Main Neocene

Aleksandr Lyubishchev

On imaginary zoology and biology in general

Aleksandr Lyubishchev (1890 - 1972)

Volume № 123

№ 11

On the leading factors in morphogenesis see
124 pages 85-86

On imaginary zoology and biology in general
The question on life on other planets includes, first, a problem of the determination of the possibility of life in general and, second, a problem of structure of possible organisms. This problem employed an imagination of many novelists (Wells “The first Men in the Moon”, “The War of the Worlds”), and also of philosophers and scientists: Voltaire “Micromegas”, Fechner (fiery silicon organisms), Kant – in the end of “Naturgeschichte der Himmel” [sic – P. V.]. While before Giordano Bruno it was considered that only the Earth is inhabited by marvelous creatures, but then [they] have reached Kant, that every planet should be inhabited; that’s why he had conclusions about necessity of gaseous creatures on the remote planets. What is it possible to tell about the inhabitants of other planets: 1) that there cannot be identical species and genera: it is impossible to assume that there people exist, which could marry terrestrial people with getting of posterity: it is clear from that even on the Earth at development on different continents there are no identical species; 2) the top limit of the size of ground-dwelling creatures is higher on small planets and lower on big ones by virtue of change of the law of gravitation: following the decrease of gravitation force another mechanical requirements are demanded to an organism, and hence it will be strictly different ratio of skeleton, muscles and so on; 4) negative correlation between the size of animals and the size of planet is one of examples of that proportional change of everything, including also an organism, is impossible: on the contrary to “Gulliver’s Travels” drastic changes of the size of human-like beings should result in one or another change of the shape also: an example includes wings of insects of large, medium and small sizes; pond-skaters running on water are only of small sizes; 5) it is possible to be sure that all organisms from remote planets may be referred to animals or plants (though the number of kingdoms appears disputable even on the Earth); 6) as for those phyla which are possible to be expected to meet on far planets, there can be found most likely bacteria, protozoans (a necessary stage in development), probably coelenterates, worms sensu lato (now worms are split up to some phyla), arthropods, that is, all those phyla which are characterized by too inexplicit features. Probably, there will be organisms there with the internal skeleton like our vertebrates, but as there are many concrete attributes at them, they will clearly belong to other phylum. It is not clear relatively to mollusks.

Ulyanovsk January, 27, 1951.

Volume № 124

№ 26. On imaginary organisms, more exactly about an opportunity of prevision of organisms of other planets. Fantasies of Kant, Wells etc.
In respect to organisms on other planets two as if indisputable, but opposite by their tendencies positions are accepted mutely: 1) it is doubtless that on other planets there would be no one species identical to terrestrial species; 2) but it is also doubtless apparently, that all organisms found there will be distributed to two kingdoms existing on the Earth: plants and animals. On the one hand there will be no one terrestrial organism; on another hand only terrestrial kingdoms [will exist]. It is natural to assume therefore that at intermediate steps of hierarchy between species and kingdoms the opportunity of occurrence of taxonomic groups similar to terrestrial ones will be higher as far as a step of hierarchy is higher. I had developed already in the letter to Mordechai Boltovsky that the existence of phyla of simplest arthropods at other planets is rather possible, but whether they will be referred to the same phyla of worm-like creatures that exist on the Earth – it is questionable. Occurrence of vertebrates and echinoderms and mollusks is also doubtful.

Frunze September, 8, 1949.

№ 28. On imaginary organisms. At reasoning on organisms from the remote planets it is necessary to be guided by the following reasons: 1) it is impossible to expect for those features which do not repeat or repeat only at related organisms on the Earth; 2) it is quite possible to expect the occurrence of those features which naturally appear at the certain stage of development as the answer to new requirements and which arise obviously independently at unrelated organisms. For example, whether will organisms on planets have a cellular structure: yes, of course, because even within the limits of unicellular being it is necessary for the organization of metabolism, and the composition of organisms from many cells is necessary for achievement of larger size (in other case surfaces for metabolism would be too small). Is it possible to expect flying organisms there? Not on every planet, of course, but on the planets which have reached rather great age, we may expect [for it]: among terrestrial organisms the flight ability was developed completely independently at least four times (insects, reptiles, bats, birds), and probably more, because at insects their [sic – P. V.] repeated origin is probable. At long enough existence of the planet two-winged animals will be present there for certain. In favorable conditions and at long enough life of a planet we also may expect intelligent creatures (on the Earth human has appeared very late))); what is their anatomy – we are not able to tell [it] exactly, but it is undoubtedly possible to tell, that they will have brain in head, not on the butt (octopuses, insects, vertebrates) by virtue of its connection with sense organs and they will undoubtedly have hands for tool operating, because without participation of work (Engels) the occurrence of intelligence is impossible. The number of fingers, maybe, will not be equal to five, but it will certainly be neither too small (for ex. two) nor too big, something within the limits of 3-7; five is the most probable number.

Ulyanovsk February, 16, 1951.

Imaginary biology. On the number of phyla. Applying a principle that everything polyphyletic may repeat also on other planets, it is possible to think, that all four highest phyla, being, probably, polyphyletic, may repeat, and in addition phyla of the “great road” – simplest coelenterates, flat worms, annelids. One phylum of the “great road” leading to Deuterostomata is probably lost. In addition to “……” “phyla” and phyla of the great road there are “dead ends” (sponges, nematodes, small phyla of worm-like creatures), which on formal grounds are frequently regarded as special phyla, but doing it means misunderstanding of what is phylum. They are quite expedient for considering as additions to this term it is possible to attribute not temporary value (before the finding-out of their phylogeny), but constant one.

Ulyanovsk February, 16, 1951.

On imaginary organisms. Extreme opinions relatively to organisms of other planets [are]: 1) either an opportunity of complete reiteration (people on other planets; an attempt of theoretical proving: Nietzsche, Kholodny); 2) or it is absolutely impossible to foresee.
Substantiation of some anatomic facts. Why at all annelid worms external muscles are circular, and internal ones are longitudinal, and at Nemertea? there is a variety: alongside with a typical arrangement there may be also either the second circular layer inside from longitudinal one, or another longitudinal one outside from circular [layer]. Was it to be inferred from this that annelids are monophyletic and Nemertea are polyphyletic? Does it mean that the traditional arrangement of muscles is a consequence of the unity in origin of the group in focus? I think that it doesn’t. The situation is explained by the presence of the body cavity at annelids. Contraction of longitudinal muscles results in shortening and at the same time in widening of the body: pressure on peritoneum does not take place. On the contrary, at contraction of circular muscles there is a reduction of diameter and if there was no layer of the longitudinal muscles working as shock-absorbers, because at insufficiently uniform contraction it would be possible to expect for infringement of the peritoneal membrane lacking a skeletal support. Nemertea have no body cavity, therefore the usual arrangement is not required there.

Ulyanovsk September, 4, 1951.

On imaginary organisms. From among planets of Solar system only Mercury (radius 0.38) and the Moon (radius 0.27 of Earth orbit) are always turned by one side to the Sun and the Earth respectively. Does it take place due to the small size: it is likely, because it probably takes place due to tidal action, which obviously has an effect especially strongly in case of close distances and minor planets. Constant turn to the Sun is rather adverse property for life: overheating of one side and cooling of another one – at the far enough distance the temperature of sunshiny side will be favorable for life and there, at sufficient humidity suchlike conditions of tropical woods may form. The constancy of light will hardly cause essential modifications, because we do not see any fundamental deviations at animals of subpolar areas, where in the summer light is constant for some months: black carabid beetles run in the daytime.
The general provision – what is possible to expect and what it is impossible to expect on other planets: 1) it is possible to expect such organisms and such features of a structure of organisms, however complex they may be, which follow from and may be explained by ecological conditions: rather complex eyes, nephridii, chitin, trochophore larva of sea forms, intestinal channel, tracheas, diverse life-forms in general (ground-diggers of two grades, moles and worms; flyers, and the wings constructed according to aerodynamic principles and eventually resulting in having of two wings). All this is proved to be true by plentiful cases of convergence of similar structures on the Earth and shows that creativity is limited to laws here, and it is impossible to imagine dragons, tigers, sixwings and six-winged seraphs.
2) It is impossible to expect for such reiteration of complex organisms where this complexity is a consequence of a long history with gradual accumulation of the features caused by conditions of past epochs and previous history of the species. These are features of species, genera and families and, probably, orders. We see its confirmation in fact that no one case of specific convergence, that is, of occurrence of identical species and genera from completely unrelated progenitors is not known. Only the parallelism of development is thinkable, that is, the occurrence of a new similar species or genus from similar [sources] under the influence of similar conditions. Can classes arise independently? It is hardly [possible] for all classes, but such classes as sarcodines, flagellates, infusoria and hydroids may probably arise. The arising of classes of higher phyla is not clear.
Ecological conditionality of life-forms results in the following: 1) due to limitation of an interval of planets suitable for life and the great range of life conditions prevailing on the Earth (from lifeless deserts up to not less lifeless glaciers at poles and in mountains), conditions of the remote planets will almost fit the range of terrestrial conditions, and there will be no conditions issuing completely unprecedented requirements, because the sizes of inhabited planets may be quite different from the size of the Earth. Eyes will be in front part of the head every time, the same for antennae, but will always have in their fullest development at land-dwelling animals a similar segmentation (compare legs of insects and vertebrates). We have no rhyme or reason to meet on other planets creatures similar to Lilliputians, or a giant from Brobdingnag, or centaurs and minotaurs.
In September, 17 [I had] heard by radio the Andreev’s lecture “Is there a life on other planets?” for children of secondary and high-school age. Tone is quite decent, [there are] references to Schiaparelli, without any insinuations about the superiority of our science over Western one. [He] repeats. [He] repeats frequently the widespread mistake that if plants exist, there should be animals supplying plants with carbonic acid. First, there may be heterotrophic plants similar to mushrooms, and, second, the primordial atmosphere is so rich in coal acid that there is no need in heterotrophic organisms for this purpose.

Ulyanovsk September, 19 1951.

On imaginary organisms. Eyes [are] basically of three categories: 1) simple eyes of extremely diverse nature, 2) faceted eyes, 3) complex eyes of camera obscura type with adaptation and so on at vertebrates and cephalopods. These three types all may appear on other planet, and eyes of two last types, certainly, will be on head. For acoustical bodies there can be a variety: at vertebrates ears are on head, at grasshopper – on legs, at locusts and cicadas – on abdomen.

Ulyanovsk September, 19, 1951.

Site creator's note: the original of this text represents a series of typewritten notes and is given in the same order as they had been arranged in papers. Fragments hand-written to typed text are marked by Italic.