Cracked Goes Galaxy Brain: The Bonkers Aliens Of Future Earth
Creatures are constantly evolving and then living or dying in response to demands. Or for no reason whatsoever. Either way, many extant things are on their way to being different. And over the unmarked ages, wondrous species blink in and out of existence as ephemerally as the spit-bubbles on my tongue during Wendy's commercials or late-night taffy endeavors.
Among the most tantalizing examples are the extremes, both in terms of taffy flavors (I had cookie dough, once) and also the gigantic beasts that may yet be:
Or the disturbingly different things that could fill the cosmos. If the following funky sons of bitches are skittering and scattering across extraterrestrial landscapes, then maybe it’s a blessing that everything in the universe is so ridiculously far apart and inaccessible.
But for those that like getting a lil’ existentially freak-ay, consider the otherworldly offerings of artist and researcher C.M. Kösemen:
The above inhabit a magical, mystical off-world habitat, but there's plenty of potential for Earthly oddities. Like the ones actually occurring right now, including the tuskless elephants that have become more common than ever in Mozambique. Previously, it was rare to go tuskless. But it became increasingly prevalent during and in the wake of the Mozambique civil war, circa 1977 to 1992, when Mozambicans slaughtered each other at such rates that they ran out of slaughtering money, but not slaughtering ambition. So to fund the further slaughtering of themselves, they slaughtered their local, historical fauna for ivory. As a result, female elephants said, "Screw this, it's tuskless hot girl summer and if you don't like it then poach this, JACKASS!"
Birds are also transforming in response to reckless humanity, though due to rising global temperatures. Scientists found that birds in certain parts of the world, including the Brazilian Amazon, are getting smaller while their wings grow longer. The decrease in body size might be for better heat dissipation or because food is scarcer. It's impossible to predict how it'll culminate, but let me show you how your possible descendants may be spending their Saturdays in a thousand or a million years:
The potential is mysterious, endless, and depends on many chances, odds, probabilities, and whatnots. Another mass extinction could surprise us, or not surprise us, at any time. Maybe the military’s newly developed cybernetic Kill-Borgs mistake us for the innocent villagers they're programmed to "remove" from overseas oil gulfs. Perhaps the night physicist at CERN forgets to switch off the secret black hole after clocking out. Or Papa John's introduces the XXXXXXXL Cowboy Pizza for $8.99.
Alternative apocalypses may appear from the sky in the form of raining, burning death. Or from below, as bubbling magma, or a sewer-mutant insurrection in response to our continued flushing of the Wet Wipes that pollute their proudly spired cities and beautiful turd-lined pavilions.
Dreaming up future creature features is as fun as dreaming up Doomsdayses, but there's no way to know how correct our suppositions are. It's as impossible to estimate as which global tech company's chief officer will face significant wire fraud charges, then be found dangling, or shot 17 times in the upper back in what's ruled an apparent suicide.
But even if it's curtains for us, certain creatures are projected to fare well. These "champion speciators" include things like snakes, cockroaches, and the world's favorite vermin, rodents. These animals are adaptable, hardy, and accomplished scavengers. And they diversify into various zany forms to fill the evolutionary cubbyholes left by the departed. I don't mean to spoil the surprise, but many vacated cubbyholes may be filled by weedy rat-things, according to Future Evolution by paleontologist Peter Ward:
The intelligent, stately crows may also thrive thanks to their smarts and foraging skills. A corvid-populated future is a promising prospect for the bedraggled humans that may survive—ever seen those feel-good articles about befriending crows? In an uncertain, possibly apocalyptic timeline, you never know where you'll find a life-saving resource. In return for a jelly bean or belly rub, your corvine buddy may be persuaded to sift through the cinders of the neighborhood Rite Aid for that one intact vial of insulin or kidney medicine.
Another scenario: big animals will lose their habitats. As grasslands and other such ecosystems disappear, Earth may never see another large land animal again. Until we die, move to Mars or Moon Station 5, or wise up and decide to "re-wild" the planet. Other eventual potentialities don't include us. In The Future is Wild by geologist Dougal Dixon, who knows his way around psychedelic speculative creatures, we humans are defeated in a measly 5 million years by an Ice Age, ceding the globe to a psychedelic assortment of big and wacky things.
Wacky things include the giant "shagrat" rodents and huge aquatic birds called "gannet whales," which populate a dehumanized Earth.
When the planet thaws 100 million years later, it becomes the domain of immense animals named after billionaires' orgy-yachts: the "ocean phantom," a truck-sized jellyfish that patrols the seas, while "toraton" reptiles outgrow the dinosaurs, and "swampus" octopus-abominations crawl over the wetlands. The manga version of the book, of course, there's a manga version of the book, imagines some of these future perversions:
Tack on another hundred mil and the world of 200 Million Post-Ice Age looks even weirder, with literal flying fish and multi-ton land-dwelling "megasquid."
But that’s pretty far off. In the nearer, more tangible future, the animals that further their seed may gain adaptations that make them better suited to the ever-crappier conditions of our downward-spiraling planet.
As our temperate rocky sphere trends toward the sweatier side of the climatic spectrum, animals may become better adapted to the inevitable scorch. Evolutionary biologist Patricia Brennan says we may see "naked" birds or mammals (cold-blooded species, like reptiles or senators, will be less adversely affected), which begin to lose their feathers or fur to withstand the heat. Some may also "collect water in skin pockets" to deal with the dryer climate.
Skin flaps are another option, as are the evolution-approved heat-dispersing sails donned by Dimetrodon nearly 300 million years ago. Dimetrodon is what would later become the thing that would later become mammals.
Other critters may not change as much. Turtles, crocs, and many others currently look the same as they did hundreds of millions of years ago. Similarly, the chonky tabby cat of 4000 PSC (Post-Second Coming) may be as indolent and lasagna-loving as its chonky tabby ancestor today. Adaptability, versatility, and stubbornness combine to assure felines a long-lasting existence. As do the hardiness and gutter-readiness of other critters such as coyotes, pigeons, rats, raccoons, starlings, and the Biblical plague-friendly bugs like fleas, ticks, and flies.
Some animals may even develop practical adaptations for the Heavy Industry Era, like oil-slick fur that repels sludge or specialized beaks for scrounging through trash. The bounty for these intrepid trailblazers will be as rich as it is disgusting. Other uninviting niches may be occupied, as photosynthetic microbes turn the world's glaciers green. Or fungi and other light lifeforms ascend to live in the atmosphere. On the ground, the progressively rarer rains could be harvested in specialized body parts:
Anyone-or-thing looking up would glimpse the ponderous "zeppelinoid," a floating, gas-filled toad potentially larger than a whale. It uses its dangly appendages (these were once its legs) to scoop up deer and graze on trees.
In the seas, more animals may begin relying on bioluminescence to attract mates, trick prey, or escape predators. Including these insane catfish of the upcoming eons or why not some "high-altitude sky-bats?"
So who’s to say that trees will be content to remain rooted and photosynthetic for 100 million years, and not eventually move around and fire poison at woodland critters? The Venus flytrap category of terror plants is severely underutilized. For now.
Similarly, lots of flowers look like other things, including birds, so why not birds that look like flowers? Untold delicious insects are available to the crafty avian willing to evolve its face into a floral Upside Down nightmare. And wherever there's a niche, it eventually gets took:
In other spheres, organisms may switch roles a la Freaky Friday, with fish leaving the waters and spiders becoming aquatic net-hunters. Other species may revert to their ancestral forms, with whales once again walking on land. Because fun fact, 50 million years ago, whales used to look like this dog-gator-seal thing:
It was 12-feet-long, 400 pounds, and it waddled while on land. It's probably in the whale's best interest to switch back. Better than getting harpooned by islanders or catfished by titillating low-frequency sounds that turn out to be a mud-shrimp trawler. Other aquatic mammals may follow suit. How about some land dolphins, descendants of the bygone sea-dwellers who grew tired of getting caught in Sunkist's world-spanning fleet of trash-dredgers.
And if you’re thinking, “these things surely won't exist; you’re just pounding beers and glorifying science fiction devised by stoners,” here’s my response: you're not Mother Nature—would you ever design a platypus? How many types of plankton could you come up with before getting bored? Three? Did you know there's a bird that's survived for millions of years by inhabiting the evolutionary niche of cucking? Did you invent a cucking-bird? Because nature did. In legal jargon, I rest my case.
Top image: BBC