Fans of UFOs are convinced that aliens are smooth-faced, hairless beings with gigantic, slightly unsettling eyes.
But in reality, aliens might look a little more like us, researchers have concluded.
In a new study published in the International Journal of Astrobiology scientists from the University of Oxford say that aliens will be shaped by the same natural selection that shaped us.
Aliens might look more like us than we imagine, the researchers say.
Sam Levin, a researcher in Oxford’s Department of Zoology, said: ‘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.
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‘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, because theoretical predictions will apply to aliens that are silicon based, do not have DNA, and breathe nitrogen, for example.’
‘We still can’t say whether aliens will walk on two legs or have big green eyes. But we believe evolutionary theory offers a unique additional tool for trying to understand what aliens will be like, and we have shown some examples of the kinds of strong predictions we can make with it.
‘By predicting that aliens 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.
‘Like humans, we predict that they are made-up of a hierarchy of entities, which all cooperate to produce an alien. At each level of the organism there will be mechanisms in place to eliminate conflict, maintain cooperation, and keep the organism functioning. We can even offer some examples of what these mechanisms will be.
‘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.’