On Earth, things evolve into crabs—could the same be true in space? - Ars Technica
Jul 29, 2021 1 min, 47 secs

Many organisms on planet Earth aren't crabs.

But a surprising number of creatures either are crabs or look a lot like them.

Hermit crabs are not alone; over the history of life on Earth, there have been five separate cases in which decapod crustaceans have evolved this way, a process common enough that it has picked up a formal term: carcinization.

"Everything" is clear hyperbole—the overwhelming majority of things on Earth are not crabs and seemingly have no plans to become them.

But if there are benefits to having a crab-like shape on Earth, should we view that as a general rule of life.

Yet crab-like forms are common enough that a number of the things we call crabs aren't all that closely related to crabs.

Though they evolved to have crab-like features, they are not true crabs, which are in the infraorder Brachyura.

Right now, there's no evidence that there is any life, much less crab life, on other planets.

Wolfe noted that any creatures on these theoretical planets would still need to have the right genetic building blocks to be capable of evolving into crab-like forms.

And a converse is also true: planets different from Earth are less likely to have crabs.

On Earth, there are terrestrial crabs, which evolved from their marine kin.

It seems likely that if there are space crabs, they'd probably come about on planets that have environments similar to Earth's.

“I think that you could [have crab-like creatures on other planets].

I also think you could get things that don't look like anything on Earth at all,” she said.

Kershenbaum doesn't think that life in the stars needs to look exactly like life on Earth.

Rather, weird and wacky alien life is just more likely to be rare by comparison.

“It seems likely that Earth-like planets are going to be relatively well-stocked with life compared to weird and wonderful planets,” he said.

He said that if he were to send a probe into space to look for life, he'd expect to see many worm-shaped things—they're quite common on Earth and have been around for more than 500 million years.


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