By using Andalite tech, the Animorphs can absorb the DNA of animals and turn into them. The time limit to this is 2 Earth hours. However, this tech was developed 80+ light-years away, and the hour should not be the same on the other side of the universe.

Is there an in-universe reason why it is two EARTH hours, versus anything else?

I know early on they almost get stuck as wolves, and they were a few min over, so is it exactly two hours, or did Elfangor give them that amount so they would have cushion?

  • Related, not duplicate: Why do Animorphs have a two hour limit? (that question is more about why there's a limit rather than why it's exactly two hours).
    – Rand al'Thor
    Nov 6, 2019 at 15:39
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    "they were a few min over" - thus proving it's not exactly two hours?
    – OrangeDog
    Nov 6, 2019 at 15:50
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    But really that question would be the same whether or not the tech is developed on Earth or anywhere else. Even if it were developed on Earth, the reason for the procedure's time limit would have reasons that have nothing to do with clocks.
    – Misha R
    Nov 6, 2019 at 20:36

2 Answers 2


TL;DR: it probably just happens to match two Earth hours.

If the Andalites had a say in the time limit for the morphs, I doubt they knowingly and voluntarily set it to two "commonly used time units" from a planet dozens of light-years away.

Rather, I think the morph time was translated by Elfangor from "Andalite standard time unit" (say, the glidupluk) to a time unit the humans would understand. The details​ of the conversion would have been left aside by Elfangor, who was otherwise busy dying.

Compare: (sentence from memory, will update with actual sentence from the book)

The morph is limited in time, you can't stay morphed for longer than half a glidupluk, otherwise you'll be trapped forever. A glidupluk is roughly four of what you call hours, so that's two hours tops.

Shorter, more to the point:

Demorph before two hours or you'll be trapped forever.

If memory serves, the Andalites know a bit (not much, but a bit) of our planet and mankind; it's not too much of a stretch to think they would have a gadget/knowledge of the local time unit.

  • Communication is telepathic anyway. An Andelite doesn't even need to know your language in order to "talk" to you.
    – OrangeDog
    Nov 6, 2019 at 16:10
  • This Wiki page claims that the Animorphs have, on occasion, broken the two-hour mark and have still been able to morph back, although it's a lot harder to do at that point. However, it doesn't give a source and I can't find one. Nov 6, 2019 at 17:57
  • @PlutoThePlanet book 3 had Marco and a couple others nearly stuck in wolf morph from skirting the limit, and David nearly got trapped in half-morph as a fly.
    – Ketura
    Nov 6, 2019 at 19:24
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    @Rabdal'Thor as pointed out above, there's a slight margin of error. It's possible it's indeed two hours and a couple minutes depending on fitness, moon phase, whatever, but got truncated to two hours not to complicate stuff for the teenagers (and the readers).
    – Jenayah
    Nov 6, 2019 at 19:35
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    There is no particular reason that the Andalite measure of time must be substantially different from the human one. Time likely passes similarly for both (a chemical reaction requiring X seconds on Earth would also require X seconds elsewhere), and the scale on which time is measured is probably a product of day/night divisions in Andalite antiquity. If the Andalites' solar period is proportionally similar to Earth's, it would not be surprising for measures of duration to overlap in neatly-divisible units of time. If you don't like that explanation then... the Elemist did it.
    – Upper_Case
    Nov 6, 2019 at 20:04

Elfangor must know our language and how our time measurement units work because

he has already been living on Earth as a notlith in a human body.

Also, a second is defined as:

it is defined by taking the fixed numerical value of the caesium frequency ∆νCs, the unperturbed ground-state hyperfine transition frequency of the caesium-133 atom, to be 9192631770 when expressed in the unit Hz, which is equal to s^−1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second

So, as Andalites must be a civilization that has used atomic clocks (to have anything remotedly similar to the Global Positioning System in the Andalite homeworld at least). They must have also measured their minimal time units in something defined by something common in the universe, such as the vibration of some atom or something like that.

From there, you can calculate and convert the Andalite seconds to our seconds and then to our hours, and omitting some puny decimals.

Now, about the "being barely able to pass the time limit" it can be due to two things.

--The first may be thanks to those omitted decimals.

--The second may be because there has been a lot of simplification done during the development of the morphing technology to save computing power. You see, in engineering some graphics are simplified to make it easier to compute an/or leave some margin to prevent extreme failures.

In this example, the horizontal line is time and the vertical line is consciousness concentration in concentration-units (Invented just now). We can also say that only the Ellimist is able to reach past the 2 concentration-units mark and up to infinite.

y=e^(50x-104) This graph corresponds to the equation "y=e^(50x-104)".

Well, if we wanted to simplify this, we just say that y=0 until (2,0) and then y= ∞. y=0,x=2

You see that if you reach two hours morphed, in the second graph you are a nothlit, because the amount of concentration needed to morph back is infinite, but in the first graph, if you get near the two hour mark, then you need a lot of concentration to morph back, and just at the two hour mark you may be able to change back but you don't want to get very close to that if you don't wish to be a notlith.


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