Questions tagged [evolution]

For questions about the long-term change of a specific species, type of creature, or trait, usually through the process of natural selection and reproduction. Consider also [creature-design].

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147
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7answers
15k views

Anatomically Correct Strange Women In Ponds Distributing Swords

Chaos plagues the land. In the West, the King in Orange blusters and bloviates endlessly in barely comprehensible gibberish. Perhaps he is attempting to call forth the Elder Gods? In the East, the ...
93
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25answers
26k views

Would intelligent life evolve any other body plan than humanoid?

Disclaimer: This question uses some liberal wording to get key ideas across. It's not meant to be academically rigorous, so please try to focus on the ideas and not the exact definitions of the terms ...
69
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11answers
13k views

Anatomically correct “XKCDius lethalissimus”

Inspired by today's XKCD comic How could a creature, momentarily called XKCDius lethalissimus, evolve to have the following features: Be radioactive (intended as more radioactive than the ...
63
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4answers
6k views

Can you simply scale up animals?

There have been a number of questions focusing on mythical creatures where the logical approach to answering has been to scale up an existing animal. For example dragon's wings can be extrapolated ...
62
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13answers
8k views

What sort of problem would drive a near omnipotent civilization to seek an “outside the box” solution?

The Setup A while back, I read an article in which the author compared the rise and fall of civilizations in the universe to a forest. In the forest, small plants come into being, grow, and die over ...
59
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9answers
7k views

How does the Booze-Rat fuel its defensive mechanism?

Of all the creatures in Hatjörn's dominion, there is none as peculiar as the Murinae Spirita, the mean booze-rat. A vermin so resilient that has developed the most wondrous means of defence and thus ...
58
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29answers
11k views

What are the conditions in which a creature would evolve more than one brain?

Would any creature ever need to evolve a second (or multiple) brain(s)? If so, under what conditions, why, and what implications would it have on the creature's intelligence? Note that while an ...
58
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4answers
6k views

Anatomically correct metalhead, part 1 - headbanging

In the Land of Metal, there exists a tribe that has upheld the gospel of Manowar with such zeal that it modified their bodies. Metalheads descend from humans, and may look human at a glance. A more ...
56
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21answers
12k views

Why would merfolk have hair?

A classic image of mermaids are their long flowing hair that swishes in the water. But in the scientifically realistic sense this makes none. The hair would be nothing more than a nuisance to the ...
49
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13answers
7k views

Why would an underwater creature remain lodged to its prey?

Enter the [Insert cool and awesome Latin name here] - this species is 3 times the size of a lobster from front to tail, and a powerful hunter. Operating in swarms, they are my worlds equivalent of the ...
49
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9answers
10k views

Could an organism have evolved to kill its prey by shouting at it?

I've recently been replaying Skyrim (for about the fifth time now), and I've stumbled across something I thought would make for an interesting question. The Greybeards are a group of extremely ...
48
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18answers
11k views

Is it possible for a species to have more than two sexes?

Every species I'm aware of on earth has two sexes (with the possible exception of species which change their sexes to allow self fertilization). Is it possible for a species to evolve which could ...
48
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3answers
13k views

Is there a maximum size an ocean bound creature could grow to?

Assuming the ocean is deep enough and not overcrowded is there any upper limits to the size a "sea monster" can grow? On land creatures are limited by gravity, they have to be able to generate the ...
47
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13answers
4k views

Natural Projectile Weapons

I'm not aware of any animals which have evolved projectile weapons that they fire. There are a number that spit venom but none that even throw rocks, let alone using projectiles. On the other hand ...
45
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8answers
14k views

Could underwater living organism create technology?

Could underwater creatures with the intelligence of human cave men or possibly the intelligence of apes create technology (that is, more complex technology comparable to what we have now rather than ...
44
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11answers
7k views

Anatomically Correct Phoenix

The Phoenix appears in Greek mythology and are most commonly seen as beautiful golden birds that burst into flame and are reborn from the ashes. Is there a realistic way that they could evolve? Using ...
42
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12answers
10k views

Is there an evolutionary advantage to having two heads?

This is a classic of fantasy/sci-fi stories. A creature with two heads, two brains, two distinct personalities, sharing a single body. An entire race of Siamese twins. But the question is, what ...
42
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10answers
4k views

How would societal development be impacted if humans were not an apex predator?

We are used to a world where humans are basically an apex predator; we don't really need to worry much about becoming some other animal's next meal. If that wasn't the case, and humans had to be wary ...
41
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17answers
10k views

How would a tripedal animal walk?

Animals on Earth have 2 or 4 legs they use for walking. On another world, however, animals have 3. I want to know how these animals will walk. How will their legs be placed and how will they move them ...
41
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16answers
7k views

What could cause an avian species to become intelligent?

There have been a few questions about an intelligent avian species lately and they have gotten me thinking. It seems to me that it would be hard for an avian species to evolve to be more intelligent ...
41
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5answers
3k views

Why does my species tock like it ticks?

Starting with a creature and its environment, how does one create its psychology? Evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology attempt to explain attributes that we observe in our fellow humans ...
40
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23answers
13k views

Make slimes great again, but how?

Slimes are seen as merely base-level enemies which don't really challenge the heroic main character, the Chosen One. My question is how to make slimes incredibly powerful without using magic. They ...
40
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18answers
8k views

Why did dragons evolve to be smart?

Before you comment "dragons can't happen", we've been there before. Based on the question linked above, assume dragons are scientifically plausible. You may change what you need about the ...
37
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12answers
6k views

What are the evolutionary benefits of mating for life, as opposed to serial monogamy?

I have a sapient (alien) species that behaves more or less similarly to humans, and that includes their romantic interactions. However, although they court/date each other much like we do, there is a ...
37
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2answers
3k views

What would be the evolutionary advantage for plants to be bioluminescent?

As fas as I know, there isn't a single plant on Earth that (naturally) produces any sort of luminescence. But it is seen in science-fiction worlds, especially Avatar. From an evolutionary point of ...
36
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18answers
8k views

Benefits of or reasons why a species would have only one eye?

Traditionally, a Cyclops has one eye, as well as some other aliens in fiction. My question is simple: Would there be any situations, Earth-like or otherwise, where a creature would benefit from ...
36
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19answers
13k views

How long would it take for a new intelligent species to evolve if humans disappeared?

If all humans (but no other species) just suddenly disappeared, leaving all of their structures standing, how long would it take for an intelligent species as dominant as the humans to evolve? Would ...
36
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5answers
8k views

How would multi-race humanoid evolution happen?

If we were to pull the following races out of a D&D players handbook and remove them from the setting/history of Faerun and look at them from a biological/non-magic perspective (no other planes of ...
36
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3answers
2k views

How would a Reflecting-Oven-Jay Evolve?

This answer to my question about light-as-a-weapon came up with an interesting concept: The Reflecting-Oven-Jay This is a small African predatory bird with a perfectly smooth set of wings with ...
35
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16answers
8k views

Best species to breed to intelligence

I’ve included more background below, but the TL;DR is that you’re a lone immortal who’s decided to breed some species of animal to a human-level intelligence (over the course of hundreds of thousands ...
35
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15answers
8k views

Why would the mouth of a creature evolve to be away from the head?

Exhibit A: The apex predator of my world, one that can both fly and swim under water. This deadly monster employs 4 limbs - they act as wings in the air, and fins in the water. It hunts for game in ...
35
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10answers
7k views

Is it more likely that merfolk would evolve with horizontal or vertical tails?

Another mermaid questions I'm afraid! Fish have tail fins which are vertical, whales have fins which are horizontal. My race of merfolk are: Very active (more likely to be warm blooded) Have gills ...
35
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16answers
7k views

How to tell if intelligent life has evolved in a Game of Life simulation?

A civilization has a "magic" computer with memory and processing capacities far beyond what our physics says is possible. They decide to run a massive simulation of Conway's Game of Life with a random ...
34
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5answers
4k views

That's no Moon: Planet-sized Plants Possible?

Inspired by the many great questions asked for this fortnight's tag challenge, I got to thinking, could a plant develop/evolve to eventually consume an entire planet, and keep on living? What I mean ...
33
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9answers
7k views

Anatomically Correct Medusa

Medusa is a legendary myth about a woman with snakes for hair that turns anything she looks at into stone. How can I achieve both of those features in an animal realistically? And how would these ...
33
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22answers
6k views

Would a sapient species have to be the dominant species?

There have been countless (literally) stories written that have contained within their pages monsters that are stronger, faster, and bigger than the human heroes. I can think of more than a few where ...
32
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20answers
6k views

How could polycephaly evolve as a byproduct of natural selection?

Why this question is different from existing questions... The closest question to mine is Anatomically Correct Cerberus. It is clear from the answers to that question and indeed it's axiomatic to the ...
32
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10answers
4k views

How to evolve/justify pescatarian elves?

My world - basically Earth all along, unless told otherwise - is populated by humans and few fantasy-based "races" (actually, species - any interbreed offspring, if possible, is infertile): elves, ...
32
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5answers
7k views

Why aren't animals photosynthetic?

Why aren't animals photosynthetic on earth? And what would make it plausible for them to evolve to be?
32
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5answers
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What would the problems with / consequences of a torus shaped planet be?

Take a torus planet: It has the structure of a normal planet (ours): The diagram is not to scale. Assume similar proportions of Crust:Mantle:Cores as the Earth. Is has a similar volume (close to 1.1 ...
31
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6answers
6k views

Anatomically Correct Gods

This question may seem like an impossible challenge. What I'm talking about here is a biological explanation for limited (or, for bonus marks, unlimited) form shifting, immortality (at least in age) ...
31
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5answers
9k views

Anatomically Correct Succubus

The succubi are popularly represented as women with horns and bat-like wings. They feed on the vital energy in myths, but could a humanoid creature resembling a woman evolve and feed only on human ...
31
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21answers
7k views

How could a species survive on just luring in and eating humans?

In a question about mermaids, it was proposed that they might have evolved to look like humans to lure them in and prey on them. How could a creature survive on a diet of nothing but lured-in humans? ...
31
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4answers
6k views

Anatomically Correct Khajiit

Behold the Khajiit; Born from the insanely popular game series, Elder Scrolls, the Khajiit are a race of cat people who live in hot jungles. From the moment I saw this race, I fell in love with them, ...
31
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9answers
6k views

Sleeping on planets with very long days

Consider a planet where a day, that is to say the amount of time a specific (roughly equatorial) point is in sunlight is much longer than on earth. A humanoid race has evolved on this planet. You can ...
30
votes
13answers
6k views

Plausible reason for gold-digging ant

Medieval bestiaries describe a creature, a type of desert-dwelling ant that digs for gold. It was also said to be the size of a fox, but I'll ignore that in this question. Why would ants unearth ...
30
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5answers
3k views

What factors would allow for two dominant species on a world?

On Earth humanity has taken the dominant role (excluding dolphins and mice of course). We know of conflicts in pre-history where our ancestors have overtaken other species and slowly wiped them out. ...
30
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15answers
5k views

Can evolution be prevented?

Imagine a world where a creationist situation holds: God (or an alien master species, if you prefer) created all the species you see in the world today, and there will never be any others. Are there ...
29
votes
16answers
10k views

Would evolution happen the same exact way if Earth restarted?

If Earth instantaneously reverted back to when the only organisms were small microscopic creatures in the sea, would evolution happen the same exact way creating the same animals and species? Was ...
29
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19answers
10k views

Why do dragons like shiny stuff?

I like the classic trope of dragons loving gold and collecting it in their lair, yet it seems poorly justified. I know that it is often used as a metaphor for greed; "dragons disease" to show how ...