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Thread: Sea dwelling life: evolution as a dominant species?

  1. #1 Sea dwelling life: evolution as a dominant species? 
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    First of all, I'm new here, just made this account because I had a question that google returned nothing back on, but it looks like this will be a pretty interesting place to learn outside of school
    Onto my question:I know that, since we are the only planet on which we are certain life has evolved, this would be near impossible to provide a concrete answer on, but the theories are interesting to think about. I want to know if, on a planet mostly covered in water (even more so than our own planet) a sea-dwelling species could eventually evolve to a similar dominant position as humanity has done here on earth. Are there any known limitations on cognitive function or physiological development that would hinder this process? What would be some of the requirements for a sea-dwelling race of creatures to evolve a highly complex and multifaceted civilization like ours?


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    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    i doubt whether a creature restricted to live in water would ever master the use of fire or electricity in the way that we do
    bio-electricity maybe, but not the type of electricity generation coming from fossil fuels or nuclear

    another thing appears to be that tool usage must be in doubt : water-living creatures tend to be streamlined, with anything like fins being used for propulsion or directing the flow of water during swimming, hence less likely to develop into something than can manipulate as we do

    but as for intelligence, just think about dolphins and squid : within their categories they top the league tables for intelligence
    however, how you then build a civilisation as we would envisage it is harder to imagine - i'm not saying it couldn't be done, but it's probable that it'd be a totally different type of civilisation


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    Forum Freshman onechordbassist's Avatar
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    It's likely sentient life develops in an entirely aquatic environment; nothing speaks against it. However it's really unlikely they'd develop a civilisation - most technology that relies on something as simple as fire will not be possible, to say nothing about electricity, and even wheels and derivative technologies will encounter huge difficulties.

    Many aquatic species use finlike structures for propulsion, but octopodes show that manipulative appendages and a large brain are not that unlikely in primarily aquatic animals.

    So maybe they will develop a culture similar to early paleolithic human societies comparable to those in Homo habilis/rudolfensis or ergaster, maybe even use tools far more sophisticated than what we know of these species and maybe they will be sentient enough to question their existence and establish primitive philosophies and/or religions.
    However, it's unlikely they will ever develop scientific discipline as most of science in the modern sense relies heavily on the base inventions mentioned above aswell as communication on a global scale which will also be highly unlikely in an entirely aquatic environment; telephones do work with electricity after all.

    They might live in small tribes spread over a huge area and maybe not even the entire planet, depending on how ressources are distributed and on how able they are to move among different water depths, temperature, and densities, even mineral percentages - you have to keep in mind that there will never be any necessity to develop a tough encasing skin, so conditions inside the animal will be pretty much the same as outside it.
    Curiosity killed the cat - if you are a mouse.

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    Moderator Moderator Cogito Ergo Sum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Sandman View Post
    I want to know if, on a planet mostly covered in water (even more so than our own planet) a sea-dwelling species could eventually evolve to a similar dominant position as humanity has done here on earth. Are there any known limitations on cognitive function or physiological development that would hinder this process? What would be some of the requirements for a sea-dwelling race of creatures to evolve a highly complex and multifaceted civilization like ours?

    Speculating about the biological aspects of non-terrestrial life is fascinating, yet it yields no answers, just assumptions.

    In all honesty, your questions are unanswerable.
    Our current knowledge of (astro)biology does not permit us to draw conclusions from it about the details of alien life.
    We are not even sure if evolution is a fundamental property of alien life, nor do we know what the characteristics are of this alien planet.

    Sidenote (you might find this interesting):
    Alien Planet - Darwin IV - Full Documentary - YouTube
    "The only safe rule is to dispute only with those of your acquaintance of whom you know that they possess sufficient intelligence and self-respect not to advance absurdities; to appeal to reason and not to authority, and to listen to reason and yield to it; and, finally, to be willing to accept reason even from an opponent, and to be just enough to bear being proved to be in the wrong."

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    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
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    There is nothing in theory to stop an aquatic organism developing a civilisation. Even a technology based civilisation. Dolphins and other cetaceans cannot for the simple reason that they have no limbs for manipulating things. Although some dolphins use sponges over their noses as tools to push under the sand to dig up fish for food. Cephalopods, as others mentioned, can and do use tools quite widely.

    Obviously fire is impossible, but I see no reason why an intelligent aquatic being could not use an underwater volcanic vent instead of fire. Other technologies would have to be adapted for the underwater environment, and their technological civilisation would be very different to our own. But to claim it is impossible is kinda arrogant.
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    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    But to claim it is impossible is kinda arrogant.
    too true - however, their civilisation would be so different from ours that it's unlikely that we could predict from our own parochial point of view what it might look like
    for one thing dolphin civilisation might already be light years away from a squid civilisation
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    Most of our technology depends on manipulating solids... which aquatics may also do. Manipulating liquids and gasses underwater may be more or less difficult. I suppose from an aquatic's perspective, humans are sadly constrained by gravity, so that while aquatics freely operate in three dimensions we terrestrials plan our very cities in just two dimensions. Today humans think we're so advanced because we've got astronauts discovering the amazing things one can do in weightlessness.

    Obviously a species used to weightlessness would adapt easily to space. So I'm gonna say that if/once they advanced as far as we have, they'd proceed to leave us in the dust.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Obviously fire is impossible, but I see no reason why an intelligent aquatic being could not use an underwater volcanic vent instead of fire. Other technologies would have to be adapted for the underwater environment, and their technological civilisation would be very different to our own.
    I'm having trouble wrapping my head around how one would go about crafting stronger synthetic materials such as metallic alloys and polymers underwater needed for large/stronger structures, or (slightly far-fetched) something along the lines of space travel tech.

    How would a fully aquatic (assuming amphibious is out of the picture) solve propulsion issues for chemical fuel, pressurized chambers not for keeping air in, but water. If they are also oxygen breathing like us, I suppose they could re-oxygenate water with plant-life and lighting. I have doubts over harnessing electricity like we have, but perhaps some form of bio-electrical process isn't that hard to imagine.

    I would enjoy reading a hard science fiction novel that goes into that.
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    If dolphins evolved opposable thumbs, we'd be in trouble.
    "Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." -Calvin
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    Forum Cosmic Wizard icewendigo's Avatar
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    Dalgarkian Octopoid: Of course hairless monkeys from a hypothetical planet called Earth in a land air environment could not develop civilization, a water propeller, something inherently basic for any civilization, would not be developed by such creatures, for something like a submarine, they are in a land environment where a water propeller cant work, its impossible to invent something that enables them to do something outside their natural environment. Next you'll be suggesting that they'll go in space, preposterous. Theres hardly any hydrogen in their atmosphere, where our aqueous environment is abundant with it, where would they get the hydrogen?


    joking aside, I think a civilization in water is possible, the species would probably not be fish like but crab octopod or something that is able to manipulate the environment, and in addition to being able to, it should need or be forced to, in the sense that it must not be naturally adapted to the environment(s) so that it makes manipulation of the environment(s) a quasi necessity. Communication is also important. Humans vulnerability and intelligence/communication/manipulation-of-environment probably created a feedback loop, where vulnerability was less an issue for those using intelligence/communication/manipulation-of-environment and using intelligence/communication/manipulation-of-environment made being vulnerable less of an issue.
    Last edited by icewendigo; August 5th, 2013 at 12:03 PM.
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  12. #11  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marnixR View Post
    ...for one thing dolphin civilisation might already be light years away from a squid civilisation
    Hmm. On different planets, then.
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    The inablity to directly manipuate fire or electricity would be a problem for an aquatic manipulative species but not an insumountable one. Alternative technologies would be developed. Perhaps involving bio tech or sophisticated biochemical processes to accomplish what we do with fire or electic currents. I think that octopoids are the best candidates for aquatic civilized creatures.
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    DNA being DNA and all planets being round.Would they build boats?
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    Quote Originally Posted by WeinerWistle View Post
    DNA being DNA and all planets being round.Would they build boats?
    So they have a place to cook the pot raost....?

    Good bye.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhDemon View Post
    I thought I could smell a sock puppet, looks like Lynx Fox agrees (or has inside info)...

    I am relieved that the staff took action.
    I was fearing (s)he was going to worsen the quality of some threads.
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    ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument (1831), Stratagem XXXVIII.
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