Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ballerina Forest 2: Motherly Love

The latest two updates complete my current list of order Eumaia of the vehoprolians. I may add more to the list at some future point, but for the time being I can put the lid on this clade.

I didn't realize this when I first put together the species lineup for the ballerina forest biome, but these updates share a strong maternal instinct. While that made this post easy to title it also meant that I had to put some extra work into making sure these two species had traits that set themselves apart.

The basket carm is a pachyfronsid, and since I've already featured two of those it only compounded my goals for a conceptually unique nereid. When I run into this problem I usually consider the niche I'm trying to fill and look at creatures from Earth that have similar ecological roles. While the colossus carm was inspired by mastodons and the emperor carm emulates savanna herd beasts, the basket carm is a temperate forest browser, much like deer and elk, so I drew upon them for inspiration. I also thought that, unlike the other carms who only have one or two offspring at a time, basket carms should have large litters. That led to thoughts about where all those weak-legged young could be carried and voila! A new and different nereid!

The other species, the tempered chuck, is an idea I'd had for some time. It's a common assertion in circles that aspire to plausible xenobiology that aliens with mammaries can't exist; all those apparent mammals we see in Star Wars, Star Trek, Avatar, and almost all other sci-fi just couldn't happen. Given the endless evolutionary possibilities on alien worlds I can accept this assertion, but I feel that most who make it leave out a very important qualifier: it may be true that an alien with obvious mammalian features isn't likely, but an alien who gives birth to live young which it then suckles through convergent means, to me at least, doesn't seem like it's outside the realm of possibility. The tempered chuck is my attempt to explore this convergence; I'll leave it up to you, the reader, to determine my success.


  1. from Rodlox:
    the chuck is certainly a novel plausibility. good work on it!
    (though it makes me wonder if something besides the young chucks are also acting like oxpeckers/vampire bats on the parents - a mollipod, perhaps?)

    the basket carm is neat...though I can't shake the mental image of (even if just in cartoons) a parent carm carrying its child in a basket, and the kid's head hits every passing branch.

    side question about the Ghost Padua - are its wings really that small/narrow, or is that just foreshortening? just curious.

    excellent work on everything.

  2. edit: i kept thinking the chuck's ears were shields...can it trick potential predators into thinking they are?

  3. I like the idea of the little carm bonking its head on branches. :) Maybe I should draw it some time.

    There is some foreshortening on the ghost padua's wings, but not too much. I should probably think about redesigning the wings that came out like that one (the ghost padua isn't the only one).

    And the chuck can certainly use its ears to look bigger, frightening away predators, but more intelligent predators might just call the chuck's bluff, and we'll have to hope it can spin around and kick with those big spurs on its back leg.

  4. Maybe the Ghost Padua comes in two is the narrow-winged type illustrated, and the other has broader/bigger wings, and disperses individuals more widely. (when the population gets too thick in one area?)

    >hope it can spin around
    one more reason to travel in Communities. :)


  5. Two little questions:

    1) How do your animals, ahem, poop? They only seem to have one opening for the digestive track, like starfish and sea urchins.

    2) Are you expanding the savannah biome any time soon? I think it would be cool to see some browsers that eat from trees - all of your animals so far strike me as grazers, eating from the ground.

  6. Thanks for the questions, Anonymous!

    As is described in the Generalized Tetrabrach Anatomy page, The digestive loop both starts and ends at the mouth, so in that sense it is much like the gastrovascular cavity of starfish and sea urchins. At one point in the evolutionary process a muscular tube developed that can extend from the mouth to expel waste as far from the mouth as possible; nereids who have this feature enjoy a much higher degree of digestive hygiene.

    I will be adding more nereids to the savanna biome, largely so I can explore a more rounded ecology, as you suggest. Unfortunataly at this point I can't put a date on exactly when I'll start on that process. For the record, though, the emperor carm is a browsing denizen of the savanna.

  7. Thanks for answering my questions, I have another one, if you don't mind:

    Will you be adding any more groups of formally terrestrial tetrabrachs that have returned to an amphibious or aquatic lifestyle? On Earth we have multiple groups, even within a single class, that have independently returned to the water; cetaceans, sirenians, pinnipeds, Penguins, and of course a long history of aquatic reptiles and many animals that are just as happy both in and out of water. I find it strange that there is only one group of tetrabrachs, the Scelidura, that have made this return to the sea. Perhaps a group of penguin-like draconoformes, or maybe some pseudocolae could adapt their sensory stalk into a powerful swimming tail?

  8. At this point I don't have any planned, but that doesn't rule out that any will show up. I will be finishing the first 100 nereids shortly, after which I'll be sitting down with the next batch of 50.

    That said, Scelidura isn't the only clade that has reintroduced itself to the water. The drakes (genus aurignathus)do quite well in the water. As a matter of fact, they do worst on land, hopping around almost uselessly on a curled up hind limb-- a limb which functions as a very effective fluke in the water.

    I really should add some more to the list of functionally amphibious nereids, though. Thanks for the suggestion!