Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

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Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby infernovia » Fri Dec 06, 2013 7:16 am UTC

So it seems to me that placental birth is just great for the development of the young because we can feed the fetus "safely" for a much longer period of time, allowing them to develop more rapidly. Additionally, I read somewhere that one of the key reasons marsupials' are on the average less intelligent than placental mammals are because their skulls need to form early so they can feed themselves from their mother. This got me thinking about animals that lay eggs. Is it possible to have an intelligence level to the level of fully grown humans when using eggs as the primary form of birth? What would the social structure look like? How do you imagine they would look when they are born? Do you think that they can grow as big as a human considering it's very likely that their birth size will be much smaller? I thought there could be a hard limit to it, but T-rex is pretty big, so maybe it is possible for the brain to grow massively after birth?

I understand that there are squids and stuff that don't have a hard casing around their body that limits their growth, but they have a pretty short lifetime and they generally seem to be solitary animals, so I would rather stick with stuff that has bones.

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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby Thesh » Fri Dec 06, 2013 7:27 am UTC

infernovia wrote:Is it possible to have an intelligence level to the level of fully grown humans when using eggs as the primary form of birth?

Yes, velociraptors were quite intelligent.

infernovia wrote:What would the social structure look like?


They would primarily hunt in packs.

infernovia wrote:How do you imagine they would look when they are born?


Like tiny velociraptors.

infernovia wrote:Do you think that they can grow as big as a human considering it's very likely that their birth size will be much smaller?


Velociraptors are easily 6 feet tall.

infernovia wrote:so maybe it is possible for the brain to grow massively after birth?


Velociraptors had a relatively large brain for their size.
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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby Angua » Fri Dec 06, 2013 7:42 am UTC

I'm confused by this. Why is growing the baby inside you (which means that you have to be born 'prematurely' so your head isn't too big to go through your mother's pelvis) better than growing the baby in an egg (where they could be room to expand headsize, or if you can't evolve a larger egg, we still go through the born 'prematurely' thing). Also, there are some quite smart birds out there.

Ostritches and emus grow pretty big from eggs, and some fish are pretty massive.
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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby Lazar » Fri Dec 06, 2013 9:28 am UTC

Thesh wrote:Velociraptors are easily 6 feet tall.

More like 2 feet tall. The velociraptors in Jurassic Park were more like deinonychi.
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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby Klear » Fri Dec 06, 2013 10:28 am UTC

infernovia wrote:I understand that there are squids and stuff that don't have a hard casing around their body that limits their growth, but they have a pretty short lifetime and they generally seem to be solitary animals, so I would rather stick with stuff that has bones.


That's speciesm! Or maybe phylumism. Anyway, in the UK octopuses are considered honorary vertebrate.

I saw a documentary not long ago about a place where octopuses lost their natural pradators (I believe thanks to us) and started to behave much more boldly and socially. It did point out, however, that the biggest barriers to them developing greater intelligence are their lifespans and the fact that they don't (have to) care of their young. Too bad I can't remember anything else about it, especially what was the place. I'd love to read up on that.

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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby davidstarlingm » Fri Dec 06, 2013 2:51 pm UTC

In egg-laying species where the male is expected to take over part of the keeping-the-egg-warm duty and so forth, you could conceivably end up with a more social and developed society.

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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby infernovia » Fri Dec 06, 2013 4:31 pm UTC

Angua wrote:I'm confused by this. Why is growing the baby inside you (which means that you have to be born 'prematurely' so your head isn't too big to go through your mother's pelvis) better than growing the baby in an egg (where they could be room to expand headsize, or if you can't evolve a larger egg, we still go through the born 'prematurely' thing). Also, there are some quite smart birds out there.

Ostritches and emus grow pretty big from eggs, and some fish are pretty massive.


Imagine popping out an egg that develops into something as big as a baby. If you say "well, the egg could be much smaller" the same is true for a baby, it could be born earlier. It looks like an early birth (at 32 weeks) does negatively affect their concentration/motor ability (I don't have access to the studies but here: [1]). Besides, the hip isn't a hard limiter, recent research points to caloric intake of the baby being the hardest limiter [2].

Ostriches I am kinda meh about, the idea here is brain development and they have tiny ones. Crows/Grey Parrot would be a better example due to their high level of intelligence for their size. I would agree that a fishy population could grow to this size from an egg (see squids)... but I am kinda iffy about something like this.... mostly because it hasn't really happened here.

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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby Angua » Fri Dec 06, 2013 4:46 pm UTC

I mentioned ostriches for size as that seemed to be your main concern, but I was thinking of crows/African greys for intelligence (I did mention that there are smart birds out there) . There's a reason I put premature in quotations, it's because we are said to be born earlier than our evolutionary ancestors because of our bigger heads http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2011/04/evolution-may-explain-why-baby-comes-early/#.UqH8jOJFWn8

The pelvis:head size is definitely a limiting factor for how big your baby can be born naturally (which is going to be a huge factor evolutionarily).
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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby infernovia » Fri Dec 06, 2013 5:03 pm UTC

It's a hard limitation, but I don't think they ever pointed to hip size being the limiting factor (as I cited in the study beforehand, it's not the main limitation). And again, however limiting the hip size is, I still don't see how egg laying is going to get around that issue. You still have to pop out a pretty massive circular thing if you are laying eggs.

Brain development seems to me a lot different than just size difference, the more neurons you can have the better. They are also normally protected by a rather thick skull which usually doesn't grow (again... this doesn't account for squids and other cephalopods). But yes, I think it is possible as a T-Rex can get pretty massive, I would be curious to know how though (would the animal have a softer head for a longer period of time? etc.)

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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby Angua » Fri Dec 06, 2013 5:14 pm UTC

My point is that I don't see how placenta vs eggs makes much of a difference - how does a placenta inherently make growing and developing neurons any different.

Birds/reptiles have sutures which leads me to believe that they have plenty of room for brain development after birth.

When you say hip size is not the limiting factor, what exactly do you mean? That it doesn't affect how big a baby actually grows (a small mother can grow a big baby), or that it doesn't affect how easily a baby can be delivered (which is my point).

Because at the end of it, you could grow a full size adult inside someone but it's not going to be useful if you can't get it out of the mother relatively safely.
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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Dec 06, 2013 5:20 pm UTC

You seem to be convinced that egg layers cannot grow as large or as developed as placental birth. I'm not sure what gave you that impression, but there's nothing stopping an egg layer baby from hatching earlier developmentally and continuing to grow with significant parental effort.

In fact, it happens in a lot of egg layers.
infernovia wrote:But yes, I think it is possible as a T-Rex can get pretty massive, I would be curious to know how though (would the animal have a softer head for a longer period of time? etc.)
I'm also uncertain why you believe that bone growth limits organismal growth this way; our skulls are fully ossified fairly early on, but brains continue to develop both in terms of size and connectivity. I could be wrong, but I believe skulls are only NOT ossified in babies so that they can shift during the squeeze through the birth canal.
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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby infernovia » Fri Dec 06, 2013 5:24 pm UTC

Angua wrote:how does a placenta inherently make growing and developing neurons any different.

You can grow the skull size more rapidly and more safely than you would if you were out in the wild as there is less of a chance of shock/trauma.

Your other contention is that placental birth is inherently limited by the hip size. But this doesn't really answer anything, why exactly are hips that wide? Couldn't they be wider (if you read the article I linked, the answer to this is yes)? More importantly, if we take it as true, how is placental birth more limited by hip size than egg laying? Yes, the head of an infant is pretty large, but the amount of nutrients and stuff needed for an egg to get a human-size birth would be massive. Are eggs inherently more malleable than skulls? I don't think so. In fact I think laying eggs would be more limited, not less, than placental birth.

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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby infernovia » Fri Dec 06, 2013 5:37 pm UTC

izawwlgood wrote:but brains continue to develop both in terms of size and connectivity. I could be wrong, but I believe skulls are only NOT ossified in babies so that they can shift during the squeeze through the birth canal.

You are probbably right about this as I don't have any solid reasoning to back my assumption and I don't know much about bone growth. The study with grey parrot Alex does tell us that you might be able to get away with a smaller head while still maintaining high intelligence. So do you think that the difference between the two method gives us no interesting limitation on the characteristics of the species?

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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Dec 06, 2013 6:57 pm UTC

infernovia wrote:You can grow the skull size more rapidly and more safely than you would if you were out in the wild as there is less of a chance of shock/trauma.
I don't know why you assume this. Baby birds can be born pretty helpless, albeit with no need to have a flexible skull for passage through a birth canal. A placenta is something that allows a mother to feed a developing fetus with her blood supply. It also exists in an egg; it's what attaches the embryo to the yolk.

infernovia wrote:Your other contention is that placental birth is inherently limited by the hip size. But this doesn't really answer anything, why exactly are hips that wide?
It is limited by hip size, and it answers everything, particularly, why humans are born so prematurely. Our hips are the way they are to allow us to run bipedally, as a result of our evolutionary primate ancestry, and are wide enough to allow our babies passage through our birth canals.

infernovia wrote:More importantly, if we take it as true, how is placental birth more limited by hip size than egg laying?
It isn't, and I don't believe she ever claimed it was. The trade off to the whole birth thing is a balancing act between 'how capable are newborns', 'how much larger will the largest part of a newborn become', and 'how much subsequent parental investment is required'. I'm sure I missed some, but that's the gyst. You're claiming that egg layers can't develop large or complex brains, but that's not supported by anything.

infernovia wrote:The study with grey parrot Alex does tell us that you might be able to get away with a smaller head while still maintaining high intelligence.
I wager it has more to do with brain size to body size, but I think there are other interesting limitations in place. Humans are purportedly near the limit of neuronal packing before you start running into other issues, and neurons themselves can't be made to fire much faster without other issues popping up.

infernovia wrote:So do you think that the difference between the two method gives us no interesting limitation on the characteristics of the species?
Not really, truthfully. I think there are extremely intelligent and social birds, and extremely stupid and asocial mammals. I think given the range of how mammals reproduce (monotremes/marsupials/eutherians) and the resultant range of intelligence observed over even that tells you something about our reproduction and intelligence, and I think the range of how avian parental investment varies as greatly as avian size and intelligence does tells you something about that reproductive strategy.

I will fully agree that an egg laying civilization would have some interesting difference to their social make up, given that reproductive strategy, but we'd be getting a little handwavy to make any claims about it one way or the other.
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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby Angua » Fri Dec 06, 2013 7:30 pm UTC

Eggs often harden up after they are laid (and often reptiles have more leathery than calcified shells). So they are pretty malleable and not hard to lay.

Hip size must have been a lot harder to change than length of gestation and size of head at birth, otherwise I assume we would have evolved the other way.

FWIW skulls fully fuse a while after birth, and defects in skull fusion can lead to developmental delays.

But I really don't think there's that much difference between the two - I guess an egg layer might be more likely to have a less social lifestyle, as you never need to see the parents, but I suspect that for intelligence to evolve a social structure and a way of learning from your family would be pretty helpful, so species that rear their young would be favoured. And there are plenty of species that rear their young after hatching them from eggs.
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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby infernovia » Fri Dec 06, 2013 7:38 pm UTC

izawwlgood wrote:It is limited by hip size, and it answers everything, particularly, why humans are born so prematurely. Our hips are the way they are to allow us to run bipedally, as a result of our evolutionary primate ancestry, and are wide enough to allow our babies passage through our birth canals.

This is not true. Human babies are not born prematurely, they are actually pretty big for while controlling for size and are born when the baby demands more calories than the mother can provide. They are born with less instincts, and are less able to take care of themselves, but I don't think this has that much validity in terms of "maturity" for a species that relies so much on teaching/technology. Again: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 152037.htm
http://www.livescience.com/22715-pregna ... -size.html

izawwlgood wrote:I don't know why you assume this. Baby birds can be born pretty helpless, albeit with no need to have a flexible skull for passage through a birth canal. A placenta is something that allows a mother to feed a developing fetus with her blood supply. It also exists in an egg; it's what attaches the embryo to the yolk.

Yes, obviously. My point is the amount of nutrition fed to the baby is higher in a placental birth. This is not really up for debate, as that is the biggest advantage of placental birth, the children are more developed when they come out.

izawwlgood wrote:It isn't, and I don't believe she ever claimed it was. The trade off to the whole birth thing is a balancing act between 'how capable are newborns', 'how much larger will the largest part of a newborn become', and 'how much subsequent parental investment is required'. I'm sure I missed some, but that's the gyst. You're claiming that egg layers can't develop large or complex brains, but that's not supported by anything.

Angua wrote: than growing the baby in an egg (where they could be room to expand headsize



But you are right, because human babies' head are only 30% of their size, I am definitely wrong on the skull thing. The biggest assumption I have is "can a skull really grow that large that fast in the real world." And if it can, what kind of behavior would we see from the parents? Would it be different than how a human works with their young ones? Would they have longer development time? etc."

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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby infernovia » Fri Dec 06, 2013 7:57 pm UTC

Angua wrote:but I suspect that for intelligence to evolve a social structure and a way of learning from your family would be pretty helpful, so species that rear their young would be favoured. And there are plenty of species that rear their young after hatching them from eggs.

Yeah, I would agree with this.

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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Dec 06, 2013 8:22 pm UTC

infernovia wrote:Human babies are not born prematurely, they are actually pretty big for while controlling for size and are born when the baby demands more calories than the mother can provide. They are born with less instincts, and are less able to take care of themselves, but I don't think this has that much validity in terms of "maturity" for a species that relies so much on teaching/technology. Again: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 152037.htm
http://www.livescience.com/22715-pregna ... -size.html
I would have to read more into this, but my understanding is that yes, human babies are born quiet immature relative to many other organisms. The expression 'fourth trimester' is not an old wives things. Human babies are born prematurely so that they can continue developing beyond the physical capacity of the mother. This inherently has nothing to do with live or egg birth, as, mentioned previously, an organism can hatch from an egg in a very juvenile state, and continue growing with parental investment. Which happens, in many cases.

infernovia wrote:Yes, obviously. My point is the amount of nutrition fed to the baby is higher in a placental birth. This is not really up for debate, as that is the biggest advantage of placental birth, the children are more developed when they come out.
This is also not necessarily a given; eggs are extraordinarily costly for a female to produce, and in many animals, subsequent parental care can be an on going, extremely stressful and highly energy costly endeavor. For example, marsupials make very little use of the placenta, since their offspring crawl into the pouch and clamp to a nipple while they're little more developed than a human baby would be in the second trimester.
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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby infernovia » Fri Dec 06, 2013 8:44 pm UTC

I am not talking about marsupials. In fact, this topic was inspired because I found out that marsupials are on the average less intelligent than similar mammals that rely on placental birth. The reasoning given was the quicker formation of the skull.

Izawwlgood wrote:This inherently has nothing to do with live or egg birth, as, mentioned previously, an organism can hatch from an egg in a very juvenile state, and continue growing with parental investment. Which happens, in many cases.

This has little to do with what I sated. If they are grown in a juvenille state, that helps my point even more because the point I was making was that once the skull gets hard (and it usually does very rapidly), it becomes harder to grow. As you pointed out, I have no basis on this assumption, but it does match the human growth pattern well (the skull is supposed to fully ossify around 2 years of age):
http://www.cdc.gov/growthcharts/data/se ... 41l019.pdf

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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Dec 06, 2013 8:56 pm UTC

infernovia wrote:I am not talking about marsupials. In fact, this topic was inspired because I found out that marsupials are on the average less intelligent than similar mammals that rely on placental birth. The reasoning given was the quicker formation of the skull.
I've not read that. Citation? And again, why do you hold that skull formation matters here? I pointed out that live birthing animals (particularly humans) are born with soft skulls to facilitate passing through the birth canal. Plenty of animals have more ossified skulls at birth, and continue developing. Ossification *doesn't* mean the skull stops growing.

infernovia wrote:This has little to do with what I sated. If they are grown in a juvenille state, that helps my point even more because the point I was making was that once the skull gets hard (and it usually does very rapidly), it becomes harder to grow.
Except that growth chart stops at 3 years, and I assure you, your skull is larger than a 3 year olds. I'm not suggesting that ossified bone is harder to expand on than non-ossified bone, but you seem to be suggesting that... well, what exactly?

This actually supports what we're trying to say to you, that human babies are born premature, and have a lot of development to continue to do. This doesn't have anything to do with being live birthed; plenty of organisms hatch in a helpless, juvenile state, and continue growing.
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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby infernovia » Fri Dec 06, 2013 9:09 pm UTC

Yes, it keeps growing, but you can see a rapid decline in growth compared to the first two years. As for the marsupial thing, I will look up the source, I am pretty sure it's a nova documentary on smileadon or something, I didn't go into checking their credentials.

izawwlgood wrote:This actually supports what we're trying to say to you, that human babies are born premature, and have a lot of development to continue to do. This doesn't have anything to do with being live birthed; plenty of organisms hatch in a helpless, juvenile state, and continue growing.

It is true that they have more development, but that does not mean the babies are born premature in terms of what we are arguing about here. Again, my argument is that placental birth is superior because the mother is able to feed it in the placenta more than an egg laying mother could in the egg. So I don't see how this argument counters my claim.

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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Dec 06, 2013 9:13 pm UTC

infernovia wrote:It is true that they have more development, but that does not mean the babies are born premature. Again, my argument is that placental birth is superior because the mother is able to feed it more than an egg laying mother could. So I don't see how this argument counters my claim.
Because your argument seems to be pointing out that a slowing of growth due to ossification of the skull indicates a cessation of development, but I'm not sure because you haven't clarified.

And, again, I'm trying to tell you that live placental birth does *not* inherently mean higher parental resource investment than egg laying, OR that it means more development is possible in the offspring. Egg laying is a very costly endeavor, and many egg layers continue with parental investment.
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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby infernovia » Fri Dec 06, 2013 9:36 pm UTC

Ok, can you point me to a study that will help me understand it? I just don't see how an egg laying animal can feed their fetus as well as a placental one. I am not talking about parental care after birth, I am sure we can find many birds that can take care of their offsprings.

izawwlgood wrote:Because your argument seems to be pointing out that a slowing of growth due to ossification of the skull indicates a cessation of development, but I'm not sure because you haven't clarified.

No, my position is that the skull size is a good indication of intelligence and that the bigger it can grow (while accounting for size and all that) the higher the limit would be on the animal's IQ. Now obviously that comes with a lot of caveats, but if we held all other variables constant, i think the animal with the larger skull is going to be smarter. So a human, because it starts out with a pretty giant brain and then rapidly grows afterwards for 2 years, should have an advantage for maximal intelligence development. Whereas, if we take my assumption for egg laying animals to be true, then a bird variant will not grow as large pre-birth, and thus might have a smaller skull size unless the calcification or whatever that allows the skull to keep growing rapidly is there for a longer period of time.

There are ways around it, for example, their brains could grow for a much longer period of time compared to ours, they might have longer lives, etc. etc. I am not saying there aren't ways around it.

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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Dec 06, 2013 9:53 pm UTC

infernovia wrote:Ok, can you point me to a study that will help me understand it? I just don't see how an egg laying animal can feed their fetus as well as a placental one. I am not talking about parental care after birth, I am sure we can find many birds that can take care of their offsprings.
The point is that A ) Eggs are an enormous investment, as they are very expensive to make, and they are FULL of nutrients, and B ) we are indeed talking about parental care after birth, because it is an important part of the equation. Many mammals may be born at a lower total caloric investment to the mother than what it took to produce a fertilized egg, but this is likely offset by continue investment via lactation and other parental support. Conversely, some egg layers may produce offspring with lower initial energy investments, and this is offset by long term continued parental investment.

And besides, you were asking how this would change the social make up of the critter. Don't you think parental investment is part of social make up?

infernovia wrote:No, my position is that the skull size is a good indication of intelligence and that the bigger it can grow (while accounting for size and all that) the higher the limit would be on the animal's IQ.
Oh... This is a terrible metric to use for intelligence. The better metric is 'brain size to body size'.
infernovia wrote:So a human, because it starts out with a pretty giant brain and then rapidly grows afterwards for 2 years, should have an advantage for maximal intelligence development. Whereas, if we take my assumption for egg laying animals to be true, then a bird variant will not grow as large pre-birth, and thus might have a smaller skull size unless the calcification or whatever that allows the skull to keep growing rapidly is there for a longer period of time.
I'm not sure how many different ways to tell you this is a strange way of looking at it. Many intelligent egg laying animals continue increasing in size after hatching. Many mammals are born with fully ossified skulls.

I think you're assuming 'more brain development external to the uterus means higher IQ' and I'm not sure why you think that.

EDIT: Evidently the fontanelle isn't fused in dogs as well, but in apes it fuses soon after birth. I wager ape infants skulls grow slowly and steadily, instead of rapidly. Humans fontanelles are closed at 12-18mo, relative to chimps at 3mo, which suggests that humans are born more premature than chimps.
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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby infernovia » Fri Dec 06, 2013 10:26 pm UTC

Right, I said we would be accounting for body mass.

izawwlgood wrote:The point is that A ) Eggs are an enormous investment, as they are very expensive to make, and they are FULL of nutrients,

Yes, this is quite obvious.

What I am saying is that the amount of nutrient in the egg is going to be limited to what the egg holds. A fetus in the placenta, however, can be fed the whole time by it"s mother over a long long period of time. Therefore, it should have a higher supply of nutrient. I just don"t see how an egg laying animal can compete. Especially when you start accounting for the incredible size of human babies compared to chicks. Again, I ask you for a study here that will help me compare.

izawwlgood wrote:Many mammals are born with fully ossified skulls.

YES, but this again doesn"t counter my point. What would counter my point is if there was an animal that was fully ossified at birth but was incredibly intelligent through skull growth after birth.

izawwlgood wrote:And besides, you were asking how this would change the social make up of the critter. Don"t you think parental investment is part of social make up?

Again, your argument seems to be birds display caring behavior therefore highly intelligent beings can form. What I am asking is highly intelligent beings would care for their offspring, BUT is it possible for an animalt to be as intelligent as humans if they are laying eggs?

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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Dec 06, 2013 11:09 pm UTC

infernovia wrote:What I am saying is that the amount of nutrient in the egg is going to be limited to what the egg holds. A fetus in the placenta, however, can be fed the whole time by it"s mother over a long long period of time. Therefore, it should have a higher supply of nutrient. I just don"t see how an egg laying animal can compete. Especially when you start accounting for the incredible size of human babies compared to chicks. Again, I ask you for a study here that will help me compare.
So, to this end, your hypothesis is that birds and reptiles will produce smaller birth weight babies relative to adult weight, compared to mammals. I'm not sure that holds true across the board; there are obviously low birth weight : adult weight birds and reptiles out there, but there are ALSO low birth weight : adult weight mammals. Mammals actually make really good organisms for this study, seeing as that there are egg laying mammals that hatch relatively small offspring, and live birthing mammals that birth relatively massive offspring. Within egg layers, there are also Kiwis, who lay eggs about 1/3rd the body weight of the mother, and you know... lots of other tiny baby egg layers.

Yes, an egg is a one time investment that is limited by it's size, but the reason this is almost moot for the discussion about adult developmental end points is that parental investment is a thing, and why it was brought up that many birds and reptiles are *also* born in an extremely fragile and immature state! So sure, the placenta allows a lower initially investment insofar as ova production is concerned, and the potential for longer term investment, but that doesn't mean that egg layers inherently invest less in their offsprings developmental progress.

infernovia wrote:YES, but this again doesn"t counter my point. What would counter my point is if there was an animal that was fully ossified at birth but was incredibly intelligent through skull growth after birth.
Or that bird skulls aren't ossified at birth? Again, you seem to be continuing to insist that animals hatch fully developed, and I'm not sure why you keep doing so. And, again, skull growth is really only related to how animals can rear offspring. It's not unreasonable to imagine a species that uses r-type reproduction strategy to develop sapience, and it would probably make for a pretty different society too. We're only focusing on k-type, and only focusing on 'reproductive strategies that allow offspring to continue growing after birth', but there's no real reason to assume this is the best and only way to do it. I mean, there are mammals that are r-type reproducers.

infernovia wrote:Again, your argument seems to be birds display caring behavior therefore highly intelligent beings can form. What I am asking is highly intelligent beings would care for their offspring, BUT is it possible for an animalt to be as intelligent as humans if they are laying eggs?
To the first part, no, parental investment is probably but not necessarily related to intelligence formation. To the second, I think Angua and I have repeatedly said to you, yes, or rather, sure, why not?
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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby infernovia » Sat Dec 07, 2013 3:01 am UTC

izawwlgood wrote:Yes, an egg is a one time investment that is limited by it's size, but the reason this is almost moot for the discussion about adult developmental end points is that parental investment is a thing, and why it was brought up that many birds and reptiles are *also* born in an extremely fragile and immature state! ....

I don't know why you keep thinking this is a good thing. It is not. If you are saying that some birds and reptiles have a lot to grow into after birth, yes, you are correct. If you are saying that they can develop larger brains than the current average with this kind of life cycle, I would again agree that they can. The issue is that a human child ALSO has a lot to grow into, but they already start out with a more developed brain so their maximal limit is higher. And my other unstated claim is that once an organism leaves it's womb/egg, there should be a ton of evolutionary pressure to start protecting it's control system (let it be the brain/whatever) from harm.

izawwlgood wrote:Or that bird skulls aren't ossified at birth?

That isn't a counter, that would just tell us that (if egg birth does have lower nutritional intake than placental on average and this translates to a smaller birth weight) egg birth would require a longer/faster development for the brain after birth than a placental one as it would have to make up for the deficit of being born with less total nutrition given to them. So they would need to be fed more, etc. Interestingly, human premature births does tend to indicate lower concentration/stature/brain size as neurons stop developing as quickly when it detects an oxygen filled environment. I am sure removing this restriction is within the realm of possible in terms of genetic diversity.

izawwlgood wrote:Within egg layers, there are also Kiwis, who lay eggs about 1/3rd the body weight of the mother, and you know...

This, however, would be an interesting counter behavior. Laying massive eggs that are a lot for their caloric intake. Quite an interesting creature... although I would be worried about the versatility and adaptability of such an animal. I would also find the post-mating habits of such species quite interesting, as in this planet, the parents need to be quite stationary... which I would assume is more vulnerable.

izawwlgood wrote:I mean, there are mammals that are r-type reproducers.

Not impossible... but how do you imagine it working? I can't really imagine it honestly. I would think that if you want a technologically sophisticated species like us, valuing your child and teaching them is a big portion of our success. But that's just me.

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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby Angua » Sat Dec 07, 2013 8:27 am UTC

infernovia wrote:The issue is that a human child ALSO has a lot to grow into, but they already start out with a more developed brain so their maximal limit is higher.

You are saying that because humans are already more intelligent that they have more of a potential to become more intelligent. This is kind of like saying that birds already have wings, so they are more capable of evolving the ability to fly really long distances.

I don't think there would be anything stopping a human-proportioned baby from growing in an egg, evolutionarily speaking. It would also be interesting to look at what sort of problems that egg laying creatures have that are analogous to the diseases of placenta and cord insufficiency in humans that lead to growth restriction of the foetus.
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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby infernovia » Sat Dec 07, 2013 9:31 am UTC

Well, my point is more that the skull growth would be like this if they are going to be similar intelligence with the assumptions given:

placental:
---------------------- birth ------- skull fuses ---- final form
egg-laying
-----------birth-------------------- skull fuses ---- final form

I am just unsure this is going to happen as I would think there would be evolutionary pressure to have a hard head after birth, and if there isn't, wouldn't the placental have a head start? I guess there could be other factors to this as well like caloric intake and stuff like that.

I don't think there would be anything stopping a human-proportioned baby from growing in an egg, evolutionarily speaking. It would also be interesting to look at what sort of problems that egg laying creatures have that are analogous to the diseases of placenta and cord insufficiency in humans that lead to growth restriction of the foetus.

I think this would be quite interesting... an animal like this would probably consume nutrients rapidly right before it's ready to lay eggs right? Maybe it could be a communal egg-sitting so that the tired mother could eat after the egg-laying. I wonder if eggs could potentially be as mobile if the species could manipulate things as well as us.

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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby elasto » Sat Dec 07, 2013 11:03 am UTC

But isn't that just repeating the assumption that once a skull is fused that brain growth is limited? But human skulls and brains continue to grow long after infancy so there wouldn't appear to be any basis for that assumption. I have a 4yo and her head is certainly much smaller than mine.

A quick Google shows brain size grows four-fold after birth - from 350g to 1400g - and at least some of that growth occurs after all 'soft spots' in the infant skull are gone. There's no reason that pattern couldn't recur with a creature born from an egg.

Yes, it's an evolutionary disadvantage for human infants to be so helpless for so long - and, yes, a placental-nourished embryo probably does have evolutionary advantages over an egg-nourished one - but that doesn't in any way preclude an egg-nourished embryo from reaching the same heights of intelligence as a human.

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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby Copper Bezel » Sat Dec 07, 2013 11:39 am UTC

I'm stuck at "this is a koala; your argument is invalid." Oviparity does require a lower relative birth weight by some degree, as a mechanical thing, although by playing out the in-utero development and limiting the incubation time, particularly with soft-shelled eggs, you can totally cheat and make the whole thing equivalent to viviparity, which is what the platypus is doing, anyway. But still, marsupials are born in a state that would be fetal for placentals, and maybe they're less intelligent than placentals on the whole, but the difference can't be as marked as the difference to reptiles and birds. It's certainly not a hard limit that a little selection couldn't counter.
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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby Izawwlgood » Sat Dec 07, 2013 3:11 pm UTC

infernovia wrote:Well, my point is more that the skull growth would be like this if they are going to be similar intelligence with the assumptions given:
But again, what does this have to do with intelligence or even 'final relative skull size'?
infernovia wrote:he issue is that a human child ALSO has a lot to grow into, but they already start out with a more developed brain so their maximal limit is higher. And my other unstated claim is that once an organism leaves it's womb/egg, there should be a ton of evolutionary pressure to start protecting it's control system (let it be the brain/whatever) from harm.
Neither are these are inherently true, nor inherently related to intelligence or 'final relative skull size'. Here; a human baby is born premature, and is cared for by parents. This allows the brain and body to continue developing over the course of about a year, after which point the skull fuses. From this point, the brain and body CONTINUE to develop, over the course of about 20 years.

An egg layer could lay an egg, that develops for ~9mo, and hatches premature, and is cared for by parents...

Your whole argument seems to hinge on this idea that 'more time spent in utero or in egg means more intelligence', and that's not supported by anything. You also seem to think that neuronal development requires time spent in utero; this is not supported by anything.

The fact that baby birds are born without fused skulls indicates that they TOO continue growing, which means egg laying isn't slowing or inherently limiting this 'final relative skull size' you seem so interested in.
infernovia wrote:Not impossible... but how do you imagine it working? I can't really imagine it honestly. I would think that if you want a technologically sophisticated species like us, valuing your child and teaching them is a big portion of our success. But that's just me.
I presume you're talking about a society from an r-type reproducer, not questioning whether some mammals are r-type reproducers... Yes, I agree it's 'less likely', but that's because we're k-types. I don't think it's unreasonable though; imagine for example, that it is assumed that the juveniles must be winnowed in their struggle to survive. They are released into the sea, and years later, the few that made it return to the fold. Once returned, they are viewed as members of society, and cared for by all. Hell, in some respects the elimination of inheritance might do a society better; people no longer leave resources for their children, but for all children (Don't let Enuja see me agreeing with that). Also, it's possible that a few hundred are born, and the larvae compete with one another. It's possible that this competition is viewed as essential for the species. A number of organisms (eutherians and egg layers alike!) practice something akin to this in the womb/egg.

Remember, this doesn't mean 'adults have a billion babies, one survives, and is now a full adult and ready to reproduce itself'. The surviving and returning offspring may very well require additional rearing. But still, my point is that WHEN brain growth happens is fairly irrelevant, and both live birthers and egg layers can produce an adult organism with sufficient relative brain size and intelligence to produce a human level intelligence.
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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby Thesh » Sat Dec 07, 2013 5:33 pm UTC

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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby ImagingGeek » Fri Jan 10, 2014 11:41 pm UTC

infernovia wrote:It's a hard limitation, but I don't think they ever pointed to hip size being the limiting factor (as I cited in the study beforehand, it's not the main limitation). And again, however limiting the hip size is, I still don't see how egg laying is going to get around that issue. You still have to pop out a pretty massive circular thing if you are laying eggs.

Not really an issue (neither is head size) if you don't pass the birth/egg canal through a size-limiting hole in a rigid structure. We are talking about aliens here - the birth/egg canal need not pass through the pelvis - hell, a pelvis is discardable.

infernovia wrote:Brain development seems to me a lot different than just size difference, the more neurons you can have the better. They are also normally protected by a rather thick skull which usually doesn't grow

This is completely wrong. Bones are living tissue and are quite capable of growth. Even the calcium matrix is continually remodeled, allowing existing bone to change in size/volume (although msot growth occurs in specialized areas). In humans, the cranial vault doesn't become resistant to all growth until you reach your 30's or 40's. From birth to adulthood its volume increase quite significantly. And again,we're talking about aliens. Human/earthly limitations need not apply.

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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby infernovia » Sat Jan 11, 2014 5:33 pm UTC

a) That's not a point of contention, my point was that placental birth is less limited in size than egg birth given that it is a limitation in the first place. Although an egg shell that is soft when it is laid could potentially be better, I am pointing out that there is no inherent advantage in body structure if you are arguing that "skulls are limited by the hip bones" in placental birth. Because, usually, eggs are going to be run into that issue as well.

b) I was wrong in that quote. I am saying it is substantially harder though. Further research on the topic has confirmed this for me. The biggest growth in skull size is during Age 0-2, a time when the skull has not calcified. While there is growth between 2-20, it is substantially less than the growth in that period. Look at this quote:
The dynamic interplay between progressive and regressive events results in relatively rapid brain growth in the first 2 years of life, by which time it has achieved 80% of its adult weight. By age 5 years brain size is approximately 90% of adult size (Dekaban and Sadowsky, 1978). However, significant remodeling of gray and white matter continues into the third decade of life, something that could not be fully appreciated until the MRI studies described below.


c) One additional point I was going to bring up but I started growing frustrated due to how this discussion was going... We do know that that human intelligence evolved rapidly during a period when Africa was going through incredible climate changes. It was going from savvanah to lakes to deserts. This tells me that evolution of higher intelligence will be desired when there are incredible amounts of environments to adapt to. Given the slow growth of a fully calcified brain, this is why I find it highly unlikely that an animal could get there simply with age (small skull even after fully calcifying, keeps forming larger and larger skull and brain size through age).

d) I will accept that K style population growth and altricial infants are probably more important.

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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby Izawwlgood » Sun Jan 12, 2014 8:13 am UTC

infernovia wrote:The biggest growth in skull size is during Age 0-2, a time when the skull has not calcified. While there is growth between 2-20, it is substantially less than the growth in that period.
Which is fine and good, but ignores the fact that egg laying has nothing to do with skull calcification, AND that skull ossification has nothing to do with final brain size. We've been over this already.


infernovia wrote:We do know that that human intelligence evolved rapidly during a period when Africa was going through incredible climate changes.
I'm not sure this is true; I think humans didn't expand into a range of territories beyond the savannah until we were well into what you would call human. I'm not sure there was significant climate change in the area when we were leaving the forests.
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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby Yoshisummons » Mon Jan 13, 2014 8:09 pm UTC

I mean if we want to go with this brain bio mass percentage unit then wouldn't comparing placental mammals to marsupials that are in the same general weight class/fill the same ecological niche be the best way to compensate for the small sample size of marsupial species in comparison?

So far the general summation of the discussion of reproduction seems to me come into two different stages.
1) Containment: Where the organism is growing within a closed space (ie: within a egg or placenta)
2) Free Range: After birth the organism is exposed to more external pressures and is either left to defend itself or is supported by parent(s).

This whole merry-go-round this thread seemed to delve into seems to be ignoring that the point when the organism makes the transition from stage 1 to 2 is largely inconsequential for intelligence and is merely fluff. It is entirely reasonable I think for a egg-laying species with an adult size of 2m tall(assuming bipedal for simplification) to lay a 4 cm egg that hatches in 2 months that the parent(s) carry and then is raised for 20 years to maturity is totally plausible. I think the op is caught up in the general rule of a size ceiling on the size of the offspring can be during the transition from stage 1 to 2(poor kiwi mothers) and with a notion that the same volume of space within the mother a placental mammal baby will be larger than the baby hatched from an egg that took similar space within a egg-laying species and therefore can't have the same brain size and therefore egg layers are dumber (I think? Correct me if I'm wrong).
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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon Jan 13, 2014 9:48 pm UTC

I think that is the OPs hangup, but it's been pointed out that newly hatched birds don't have fully ossified skulls, that birth/hatch weight - adult weight varies extremely widely over the entire animal kingdom irrespective of vivi- or ovipary, and that brain weight - body weight varies extremely widely over the entire animal kingdom irrespective of vivi- or ovipary.

I mean, a raven is measurably an awful lot smarter (socially and problem solving wise) than... a pretty large number of mammals.
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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby infernovia » Tue Jan 14, 2014 10:35 pm UTC

izaawlgood wrote:I'm not sure this is true; I think humans didn't expand into a range of territories beyond the savannah until we were well into what you would call human. I'm not sure there was significant climate change in the area when we were leaving the forests.

That's not what I am saying. What I am telling you is that after a vast amount of time where the primates had gotten off of the trees and were mostly bipedal to handle the savannah like condition, Africa started fluctuating in climate. The primates were stuck at 300cc for a long time until Africa's weather pattern changed rapidly (again, savannah/desert/lake/wetlands, massive changes in that vast continent), at which point it tripled rapidly because they were forced to adapt to a large amount of environments.

yoshisummons wrote:This whole merry-go-round this thread seemed to delve into seems to be ignoring that the point when the organism makes the transition from stage 1 to 2 is largely inconsequential for intelligence and is merely fluff. It is entirely reasonable I think for a egg-laying species with an adult size of 2m tall(assuming bipedal for simplification) to lay a 4 cm egg that hatches in 2 months that the parent(s) carry and then is raised for 20 years to maturity is totally plausible.

It's not merely fluff and the behavior you described is exactly the kind of stuff I was expecting to see discussed in this thread. I personally think that kind of parenting is very improbable, but it's frustrating that the discussion hasn't even gotten to this point.

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Re: Is an intelligent egg-laying alien race possible?

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Jan 14, 2014 10:45 pm UTC

infernovia wrote:The primates were stuck at 300cc for a long time until Africa's weather pattern changed rapidly (again, savannah/desert/lake/wetlands, massive changes in that vast continent), at which point it tripled rapidly because they were forced to adapt to a large amount of environments.]The primates were stuck at 300cc for a long time until Africa's weather pattern changed rapidly (again, savannah/desert/lake/wetlands, massive changes in that vast continent), at which point it tripled rapidly because they were forced to adapt to a large amount of environments.
Can you provide a citation that suggests adapting to a diverse environment is what led to increased brain size? I have seen nothing to support this assertion, in fact, I'm under the impression that our brain size was already quite large when we started migrating off the savannah, due to our ability to run down large prey and our transition away from predominate herbivory, which led to weaker jaw muscles, and larger cranial capacity.

infernovia wrote:It's not merely fluff and the behavior you described is exactly the kind of stuff I was expecting to see discussed in this thread. I personally think that kind of parenting is very improbable, but it's frustrating that the discussion hasn't even gotten to this point.
We discussed r- and k-type reproductive strategies, and we discussed why birth and hatch points can be developmentally identical. We also discussed, as yoshisummons pointed out, that an egg layers young can hatch at a stage equivalent to our infants, and the adults can care for the offspring for the next couple of decades. This is why I keep pointing out bird skull ossification is not complete at hatching.

I'm not sure what you're objecting to here.
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