Will the first Earthly organism on Titan be a super-fly?


Earth and Titan. Soon to both be inhabited by fruitflies?

Earth and Titan. Soon to both be inhabited by fruitflies? Via The Encyclopedia of Space

And what’s weirder, will this super-fruitfly be bred by an artist, rather than a scientist? Very much art meets science.

The air pressure on Titan is fifty percent higher than on Earth so I used a bicycle pump and pressure gauge to increase the pressure in the chamber to 1.5bar. That was probably the most authentic recreation of the conditions. Titan is a frosty -190 degrees but it would have been pointless exposing flies to that temperature as they would all die. Instead the idea is to use freezer elements to take down the temperature a few degrees at a time and try to selectively breed for resistance to low temperatures. The radioactive element from a smoke alarm simulated the radiation found on the moon and a series of UV LEDs represented the harsh UV rays that rain down.

The flies were kept in a cylindrical experimentation chamber and exposed to these different conditions sequentially for half an hour at a time. The males and females were separated and both went through the entire sequence of experiments. Afterwards if there was only one left, I choose that one to breed from. If there were several then I chose the ones that seemed to be the most active or the most unaffected by the experiments.

I was considering making Super Fly references, or maybe Superfly Jimmy Snuka references, but decided neither were quite as cool as the idea that some random guy is breeding the grossly evolutionarily accelerated fruit flies to adapt them to Titan’s climate, in advance of any planned mission to Titan.

While I’d love to get samples of Titan to find out if it has life on it already, putting Earth biota on Titan is a great idea. It’s effectively directed panspermia. Hopefully there’ll be enough nutrients in the environment on Titan when the fruitflies land that they won’t just die out pretty much instantly. Damn cool idea either way. Would probably work better with an extremophile bacteria already adapted to cold temperatures and Titan’s climate, but we’ll see.

Comments

  1. says

    What an interesting creation story the descendants of those flies will tell!!! There will be genetic evidence of intelligent design—the earliest fossils will be big complex organisms whose genotypes were highly nonrandom in ways that adapted them to their environment. They will write in their Bibles and Qurans about Creation Day, and they will have scientific evidence to back it up….They will each other their amazing story of how special they are, and they will have science backing them up. They will pray and be thankful to their creator -god for many millenia.

    But once they begin to explore space, they will be in for the shock of their lives when they discover that they were just an earthling’s random and meaningless experiment. Their scientists will get censored initially, the Fly-Vatican will lock Galileophila in a flytrap somewhere, but eventually the truth will come out. The weaker flies will give up on life (“what is the point of it?”) but the brightest flies will stand in awe at the magnificence of their new worldview, and a new, godless, rational civilization will rise up from the ashes left by the despairing religioflies.

  2. says

    But by that time, the Discovery Institute here on earth will have found ironclad evidence of design HERE!!! Quite similar to the kind of evidence the fly-descendants had found about their own past. The ID people proclaimed “Hence Jesus”, and priests of all stripes were very happy for this scientific proof that humans were so special.

    But then the visiting Titan-flies made some off-hand comments about some of the archaeology of Titan. The flies had once believed these remains to be evidence of a time when their creators lived on Titan, before ascending to heaven (there were glyphs and drawings of flying ships…).

    But if the earthlings were the real creators of the flies, and had never lives on Titan, then who were these pre-fly godlike things on Titan?

    When the flies compared notes with the earthlings, the scientists discovered that the earlier pre-fly Titans were the Sirens of Titan described by the visionary earthling Kurt Vonnegut, and that the Sirens had seeded the earth just as the earthlings eventually seeded Titan….

    The Earth-Vatican and the Discovery Institute tried to repress this evidence, but…..

  3. Igakusei says

    Assuming Titan is currently lifeless, wouldn’t you need to seed it with some primitive bacteria/fungi/etc to provide nutrients for the fruit flies to eat? I can’t imagine sending heterotrophs to a barren planet could possibly end well, regardless of how well adapted they are to survive the conditions there.

  4. Igakusei says

    Also, I forgot the part where there’s no oxygen on Titan. Yeah, better to find some anaerobic extremophiles like you said and start with that.

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