Like humans, aliens undergo natural selection and evolve to be fitter and stronger over time
Hollywood tends to depict aliens as other-worldly, monster-like beings, but they may have more in common with humans than we initially thought.
New research by scientists from the University of Oxford suggests that aliens are shaped by the same evolutionary processes and mechanisms that shaped humans.
In particular, the report references natural selection – the process outlined by Charles Darwin whereby organisms that are best suited to an environment are more likely to survive and pass on their genes to their offspring.
The scientists suggest that, like humans, aliens undergo natural selection and evolve to be fitter and stronger over time.
These illustrations represent different levels of adaptive complexity we might imagine when thinking about aliens (Image: UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD)
An illustration of an alien ‘octomite’ made up of multiple entities with aligned evolutionary interests (Image: UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD)
The paper also makes specific predictions about the biological make-up of complex aliens.
“Just as you and I are made up of cells which are made up of nuclei and mitochondria (the breathing engine of the cell) which are made up of genes, aliens will be a similar nested hierarchy of units,” said Sam Levin, a researcher in Oxford’s Department of Zoology, in a blog post.
“Aliens might not be made of ‘cells’ as we think of them, but they will be made up of parts which were once free living, and those parts in turn will be too – all the way down to the aliens’ hereditary material.”
But while aliens may have evolved in the same way as humans, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will look like us, or even be composed of the same stuff as us.
In fact, Levin suggests that, rather than breathing oxygen and being formed primarily from carbon, they may breathe nitrogen and be made of silicon.
“Aliens may not have two legs, or any legs at all, but their structure, from an evolutionary standpoint, will be much more familiar than we might have thought,” he said.
“By familiar, I don’t mean superficially familiar. They may look, on the surface, wildly different from anything on Earth. But they will be similar on a more fundamental level: their bodies will be constructed in the same way, and they will have undergone a similar evolutionary history.”
The study, entitled “Darwin’s Aliens”, was published today in the International Journal of Astrobiology.