My race of space-going sentients want to weaponise a life form which is explosive in an oxygen-rich environment.

To do so, they have access to any planet they care to use, terraforming, and the ability to change the atmospheric makeup of the planet.

How would they go about creating and breeding this life form?

The solution that I have found so far is boranes:

Boranes are dangerously explosive in Earth's atmosphere, but would be more stable in a reducing environment. However, boron's low cosmic abundance makes it less likely as a base for life than carbon.

This is from Hypothetical types of biochemistry. Would a multicellular organism built from mostly boron be able to support life? Would exposure to oxygen be possibly fatal due to the risk of igniting? How would it respire, if oxygen is a possible danger to it? How would it be maintained? What would it look like?

  • $\begingroup$ Any life form goes ? Do you want hard-science or just science based ? $\endgroup$ – Liquid Same Jul 28 '17 at 12:35
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    $\begingroup$ Boron-based life... Hypothetical types of biochemistry... $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jul 28 '17 at 12:44
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP sorry, had to update the question. I know that it's theoretically possible, but i'm asking how they would do it. $\endgroup$ – Aric Jul 28 '17 at 13:15
  • $\begingroup$ @LiquidSame Science-based please. It needs to sound plausible, even if it is extremely unlikely to work. No need for citations $\endgroup$ – Aric Jul 28 '17 at 13:17
  • $\begingroup$ Borane (makes no sense) or boron (makes little more sense)? To me "life based on something other than carbon" always sounds to me like misunderstanding how chemistry works. Saying "life is based on carbon" has absolutely no meaning if you ask me, but anyways. Do you want to replace all carbons in an organism with boron atoms? Do you want to introduce some boron atoms some place? Do you want completely new molecules? And what exactly are you asking, are you looking for molecules, how their enzymes work, what their cells look like or what such an animal would look like macroscopically? $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Jul 28 '17 at 14:32

This is not about boron-based life, so ignore it if you're set on that, but it could maybe help if you're open to other mechanisms. I was thinking of violently exothermic reactions and remembered two, one we know in reality and one employed in fiction.

  1. The bombardier beetle: about 500 species of beetles of the Carabidae family are known to repel predators by means of a hot chemical spray.

The spray is produced from a reaction between two chemical compounds, hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide, which are stored in two reservoirs in the beetle's abdomen. When the aqueous solution of hydroquinones and hydrogen peroxide reaches the vestibule, catalysts facilitate the decomposition of the hydrogen peroxide and the oxidation of the hydroquinone. Heat from the reaction brings the mixture to near the boiling point of water and produces gas that drives the ejection. The damage caused can be fatal to attacking insects. Some bombardier beetles can direct the spray over a wide range of directions.

This is neither an explosion in the sense you were imagining, nor very powerful, but it shouldn't be that difficult to engineer a larger and more violent bug.

  1. The explosive plants on Hal Clement's The Nitrogen Fix. In this classical SF novel, Earth's atmosphere has lost all almost of its free molecular oxygen and new plants have evolved to fill the vacant niches. Their metabolism is based on nitrates. This makes them somewhat prone to explode. Lightning, for example, will readily blow up a large patch of forest, though it will of course not set it on fire (because there's no free oxygen!).

Maybe you could go for a mixture of the two: a large animal that could synthesize and store explosive nitrogen compounds within its body, with some natural device that allows it to destabilize the compounds.

See also autothysis for ideas on how some insects kill themselves "explosively".

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    $\begingroup$ Don't forget the plants that disperse seeds by explosion. $\endgroup$ – rytan451 Jul 29 '17 at 7:15

Here is just some ideal, you can turn it into hard-science or fiction as you wish.

Main idea: A creature only Explode when they are triggered (by the creature, or by implant devices). They are not easy to get explode (safety)

  • Ex1 Mix-trigger: creature contains chemical A and B. Both A and B are not danger, unless they are mix (triggered). (A= Boranes and B = Boranes , perhaps). But there must be some safety precaution so they are not going a chain reaction (which accidentally kill all in breeding ground)
  • Ex2 atom level trigger: chemical A is harmless until exposed to radiation/specific wavelength/a neutron (atomic bomb are triggered by firing a neutron into uranium)

Some problem you concern:

Would a multicellular organism built from mostly boron be able to support life?

You don't need to built organism contains mostly explosive chemical A, B. Let everything be normal as native creature. Then let the creature carry a container of explosive chemical (explosive chemical are not participate in daily life functional, just stock there for last moment). Look at baneling in Starcraft 2. They carry a big bag of green thing. baneling

Would exposure to oxygen be possibly fatal due to the risk of igniting?

Solution 1: make A and B not native or battlefield (oxygen for your case) Solution 2: seal A and B in container that cannot contact with oxygen (in case A or B is oxygen)

How would it respire, if oxygen is a possible danger to it?

Even if A or B is oxygen, the creature can functional if they well-seal their explosive container. You may develop from native creature, then add a biology bag of chemical.

How would it be maintained?

Give them food to eat as you raise sheep. Their DNA can make explosive chemical protein. So you only need to include ingredients in their meal. If explosive chemical only contain C-H-O then everything would be easier.

What would it look like?

From Starcraft 2, Baneling (ground) and Scourge (air)


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