Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Polydactyls, Spinostomes, Panophidians, Picozoans And More: Life On Snaiad

Snaiad is a fictional alien planet and exobiology project created by Turkish artist Nemo Ramjet. Currently it exists in an ever-updating website format, but the artist and author has expressed a great deal of interest in getting the idea published. Snaiad is meant more or less to be a natural history guide to an alien world, talking about the planet's geologic past, the natural history and evolution of its inhabitants, and to a lesser extent the much shorter human occupation of the planet.

Snaiad is an old world, having a history of life going back almost eight billion years, almost twice that of Earth's. There have been several waves of complex life, and just as many mass extinctions; one setting the complexity of life back to essentially pond scum. Sentient life has possibly evolved twice on Snaiad, once 3.2 billion years ago with the findings of the Dosadi Screws, and again thirty million years ago with strange stone axe-like artifacts. The ancestors of the main "vertebrate" clan on Snaiad evolved from sea cucumber-like ancestors one billion years ago, crawling onto land in the form of plant-animal symbiotes. However, a mass extinction wiped the plant-animal symbiotes out and resulted in the modern body plan of Snaiad "vertebrates".

Like on Earth, humans only appeared on Snaiad very recently in the planet's long natural history. The people who colonized Snaiad were a "mixed bag" of settlers hailing from a group of Mediterranian countries, including Greece and Turkey. However, Snaiadi immigrants did not have to start from scratch, bringing with them numerous advanced technologies from Earth, including nanotechnology. This, along with Snaiad's human population only being about fifteen million at most, had prevented humanity from wreaking the same ecological effects on Snaiad that their ancestors had on Earth.

All snaiad vertebrates have a two headed system. The first, normal looking head, contains the eyes and reproductive organs. The eyes of Snaiad creatures are liquidless silicate lenses, surrounded by heat-sensing pads in most species, which increase vision and allow the eyes of Snaiad creatures to be small. The first head also contains the jaws, which originally developed from bony sheaths that protected the reproductive organs.

Although the first head will bite and chew its food, it does not actually consume the food. That is done by the second head. The second head varies from creature to creature, from a simple tongue-like organ of many Snaiad creatures, to the almost ungulate or kangaroo-like muzzle of the more advanced herbivores. Very few species can actually eat with their second head, such as the Tromobrachids, Jetocetes, and the advanced herbivores.

A Snaidi "vertebrate's" digestive system is very similar to ours. First the food goes from the mouth of the second head into the stomach, where it is digested. Afterwards it passes into the intestines. There are two kinds of intestines in Snaidi animals; thick and thin. Thick intestines seem to play a role analogous to the crop of a bird, and help to further break down the food. The thin intestines are similar to our intestines, both absorbing nutrients from the food and passing out waste products. Snaidi animal waste products are rather dry and pasty, much like the waste products of the birds of our world.

Like Earth vertebrates, Snaiaid "vertebrates" have an internal skeleton. However, Snaidi "vertebrates" skeletons are black or brown and made of a wood-like hydrocarbon, rather than calcium. Because of this, vertebrate fossils are not as common on Snaiad as on Earth. Another key difference between Snaidi vertebrates and Earth vertebrates is the presence of numerous hollows and indentation in the skeleton, which serve as anchorage points for the hydraulic muscles.

Most major muscles in Snaidi vertebrates are hydraulic, working on the principle of pushing out with fluid rather than contracting and pulling the bone. These muscles are filled with fluid, which accumulates in fluid reservoirs in their pectoral armature and skid (the snaidi equivalent of shoulders and hips), to be cleaned. Other muscles on Snaidi vertebrates work in a similar principle to Earth's vertebrates. These muscles are usually found in the first head, the second head, and the tail.

Snaiad vertebrates were originally ovoviparous, as some of the more primitive creatures like the Turtiformes and Polydactyls still are. However, most Snaiad vertebrates are viviparous, keeping their young in a pouch inside their first head, slightly reminiscient of a marsupial. Snaiadi animals mostly give birth by vomiting out the eggs or young. In some species with small first head beaks, the young rip their way out of the pouch with specially developed womb-beaks. This is not harmful to the mother, as the pouch is not needed for anything else and rapidly heals over.

Snaiad life comes in a huge variety of forms, like Earth. Unlike Earth, there are two types of plants, red plants and green plants. The former of the two is said to be closer related to animals. One of the major plants of Snaiad is sprog, a grassy, spongy plant that is relatively tough and covered large areas of the ground, similar to the grass of our world. Another odd plant of snaiad is a colonial plant, forming huge pinnacle ranges in several areas across the planet.

The author has mentioned many more groups of Snaiadi animals that do not belong to the main "vertebrate" clade, including arthrognathans, elastozoans, trikes, and others, but nothing in-depth has been written on them as of yet.

The snaiad "vertebrates" are very similar to the vertebrates of our world. However, they have two heads and hydraulic muscles. There are many different branches of these creatures, including...

Polydactyls - There are two major groups of these primitive animals, the generalized polydactlys and the more derived turtle-like Turtiformes. There were formerly larger species of the former, but most extant species are small and low-key in their activities.
Spinostomes - Similar in a way to the Xenarthrans of our world, these creatures mostly live in the continent of Aucaterra. The defining feature of the Spinostomes is the presence of small teeth on its second head, which help to break down food. Historically, the group was more diverse, but is now limited to a handful of species.
Panophidians - Unusually, many of Snaiad's animals seem to have adopted a snake-like body shape, unlike many animals on Earth. These creatures are loosely related in a large group, ranging from carnivores to herbivores, which may be polyphyletic.
Picozoans - A large branch of insect-like Snaiad "vertebrates" with skeletons made of cartilage. Unique among Snaiad animals, most picozoans have a larval stage, and instead of swallowing food, absorb it directly through their second head.
Titaniformes, Tromobrachids, and Monoanticherans - A group of unusual herbivores and carnivores native to the Australia-like continent of Thalassia. The titaniformes are rather allotaur-like, and take a similar niche here. The tromobrachids are a group who have fused their arms and second mouths together to create powerful jaws. The monoanticherans are a varied group, with both carnivorous and herbivorous forms.
Jetocetes - The whales and sharks of Snaiad, these creatures swim through the water with heart powered jets.
Allotaurs - Allotaurs are massive herbivores, which have extended second heads reminiscient of a diplodocid sauropod, as do most advanced Snaiadi herbivores. Most species are covered in armor, which protects them from predators.
Kahydrons and their Allies - This group includes many species of carnivores, such as the Kahydrons, as well as the odd and diverse Pescidonts and their penguin-like cousins, the Blumbomen.

No comments: