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The Anatomically Correct Series can be found here.

The Chimera is another freaky specimen from Greek mythology.

enter image description here

It is described as having the body and head of a lion, the head of a goat sprouting from its back, and having a tail that ended with a snake head. It was also able to breathe fire for good measure.

Out of all the mythical creatures I've seen, I think this one is the hardest to make work. Hence my question.

Using at least a somewhat Earth-like biology and environment, could a Chimera ever evolve?

Some points to consider would definitely be how the snake tail fits with a mostly mammalian creature and how that goat head is supposed to do anything. I think that evolutionary history would definitely influence the development of anatomy.

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    $\begingroup$ is it supposed to breed? Or just making one will suffice? $\endgroup$ – Mołot Nov 7 '17 at 8:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Mołot, stitch it all together and send Igor to put up the lightning rods? $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Nov 7 '17 at 8:20
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    $\begingroup$ I recommend adding this question to the "Anatomically Correct" series - Add a link in the question to the list, and at the list page add a comment requesting the addition of this entry to the list. $\endgroup$ – G0BLiN Nov 7 '17 at 13:03
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    $\begingroup$ The question reminds me of a joke - what has eight legs, 3 heads, 2 arms and 2 wings? (a man sitting on a horse with a parrot on his shoulder) $\endgroup$ – Slarty Nov 7 '17 at 14:13
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    $\begingroup$ @G0BLiN sure, I think that falls within the parameters of the question $\endgroup$ – Lot-Of-Malarkey Nov 7 '17 at 15:45
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You have to start from pretty far back in the evolution history. Organisms with 1 symmetry around the tube going from the mouth to the anus would not work in making a chimera, for obvious reason.

You have to start from an organism with stellar symmetry, and let every "arm" follow a diverse specialization:

  • 1 will go for a carnivore set up (head of a lion), and will develop teeth specialized in cutting flesh
  • 1 will go for an herbivore set up (head of a goat), and will develop teeth specialized in chewing vegetables
  • 1 will go for defensive/offensive set up (head of a snake), developing the ability to inject poison by biting and breathing fire (the methane produced by the vegetables eaten by the goat head can come handy for this)
  • 3 (at least) will go for a motion set up, evolving into something resembling legs.

The core of the organism would be in charge for assimilation of nutrient, blood flow, gas exchanges, etc.

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    $\begingroup$ Hang on.. the snake is breathing goat farts.. That’s brilliant. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Nov 7 '17 at 10:45
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You can easily have something that looks like a Chimera.
Lets say you've an aggressive ruminant e.g. a rhinoceros or moose, both famous for putting down their head and charging when threatened. It is goat-like, with massive curving horns - this thing exists.

In the same habitat you have a non-top-of-the-food-chain predator which looks like a lion: its weapons are all to the front, where it needs them for hunting.

The lion has evolved a defensive mechanism whereby it inflates a structure on its back which looks like the aggressive goat: any attacker creeping up behind the lion gets a massive shock as it finds a maddened goat & angry snake staring down at it. Such defenses are practical and well documented in nature

So, you have a lion-like creature, which defensively mimics a goat coming out of its back, and its tail has evolved to look like a snake, to deter predators who dislike snakes.

There's your Chimera. As for the feasibility of an animal breathing fire, yes, it's theoretically possible.

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  • $\begingroup$ There are various creatures that visually mimic other creatures for bait or defensive purposes, possibly link some examples in. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Nov 7 '17 at 11:44
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No, this could never naturally evolve

For one its a combination of completely different physiologies reptilian and mammalian.

Another point, evolving different types of heads with brains is unlikely not impossible. Evolving different heads to resemble different creatures that would be too small for it to care to eat would be impossible.

I'm usually open to the endless possibilities of evolution and GE however there are lines. If we are talking 'natural evolution' you have to consider the cause and effect relationship that occurs in nature. The sheer amount of problems this creature has would make this incredibly unlikely.

Is it entirely impossible, no, a creature could evolve mimicking heads as a means of predation through deception. But the odds of this exactly is virtually impossible.

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Parasites and symbiotes. Why not one being, but three separate creatures? For instance, the goat like creature attaches itself to the lion-like creature's back. It can either provide no benefit, or enable the lion-like creature to consume meat otherwise too ripe, using the goat's ability to eat anything. The snake (head) can attach to the lion's tail and trade defense of the rear in return for nourishment (blood or poop).

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