While it doesn’t exactly have the most original plot or most complex characters, the setting of the movie Avatar is really interesting. I enjoyed the special effects and the feeling of immersion in a rich variety of growth. There were glowing plant-things and insect-things. There were also some strange megafauna. My favorite were the flying dinosaur-like beasts. Furthermore, all the trees were connected by some sort of communication system that allowed the entire biosphere of the planet Pandora (actually a moon in orbit around a gas giant) to act as a single brain. This brain physically connected with various animals at various interface nodes. The animals were capable of linking with each other even across species through specialized organs that resemble bundles of fiber-optics. Pandora is definitely a place I wouldn’t mind visiting.
Bridge Crabs: Bridge crabs (also called bar crabs) are crab-like false crustaceans with very wide, short bodies. Their legs attach to the outer lobes which are joined by a bridge-like structure. For protection, they place color-changing poison ball worms onto their backs to warn away predators. To entice the worms to keep from breaking loose and swimming away, the bridge crabs pre-chew food for them and dump the crumbs onto their backs.
Ball Worms: The first third of a ball worm’s body is spherical while the last two-thirds form a tail. They are scavengers of anything that will fit in their mouths. They range from microscopic to three centimeters long. Unable to hide as easily, the larger ones are toxic and advertise this by changing color rapidly.
The Conceptual Evolution Forum is where you can connect with other speccers, posting about your own projects and commenting on others. Get feedback on aesthetics and scientific plausibility from thousands of people all over the world. There are different sections to discuss future evolution on Earth, what might have happened on Earth had evolution run differently, other planets, and other universes where the laws of physics are different. Register and say hello.
If you need some guidance in creating scientifically accurate and plausible habitats and organisms for your exobiology project, the Speculative Evolution Wiki is a great resource to start with. There is a page on the types of alien planets thought to exist. There is a page on alternative biochemistries. There are pages covering the wide variety of approaches Earth life takes to common problems, such as movement, perception, reproduction, defense, and the various ways that an organism might draw energy from its environment.
The Future Is Wild is a book (and television miniseries) exploring what life might be like five million, one hundred million, and two hundred million years from now. Squids evolve to walk on land. Fish evolve to fly in air. Slime molds trap and dissolve passing flyers. Corals are replaced by red algae. Jellyfish are huge. Sharks are social. Birds spit fire. The movement of the continents has much to do with natural selection and this is part of the story too.
From a high-gravity world where the atmosphere is about 7 times denser than that of Earth, the gremmik resembles nothing from Earth. It has one of the rarest adaptations in the universe: A wheel-and axle mechanism. It has 2 of these, one on each side of its mouth. These move 2 separate jaws, which are moved very quickly in circles to butcher anything dragged into their mouth. This is extremely rare because of the complex evolutionary path needed to create a wheel and axle in a living organism, but in the few examples that exist, it is a highly efficient mechanism. It is moved using muscles that contract and relax around the rotating bone, which is connected to the jaw bone. To catch prey, 2 long tentacles with teeth are rolled out, and are curled around anything that moves over them. These tentacles pull the catch into the mouth, where the rotating jaws slice and grind it against rough, bony plates.
Tentacles serve the purpose of a tongue, putting pieces of their prey into a pharynx. The digestive system has valves to keep the food in their stomachs. Their digestive system isn't actually very different from ours in the general layout, but almost everything else about it is completely alien.
Their brain is like a foam, with information-processing tissue between the bubbles. This allows them to process information coming from their 8 heat-sensory pits and eyespot, along with their skin and ears. The ears are located directly on top of the rotating bones. The eyespot is at the top of the gremmik's cone-shaped body. They move using 2 snail-like feet, although they move only when they need to.
On the bottom of these feet are many spore-producing organs, which let them reproduce in a very unique way. The spores grow long hyphae, which connect to fertilize them like in fungi. When they are fertilized, they produce "eggs" scattered around the ground, which contain a gremmik embryo. These are fed by the hyphae, and hatch when they're ready.
Their respiratory system has 3 openings: 1 air intake and 2 exhaling nostrils. This system is directly connected to the circulatory system, which uses hemerythrin (a purple, iron-based compound) to transport oxygen. There are 2 hearts: One, the heart visible in this diagram, is a simple 1-chamber system that pumps blood from the lungs and to the brain. The other is 2-chambered, and along with the organ that serves the function of both a liver and the kidneys, is obscured by the intestines.
The large, red organ in the picture stores nutrients when they are not needed immediately, mostly consisting of fat. It also processes hard-to digest nutrients. All the purple space is empty. The hollow part inside of the organ skull contains not only organs, but also mobile organelles, which are mostly symbiotic creatures. Some of these are visible to the naked eye.
Written by salpfish1.DeviantArt.com
Pyramid crabs have thick shells with an angled design that makes it hard to get a grip on them. Their forward appendage (which fits into a notch on this shell when raised) is very strong and ends in a massive claw. It uses this not only to smash open shells, but for defense and to right themselves should they be flipped over.
Sometimes resembling hands, hand crabs have anywhere from five to thirteen legs, with the odd one being directly in front between the two mouths. It uses this appendage to break up and wedge apart shells. Hand crabs also have an outer protective shell to retract into, the extensions around their legs resembling sleeves.
Living in caverns underneath the reefs, beaked crabs break apart old shells for traces of organic matter. Their specialized digestive systems dissolve silicon carbide in order to free every particle of nutrition. The angle of their legs allows them to scale nearly vertical surfaces. Over many years they will hollow out large caverns and are a major cause of sinkholes.
Artist Emily Holland is writing a trilogy about a human expedition to the planet Ilion, a tidally-locked planet of mobile red plants and colonial ambush predators. Sunrise On Ilion is her official website where you can watch the project as it unfolds. She covers the geography, climate, geology, and especially the biology of this fascinating planet. You can also follow her on her DeviantArt page.