I’m thinking a lot right now about aliens that live in orbit around an Earthlike planet. Their distant ancestors evolved in the atmosphere of a Jupiter-sized gas giant in the same star system, and they evolved ways to leave that atmosphere and travel between the giant’s moons, searching for resources. The nets of cycling nutrients they established now stretch across the system.
Upper left: These are the mountain-sized primary producers of energy, momentum, and biomass (think trees). Their six rocket motors allow them to migrate across interplanetary space (think whales). Loops of nonliving material are extruded and re-absorbed from their stony skin – the loops undergo a chemical reaction under light, which is extracted when they are re-absorbed. In this way, the mountain photosynthesizes without exposing any living structures to vacuum. Loops can also be extended to change the mountain’s center of mass and speed or slow its spin. Loops also act as nets to catch dust and small organisms.
Center left: Spinners extrude long threads of nonliving material from a single ring on their south poles. These threads have microscopic loops and hooks that connect to each other like the barbules of a feather, connecting them into a single disk-shaped umbra thousands of times wider than the spinner, itself. The threads also have microstructures along their upper and lower sides that change their reflectivity and electrical charge as well as (given enough time) the shape of the entire umbra. In some species, the umbra acts as a photosynthetic surface or a web to catch dust and prey. In others, the umbra is never-reabsorbed, and its only function is to control the orientation of the spinner relative to the elecromagnetic fields of the sun and planet. One field sets the spinner spinning against the other, and in these way, it generates an electrical current it can use to power its metabolism.
Lower left: Rocket animals use large, nonliving, featherlike structures to construct the bell of a rocket motor. (not much thought has gone into these ones…)
Upper right: Voxels are animals that build flexible, spherical shells covered with Velcro-like loops and hooks. When two voxels collide, they stick. Internal muscles pull on the plates of the shells, sending waves of motion through voxel colonies which allows the colony to change shape. The most common conformation is a sphere or a sphere-within-a-sphere, with air and other useful materials collected in the inner volume. The voxels can deform this sphere to stick out pseudopods and engulf other objects.
Center right: Momentum parasites shoot out columns of foam, which hardens in contact with vacuum and sticks to passing organisms. Some mere hitch a ride. Others aggressively fling victims toward the planet so they can climb into a higher orbit.
Lower right: Witch’s brooms only live in the upper atmospheres of planets, where there are enough gas molecules floating around for them to ionize. Air molecules enter at the head of the animal, where they are given an electric charge that attracts them to the tail of the animal. Molecules build up speed along the body of the animal before they exit, becoming exhaust that pushes the animal forward.
Critiques and advice much appreciated
For more information: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41427865-junction