begingroup$ I like this and I wish I thought of it. In water you solve a lot of logistics issues that you have to solve on land when you communicate through vibrations and electricity. $\endgroup$ Jul 7, 2017 at 20:46

The environment's properties matter the most here.

Your restrictions seem infeasible in an environment that's open, expansive, and open to the invasion of predators or threats. Communication is how a species survives. You coordinate the retrieval of resources, you communicate the presence of a predator/threat, etc. In an open area, your species here can't easily transfer knowledge to one another. If a predator invades, unless their intelligence has allowed for countermeasures then they are screwed.

Thinking about it, a colonial species society would be best, within the confines of close quarters habitat where the habitat itself is built in a way that maximises the communication between members of the species, without extra variables or possibility of interference.

Consider the following:

You have an intelligent species that lives in something like an ant-hill or beehive made from materials that transfer and resonate the communication method throughout the colony. You then don't have to explicitly rely on communication through the air and it provides incentive to take up roots and build such infrastructure for themselves.

How feasible this is for your species depends on the logistics and precise technology of your method of communication as well as their biology. Perhaps they need to find copious amounts of copper or aluminum. Perhaps they need to ingest food and build the colony from their vomit. Other variables include how sensitive they are to these vibrations. What that is like is up to you, but at the end of the day, the environment is their saviour or their downfall.

Nature tends to favour social animals that can help each other. Without that, they will be wiped out by the rest of life on the planet and the planet itself.


You must log in to answer this question.