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Here on Earth, we have a number of primary producers:

  • Plants and other photosynthetic organisms, which convert sunlight into chemical energy.
  • Chemotrophs, which get energy (via a few intermediate steps) from geothermal activity.

What are the primary producers of Arrakis? The planet receives a lot of sunlight, and is geologically active, but I do not know of any organisms in the Dune canon that use either of these energy sources.

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    You mean, other than the obvious one? – Mr Lister Nov 16 '13 at 18:27
  • What's the obvious one? – Matthew Piziak Nov 16 '13 at 18:37
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    Sandworms obviously have no other source of energy than the sun. I think an explanation of how they work is in one of the appendixes of the book. – Mr Lister Nov 16 '13 at 18:41
  • The Shai-Hulud are not primary producers. The Ecology of Dune mentions that they eat sand plankton, which themselves feed on traces of spice melange, but this seems circular. – Matthew Piziak Nov 16 '13 at 18:47
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You give the answer yourself:

The Ecology of Dune mentions that they [the sandworms] eat sand plankton, which themselves feed on traces of spice melange, but this seems circular.

It is circular in respect to matter, but that's how all ecosystems work: plants are eaten by herbivores, which are eaten by carnivores, which (after they die) are eaten by bacteria, which produce fertile soil, on which plants grow.

What an ecosystem also needs is a constant supply of energy, which is what distinguishes primary producers: they are the organisms through which energy enters the food chain.

On Earth, one of the most important primary producers is phytoplankton. Thus, to me the name "sand plankton" implies that it plays the same role, presumably using sunlight as its energy source, via photosynthesis or a similar process.

  • That thought occurred to me as well, but I don't think it's strong enough evidence. The word plankton means any organism which floats, that is, its movement is dominated by external forces, not by its own locomotion. For example, zooplankton are heterotrophs. However, if there really isn't any explicit mention of photosynthetic organisms in the canon, this may be the best explanation available. – Matthew Piziak Nov 17 '13 at 2:23

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