Living Martian Fauna
The Giant Worms

he following should be considered as a fanciful work of fiction ... until ... and unless ... the worm picture shows signs of movement. Since I have nothing to lose in this business, let us proceed to construct (as rationally as possible ;o) a wormlike creature living on or under the Martian surface.

It must be about 300 feet wide in the relaxed state ... perhaps 200 feet high (a little squash down from gravity, i.e. not a perfectly round crossection) ... and about 1800 feet long ... making it roughly

.5236 x 200 x 300 x 1800 = 56,548,800 cubic feet

of worm ... and at even 3 pounds per cubic foot (water is 62 lbs/cu ft) it will weigh in at about 85,000 tons (or on Mars - about 32,000 tons) ... that's about 18 tons per linear foot ... the "footprint" of the animal is about

.7854 x 300 x 1800 = 424,116 square feet
... so it exerts
(32,000 x 2000) / (144 x 424,116) =
1 to 2 pounds per square inch on its underside skin

This is not too bad for the purpose of wear & tear on the underside - the first "good sign".

Incidentally, 1 (to even 4) pounds per cubic foot causes significant deformation of the worm form (it's somewhat flattened by gravity). This means it will be somewhat "soft" to the touch. It might have the consistency of an old, very used leather football with not much air in it. When going over large rocks it would tend to deform around the rock making more points of contact and lessening the possibility of a significant "cut".

If this thing crawled over the top of you, you wouldn't be crushed to death ... you'd probably suffocate from being unable to expand your chest to breathe.

color - dark whatever ... living in groups or just congregating ... perhaps with some minimal intelligence (maybe that of a cow).

For comparison, a blue whale is typically about 100 feet in length and weighs about 150 tons ... on Mars it would weigh about 57 tons (averaging less than a 1/2 ton per linear foot).

I think that the most operative word here is "preposterous".

At least, I think that I'm being preposterous. Yet, this is where the reasoning would take anyone ... if ... the worms are real. You see why I and any "respectable" scientist would be uncomfortable with these worms?

I've looked at the tubes till I can't see straight anymore ... and I just can't see them as dunes. They look like tubes. I look at the worm picture till I can't see straight and I still see worms. I've tried to see dunes, rock outcroppings, even holes ... all I see are what appear to be worms. Arrrrgggghhhh !

So, I must proceed ... till I get stopped by some numbers or facts which are unsupportable by any imagined means. Or ... somebody takes another picture !

If anyone sees another picture of the same area as the worm picture ... please let me know. If the worms are still there I can conceed the point and give up. But if they are gone ... we're in business.
The biggest problem

... is not the Martian climate. Rather, it is the immense problem of scaling. Stated simply by Galileo centuries ago in a picture from his work on mechanics ...

There is a beam sticking out of a wall ... double the dimensions of the beam and it cracks. If you double all dimensions, the strength of the beam goes up with the square of the increase in dimensions while the weight of the beam goes up with the cube of that increase. Hence, at some increase the beam must fail.

This fact applies to almost every facet of this worm. How can it become so big ... yet be a viable living entity?

The strength of materials remains constant whether on Earth or Mars ... but the gravity on the surface of Mars is only 38% of the Earth's ... so we have some assistance here. It isn't much at these sizes but it's something.

I'm seriously tempted to stop here and forget the whole thing ... but ...

The history of the worm's development

At some distant epoch, there was abundant life on Mars (maybe not as abundant as the Earth). Something happened to the atmosphere and most life gradually died off ... all except the hardiest forms which were able to adapt to the tremendous environmental changes. These must include some species of plant ... and these "herbivorous" worms ... and perhaps a few other smaller animals.

I believe this worm is the only significant big animal on Mars because it is so large that it could not possibly have a major predator. Such a predator would dine on these slow moving beasties relentlessly ... reproducing themselves and very quickly wiping out the species.

In nature, large size generally means no predator problem.

Also, there is another major problem ... with the creature's metabolism.

There is no free oxygen on Mars

Hence, to remain alive it must not only do what earth animals do (eat food) ... it must also find an oxygen source to burn that fuel to get the required energy to sustain its life processes.

I believe that the carbon-oxygen burn cycle is the same for Mars as Earth. We will find no exotic "ocean-floor-volcanic vent" type chemical cycle here. Just the mundane "eat it & burn it".

Since there is no significant supply of O2 on Mars, it must be provided by the plants as a symbiotic exchange for ... what? On Earth, plants have developed fruit pulp which, though of no significance to the plant ... is nutricious for the animal that eats it ... and ... poops the seeds all over the savannah ... thus helping the plant to spread its kind. Pulp is provided in exchange for dispersal.

I believe the same thing has happened here.

When the oxygen was running out on Mars, a few plants decided to make some O2 rasberries for these worms to eat ... and ... having been given the berries ... they were able to burn the plant material to gain energy to live in an increasingly hostile environment.

And ... the worms evolved to take advantage of "oxyberries" in their internal structures. Perhaps they have thriving colonies of bacteria in their guts just for the use of these available materials. They may be in fact large scale ecosystems within themselves ... sort of the repository of Martian DNA ... a Noah's ark on a now desolate planet.

In some fashion, the above must be true. There is no oxygen on Mars and they can't live without it. In the end all energy comes from the sun and ... like earth ... the plants act as the solar collectors for the animals. The only difference on Mars is that the plants have doubled their contribution ... or ... if you will ... cut out the middleman (the defective atmosphere).

The life cycle on Mars is

  • Plants use sun to separate CO2
  • Carbon makes the plant
  • O2 and plant is eaten by worm
  • Worm poops the seeds all over the planet
  • Worm breathes out CO2 for worms to use again
  • Do these plants need the worms?
    No. Not really. Well ... maybe ...
    The wind on Mars is too weak to blow a seed of significant size.
    And ... worm stool must have some H2O which the plant is in need of
    Nature does whatever it is able to do ... by chance.
    It has no plan beyond the expediency of the moment.
    This worked ... at that time ... and still works.
    That's it.

    Worm Morphology

    I believe this is the fundamental internal shape of these "hypothetical" worms.

    The gray chambers are filled with gas giving the worm the required lightness for its size in the Martian gravitational field. Presumably, the gases would be primarily O2 and H2O ... these are the difficult to obtain and keep necessities of a large life form.

    The outer casing would be molted periodically and would become the "glass tubes" when bleached and dried out by the Martian sun and dry atmosphere. Their purpose would be (after molting) to make for easier movement through the earth just as it is easier for us to use an Interstate rather than "off-roading" for long distances.

    And ... it is certain that such a creature would have to roam over large areas to obtain food ... then return when the "new crop" came in next season. They forage (in small herds) and migrate like many earth herbivores.

    K - Beam Construction and Function

    This form of arch will serve the animal best ...

    And ... will leave the "tube" artifact ... as well as fulfill the necessary function of holding up a giant gas bag under Martian gravity. The two beam elements (diagonal bracing) are tapered at the ends ... and ... the thicker part is made of what I will call "foamed cartilage". This will make it compressible in that position

    This is necessary since the compression of the ring muscle will shorten the diameter of the worm. Without compressibility here the beam would have to kink severely in a wavy pattern to take up less space with the same length of material.
    Toward the end of the taper, no compression is wanted since the two ends must separate to make the worm longer. By making them non-compressible here, they will flair out ... which is just what is needed from this element.

    When the longitudinal muscles activate ... the ring muscle relaxes. Energy stored in the bendable cartilage is released ... and ... the worm becomes shorter but fatter. The k-joint near the ring muscle expands and the ends of the k-elements "flair" inward so as to stay nearer the original diameter.

    There are limits to this process. The worm will certainly become no less than 2/3 its relaxed diameter and perhaps not more than 30% larger in the compressed state.

    And ... another thing comes to mind. The gas within the chambers may act as a spring because movement necessarily will compress the gas (spring) ... and releasing the muscle should release this spring. This will help in the motion of our beast.

    Also, in moving, the ring and longitudinal muscles will operate alternately as a travelling wave from front to back in a manner characteristic of such animals

    (see slug above)
    . It will not move like a snake (from side to side) under normal conditions.

    Some notes about the muscles

    The longitudinal muscles will not run straight down the animals back parallel to its body. Rather there will most likely be two sets of muscles lined up at 45degrees to the line of motion. Working together they will produce the necessary forward motion since they can, together, produce a resultant vector in that direction. But when used singly (without opposition from the other set), they will give the animal an ability to "twist" its body. Only then will it have the full compliment of roll, pitch and yaw.

    This design my also help to keep the animal from kinking in turns since it resembles the "coil" strategy of sharks and other animals which have no absolutely rigid bony structures (and garden hoses as well ;o).

    Pushing through sand

    This is a major problem. This animal cannot dig too deep into loose dirt or sand without a supporting tunnel system. As already stated, the creature is mostly gas and is very soft with an internal pressure of not more than 1 to 2 psi. It is quite soft. So a great weight placed on its back will crush it regardless of any type of "arch" system.

    Let's check out the math.

    Let's assume a cubic foot of loose, dry sand is about 100 pounds (water is 62 pounds and steel is about 450 pounds per cubic foot). On Mars it will weigh 38 pounds. Now, if the worm is, say, 20 feet under the surface, the weight per square inch will be (38 x 20) / 144 = 5.3 pounds per square inch on the worm. This isn't a hell of a lot, especially if the worm is pushing directly upward and has a (presumed) hard "nose piece".

    I think the k-arch support system it has might just make this depth (it's only 3/2 to 5 times the forcce it was designed for) but I wouldn't want to go any deeper. This means that such a worm is strictly a surface dweller in terms of body lengths. No way could it compete with a common earth worm in scaled up depths. This is another instance where scaling places severe restrictions on our worm.

    If the "molt" hardens as it ages, it might support a greater depth ... but ... how would a new section be added at depth? Certainly, it couldn't put up temporary bracing while it moved into the new position. If fact, putting the next piece in anywhere is something of a problem since the molt can't be significantly bigger than the animal moving through it. Ostensibly, it "sucks in its stomach" and moves through the old molt ... then expands and releases the new section on the end.

    Then there is the eternal POW problem. When you're tunneling out of the German prisoner of war camp, where do you put the dirt? Well ... I assume they do what other worms do ... they eat it ... and deposit it behind them? ... or ... carry it out and dump truck it to a Buffalo chip mound? Presumably, their food and oxygen is in the sand they eat and sift through.

    So this is the only practical eating scenario. They get their fill ... then back out and digest & dump ... then go back for more. And here is the rational for the tunnels. They lead to the food source. As long as food is found at the "end of the tunnel" they continue to lengthen it. When the food runs out they go elsewhere and start a new tunnel ... while revisiting the old tunnel periodically to see if it once again produces a food source.

    Leaving the tube artifact ... Molting.

    As a practical matter, these things may "molt" in order to refresh their hides ... which undoubetedly wear out over the length of their lives.

    And remember, their lives are necessarily quite long since they grow to such gargantuan size in a cold climate with little food (implying a slow metabolism). If they lived 300 years, I would not be at all surprised.
    When the time is right, the animal senses this fact and goes to the place where it will leave its outer casing as the next part of the continuing project of "highway" construction. By reusing this structure, a quicker, easier and less damaging method of moving around is realized. The idea I have is that they secure the ends of the old and new segments with some kind of "epoxy" type resin which is pumped out from a reservoir within the body of the worm through ducts to the mouth area where it is "worked" by some unknown (as yet unseen) mouthparts.

    When the molt is secure in this fashion, the internal new outer skin breaks away from the old and the animal extricates itself from the "tube" thus formed. This may leave "bumps" where the old skin attached to the new and might be helpful in digging into the sand through which it moves (like the barbs on other fictional sand worms ;o).

    Now, let's get really goofy.

    I say that this animal has "ballast" tanks in sealed off sections of its underside. There are two separate sections and ... get this ... each section is filled with one of the components of the aforementioned "epoxy" resin (like you buy at the hardware store in two tubes side by side with a plunger ... and ... when the two liquids mix ... they solidify forming a strong bond).

    Hmmmmm ... OK ... now ...

    When the animal leaves his molt ... the bottom breaks and the two components mix and ... voila ... the tube is secured to a slope ! (Yeah ... this is a stretch ;o)

    And ...
    in the main tube picture #M0400291 ... there appears to be some "connective material" next to a tube (which appears to have slid down the slope to some extent before the epoxy "cured"). And that's why the "ribs" appear to be "elastically sagging".

    Whoooosh ... I'm gettin' dizzy now ... 1/2 mile long worm ... 300 feet in daimeter ... with glue in his belly ... Let me take a break and regain my composure.


    Ahhhhh ... Nice 2 hour break ... Watched (coincidentally) "The Red Planet" w/Matrix babe Carrie Ann Moss. Ah'm droolin' agin' & ready to go ...

    Blood pressure problems

    Even a giraffe has trouble getting blood to the top of his head. It has a real big heart to create that kind of pressure against the height, the gravity and the blood's viscosity ... and a giraffe is only about twenty feet tall max. We need 200 feet.

    Well, clearly we need something other than a "real big heart". That would be counterproductive ... too much weight to carry around. So, I propose what man would do in this instance ... multiple pumping stations ... and ... we have a bonus once we get all that blood up to the top of the animal ... It's higher than a water tower ... don't need no pump on the way down.

    Let's consider that the blood of our creature is roughly the weight of water. Then, a column of water 200 feet high and 1 inch in diameter will weigh about 86 pounds and on Mars it will weigh .38 x 86 = 32 pounds ... per square inch pressure at the bottom of the animal.

    Now, a tire on your car has about that much pressure in it ... so we'll certainly need some strong capillaries to hold that pressure without bursting.

    Wait a minute ... we can't have thick walled capillaries ... and if they're too thin they will pop aneurisms and we'll have hematomas all over the place. This isn't going to work.

    The only probable solution is separate blood systems ... not too large. And possibly big vats of blood not under any great pressure at varying levels within the animal.

    Something like this ...

    I think this is enough of this for now.
    Without more pictures there really is nothing to say.

    "Surely you don't think that such an animal exists do you? You're not completely crazy are you?"
    No, I personally doubt that they exist. Mars is a wonderful place but it can't be THAT wonderful. And ... Yes, I am crazy.

    "When do you think you will get a final determination of whether you are right or wrong?"
    About three days after I die.

    "Do you think that there are conspiracies to keep the general public from finding out about certain 'uncomfortable' truths?"
    Maybe. Most of the time, though, I think they just don't want it to appear that the "nuts" are running the asylum.

    "If we could eat these things, what would they taste like?"
    Chicken. Actually, this is the question I've always wanted to ask the girl at the Sea World porpoise tank ... as well as ... what do they do with the dead ones? ... recycle them?, i.e. feed them to the other fish? ... Or ... do they bury them with a religious ceremony?

    Go figure

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