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Add "Planet" To The Taxonomic Rank Categories

As in "Planet, Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class..." etc.
  [vote for,

There's a reason for this. We've been told that the numbers point to there being a high probability of life existing out there somewhere, this sort of sets the table for the concept.

Not just a silly exercise in semantics, at some point if we do find extraterrestrial life, even if there are great similarities between life forms from there and Earth, we'll want to keep the categories separate for book keeping purposes alone. "Is that a Earth marmoset or a Rigelian fluzwuzzler? They're both the same kingdom sort of but you don't want to have to start adding (Earth) or (Rigel 4) after every plant and animal entry in your notes.

There's also a high likelihood that Earth categories won't apply to life from other planets anyway. They may be some kind of weird crystalline cell like based life form or something that would need their own planetary category to start the categorization off from a sensible starting point.

Plus it gives a bit of a looking-towards-a-possible-future vibe to biology. And nobody can deny that, even though there's only one discovered overarching life category right now that "Planet" isn't a legit category.

So to clarify, when and if life is discovered on another world, this will of course happen anyway, the idea is to start referring to it now for the reasons referred to above.

I think Carl Sagan might have liked this one.

doctorremulac3, Aug 25 2015

Panspermia and Moore's Law http://www.technolo...the-origin-of-life/
As mentioned in an annotation. [Vernon, Aug 25 2015]

Some Panspermia details https://www.newscie...rse-panspermia.html
Note: There are much older and bigger impact craters on Earth than Chicxulub. --one is the Vredefort Ring in South Africa. Bacteria launched by that impact could be as much as 1000 light-years away by now. [Vernon, Aug 25 2015]

A potential space traveller https://en.wikipedi...ococcus_radiodurans
This microbe can repair itself perfectly, after having its DNA chopped to bits by gamma radiation or cosmic rays. A rumor says it can live inside nuclear reactor coolant-lines. [Vernon, Aug 25 2015]


       Hey, [8th]; they've found your fluzwuzzler. Was there a reward?
pertinax, Aug 25 2015

       See, that's the trouble with Tribbles.   

       Even if species on two different planets were outwardly similar, modern taxonomy would give them distinct classifications (in, as you suggested, a level above the current top taxonomic level), since they would be different by descent.
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 25 2015

       And what of the species that exists on Earth as well as elsewhere? Who can say that "Pasteurella multocida" doesn't exist on Coruscant or another M class planet somewhere?   

       Introducing the requirement for a planet-based taxonomy would mean we'd have to duplicate or otherwise confuse our data concerning a species which is common to 2 or more planets.
Tulaine, Aug 25 2015

       You might want to add "galaxy" as another higher-level category. The notion of "panspermia" (see link) could cause all carbon-based life in any one galaxy to be related, but galaxies are generally too far apart for that to be true.
Vernon, Aug 25 2015

       Well, it's about book keeping. The incidence of duplicate species on various planets while remote could certainly happen, but an animal in a particular class living on a planet with an average temperature that's ten degrees colder than Earth is going to be vastly different in enough ways that they should have their own group.   

       Plus categories are about being able to zero in on the particulars of this animal for discussion, research etc. Knowing we're talking about Kepler 438b protozoa or Earth protozoa is going to be the first order of business in the real world.   

       It's also HIGHLY unlikely that the ranks would be the same across the board for two planets, especially the lower you get, like, "Here's the Kepler sphenisciformes and here's an Earth penguin. The Kepler penguin has all the same characteristics, it's just from Kepler."   

       My guess is you'd have similarities and differences to how life forms adapted to their environment, but the purpose of a name is to know what we're talking about. We're certainly going to want to compare Earth animals to Keplar animals, and that's tough to do if you don't give them their own category, which would be the case anyway. Nobody is going to talk about a Keplar penguin without saying first "We're talking now about Keplar penguins, not Earth penguins." if there were such a thing. I'm saying just throw that category out there now as a harbinger of the exiting new discoveries we may have waiting for us in the future. Hell, you could start theorizing about various ways Keplar ranks might be different. Having a "Planet" rank for that reason alone makes it something to consider.   

       I'm assuming of course that there's life only on planets, not asteroids or, I don't know, hidden someplace in the electromagnetic spectrum. That's a pretty fair assumption but we've only been doing this science thing for a teeny tiny fraction of our existence. Who knows what we're going to find out?   

       For instance check out Vernon's links. I'm pretty sure we've only scratched the surface.
doctorremulac3, Aug 25 2015

       If everybody has a doppelganger on Earth, then doesn't Earth have a doppelganger somewhere in the galaxy or beyond?
RayfordSteele, Aug 25 2015

       Yea, safe assumption.
doctorremulac3, Aug 25 2015

       //And what of the species that exists on Earth as well as elsewhere? Who can say that "Pasteurella multocida" doesn't exist on Coruscant or another M class planet somewhere? //   

       That could happen if, and only if, life travelled between systems. It's quite likely (in fact, very likely) that bacterial life swapped between Earth and Mars, assuming that they both had habitable environments at the same time. But within a very, very short time, populations on the two planets would diverge.   

       Even if life travelled between different stellar systems (by Hoyle-like panspermia), the evolutionary divergence would probably be much faster than the transit times.   

       So, it's unlikely that we will find the same species (ie, interbreedable populations) on two different planets, with the possible exception of intelligent beings who can move around, like us.   

       So, the most common situation will be that life on two different planets has arisen independently (or from a common ancestor very, very long ago). In this case, even if species on two planets appear identical, they will be very different at the molecular level - their similarity will be the result of convergent evolution.   

       For this reason, it makes perfect sense to have the planet of origin indicated in a prefix before the generic and specific names.   

       Since we are terrestrial, we might opt to drop the prefix for terrestrial species.
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 25 2015

       //Well, it's about book keeping.//   

       No, it's not really. Modern taxonomy is about evolution, and hierarchical classification systems should, ideally, reflect origins. Terrestrial taxonomy got a bit screwed up because we started doing it before we understood evolution or genomics, but it sort of holds together (even though we've spent decades moving species around in the light of modern molecular evidence).
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 25 2015

       //So, it's unlikely that we will find the same species (ie, interbreedable populations) on two different planets, with the possible exception of intelligent beings who can move around, like us.//   

       Exactly. The wildly divergent paths organisms take to fill various ecosystems here on Earth show that life takes a pretty wild course through the challenges of gathering nutrients, reproducing, defending itself from the elements and other creatures, and that's just here where we have 24 hour day cycles and solid, liquid and gaseous water. The idea that a different planet would come up with another exact match for a penguin is pretty far fetched. Heck, the North Pole and South Pole couldn't even both come up with penguins and as far as I can see they're pretty much the same. Now you raise or lower the average temperature by even 20 degrees and oxygen content of the atmosphere by 40%, even if it's football shaped, swims, walks on land and has a beak, that's not a penguin. Not biologically and probably not even on a molecular level. Forget about the shape of the body, get it's bits under the microscope and that's probably where you'll see the main differences as Max pointed out. That outer space penguinoid is going to need it's own classification, and since it's overall traits are going to have many similarities to the other life forms on its planet, the planet classification is going to be vital to the discussion.
doctorremulac3, Aug 25 2015

       This seems like something that obviously would be done in the event that life forms from non-Earth sources are discovered and able to be examined. That is to say, it's an interesting idea but fairly intuitive should the situation arise. Until such time there is no need for it.
tatterdemalion, Aug 25 2015

       Right, which is why the idea is to refer to the category now when speculating about and exploring concepts of extraterrestrial life and specifically comparing them to life we're familiar with here on Earth.   

       Or forget about waiting to find life out there, what about when we start designing life forms to inhabit other worlds? Let's not forget, rather than terraforming an inhospitable planet or running around looking for one that exactly matches San Diego California's climate, we might decide to meet the challenge halfway by re-engineering our bodies to better suit the planet and at some point we may be so different as to become a different species or even genus. In this case certainly this would be a useful designation. I for one would be proud to think that my great, great, great etc grandchildren might be Keplar Humanis, 8 foot tall (or 3 foot tall as necessary) magnificent relatives of primitive Earthlings making their homes light years away from cradle Earth.   

       Anyway, in other words, we can start using it today when discussing astrobioengineering if there is such a thing. If there's not there should be.
doctorremulac3, Aug 25 2015

       I am quite optimistic that, one day, molecular genetics will enable to precisely date the point at which lawyers branched off.
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 25 2015

       //Artificial life vs Natural life//   

       Won't be a difference, life is life, no matter from the hand of God or the hand of man.   

       //It’s interesting how dramatic the revisions of phylogenetic relationships are as things are looked at closer. (etc)//   

       Interesting post Ian, cool stuff.   

       //I am quite optimistic that, one day, molecular genetics will enable to precisely date the point at which lawyers branched off.//   

       Hopefully in the chapter on extinction.
doctorremulac3, Aug 25 2015

       ////Artificial life vs Natural life//   

       Won't be a difference, life is life, //   

       Ah, but there will be. The most fundamental difference will be that natural life evolves, whereas designed life can make large jumps. If you find a fossil of a long-leggedy animal, and an older fossil of a short-leggedy animal, you will probably find a fossil inbetween of a medium- leggedy animal. With engineered life, the intermediate one might have a different number of legs, or wings or whatever.
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 26 2015

       [MaxwellBuchan], did you ever read "Code of the LifeMaker" by James P. Hogan? Think "evolved von Neumann machines"....
Vernon, Aug 26 2015

       So the planet classification would indicate both time and conditions in the complete universal evolutionary tree. Nice.
wjt, Aug 26 2015

       //evolved von Neumann machines// Yes, synthetic life can certainly evolve. But it can also progress by routes other than classical evolution. As a simple example, there are no evolutionary intermediates between the RS232 socket and the USB socket on a computer.
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 26 2015

       // the complete universal evolutionary tree//   

       Technically, unless panspermia is the only means for life to arise on new planets, it would become an evolutionary forest rather than a single all-empassing tree. All life on earth probably has a single common ancestor; life on Kepler 348b has a different common ancestor, probably.
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 26 2015

       [Max] //panspermia is the only means for life to arise on new planets// - logically, for panspermia to be the only means for life to arise on new planets, time must be a closed loop rather than simply linear.
hippo, Aug 26 2015

       It was/is/will be/will have been always there
hippo, Aug 26 2015

       //logically, for panspermia to be the only means for life to arise on new planets// Yes. What I meant but didn't explain was that life would have had to arisen once, somewhere, and then panspermed its way around.
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 26 2015

       //why would there be a need to also do it the hard way by actually travelling?//   

       Because the lease is up on Earth in 7 billion years, time to start packing.   

       The universe has programmed us to develop real estate. Those fish with the crawling fins "knew" that despite being harsh and dangerous, dry land was a "fixer upper opportunity with loads of potential". Mars beckons, other worlds beyond call to us. It's just what we do.   

       As far as letting other life forms pop up and do the job, what if they all said that? Somebody's gotta clean this place up and make it livable. (the universe I mean) Might as well be us.
doctorremulac3, Aug 26 2015

       //rely on the possibility that similar life will occur to fill similar situations//   

       The basic problem in estimating the number of inhabited planets out there is that we honestly, truly, really have absolutely not the first shred of an idea about how easily life originates.   

       It may be that life will tend to get started on any planet, within a million years of its becoming habitable. If so, then every habitable planet will have life. On each planet, life might evolve to the stage where it wonders about life on other planets.   

       It could equally well (and I stress equally) be that, given a habitable planet, life has a one in a quadrillion chance of getting started. In that case, there might be only one inhabited planet. On that planet, life would evolve to the stage where it wonders about life on other planets.   

       The point is that we really, really _really_ don't know. Everything that we do know so far, is equally applicable to a densely-populated universe and to a universe with only one life-bearing planet.
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 26 2015

       Life may be very rare, in fact it's not beyond the realm of possibility that we're the only example, or at least the first example of life in the Universe. There has to be a first right?   

       I'd take that as a responsibility not to be taken lightly. As weird as it sounds, we may be the Universe's only example of consciousness. Talk about an important burden to shoulder.   

       But as Max says, we really, really, really, really, don't know. So we should proceed on our best assumption. We're here, we've got the tools to expand beyond our birth planet, and it's probably a good idea to work towards that goal.
doctorremulac3, Aug 26 2015

       //I take the view that life ... could (or even must) spontaneously occur given the correct opportunity.//   

       I am sure you will believe me when I tell you that I say with the greatest respect that that is bollox.   

       It is perfectly possible that, given ideal conditions (a warm wet planet with all the basics, for ten billion years), life has a one in a quadrillion chance of arising. In that case, there is no "must" about it, and most habitable planets will remain barren throughout their star's existence.   

       The only real clue we have, regarding the ease with which life can arise, is the fact that it seems to have happened quite soon after Earth became habitable. That _suggests_ that life arises fairly easily; if Earth had sat in a habitable but barren state for a billion years before life arose, we might infer that life is very difficult to start. But this is a single datapoint, and it's difficult to say much without a lot of arm-waving.   

       (Of course, the evolution of wavable arms probably says something about life, but I have no idea what it is.)
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 26 2015

       The idea presupposes that life forms on different planets may have similarities to Earth life such that they might share a category with their analogous Earth life forms, flying or swimming like birds or fish for instance. It also supposes that these creatures, despite their similarities will not be at all the same kind of animal sharing perhaps only a shape and features like wings, fins, antenna etc.   

       A birdlike creature from another planet could not be accurately categorized as a bird, it would have to be categorized as an Tau Ceti bird, a Tau Ceti fish etc. hence the planet categorization.   

       The reason to do this now is to stimulate and assist the science of speculative astro-zoology.
doctorremulac3, Aug 27 2015

       //Is the idea confusing genetic heredity with location ?//   

       Sort of, but it's valid. Barring panspermia, location will correspond with heredity. All the lifeforms on Earth trace back to a common ancestor. Likewise, all those on Sphincter 32B will trace back to a common ancestor, et cetera.
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 27 2015

       //Some lifeforms could have evolved from disparate unconnected ancestors that just fancied each other, rather than a single common ancestor for everything//   

       Sort of true. Certainly organisms can merge after they've diverged - for instance, mitochondria and chloroplasts are both derived from ancient bacteria that moved into a precursor of the eukaryotic cell. And it's been proposed that some organisms that undergo dramatic metamorphosis are actually hybrids, with each metamorphic stage being one of the original species.   

       But could life originate twice, independently, on the same planet and then merge? There are two barriers to this:   

       (1) It's unlikely the two origins will happen at the same time. In which case, the first type of life will probably establish itself and consume the resources needed for the second one to get going. For instance, any completely new lifeform arising on Earth would probably just be a snack for bacteria that have already been evolving for billions of years.   

       (2) If two lifeforms did arise _completely_independently, the chances of their metabolisms being compatible is small. For instance, we use left-handed amino acids and have right-handed DNA, and half a dozen other basic handednesses. A new lifeform would probably happen to differ in handedness of one or more classes of molecule, so the gears wouldn't mesh.   

       But, a possibility nevertheless.
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 27 2015

       //Sphincter 32B//   

       From the same mindset as the joker who named Uranus?   

       And keep in mind, there may be very little or no overlap but this makes the assumption that nature will do a little bit of the mirror engineering you see man do from time to time when faced with similar circumstances.   

       These examples might be wrong but didn't two un- related people invent the TV at about the same time? The telephone supposedly has the same story although it smacks of urban legend. Germany and England had independent turbojet programs during WW2 didn't they? Perhaps nature might do the same is the point. Best way for an organism to get through the water? Fins. Through the air? Wings. Under ground in loose dirt? Nothing but a long tube shaped body.   

       As far as the Earth technology examples I may have set a record for amount of misinformation in one annotation but the point is valid despite all the info probably being wrong.
doctorremulac3, Aug 27 2015

       Agreed - it's likely that evolution will produce _outwardly_ similar solutions when faced with similar problems.   

       This already happens on Earth, of course. Dolphins and sharks are broadly similar in shape. Eyes evolved several times. And bats do not all come from one bat-like ancestor: they have evolved from non-flying mammals at least twice, independently - and both groups independently evolved echolocation.   

       However, the underlying molecular machinery is often arbitrary. All life on earth has one set of machinery (more or less). All life on Sphincter 32B would almost certainly have a different set. It's possible that DNA would re- evolve independently (it works well), but for example the coding system is mostly arbitrary and would not be the same on another planet. Likewise, the choice between left- or right-handed chiral molecules is arbitary, and life elsewhere would make different choices.
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 27 2015

       Analogously, software developers converge on different products which are similar in how they look and work - e.g 'Microsoft Outlook' for PCs and the OSX 'Mail' program - but which are very different at the code level.
hippo, Aug 27 2015

       That's probably as good an analogy as you'll find. Under the surface, the chemistry of life forms from different planets is going to be as different as the chemistry of the planets they're from.   

       Penguin and penquinoid from planet Cornholio 9 are both going to burn fuel when they're walking, but that fuel is going to be very different between the two, as will the mechanism to process that fuel, right down to the cellular level.   

       So to get back to the idea, if we're going to re-use some existing categories from planet to planet, we just look at the menu. Could that penguinoid's phylum be designated chordate? Does it possess a a notochord, a hollow dorsal nerve cord, pharyngeal slits, an endostyle, and a post- anal tail for at least some period of their life cycles? If it does, even if it's silicon based rather than carbon based, its phylum is chordate.   

       How often would we use these same categories from planet to planet? Impossible to speculate. But if different planet's creatures share the same characteristics enough to share a category, would this category designation be useful? Absolutely, but only if it's under the heading of the planet's name.   

       Ok, got a little wordy there for some not exactly world shattering concepts. Sometimes I think the clicking of the keyboard lulls me into a trance. Hope reading this rambling doesn't have the same effect. Eh, probably does. Whatever.
doctorremulac3, Aug 27 2015

       //Could that penguinoid's phylum be designated chordate?//   

       Not if you wanted to be taxonomically consistent. Now that phylogeny is so tightly hooked into evolution, you can't really have two animals in the same phylum (or genus,or any of the other levels) if they don't share a common ancestry.   

       So, if you classified the penguinoid as a chordate, that would imply that it had descended from the same ancestor as the penguin (and all other chordates); yet the planet prefix, sitting at the top of the hierarchy, would indicate independent origins. In effect, you would be implying an evolutionary tree that had two origins (two planets), fused to make a single chordate group, and then split again into penguins and penguinoids.   

       So, each planet is going to need its own completely new phylogeny. Maybe you'd define "chordatoids" for the new planet, to indicate that they had features in common with terrestrial chordates.   

       There is one situation in which unrelated animals can share part of their phylogenetic name - the specific epithet need not be unique. So, for instance, there are lots of species called "XYZ edulens", where the XYZ will be any of several different genera, and the specific epithet "edulens" just means "tasty". Likewise, lots of things are called "XYZ minor", etc.   

       So, to summarize, the terrestrial Little Penguin is:   

       Planet: Terra
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Sphenisciformes
Family: Spheniscidae
Genus: Eudyptula
Species: E. minor

       whereas a small penguinoid from Cornholio 9 might be:   

       Planet: Cornholio novem
Kingdom: Animata
Phylum: Chordatoida
Class: Avioides
Order: Involantes
Family: Involantidae
Genus: Tuxedo
Species: T. minor
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 27 2015

       //Planet: Cornholio novem Kingdom: Animata Phylum: Chordatoida Class: Avioides etc//   

       So if we're calling it a penquinoid, we're going to have to apply that suffix to everything on the tree because penguin and penguinoid may have similar traits but may have gotten there via disparate routes? So they may have similar family characteristics but hail from different orders?   

       If that's not what you're saying, it's what I'm saying. If that is what you're saying I agree.   

       I guess the main thing I'm saying (wait, what the hell was I saying again?) oh yea, is, I don't think we need to wait to see what's out there and then make up categories for them. I think we can start with the planet category, then using our taxonomy menu as a TEMPLATE, begin filling in the possible life forms that would populate these categories.   

       Why should we spend time speculating about such things? I don't know, beats playing video games.   

       Well, and beyond something interesting to mull over, I think the path to colonization of different planets is going to require us to put some thought into changing our selves to match the environment, perhaps even going full mechanical with full consciousness transference into robots, something that doesn't seem totally impossible. Large capacity electronic data storage has only been around for decades and look how far it's come.   

       Forget about conquering the cosmos, that truly could be the cure for death. And make no mistake, we will cure death someday.   

       Ok, I need to get some work done today. "Ok Mr Future Guy, before you populate the cosmos and cure death, that garbage isn't going to take itself out and lawns don't mow themselves."
doctorremulac3, Aug 27 2015

       //Sticking to the idea that things have to be descended from other things to qualify for a step in the tree is a bit needlessly rigid.//   

       That is why we have common names for things. You can call the penguinoid a "flightless bird" if you like. But the latin terms have (and should have) precise meanings. And they are used primarily by people with a technical interest, who value those meanings and depend on them. Taxonomy is a tool used by professionals, and it doesn't do to go messing with it.
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 27 2015

       Well yes and quite so. Half the fun of astrotaxonomy will be in tracing back the threads of migratory species to their planets of origin.
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 27 2015

       We'd best get on Worm-Hole tech if we ever want to classify galaxy of origination.   

       One of my recurring nightmares is discovering that (a) panspermia is true and (b) life originated in Wales. At some future date, we will be visited by an immense robot which will say "Klaatu barada nikto, isn't it boyo?"
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 27 2015


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