We have all thought about aliens. It is unlikely that we are alone in the universe, right? Science fiction literature and Hollywood cinema have contributed to the belief that extraterrestrials are beings from another world and, above all, very different from humans. Fortunately, thanks to evolutionary biology, we can make some fascinating guesses about how these beings might be and a new study suggests that we might have more in common with our extraterrestrial neighbors than we initially thought.
A team of researchers from the University of Oxford (United Kingdom) has decided to use their skills in this field to draw an argument applicable to natural selection for the prediction of the morphologies and functions of extraterrestrial organisms.
“Until now the approaches in astrobiology have been largely mechanistic, taking as an example what we see on Earth and what we know about chemistry, geology and physics to make predictions about aliens,” says Sam Levin, co-author of the work. According to the scientist, we should focus more on the theory of evolution and the processes of natural selection.
“This is a useful approach, because the theoretical predictions will apply to silicon-based aliens, who do not have DNA and breathe nitrogen or, for example,” says Levin.
To discover the kind of biology we hope to find out there, researchers argue that we must gather evidence about any critical planetary moment that can act as an evolutionary trigger.
On Earth, these events, called large transitions, have been decisive moments on the path of life as the fusion of cells to form significant symbiotic associations.
The researchers outlined some innovative concepts on how the complexity of life in another biosphere could advance. Predicting these steps could help us to determine in what world we should expect a communicative organism and in which it does not.
What would the aliens be like?
“We still cannot say if the aliens will walk on two legs or have big green eyes, but we believe that the theory of evolution offers a unique additional tool to try to understand how aliens will be, and we have shown some examples of the type of predictions what can we do with it, “says Levin.
The study makes specific predictions about the biological composition of complex extraterrestrials, and they even attach various drawings of what these exotic species might look like.
The research work may not be revolutionary, but it serves as an interesting sample for what we could reasonably expect from the biology that evolved into an exoplanet and a new argument to dream that we are not alone in the universe.
“There are potentially hundreds of thousands of habitable planets in our galaxy alone – we cannot tell if we are alone on Earth or not, but we have taken a small step in responding, if we are not alone, how our neighbors are,” concludes Levin.