Bioartist is breeding flies adapted for life on Titan

Originally published at:


So they can they be breed to live somewhere where they have no food? Cool.


So what could go wrong when these buggers get loose?


That’s just awful.


Astronaut food will do.


There are some fields where an art degree just isn’t enough. I would bet interplanetary genetic engineering is one of them.


My kitchen?


First he has to fill the flies with antifreeze. :rofl:


It’s a nice idea, but you’d have to rebuild their entire biochemistry to use methane instead of water. Which I think is just theory at this point.


sigh Bro? The foundational work has to be done at some point, by somebody.

Bad news: turns out humans were actually bioengineered eons ago as part of an intergalactic Dadaist exhibition.

The worst part is that the critics hate us.


I don’t know humans; but I know what I like.


Ummm, ultracold, anoxic, liquid hydrocarbon based ecosystem, not possible to selectively breed multicellular earth life to survive that. This would require ground up genetic engineering starting from an anaerobic extremophile bacteria or archea. Or better yet, go and find out if there might not be critters there that have already conquered the many barriers on this moon. Interestingly, with the ultracold environment found on Titan, any life there would metabolize so slowly we might not realize they are living simply because they live on a time scale of centuries instead of minutes or hours we are used to for life forms of this sort.


Titan has a much HIGHER atmospheric pressure than Earth:


Sounds legit. Minus 179.2 °C is a perfect temperature for any small life form to survive for decades, if not centuries. Currently, most (haploid) humans survive at −195.79 °C (in sperm banks).

On another note, if the artist intends to breed the fruit flies to sustain a significant metabolism on Titan, I have only one thing to say to them: “You should have stayed in school.”


Best I can think of is this bit from the wikipedia article:

surface significantly colder than its upper atmosphere

So maybe its better for lifeforms in the upper atmosphere, where the pressure really is less than on Earth.

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Surface temperature on Titan: around -179 C
Atmospheric oxygen content: essentially zero.

Temperature in Gracie’s lab: 15 C
Oxygen content: same as Earth’s atmosphere

So, not exactly the “harsh environmental conditions on Titan”.


Although he’s stopped, since (as he explains in the linked interview):

as of the summer of 2017, the project is officially terminated. While absent from the Barcelona studio for a month the cooling system failed and 99% of the flies perished in the stifling summer temperatures. I was unable to revive stocks from the few survivors.

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The tricky bit is finding or building a life form that would do something interesting under those conditions. We have a variety of extremophiles that can shrug off alarming periods of exposure to extreme cold, dessication, radiation, etc. but they usually do that by virtue of being able to shut down gracefully and then resume function; rather than by being able to carry on things like metabolism and cell division and such under those conditions.

This isn’t to minimize the coolness of the trick; but it does mean that the would-be terraformer or seeder of colonies of terrrestrial life would find that their introduced population would be impressively viable if they thawed it out a decade(some of it quite likely much longer than that) later; but that it would have done basically nothing in the interim, just shriveled up and waited.

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