Evolution of Life without the Moon

In one of our previous chapters, we had discussed in detail, what could happen to the earth if the moon were to suddenly zoom into oblivion. In nutshell, that would clutter and scatter all life on earth. But the smart place that our earth is, it is hard to imagine that there would be no life on earth after the moon.  Then how would life evolve after the moon? Or how would have life evolved if there was no moon to start with? Here is the evolution.

How the moon came into existence?

Evolution
Collision – Image credit to coolinterestingstuff.com

The evolution of the moon itself has been as turbulent as the evolution of life on earth. Most theorists believe that the moon came into existence when two worlds collided: the earth and another world roughly of the size of mars. In the course of the collision, the iron cores of the two worlds fused and gave the earth a larger size. But a lot of mass (mainly the mantles of the worlds) was ejected into the space. Over time, the mass fused and gave the earth its only natural satellite – the moon.

And without that collision?

It is hard to imagine what could have happened if that collision had not taken place. For one thing, you would miss the silver ball in the night sky. But wait. Would you even be there to miss it? Probably not. If the moon were not formed, the earth would not be the icy blue planet that we know today. In fact, there would be no life as we see it on earth. Evolution would have taken a completely different route. Scientists are actually gauging chances of evolution in other planets by disregarding the moon’s influence on earth life.

There would be 4-6 hours of day and 4-6 hours of darkness

day and night
Day and Night – image credit to revograce.wordpress.com

The first and very natural consequence of the absence of moon would be on the spin of the earth. Currently, the moon stabilizes the axis of the earth and creates balanced days and nights. When the earth was first formed, there were 4 hours of day and 4 hours of night. Over the cosmic timeline, the sun’s tidal force would have elongated that into 6 hours of day and 6 hours of night. That would bear a huge impact on the metabolism of any lifeforms that would evolve on the earth.

Fast Spinning Planet

The short duration of day and night would easily translate into very fast spinning of the planet. With such fast spins, the weather on the earth will be more turbulent and noisy than the weather on the most disturbing day of the year. Without the moon to control the tides, much of the water of the earth will be controlled by the sun itself. The 50 foot tides that hit Japan during the tsunami, would then have been a daily occurrence. And with such turbulence, it is difficult to imagine such splendid oceanic life forms that inhabit the earth today.

Erratic climate changes from sudden and rampant axis destabilization

Climate Change
Climate Change – Image credit to www.wun.ac.uk

Even with the moon, the earth experiences a certain conical tilt in the axis. This is generally known as the wobbling effect of the earth’s axis. This stability to the axis extended by the moon, presents, what laymen would term, horizontal flips. That would make for not just a very turbulent atmosphere with very high winds, but also make for an erratic surface. So what is an ocean now could be an icy crust in some time and not much later, would become a bone-dry desert. This is perhaps enough to know the difficulty in evolution of life.

Evolution of life: bursts of adaptations and extinction

Evolution

After all this, if there is at all an evolution of life, how would it be? For one thing, all species would have to adapt themselves far too quickly than they do on the earth. Life would perhaps continue through very short cycles of adaptations and extinctions. The extinction rate would be peculiarly high. But at the same time, the conditions of the earth would be hospitable enough to support very rapid evolution.

Not a chance for complex life

Given the hostile weather that would prevail on our planet, we cannot expect complex live to evolve on an earth without the moon or without the sun. For one thing, complex life forms are quieter in nature. And hostile living conditions would only support hostile creatures. Also, complex and intelligent life forms evolve very slowly and through an extended timeline. The adaptability of such life would be highly hindered by the rampantly changing topography of the earth.

Short and stout mammals

Short Mammals
Short Mammals – Image credit to scitechdaily.com

In such a situation, short and stout mammals will be the ones to evolve faster. High trees will no longer exists and they will, in all probability be uprooted by the vicious winds. Also, the animals to inhabit the earth would be much like larger versions of the insects we see today.

Predominance of visual communication

Given the hostile and noisy weather of the planet, the planet would have been deprived of much of its calmness. Speech is counted off as it is a symbol of intelligent life and the conditions would have not supported it anyway. Auditory communication can however exist if animals speak at a frequency which is way beyond or lower than that of the wind. But most theorists agree that there will be species whose major communication mode will be visuals.

A rough, too tough world

Our world without the moon would be a very and tough place to stay. There will be incessant violent storms, droughts, freezing colds, scorching summers and flying tornadoes – all at the same time. While there will be the evolution of life in patches, some of the oddities like birds and tall trees will be missed besides the intelligent races like ours.

This gives us an idea of the amount of life that we are extracting from the dead mass of rock that has been unfailingly registering its presence every night ever since we know life to have existed on the earth.

Joshua Kent

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