Life with built in lightning rods

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Life with built in lightning rods

Post by marasama on 20th September 2010, 10:44 am

Was wondering if any thoughts on this.

I guess some animals instead of having lightning rods just be built to not allow lightning in them.
Perhaps, some animals build in an artificial battery and stores lightning bolts.
Then later use it for either defense or hunting purposes.

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Re: Life with built in lightning rods

Post by Sirius_Alpha on 21st October 2010, 6:57 am

This might be a tough one.

First the animal needs to evolve a tolerance of lightning strikes (how?). Some adaptation needs to develop to allow such an organism to be better adapted to its environment than one without that adaptation.

Since lightning strikes on organisms are rare, it may be that such an advantage does not offer significant enough a benifit to be preferrentially passed on.

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Re: Life with built in lightning rods

Post by Lazarus on 21st October 2010, 3:06 pm

That assumes that the lightning rod would have evolved in order to provide protection against lightning. The history of evolution on this planet shows that a structure that evolved to do one thing can be co-opted to do something else.
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Re: Life with built in lightning rods

Post by Maastrichian on 21st October 2010, 7:01 pm

If we're talking about a garden world, then for an animal to evolve a defense against lightning would imply that such storms are incredibly common, perhaps so much so that surface conditions might preclude very advanced biospheres. Rain falling at such a rate would probably remove most, if not all of the nutrients in the soil, not to mention the soil itself.

If the life form is marine, however, then it would likely have a body form adapted to very rough surface conditions, perhaps even with a "sail" of some sort to aid it in movement, even stability. A naturally evolved lightning rod might evolve from that, perhaps as an extension from the top of the "mast".

Storing such a large amount of energy, rather than just dispersing it, is going to be very problematic, though. I'm certainly no expert in the matter, but I would think that the animal would also have to evolve some sort of natural "battery". Probably the easiest item to imagine, however, would be for the animal to discharge the energy, either through tendrils reaching down into the water, or some other bodily extension.

Tendrils would be good, because then you would have both a means of defense, and a means to procure prey. Sort of like an electrified jellyfish, I suppose.

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Re: Life with built in lightning rods

Post by marasama on 22nd October 2010, 1:17 pm

Of course, the other question would be, if the animal is the size a USS Carrier, could it contain or partially contain some lightning strikes?

Or even choose when to contain lightning energy and disapate when it's full.

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Re: Life with built in lightning rods

Post by Maastrichian on 22nd October 2010, 10:50 pm

Size might open up a lot of possibilities. If it is THAT size, then it could conceivably have a body layer that acts as an electric capacitor, or perhaps a series of organs near the surface of the skin that acts as such. This would then require either a method of bleeding that power off, or of discharging it at once.

So you might be looking at a gigantic man-o-war with an adaptation for both offensive and defensive electrical-based organs.

I suppose that such a critter is possible, given the right circumstances. I wouldn't want to lay odds on it happening, but it is still entirely possible.

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Re: Life with built in lightning rods

Post by Roland Borrey on 30th October 2010, 1:24 pm

A paper just published in Nature 10/21/10, under the title "The energetics of genome complexity" set as an Hypothesis, but peer reviewed and not to be taken lightly. it demonstrates through the energy requirements that multicellular life, in order to generate the number of proteins required by the complexity, imposes the presence of mitochondia DNA and its membrane surface. This mutation has only happened once in the 4 Billion year history of the planet and is so extremelly rare. Unicellular life existed 500M Years after the earth formation.

They conclude that for complex life to exist on another planet the same energy rules apply.

This means that we might discover many planets capable of supporting life and that many of them might have single cell life but extremelly few, if any at all, will habor complex life and from there even less intelligent life.
This might become a big downward step in the Darke probability equation and a big blow to the SETI guys.

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Re: Life with built in lightning rods

Post by ciceron on 30th October 2010, 7:43 pm

Well , if the ligthing is not very extreme , maybe it could channel the energy to some vacuoles containing saltwater , and use some kind of catode and anode to separate hidrogen and oxigen , store it in some internal deposits and use them as fuel and oxydizer. But it sounds more like a construct than a natural ocurring life-form to me.

On the other hand , huge colonies of unicelular critters could feast onto the highly ionized remains of their fellows calcinated by the storm , so , in effect, storing the energy of the storm in their bodies , by indirect means.

Another posibility , more viable would be to store energy being CLOSE to the ray , by way of some kind of cilia loaded with magnetite or similary sensitive materials to EM disturbances. High energy discharges would move the cilia with great vigor , and that could be stored and used. This kind of live seems likely on the upper atmosphere of gas giants , Saturn or lower mass.

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