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18:16 28-04-2012
Spugpow
There are plenty of people doing spiky, sharp-toothed aliens killing people on spaceships, so I find your work refreshingly different. The funny stuff and the stuff about humans makes everything more interesting and fun to read, and will probably increase the readership of your book if anything (not that I know anything about publishing).

In other news, Festo has done it again: http://youtu.be/TiQmdpNB8AI
13:55 28-04-2012
SN
Spugpow: it is interesting that you should mention the whimsical side of my creatures, as I had been considering the following question lately. Should I strive towards a more serious tone, or keep the mixture of serious and whimsical? A text may now provide information on sexual selection or biomechanics of a serious nature, and may then provide information on how to clean a shell for display purposes of warn against swimming win local waters. It is in my nature to mix the two, but I have never thought about whether this is a good idea from a marketing point of view. Any ideas?

Jan: I think I will provide some serrations to the prober's jaws.
The joint drawings are studies on the minimal number of joints needed to allow a foot to describe a linear path on the ground with respect to the body. The ones on the left used joints at right angles and is therefore very mechanical in nature; the sketch on the right experimented with joint axes that are not at right angles. If you ever held the claw of a crab, you will have noted that the axes are not at right angles at all. The sketches are studies only and do not depict any specific Furahan animal.
11:38 28-04-2012
Jan
Some functional equivalent of carnassials further in the mouth would not significantly change the appearance of the animal, I think.
If I could have another question, those joints on the "About" page are part of the hexapods od spidrids design?
03:10 27-04-2012
Spugpow
For some reason I'm unable to post a comment on your blog, so I'll just say it here.

Yes, your back!

I like the lengthening of the blue alien's body, since that detail always bothered me before. I like the extra eyes on the hexapod, but I miss the eyestalk and the niche where it slots into the head. I thought the eyestalks on the bobbuck gave it alot of visual interest, but it looks alright without them.

I would say don't give the hexapod teeth or teeth analogues. There's something very appealing about the toothless beak that I can't quite articulate, but it ties in nicely with your fun and semi-whimsical approach to creature design . Maybe give it an eagle-like hook on the end of its beak if you have to change it.
02:22 27-04-2012
Mike
Drasresearcher: It does so through voice commands. Follow this link (http://yasbp.deviantart.com/#/d4w5rc6) and scroll down to the first big block of text in the comments area, there will be a more in-depth description there. And I don't believe I ever said that rolling would increase their rate of evolution. If I did, then ignore that. Unless you mean the rate at which they evolve sapience, in which case I explained that they developed problem-solving skills due to a dire environment which they needed to manipulate through epitokal relationships in order to survive, as opposed to living off of strength alone.
17:56 26-04-2012
DrásResearcher
Mike: how exactly does one organism effectively control another organism? This usually only happens after conditioning, and even then that takes time. Are you proposing that these epitokes and atokes are telepathic? Also, I don't see how being a roller would allow faster evolution. It does seem pretty energy exhaustive, whereas crawling allows for a somewhat less exhaustion of energy while also maintaining proper equilibrium.
16:16 26-04-2012
Mike
Evan: Let me go over it again, I skimmed over some parts which answer your questions. Firstly, the crawlers do not arise immediately, the rollers arise first. It's not a question of the crawlers staying in the water because they simply don't exist until about the time the rollers get a firm stance on land. The rollers at first are simple and don't have complex epitokal relationships, simply rolling around and eating vegetation with little competition. Later, the crawlers arise, they crawl around like seals, but with more feet obviously. This, although more energy-efficient than rolling, is very slow. They would probably take detritivorous niches akin to slugs or roly-polies. As time goes on, their legs would strengthen and specialize better for terrestrial locomotion, but they'd still stay small and relatively powerless, because they'd be prey for rollers, so growing larger isn't necessarily a good thing, as it makes you more prone to get eaten. I'm sure gigantism would occur in certain populations isolated on islands or deep in the forests, but for the most part they'd be small, until the aforementioned mass extinction. A similar situation would happen to a group tangential to the rollers, which would walk sideways like crabs. The crabbers and the crawlers comprise the polyphyletic group that is the walkers. As for the rollers and why their sapience was prompted by the rise of walkers, it's important to note that before the mass extinction, rollers would always use their epitokes to either kill swarms of tiny walkers or the swarms of epitokes controlled by another roller atoke. The epitokes rarely took down large prey, and when they did, it would be an atoke upon the defeat of its army, which is rendered relatively powerless because of this. Therefore, the epitokes didn't have to be well-controlled prior to the extinction event, as they would either be facing swarms of similar size or taking down large, but lumbering beasts. Surprise attacks were advantageous, but by no means necessary. However, after the mass extinction, they had to fight the walkers, which meant the atokes had to plan their attacks. Winning a fight was no longer as simple as having the strongest epitokes, it was a question of choosing the right prey, planning a surprise attack, going in in waves, et cetera. Military strategy became necessary to survival. So, it's not simply a question of them being able to control the epitokes more precisely, which indeed wouldn't contribute much to intelligence, but it was a question of using the epitokes in a more intelligent way. Furuthermore, life on land post-extinction would be incredibly difficult, and the triradials would have to become opportunist omnivores, like our ancestors. So, when the opportunity arose to get food in difficult-to-reach places, they needed to find out how to use tools to solve puzzles. For example, getting the swarm to pick up a long stick and use it to knock over a bird-analogue-nest, or a high-hanging fruit. I think that answers all your questions.
02:19 26-04-2012
DrásResearcher
Haha, yes, sort of like mummy aliens! Their biological functions are much slower both in processing and absorption of nutrients. Anything beyond that, though, and I will need to start doing more research on biological functions!

I did not want to give too much away initially about Drás and it's characteristics, but the question about its surface has come up a few times. Essentially the premise I am working on is that the surface temperature is far too hot to support liquid water. However, this is really for more along the equatorial region of Drás where there is very little life as we know it. This coupled with some interesting dust and sand storms that can spread over the planet create a very harsh environment. The polar regions, however, are somewhat cooler and support some ground water to exist allowing for some plains and "forests." Drás does not have its own magnetosphere, nor does it have tectonic activity. To shield it from the solar winds, Drás actually relies on it's parent planet, the gas giant Kuar, for protection.

I would give more information on some more of my ideas I have for why the top level is so harsh (And there are plenty more!), but I really want to save it for when I release the website for public viewing
 
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22:17 24-04-2012
Evan Black
Mike: The complex neurology needed to coordinate the epitokes certainly increases the intelligence of the rollers, but it only solves half the problem of crossing the threshold into sapience. From what I understand of your explanation, rollers have become smarter than walkers because they need to be smarter just to move around. If so much of the rollers' neurology is tied up in locomotion then they have less brain power set aside for more advanced processes; it can't think about thinking because it's too busy thinking about walking. So if it is going to become sapient there has to be some stimulus apart (and in addition to) from locomotive complexity to push them over the edge.

The increased neurology in itself poses a Darwinian problem as well. When comparing the evolutionary tracks of the rollers and the walkers, if the rollers are going to have a chance at all to get a foothold on land they need to have a head start in developing the locomotion, and the neurology to go with it, otherwise the much simpler, much stupider walkers are going to eat their rolling cousins for dinner. I believe you mentioned something about that, that the rollers came onto land first, but there are still lots of holes in the scenario. What pushed them on land while the walkers were still perfectly happy being swimmers?

DrásResearcher: That's an interesting twist on the biochemistry of the Drasa; they're "mummy" aliens! How do they cope with having a much scarcer medium in which to carry out the biological functions of their bodies?

Also, caves are geologically short lived because of tectonics and geological forces. Moisture and erosion certainly work to change caves, but they can create caves just as easily as they can destroy them. If caves on Drás are more stable it's probably because geological forces are slower there than on Earth, which brings up a whole new set of problems with carbon cycles and planetary habitability. If you can find a fix for that then you can probably get away with slowing down the planet's geology.

And what precisely is so harsh about the planet's surface in comparison to the caves? You said yourself that life found a way to thrive on the surface, which assumes that it's found ways to withstand the surface. Why are we not seeing rapid diversification from those clades overshadowing that of the caves?

Also, you said that the Drasa "found shelter" in the caves, and that's confusing me now. Are the Drasa descended from the cave biome, and stay there because they still find it more comfortable than whatever conditions are on the surface, or did much of their evolutionary process take place on the surface, but some recent change of climate or other cataclysm force them underground?
21:32 23-04-2012
Mike
Evan: sorry it took a while to respond, here's the animation: http://yasbp.deviantart.com/art/Trifish-298032969

As for why it led to sapience, I believe I explained that. It's due to their complex interactions with epitokes. The epitokes don't move like that, they have a more standard walking gait, and they're the ones that do most of the work. The walkers didn't need epitokes because they were more agile and efficient, and thus could kill things and do things on their own.
23:36 22-04-2012
DrásResearcher
Evan: Since the abundance of water on Drás isn't nearly as high as Earth (20% vs 70%), fauna on Drás had to adapt accordingly to retain as much as they could or else do with less water. In the case of the Drasa, one aspect of living with less water can be found in their physiology, especially in their brains, which are composed of approximately 1/3 less water than a human brain (60% vs 85%). I am by no means a scientist or even a doctor, but that is the general principle as to why their brains' could be smaller and yet just as effective.

SN: I see your point about the "lifespan" of caves. I wonder if caves on Earth do not last very long due to other phenomena such as moisture and much more rapid erosion? My premise was that caves do provide much more stability on Drás than do the open environments, which is why more diversity would exist in the caves. At the same time, I don't want to give the impression that live solely exists in caves. On the contrary, life has found a way into practically most areas of Drás. The cave biomes simply see life forms that have adapted much differently without having to worry about the harsher elements. As such, early Drasa found shelter in caves and began some of their very first large scale civilizations in giant caverns for the sole reason of stability and protection.
11:58 22-04-2012
SN
Jan, as you may have read in my latest post, carnivore beaks and teeth are undergoing some very fast evolution right now. Their job is not to kill, however, but merely to cut lumps of food from inside a carcass. The front limbs of these same carnivores indeed come in a variety of shapes, including something resembling a can opener, and there are asymmetric ones as well. If I get back to posting old sketches I will post a scavenger with these traits.

DrásResearcher, I was wondering about the cave ancestry of your creations. On earth, there aren't that many caves per square kilometer; areas with caves may be far apart; finally, caves probably do not exist for geologically long periods. This suggests that early cave dwellers would have to evolve the ability to withstand conditions outside of caves, or else they may go extinct quickly. Once they leave their caves, you would see an explosive radiation, and after a while not much is left of that ancestry, which then forms an interesting side note. Is that the general idea, or does their cave ancestry still affect the creatures strongly now?
20:51 21-04-2012
Evan Black
DrásResearcher: Thanks for the front view. It seems like the Drasa brain is quite narrow, and I wonder whether it needs to be larger or if there's some unusual neurology at play here.

The chemosynthetic "flora" makes sense in the caves, and could form the basis of an ecosystem where photosynthesizers can't get a hold. But caves having an evolutionary head start doesn't make much sense in geological time scales. On Earth, life started in water, but that didn't stop it from diversifying on land once it got there. The same would happen with Drás' caves; unless there are features in the surface biomes that make them "less habitable" than the caves (which would need some extensive explanations), they're going to be just as diverse, if not more so, than the caves.
16:31 21-04-2012
DrásResearcher
Evan: It's not presumptuous at all! This is a front view of a female Drasa head (please forgive the simplicity! Once I get a stylus pad I will be able to make drawings more realistic)
http://i860.photobucket.com/albums/ab170/sweeneypaz/DrasaHeadFront.jpg

Also, I can see what you mean by biodiversity; however, on Drás the first place life sprung up was in caves due to early harsh conditions in Drás' formation. Therefore, life had much more time to develop and diversify in caves and tunnels before the surface was able to support life. Without giving too much information away, I can tell you that at first "plants" derived energy through chemosynthesis in the underground pools and rich hydrogen sulfite deposits deep within Drás. After some of these caverns became exposed to the sun, though, photosynthesis allowed the spread of plant life across Drás' less habitable biomes.
16:03 21-04-2012
Jan
My problem with neocarnivores´ beaks is that they do not seem like typical carnivore beaks, for example like that of falcon or octopus. It could be explained, if the front limbs look like chelae, similar in form to birds´ beaks (which btw would be very nice, since they could take really many forms. Some differentiaton between right and left ones could also take place, to combine different strategy).
I remembered some very interesting article about beaks of octopuses (and their strategy to get inside the arthropod shells), marsupial lion (the animal with strongest bite relative to its size) and terror birds, all of them with exceptional hunting tactics, but could not find exactly the right one I would want to post, so it is just suggestion.
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