Monday, July 4, 2011

A Parade of Plants

So now that the first batch of animals is done, I've been gearing up to present fifty plant species of Nereus. I'm still working to get all the plants into a satisfactory cladogram and taxonomic classification, but things are coming along nicely. I've decided that, rather than featuring individual species I'll focus on genera, that way I'll be able to speak in more, well, general terms (notice the pun? ;)). I noticed many times while working with animal species that I was occasionally limited in what possibilities I could explore within a given entry; hopefully writing about a genus at a time rather than a species will allow me a little more flexibility in coverage.

Another aspect I'm considering, and would love some reader feedback on, is the order of presentation. The animals were grouped by biome, but with the plants I could present them a clade at a time, producing them in groups based on genetic relationship rather than by shared environment. A couple benefits I see from this are:

- Continuity of concept and appearance. With the animal nereids I would often have to revisit clades in order to ensure that the features and attributes of my current species meshed with its 'predecessors.' This occasionally resulted in wildly different methods of, say, reproduction or similar details, and even some niggling little aesthetic differences. While I feel that ultimately the animal cladogram came out pretty well, there was quite a bit of adjustment I had to make in order for it to make sense (and still more work in some cases, but that's a topic for another post); working within clades will probably solve those problems.

- Linear evolutionary progression. By starting at the beginning and working my way through the clades, I could better show the progressive trends of evolutionary adaptation and complexity, further reinforcing my own scientific understanding of the project. This would also not lock me into the developmental quagmire I found when it became clear that I needed to add insulating hair to some of the animals.

I think this method of organizing the plant presentation could certainly work, but I also think that the benefits of ecological symbiosis and the diversity produced from spreading out the clades as I did with the animals could have merit too. I just don't know which one would be best, so I put the question to you, the reader. By clade or by biome?


  1. My vote is for "mostly one, a tiny bit of the other" which I mean this:

    Proceed clade by clade, but every once in a while, mention an unrelated plant which lives closely with, if you wrote up about Swamp Cypresses, mention Spagnum Moss; algaes & lichen; lianas & bromeliads.

    did that make sense?

    no matter what you chose, i wish you all the best.

  2. I suffered the same problem of limited difference between species when developing material for the Zainter project website (which is still on hold till I can get some better feedback), particularly since I had first thought of these animals as orders and some ended up with several vastly different species and others only one or two similar ones. In the end I decided to classify them according to species anyhow, seeing as both Nereus and Furaha projects did so this way. If the distinction were great enough, best think of them as separate. :)

    It's great to hear that you're starting on plants - I have always wondered about the purpose of the Nereophyta link. Exobiology projects seem to focus more on the zoological than the botanical, though this may just be our interest in animal life and that it bears fewer limitations. I admit to this folly in my project; my own relative ignorance in the field has limited my inspiration. This is not even starting with other kingdoms such as fungus!

    To answer your question, I rather agree to the concept of sorting plants by clade (which leads me to the question of if they are all of one phylum). By approaching it this way you will have plant species in all Nereus' environments almost simultaneously, rather than one at a time, and it may allow you to better level the ecosystems. I do refute your first point about multiple differences coming out - even within a single classification there is plenty of room for disparity. Consider the existence of sharks that are warm-blooded and give birth to live young, or the inclusion of naked mole rats in clade mammalia!

  3. Thanks for your input, guys. I will definitely mention interactions with other species (both plant and animal) with each plant I feature. Going clade by clade will only concern the order in which I present species.

    I too have seen a lack of featured plant life in speculative biology projects (furaha is the only one that I know of with any real variety presented), which I think is why I decided early on that I would give the kingdom some attention on Nereus.

    Zerraspace, you mention that a clade-by-clade approach will allow me to better "level the ecosystems." What do you mean by this? Different biomes foster different levels of biodiversity, and since I try to reflect that in my project there will be more plant species in wide tropical areas than in smaller temperate or arid ones. In fact, I already know pretty much how many plants will appear in each biome, and now it's only a matter of organizing them taxonomically/cladistically for presentation.

    And you make a fair point about disparity within a taxa. I wasn't referring to the nature of actual cladistic diversity but to my own creative methods there: with some species I focused more on the clade to which it belonged than on the species itself, but I felt that, because it was the species to be featured rather than just the clade, I had to make room for specific features as well as the shared traits. Sometimes it was a bit of a juggling act. By focusing on the genus of each plant rather than the species, I hope to be able to talk about that diversity without feeling locked into a single species' features as I occasionally did with the animals.

  4. I too thought of Furaha when considering plant species in exobiology projects, but figured that Sagan IV must have had some sort of diversity given the number of species available, and the real wealth of Epona is not on the internet. I wouldn't really know; I have not really looked into Sagan IV in any depth and am not part of the Epona project.

    When I mentioned that sorting plants by clade would better level the environments, I was simply repeating my earlier point, which is that every environment would have listed species almost simultaneously rather than having to wait for each biome to be filled out to gain any. In short, they would seem to have level ecosystems relative to one another, as they would each have plants of the same level. I realize biodiversity differs between environments, but it doesn't help me feel that some are too empty or too full.

  5. What about a Plant that has sap (do Nereus Plants have sap?) similar to the Maple Tree. And Carnivorous Plants. And River Plants.

  6. P.S. That was meant to start with "Are you going to/how about you include..."

  7. Yes, as with Earth plants, those on Nereus will have fluids running through them to transport water/nutrients. Some species, such as sog, have taken this to notable extremes, as a matter of fact, and entire ecologies depend on their biological processes. There is also at least one carnivorous plant that I've thought up (some others may make that leap too, depending on how things turn out) and river plants will be included as well. In fact, many of the plants I will feature have been mentioned in the write-ups of several different species and in the material covering the biomes. Those places should give you a good preview of the types of plants I have in store.