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Thread: Could life exist without liquid water?

  1. #1 Could life exist without liquid water? 
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    Let's say that one day temperature all over the Earth will fall to -10 centigrade. All liquid water will get frozen ultimately. What kind of living creatures will be able to survive? Principally living beings could accumulate energy of Sun and use it to melt down ice and obtain liquid water. I think, animals could lick ice. Coniferous trees use oil instead of water as a nutrient carrier. But how scarce life will become? Some ecosystems will disappear. For example there will be no fish, no algae and no water animals.


    Last edited by Stanley514; November 1st, 2013 at 12:02 PM.
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    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    my guess is, if anything would survive on an all-ice planet, it would be bacteria
    as for the rest i wouldn't want to make a bet


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    Is there any fantastic way in which plants could retrieve nutrients from the ground if there will be no liquid water? And survive without rain? Antarctic seem to have at least some scarce vegetation in some places...
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    Life-Size Nanoputian Flick Montana's Avatar
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    Not life as we know it.
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    Is it possible to create with help of genetic engineering some plants which are capable to melt down ice around them by warming space around and retrieve nutrients? For example there could be entire dense forests of such trees which collectively melt ice around and create their own mini ecosystem?
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stanley514 View Post
    Is it possible to create with help of genetic engineering some plants which are capable to melt down ice around them by warming space around and retrieve nutrients? For example there could be entire dense forests of such trees which collectively melt ice around and create their own mini ecosystem?
    Such thermogenic plants already exist. One of the more common ones people might be familiar with are skunk cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus
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    A temperature of -10C would not be too cold. The reason is that tiny specks of liquid water will still exist, either where salt content is high, or under heavy objects which provide enough pressure to maintain a tiny thin film of liquid water. Bacteria can live in those thin films, and do, in places like Antarctica.

    If you want to speculate about extreme cold, where all water is ice, and other liquids, like methane, exist. Yes, you would not be the first to speculate on that. Some scientists wonder if life counld exist on alien worlds in a lake of liquid ammonia or similar. My own opinion (which is as shakey as any mere opinon is) would be no. Water is a special molecule, called the universal solvent. I find it unlikely that any other molecule could replace it. But hey, whaddo I know?
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    I would never put a bet on what life can and cannot do. Life is always waiting to prove you right or wrong witout any bias.
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    A temperature of -10C would not be too cold. The reason is that tiny specks of liquid water will still exist, either where salt content is high, or under heavy objects which provide enough pressure to maintain a tiny thin film of liquid water. Bacteria can live in those thin films, and do, in places like Antarctica.
    Bacteria yes, but what about macroscopic plants? And how large approximately could they grow? Something like in typical tundra?
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    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    tundra often shows a short but very frenetic summer season where the temperatures exceed the freezing point of water, whereas the only higher plant life in the antarctic is either restricted to the peninsula (where temperatures aren't as severe) or to areas with volcanic activity where temperatures are regionally above the freezing point

    as for a planet that was covered in solid ice all the time (or freeze-dried desert) i don't see any higher plants gaining or maintaining a foothold
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    Life-Size Nanoputian Flick Montana's Avatar
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    My biggest issue would be life even beginning on a frozen world. The temperature would limit chemistry.
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    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    except if there was some form of liquid water near the equivalent of ocean vents or inside rocks
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    Apart from bacteria, you might see forms of slow growing lichens - very slow growing - in advantageous niches in rocks. It really depends on how cold for how long each year.

    The Arctic has several unlikely plants and critters that make the most of their brief respite from the worst of the cold. The woolly bear caterpillar "lives" for 14 years, frozen solid except for a few feeding weeks each summer, before it has accumulated enough energy to turn into a moth. Pyrrharctia isabella - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    My biggest issue would be life even beginning on a frozen world. The temperature would limit chemistry.
    It would limit chemistry to a degree depending on how cold it was, however there is a hypothesis out there that it would in fact boost it instead of limiting it. The idea being that as water freezes into ice, the H2O freezes together forcing the non-H2O into highly concentrated pockets which remain liquid. So even though they are at or below waters freezing temperatures, they remain liquid and now are forced into very close proximity to each other which is conducive to the formation of the molecules. It could also protect the fragile molecules or newly formed cells from the elements (it's my understanding that the early forms of cellular life were aerobic so it could prevent them from being destroyed by the oxygen, etc).

    https://www.sciencenews.org/article/...99s-cold-start
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  16. #15  
    Life-Size Nanoputian Flick Montana's Avatar
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    No pun intended, but there's some pretty cool stuff in this thread.
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