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Photo: AP
Photo: AP

Aliens may have a lot in common with humans: Study

Aliens are potentially shaped by the same processes and mechanisms that shaped humans, such as natural selection, says a study by University of Oxford scientists

New Delhi: While movies may show aliens as big burly monsters or green coloured beings, a latest study by the University of Oxford has suggested that humans could have more in common with our extraterrestrial neighbours than initially thought.

A study published in the International Journal of Astrobiology on Tuesday by scientists from UK-based University of Oxford shows for the first time how evolutionary theory can be used to support alien predictions and better understand their behaviour.

The study shows that aliens are potentially shaped by the same processes and mechanisms that shaped humans, such as natural selection. It supports the argument that foreign life forms undergo natural selection, and are like us, evolving to be fitter and stronger over time.

Sam Levin, who is a researcher in Oxford’s Department of Zoology, explains that a “fundamental task for astrobiologists (those who study life in the cosmos) is thinking about what extra-terrestrial life might be like."

“But making predictions about aliens is hard. We only have one example of life—life on Earth—to extrapolate from. Past approaches in the field of astrobiology have been largely mechanistic, taking what we see on Earth, and what we know about chemistry, geology, and physics to make predictions about aliens," he said.

“In our paper, we offer an alternative approach, which is to use evolutionary theory to make predictions that are independent of Earth’s details. This is a useful approach...," Levin added.

The study explained that by using this idea of alien natural selection as a framework, the team addressed extraterrestrial evolution.

“Species complexity has increased on the Earth as a result of a handful of events, known as major transitions. These transitions occur when a group of separate organisms evolve into a higher-level organism—when cells become multi-cellular organisms, for example. Both theory and empirical data suggest that extreme conditions are required for major transitions to occur," the study said.

The study also makes predictions about the biological make-up of complex aliens and “what they might look like".

Meanwhile, Levin admits that they still can’t say whether aliens will walk on two legs or have big green eyes, but they believe evolutionary theory offers a unique additional tool for trying to understand what aliens will be like.

“We have shown some examples of the kinds of strong predictions we can make with it. By predicting that aliens (have) undergone major transitions—which is how complexity has arisen in species on earth, we can say that there is a level of predictability to evolution that would cause them to look like us," he said.

“There are potentially hundreds of thousands of habitable planets in our galaxy alone. We can’t say whether or not we’re alone on Earth, but we have taken a small step forward in answering, if we’re not alone, what our neighbours are like," he added.

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