Thursday, June 9, 2011

Freshwater Ecology 3: 99, 100!

I've done it! My original goal of creating 100 species for a single xenobiology project is complete! It's taken a lot longer than I thought (serious work began a little more than two years ago) but I'm pleased with the exercise in imagination and scientific education that has resulted from Nereus up to this point. By no means am I done with the project; this could even be considered nothing more than the halfway point.

But more on that later. For this post I wanted to focus on the final two species of this "first batch" of nereid animals. So far my freshwater nereids have been colored to rely on camouflage, and while there's nothing wrong with that, I wanted to depart from that with these two just for the sake of variety.

Of course, being an ambush predator, the river skate would benefit greatly from the same coloration as I've been employing so far, and in the end I abandoned my goal of a conspicuously colored predator here. Since the species is so different from any other nereids I've made so far I decided it would be unique enough to stand on its own while being camouflaged like everything else.

What I abandoned in one I embraced in the other, the yellow crested anguil. With a species already representing the taxonomic family, I had some precedents to work with, namely the armlike jaws, the mildly armored body, and a general color scheme. Of course, color is one of the easiest things to vary between species (and even subspecies) but it was nice to at least have the starting point. From there it was a simple matter of stretching the phylogeny to fit a unique species profile and make sure it's evolutionarily fit.

As always, I'm interested to see what you think about these species, so let's hear it!


  1. The skate strikes that elusive balance plausibility/believability and alien-ness very well.

  2. Congrats on reaching the magic _100_!

  3. Congratulations! It's great to have such a rich and varied xenobiology project on the web :) .

    I have a minor complaint about the Anguil; Because of the angle, the dorsal fin looks like it's emerging from the animal's side rather than its back. You could probably fix this by changing the color, and maybe having it overlap the body a little bit.

  4. j.w. bjerk: Thanks! I'm always pleased to strike that balance and it's so hard to predict. If I could pin it down I think my project would improve greatly. What do you think specifically does it for the river skate?

    Luke: That is a weird optical illusion, isn't it? However, the dorsal fin does overlap the body a little bit and I think that the light reflecting from it indicates that it is in fact vertically positioned.