Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Erepofursia: Hit and Miss

Another batch of nereophytes is done.  It's taken longer than I expected, and the plants are by no means all that complicated, either to draw or conceptualize.  One of my artistic weaknesses is fine, repetitive detail; I get bored drawing a fur texture or a convincing field of grass, and here I've been drawing fields, drifts, and thick knots of vegetation.  Some of the images I'm quite pleased with, and others I think could use a new attempt.  In any case, I hope that they are helping to properly convey the nature of the autotrophs of Nereus.

Conceptually, I also think that I've had successes and failures.  The bankvine was always intended to be a sort of 'proto-sog,' an example of how erepofursians got their start from more primitive forms.  However, hindsight reveals what seems like quite the biological leap between the featured Coleria and this first example of a new taxonomic group.  I guess viewers are going to have to fill in the blanks a little.

The sog itself, thanks to insights from the Speculative Evolution forums, became the more specific-- though still quintessential-- avanyu sog.  Again, I don't know if its most interesting features are highlighted, but this is something I think can be fixed.  One of the things I plan on doing at some point is some material (artwork/information) that helps to explain entire clades in general terms.  One such feature would be the mechanism of fluid transport this group pioneers and, in the case of sog, masters.

Musselmat was a simple, quiet success in my mind.  It's a clear transitional form that connects the 'leafless' Gymnovina order (represented by the bankvine and sog) to the forms of the Phyllogera order.  The anatomy of its offshooting pods should also give some indication of the ontogeny for future nereophyte structures.

And while I think it was conceptually satisfying, the feathermat might be a little unclear visually.  The vine portion of the plant is completely lost in the illustration, and while it's true that the downy protrusions do overshadow the feathermat's vine, I think it might be easy to miss how it fits into the clade.  Perhaps, when I'm putting together those clarifying general features I could include an evolutionary timeline where I could show the feathermat's anatomy in a little more detail.

The quetzal vine is another satisfying addition to the group.  It's different-- very different, and it's a good example of how I want to merge the aspects of science and creativity that I see in the most appealing approaches to xenobiology.  When I started thinking about nereid plants, I thought it would be interesting and different if I didn't include any flower analogues.  But when I reached this genus I realized that, despite my intentions, the natural process of development in this project brought about a sort of flower.  I've embraced it, mostly because they're natural, unique, and decidedly non-terrestrial.  Can you?

The sea slough turned out well also, and it helps show how nereophytes aren't simply Earth plants in alien costumes.  The niche of this organism is much like that of seaweed, and while it is a comparatively simple organism, it's more complex than the Earth analogue.  I think that sea slough is a good example of how xenobiology projects like this can echo and even give a nod to terrestrial inspiration, but still be biologically and ecologically unique.

Finally, I've just finished the waterfleece.  It too is strongly influenced by Earth algae (kelp, to be precise), but I have a hard time thinking it achieved the same level of success as the sea slough.  Its picture borders on impressionistic, and it doesn't really stand out as biologically unique in any interesting ways, but it forms a strong ecological base, both in terms of landscape for local swimmers and as a food source.  It began as a sort of kelp-like backdrop for goldwave and it never really changed.  Can't win 'em all, I guess...