Created By: Pichu-kun on May 27, 2017 Last Edited By: Pichu-kun on September 17, 2017
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Speculative Biology

Works discussing fictional animals and plants that could hypothetically evolve

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"Speculative biology" (also referred to as "speculative zoology") refers to when people speculate how a species could evolve under certain circumstances.

The most common situation used for the animals to evolve is After the End: "What would the world be like once humans go extinct?" Another common situation is "What animal(s) could become as advanced as humans and how would they?" Other works focus on the question of "What if humans never evolved?", feature aliens on different types of planets, or just end up creating animals that could exist. Often, the aim of Evilutionary Biologist is to see how humans/certain animals would end up if he hastens their "evolution".

Speculative biology is very popular online amongst wannabe biologists and animal fans, especially on sites like Deviantart, and Sturgeon's Law applies here. However it's also a topic that gets professionally discussed. Several books and a few documentaries have also been created on the topic of speculative biology.

Despite the name, speculative biology is often not very scientifically accurate. Many artists end up coming up with inaccurate animals and circumstances that most likely couldn't occur. Every so often however, years later a species is discovered that resembles a previously fictional animal.

Sub-trope to Speculative Documentary.


Examples:

Fan Works

Literature
  • Dougal Dixon:
    • Man After Man: An Anthropology of the Future is a 1990 speculative fiction book by the popular speculative biology writer Dougal Dixon. It focuses on individual characters rather than whole species. It starts After the End in the 22nd century. The Earth has been ruined by human overpopulation and destruction of the environment. The humans decide to leave on spaceships to find other livable planets. Scientists created two humanoid species - the frog-like "aquamorph" and the "vaccuumorph", who only can survive in the airless voids of space - in order to help build the ships. Over 5 million years the Earth recovers and the genetically modified apes evolve into various forms, until one day the descendent of humans come back and fuse them together. The book is heavy on Body Horror and uses a lot of Artistic License – Biology.
    • The New Dinosaurs: An Alternative Evolution is a 1988 book by Dougal Dixon. It's about how dinosaurs could have evolved over 68 million years if the mass extinction had not happened. Due to being made in the 1980s, the book is very outdated in many respects.
    • After Man is a 1981 book written by Dougal Dixon on how Earth could evolve in the 50 million years after humans go extinct.
  • The 2013 book Cryptozoologicon tries to reinterpret cryptids as plausible animals.
  • One of the plot elements in The Mote in God's Eye was how the various subspecies of Moties evolved. Determining how this occurred was crucial in determining that some of the Motie bodies ejected from the Crazy Eddie Probe were Warriors, which exposed one of the Moties' darkest secrets.
  • King Kong (2005) got a companion book called The World of Kong: A Natural History of Skull Island, where the biology of the various monsters seen in the movie, from the dinosaurs through the giant bugs to Kong himself, got described in a semi-scientific way.
  • In the Animorphs prequel novel The Ellimist Chronicles, the Ketrans play a game that revolves around slightly modifying the conditions of their chosen virtual creatures' planet in order to influence their evolution towards a specific direction. Different players' creatures can even come into contact with one another through space travel.

Live-Action TV
  • The Future Is Wild is a 2002 Animal Planet documentary. It is a Spiritual Successor to the speculative evolution book After Man. In contrast to the book, the documentary says that humans simply left to live on another planet rather than went extinct. The documentary has been criticised for containing animals that are implausible, such as a giant land squid millions of years into a future where mammals have died out and other species fulfil their niches.
  • Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real is a 2004 mockumentary where the remains of dragons are discovered in a cave. It goes onto describe how different dragon types could have evolved, how they would have worked, and why they went extinct.
  • Mermaids: The Body Found is a 2012 mockumentary and is the Spiritual Successor to Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real. It describes how a species of ape could have evolved into an aquatic animal, eventually becoming mermaids. Unlike its predecessor it is a Found Footage Film.
  • One episode of Cosmos had Carl Sagan discussing a theoretical ecosystem on Jupiter in which the animals had evolved into Living Gasbags in order cope with the planet's conditions.
  • The Doctor Who episode "The Lazarus Experiment" has Richard Lazarus being mutated into a fearsome giant centipede/scorpion-like monster after an experiment with an anti-ageing machine goes wrong. The Doctor describes the monster as a creature of evolutionary potential - something that evolution could have turned humanity into if it hadn't gone the "two arms and legs, ten fingers and toes" route - lying dormant within Lazarus' genes.
  • One episode of the documentary series Through the Wormhole was about aliens could realistically look like depending on the planets they are from.
  • Dinosapien asks the question "What if non-avian dinosaurs hadn't gone extinct?" and goes with it. In it, an earthquake opens up and reveals a Lost World where dinosaurs survived the mass extinction and evolved further.

Tabletop Games
  • Traveller: When the game was first created, a key part of the design of its alien races was deciding not just how they evolved, but how they developed intelligence.

Video Games
  • The central idea of Spore was creating alien species, making them adapt to the environment and evolve into sentient beings. However, it changed direction mid-production, leading to more cartoonish and unrealistic gameplay and art style. Multiple attempts were made since then to make a game that would be closer to Spore's original concept.
  • The plot of the Pokémon games is to go into the world and find and catalog the various specimens of Pokemon. The Pokedex entries give bits and pieces of how Pokemon work, with Pokémon Sun and Moons Pokedex entries focusing on the Pokemon's diets and how they hunt.

Web Original
  • The Wiki Rule even applies here. Speculative Evolution Wiki lists works about speculative biology, amongst other things.
  • The Youtuber TREY The Explainer usually focuses on actual paleontology however he has dabbled with this:
    • He once did a video on what he thinks aliens would actually look like. He is very much against the prevalence of Humanoid Aliens and The Greys in media.
    • In his videos on debunking cryptids, he discusses near the end what he believes they hypothetically would realistically be. For example, in his video on the Loch Ness Monster he speculated that it wouldn't be a plesiosaur but instead would be a giant leech.
  • The Speculative Dinosaur Project is a modern-day Spiritual Successor to the 1980s book The New Dinosaurs: An Alternative Evolution. It's a speculative biology project on how dinosaurs could have evolved if the K/PG mass extinction had not occured.
  • Sagan 4 was a web project about creating an entire alien ecosystem that evolved from a single unicellular life form, inspired by discussions of the game Spore which was then in production.
Community Feedback Replies: 14
  • May 27, 2017
    Arivne
    Zero Context Examples have been marked as such. They need more information to show how they fit the trope. Please don't remove the marking unless you add enough context.
  • May 27, 2017
    Arivne
    There have been a number of hard science fiction works that have covered this.

    Literature
    • One of the plot elements in The Mote In Gods Eye was how the various subspecies of Moties evolved. Determining how this occurred was crucial in determining that some of the Motie bodies ejected from the Crazy Eddie Probe were Warriors, which exposed one of the Moties' darkest secrets.

    Tabletop Games
    • Traveller. When the game was first created, a key part of the design of its alien races was deciding not just how they evolved, but how they developed intelligence.
  • May 28, 2017
    Snicka
    The Future Is Wild is more of a Spiritual Successor of After Man - Dougal Dixon, author of After Man, was involved in the creation of The Future Is Wild, but the creatures (and the time periods covered) are totally different from the book. Also, it's not a film but rather a television series.
  • May 28, 2017
    Astaroth
    • One episode of Cosmos had Carl Sagan discussing a theoretical ecosystem on Jupiter in which the animals had evolved into Living Gasbags in order cope with the planet's conditions.

    • Dr Who episode "The Lazarus Experiment" has Richard Lazarus being mutated into a fearsome giant centipede/scorpion-like monster after an experiment with an anti-ageing machine goes wrong. The Doctor describes the monster as a creature of evolutionary potential - something that evolution could have turned humanity into if it hadn't gone the "two arms and legs, ten fingers and toes" route - lying dormant within Lazarus' genes.
  • May 28, 2017
    Pichu-kun
    ^^^^ I was half-asleep when I made this YKTTW so I decided to wait until I woke up later to add more details.
  • May 28, 2017
    Snicka
    All three documentaries that are now listed under Film - Animated should be moved to Live-Action TV. Although they use a lot of CGI to recreate the creatures, it's meant to be photorealistic (although at least in the case of The Future Is Wild it suffers a lot of Special Effects Failure), they insert the creatures to live-action background, and intersect it with live-action footage of scientists explaining the biology of the creatures.
  • May 28, 2017
    Getta
    Often, the aim of Evilutionary Biologist is to see how humans/certain animals would end up if he hastens their "evolution".
  • May 29, 2017
    Snicka
    • King Kong 2005 got a companion book called The World of Kong: A Natural History of Skull Island, where the biology of the various monsters seen in the movie, from the dinosaurs through the giant bugs to Kong himself, got described in a semi-scientific way.
  • May 29, 2017
    NightShade96
    • In the Animorphs prequel novel The Ellimist Chronicles, the Ketrans play a game that revolves around slightly modifying the conditions of their chosen virtual creatures' planet in order to influence their evolution towards a specific direction. Different players' creatures can even come into contact with one another through space travel.
  • May 29, 2017
    Snicka
  • June 6, 2017
    Xemylixa
    • Sagan 4 was a web project about creating an entire alien ecosystem that evolved from a single unicellular life form, inspired by discussions of the game Spore which was then in production.
    (i think it's now defunct tho)

    • The central idea of Spore was creating alien species, making them adapt to the environment and evolve into sentient beings. However, it changed direction mid-production, leading to more cartoonish and unrealistic gameplay and art style. Multiple attempts were made since then to make a game that would be closer to Spore's original concept.
  • June 6, 2017
    hszmv1
    • The plot of the Franchise/Pokemon games is to go into the world and find and catalog the various specimens of Pokemon .
      • This Very Wiki has a Just For Fun series that takes the premise of Pokemon Up To 11 and documents the creatures as if writing a scientific article about a real world animal.

    Would Cryptozoology be this?
  • August 8, 2017
    Pichu-kun
    ^ Yes.
  • September 17, 2017
    MrMediaGuy2
    I feel like we should mention Sturgeons Law when it comes to the fanmade creatures.

    Other than that, I agree with adding this.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=ulz66jy0jslnd7q3uyp12dlo