Hi everybody! I was studying for my biology finals when I
suddenly noticed, A LOT of it could be used for writing. Especially
science-fiction and fantasy where authors often create new species.
I decided to create a post all about it, in the hopes of helping some of you
How to get started
“What makes a scpecies scientifically realistic?” When they fit in their environment. This applies to all creatures living in relatively stable environments. If, say a magician, has just created a new species and just puts it in the forest, it might not fit in there. It will either have to adapt itself (through evolution) or it goes extinct. It might even change the environment in some ways! So the environment is the key factor to how a species lives.
So, before you go around creating some species, you first need
to think about where they live. I highly advise you to build an environment
for them as the first step and then actually create the species. It does not
have to be complicated at all, as long as you get some of the basics down.
You might think about so called “abiotic
factors”. Those are basically environmental factors, that aren’t based on
life. This includes:
- How intense is the light? (Is there a lot of
light throughout the day?)
- How much water is there?
- What is the temperature?
- Where is the water? (lakes? in the air? in the
- What does the ground consist of? (stone, sand,
- Are there seasons/what changes during the
seasons? (are there any seasons at all? What are they like?)
And the list goes on. Please keep in mind that you do not
need to know any exact numbers or whatever. It’s enough if you know a little
bit about it (e.g. there is very intense light from sunrise to sunset). You also don’t need to have every single one of these factors
thought out, in the end it would get too complicated.
Now, these factors directly influence how the plants/animals live in this area.
I will be talking about more specific things that happen later (only with the animals!).
What to do with these informations now? Think about it; Have you ever seen full
grown, green trees in the desert? Have you ever seen a flower in winter? This way you
can roughly get an image of your plants/animals in your head.
Then there are biotic factors. Those are factors that are based
on life. Some examples:
- What other species live in the area?
- Who hunts who?
- Are there plants?
- What kind of/how many plants are there?
There are obviously a lot more of those. Especially when it
comes to concurrence, it can have an influence on how many individuals of the species there
are. Keep in mind that just because a population has a lot of predators, it
doesn’t mean that there are only a very small amount of their prey living. They might
be perfectly adapted to having so many predators.
Based on this knowledge, you can roughly think about how
your species behaves, where it lives and so on.
Traits of animals on the earth
So, now that we know the environment of the species, it’s
time to actually create it! I have decided to list a few traits that species
living in certain places on earth show and that are very common.
Animals living in dry places usually have a few special
traits that help them survive the dryness and with it most probably also the
heat. Living beings very, very rarely live in places hotter than 45°C (113°
Fahrenheit). This is because the proteins in their bodies break when it’s
hotter; and these destructions cannot be reversed. To add: All life depends on
In order to save as much water as possible, animals living in deserts do not
sweat (or only a tiny little bit), have a very concentrated urin and there is
barely any water to find in their excrements. If their body temperature
normally stays the same (mammals and birds have a constant body temperature),
it may be able to have a higher tolerance border without doing any harm (it
would kill us humans quickly if the temperature rose only by 10%). This is a
thing, so no water has to be used to cool them down.
Camels have a lot of fat in their humps. This is both an energy store and a
water ressource, as the burning of this fat produces water. Even their nose is
designed to save water!
There’s a rule in biology that animals living in hot places are smaller than
their relatives living in cold places (e.g. penguins in the Antarctic and the
ones living in Australia). They also have bigger body attachments (ears, tails,
etc.) than the ones living in the cold.
Some animals simply move to places with more water during dry periods (mostly
if the deficiency is due to the seasons).
Very few animals (mostly microorganisms) shrink down in size and sort of
“sleep” in order to not waste any water. As soon as there’s water
again, they grow back to their normal size.
Animals living in cold places are more or less the opposite.
They are bigger, have very small body attachments. A lot of animals sleep
during the winter, some of them can be woken up rather easily (bears) and some
of them not.
They usually have a thick fur or any other type of protection against the below
freezing temperatures. If their body temperature drops below 0°C (32° Fahrenheit) they would die.
Some animals take advantage of their bodily fluids freezing; but only those, that have a body
temperature that can vary (i.e. reptiles, fish). They let their body
“freeze” and just wait until winter is over. A few species
specifically create fluids with a lower freezing point.
Animals living underwater often do not breathe through
lungs. If they do, they have to breathe over the water surface (but they can
keep their breath for quite a long time). Their bodies are in an “auqadynamic” shape, making it easy for them to move through water.
Light is the main source of energy. Plants are only able to
produce oxygen and biotic material when there’s light around. And that’s what
every single species needs, in order to survive (as long as it isn’t able to
But it plays a much bigger role. It synchronises the rhythms of all animals.
When to get up, when to go back to sleep, when birds should start singing, when
to release hormones, etc.
It tells certain animals when summer’s coming/going, so they can move. It tells them when to search for a partner to
make some babies.
Of course, there is a lot more about this and it’s far more
complicated! This is more or less all that I know, if you don’t understand
something or just have another question, feel free to ask me. Keep in mind, I am not a
specialist and am very sorry if I got something wrong.
Now go out there and
create your OCs weird pets, beasts or whatever else you want these creatures to
be! I recommend sticking by these rules if you create species living on a completely
untouched planet, where nature was just able to do it’s thing. In a world with
intelligent beings, things may vary a bit (talking about genetic engineering,
creating artificial environments, etc.).
Be creative with what you know!
For the anon who was asking me about how to build everyday fantasy creatures; I don’t know if this helps you at all, but it seemed like a similar topic to me.