Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ballerina Forest 4: Out on a Limb

At the end of each group of nereids I put together a little page about their common habitat. I've finally done so with the ballerina forest, an environment that shares traits with to both temperate and boreal forests, along with its own unique features.

There is precedent on Earth for rapidly moving plants, whether it's to trap insect prey or to protect leaves. There is also precedent on Nereus for rapid movement, given the tension-based methods of seed dispersal among many ballistaflor clades. However, nothing on Earth or nereus matches the scale or versatility of that exhibited by coryphee trees. Vascular chambers that run the length of the branches control their turgor, or overall rigidity, and tensile fibers help to support their extended weight and to return back to a neutral closed position. Mechanically, the concept seems to make sense, and nothing too obvious seems to contradict it, so I ran with the idea.

But my research into this feature was not extensive, and at some future point I may have to refine or completely remove this life form from the nereophyte cladogram, a disorganized jumble of clades that aren't nearly as ironed out as the nereozoans. Plant research for this project hasn't been nearly as extensive, mostly because I've mostly only used them as unique (and possibly fantastic) backdrops for my aliens. Any experts out there are welcome to analyze the coryphee as I've described them to help me understand how they work... or how they don't. ;)


  1. the Coryphees are the bamboo-like ones in the Ballerina Forest page's photo, right? (or are those tall flakefirs?)

    at first and second read, the Coryphee make sense. I'd have to ponder it heavily, but I doubt even then I'd find fault with them. (you want weird - there's a South African tree which has only two leaves above the ground *ever*)

    My main question is this: what is found in the northern Ballerina Forest, that is not found in the true Ballerina forest. (the page says the Forest is a southern hemisphere locale - but the map has a spot of yellow in the north)

    excellent work.

  2. An excellent point, rodlox! I had completely forgotten about the northern patch of land with this biome. My initial thought is to delete the word "southern" from the text, clumping the northern patch in with the southern in the description. However, that may not be the best option because it may not be plausible for two roughly identical biomes to occur with such isolating distances between them. I mean, what are the odds that dancing trees are going to crop up in both? So my other option is to erase the northern patch of ballerina forest and relegate it to another biome. What do you readers think?

  3. others will think of better ideas than these...
    a) the southern patch is the True Ballerina Forest...the northern patch shares common ancestors with the Coryphees, but don't move as much (Sundial Trees? Shadowpuppet Shrubberies?)

    b) the True and the Northern Ballerina Forests are unrelated, but are classed together because of the phenotypic(?) similarities between their flora and fauna. (sort of like comparing the Gobi with the Atacama or with Simpson Desert)

    c) there is a northern Ballerina Forest because some of the early human settlers spread the (seeds or cuttings) of flakefirs and coryphees in the north...leading to an opportunity to watch non-Ballerina Forest nereids deal with Ballerina Forest plants.

  4. Perhaps the Ballerina forest simply spread from north to south during an earlier period and then the two patches were slowly cut off by climate change and advancing lantern forest and sog basin?

    Although, this prompts me to ask; is there any significant difference in fauna and flora between the western continents and the large eastern one? Wouldn't it have it's own unique ecosystem and fauna, like Australia and until recently south America have?

  5. Great ideas! I think the one I'm most leaning toward is the idea that the two regions share common ancestry, separated by encroaching climate change over time. This event implies a degree of allopatric speciation, but I hope the two groups of coryphee trees can still be closely related, either within the same taxonomic family or, ideally, part of the same genus.

    As far as the global distribution of species is concerned, it's something that I've tried to work out, to no avail. I've even put together rough simulations of continental drift to explore migration patterns and hopefully justify as wide a dispersal as possible. Vacivus (the east continent) certainly has evidence of isolation, as does Palissa (the narrow central continent). I haven't talked much about it because I didn't want to be too specific and end up having to make major adjustments. Suffice it to say that the species featured in the project are not the only species on the planet, nor are they necessarily found in any and all parts of their respective biomes.

  6. curses! the browser ate my considered reply.

    Brief re-summarization:

    The same or similar species in both hemispheres wouldn't surprise me, especially if the seeds were airborne.

    "These graceful trees stretch upward, actively positioning their sinewy branches to catch sunlight, moving as the day progresses"

    Earth plants do this more or less, generally by the simpler method of growing more on one side than the other and thus bending the stem/branch. Your explanation sounds a little over-engineered, especially for something without a nervous system.

    As always i look forward to your next post...

  7. Thank you for you comments, j.w. bjerk!

    I've been having comments eaten recently as well. It's particularly frustrating when I write an awful lot of complicated material that took me a while to piece together. It always goes faster (and maybe even a little smoother) the second time, but it's still frustrating.

    The seeds are airborne. Most nereophyte seeds find one way or another to take to the air.

    I imagined a fundamental difference between the way Earth plants express this trait and how coryphee do it. Earth plants turn toward the sun through a process called phototropism. This is independent of the slow, ponderous process of growing into an advantageous place as you described, and is usually exhibited by smaller, more malleable plants, or sections thereof. For instance, some trees have the ability to turn their leaves so that the broad face is perpendicular to the sunlight, maximizing insolation; some even turn their leaves edge-on in the potentially damaging noon hours. Coryphee have a similar process, only because they only have a few photosynthetic blades protruding from their stalks they must actively position themselves to get the most sunlight they can. The process you describe, of growing more on one side than the other, doesn't show the same "rapid" activity of the coryphee, which has had to develop unique support structures and even muscle analogues to control this activity.

    I apologize if that seems overengineered but it seems necessary for the survival of the plants I've imagined. If I've misunderstood and you were talking about something different, please let me know. I'm always open to such thoughtful, constructive feedback.

  8. a thought - don't the Kritocaudita seem almost preadapted to plucking fruits and leaves and bringing them to the mouth?

    the idea is based on watching Indri on _last chance to see_


  9. Very true, which is probably why there are so many herbivores counted among them. Perhaps I should put together some examples that specifically exploit this method.