bensen-daniel's avatar

Animals of Router

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Following this one: [link]
I thought you might like to see some of the animal forms for the different biotic zones.

Z-1: No large animals, only worm and slimemold-like burrowers and the diverse zoophytes produced by the plants.

Z-2: (tape tree zone). The rigid, metallic "skeleton" of the Z-2 macrofauna runs in a helix shape between the internal organs and the outer cuticle. Hard claws on the bottom edge of the helix grip the soil, and the animal moves by contracting and relaxing the helix in waves. For faster movement, they can stand on their tails, compress the entire helix at once, then launch themselves into the air by spring action. (don't ask me what they breathe, since the plants on their home-world consume oxygen)

Z-3: (antler tree and borehole zone). Sometimes called "macrodiatoms," these amorphous animals secrete a silica test around themselves. The most common grazers (land urchins) range from the size of golf-balls to basket-balls, and move by sliding around the inside of their test, extruding their bodies through the hollow tubes in their test to digest plant matter. Other forms include burrowers and the giant wheel-zillas (seen in more detail here: [link])

z-4: (puff ball zone) On a planet that never evolved the protein actin, these animals use collagen and water pressure to move their branching limbs. They are therefor rather slow-moving, but have evolved a secondary system of ratchets and resilin "springs" to trigger sudden movement.

Z-5: (prism tree zone) The most earthlike animals on Router, with contractile muscles, internal skeletons, and bilateral symmetry. Most notable for their possession of a single row of limbs down the ventral side.

Z-6: (babel tree zone) Animals on this world grow limbs by extruding pectin-filled bladders into a mesh of bone spicules. The animal sequesters magnetic minerals throughout this mesh, and when stimulated by electrical signals from the brain, these magnetic bundles attract each other, causing the limb to contract.

Z-7: (deathray moss zone) Though superficially similar to giant insects, these animals have more in common with the growth patterns of echinoderms, described by one observer as "basically a stack of sea-urchins." There is also evidence to suggest that these creatures left their ancestral ocean as fliers (perhaps at a time when their planet was flooded), and only later colonized the land.

Z-8: (kelp tree zone) Hard skeletons never seem to have evolved on this planet. Instead, its hoop-shaped animals build armor out of found objects (sand, rock, sponge, and plant material). Most intriguing are the eusocial "toy-maker worms," colonies of which build and pilot complicated wheeled vehicles. Power is derived from the worms themvles, which twist their flexible hoop-shaped bodies around their machines, storing tension which they then release when they want the vehicle to move forward. Individually, these worms are not intelligent, but the behavior of large colonies exhibits striking complexity.
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anonymous's avatar
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Heytomemeimhome's avatar
I really like the animals from the zone the six their design is very interesting.
TheAmazingKopout's avatar
You say the toy-makers are eusocial. Just how do you mean? Is each "vehicle" actually a swarm of worms each with specialised jobs (builder,motor, queen, pilot, ect) or is there a hive with a queen and builders and the vehicles are just semi independent parts of the hive that only have motors and pilots?
bensen-daniel's avatar
That's a good question, and I don't see why they can't have both. Probably the ancestral form has a sessile hive that constructs mobile toys for groups of workers to operate. The equivalent of swarming might be to outfit vehicles with their own queens and workers and send them off to start new hives. One group of mutants never settles, but instead enlarges their vehicle into a mobile command center, which might send off smaller rovers full of workers.
ART5EC's avatar
ART5ECHobbyist Digital Artist
Great job, I really like the silicate test creatures. I don't know about the wheel so much, seems like it has a bit of an implausible lifestyle (but then again so does a cicada, I guess). But the land urchin is one of my new favorite animals, fictional or not.

The magnetic limbs is an interesting idea. Is it a defense mechanism or does the animal actually have some kind of magnetic muscular system?
bensen-daniel's avatar
Well, the big wheel doesn't move very fast. Maybe it's also a photosynthesizer?

Yes, the animal actually has a magnetic muscular system. I got the idea from...boop!
[link]
ART5EC's avatar
ART5ECHobbyist Digital Artist
That's an interesting idea I will have to put some thought into it. See if I can come up with more unusual muscular systems. I had an idea for one that used air from lungs to move muscles...
bensen-daniel's avatar
It would probably be easier to use fluid to move muscles (which takes less application of pressure to do anything). Although I just read an excellent short story by Ted Chiang...here ([link]) that uses...well, you'll see :)
ART5EC's avatar
ART5ECHobbyist Digital Artist
Niiice.
AmnioticOef's avatar
Wow, thanks for sharing that.
A-H-R's avatar
The Z-5 creatures are the only ones that really look "off" to me, since it appears more cobbled together than it really should. The one that looks like a Beaver, anyway.
bensen-daniel's avatar
I have to admit they weren't my most inspired idea. Maybe I'll do a redesign.
labgnome's avatar
labgnomeHobbyist General Artist
Z-1: I could potentially see this world evolving highly complex slime molds that have cells that can transform between four, five or even more different forms, as opposed to just the maximum of three here on Earth. They may also have multiple different forms.

Z-2: Metabolisms include, sulfur, witch they might "eat", Arsenic, also "eaten", at least in the presence of Router's presumably oxygen dominated atmosphere. Nitrogen fixing, assisted by alkali/alkali-earth metals, might also work. Finally they could consume carbon monoxide, possibly in conjunction with "eating" arsenic.

Z-3: I can see some interesting possibilities, especially with the "wheel" body-plan. Being able to use their own momentum to assist motility, might give them an evolutionary edge, especially in certain terrain types or biomes.

Z-4: I just have to say I love that you've included fractal symmetry in your animal body-plans!

Z-5: They look like something that took a vertebrae-like evolutionary rout form a proarticulata-like ancestor.

Z-6: I can imagine them also being able to "see" or magnetic fields or "sniff-out" the magnetic or conductive properties of materials, with senses completely alien to us. Also if they o ave eyes, witch they might not even need, they would probably "see" into, or completely in the infra-red.

Z-7: Could they possibly be colony animals, perhaps with each "urchin" being a specialized zooid for the larger colony? Are there examples of flying animals form this biome as examples of their ancestors for this hypothesis?

Z-8: Are most complex "animal" phyla toroidal, or just the "toymaker worms" and their "closer" relatives?

Possibilities to also consider is that on some world the biological "distance" between "plants" and "animals" might be different from here on Earth. They could be much closer, possibly both belonging in the same "kingdom" or close "sister" kingdoms like animals and fungi on Earth. So they would possibly share cell-structure, similar reproductive gametes, and other features while remaining psychologically distinct.

Alternately the plants, or animals could be simply belong to a very specialized phylum, or phyla, of the other's "kingdom". An example might be an animal phyla that acquired photosynthetic symbiotes, and evolved to become more plant-like, or a plant phyla that acquired animal-like characteristics through any number of paths, such as first acquiring motility, engaging in predation or losing photosynthesis, until becoming something very unlike the rest of its "kingdom".

Finally they could be so "far" from each other they would belong in separate "domains" of life. They may both have "eukaryotic" levels of complexity, but may have evolved convergently, or even employ completely different "cellular" strategies.

I'm also assuming these are examples of the "large land animal" phyla of each of these zones. There could easily be other body-plans that correspond to more "bug-like" ecological niches, or even the aquatic niches.

PS: you may want to put thought into where on their particular planet they originated.
bensen-daniel's avatar
>>highly complex slime molds<<
That is an awesome idea. I'll think about what that might look like (...a worm?)

>>Z-2<< Arsenic-eating and C0-breathing would make sense, given the metabolism of plants on their homeworld. Is that plausible, chemically? Would oxygen be helpful or harmful to them?
>>Nitrogen fixing, and sulfur-eating<< Could those two be combined with arsenic-eating and CO-breathing?

>>Z-4: fractal symmetry in your animal body-plans!<<
It actually comes all the way from college, where a professor said "animals have fixed body plans, plants are unfixed." These are also the guys from [link]

>>Z-5: proarticulata-like ancestor.<< I was THIS close to stealing gliding symmetry from you. :) Maybe I still ought to.

>>Z-6: <<
Good points. Magnetic and heat senses will be useful on their dark homeworld.

Z-7: I like the idea of making these things colonial like salps. Okay, consider them such.
The one with goofy wings is a flying form, but it needs some more thought and a redesign.

Z-8: I was thinking to make all the animals on this planet toroidal. What do you think?

Plant/animals: Z-1 has you covered. :)

Although I do like the idea of mobile, predatory "plants." Maybe I'll work that in on the babel-tree planer. Some plants have to give up on photosynthesis entirely.

Bugs and aquatic niches: Yes, although I haven't thought about them yet, and to avoid insanity, I've decided that this area of Router is landlocked.

>>where on their particular planet they originated<<
So far I've only laid down the basic bauplans for animals and plants in each zone. But yes, different wormholes will open onto entirely different climates. Earth's wormhole is in the New Guinea Highlands, but on Router, it opens onto a dry, temperate alpine system like Western Montana.

Another animal I just realized I ought to include somewhere is a Greg Bear-type "genetic computer" organism, that can lay eggs that hatch into something useful for the environment it finds itself in. Those things would be extremely competitive on Router.
labgnome's avatar
labgnomeHobbyist General Artist
>>That is an awesome idea. I'll think about what that might look like (...a worm?)<<

They would be real life "shape-shifters", so they may have a worm-like form available like the "slug" stage of this guy [link] they may even have slightly more complex forms with temporary rudimentary tissues or even organs.

>>Could those two be combined with arsenic-eating and CO-breathing?<< Perhaps is some species as facilitative alternatives when carbon-monoxide or arsenic levels are to low. However I think that may simply be "too many" metabolic systems for one organism. Generally organisms don't employ more than a couple of metabolic pathways, and even then even more rarely more than one of those at once.

If you wanted to do that one route might be to make the animals "symbiotic associations", similar to lichens, with different types of organisms that each have a different metabolism or set of metabolisms. They are all probably tied together by sharing metabolic pathways, so you could have as many different organisms living in symbiosis. Arsenic + Carbon Monoxide, producing Arsenate and Methane; Arsenic + Sulfur "lithitrophs", producing Arsenine and Carbonyl Sulfide; and Carbon Monoxide + Nitrogen, using Lithium, producing Cyanogen and Nitric Oxide, while also storing Lithium Nitride.

>>I was THIS close to stealing gliding symmetry from you. Maybe I still ought to.<<
If you ask it's called "collaboration".

>>Z-8: I was thinking to make all the animals on this planet toroidal. What do you think?<<
I think that would be interesting, a world with creatures of "toroidal" symmetry, how is their body actually organized, digestive system, ect? They probably have "primitive" creatures, like our "jellyfish" with different body-plans but those might just have not made it to Router.

>>Plant/animals: Z-1 has you covered.<<
I was thinking of the different roles still being in different organisims, but that they are closely related "cousins" or one is just a highly specialized group of the larger "kingdom".

>>Although I do like the idea of mobile, predatory "plants." Maybe I'll work that in on the babel-tree planer. Some plants have to give up on photosynthesis entirely.<<
That's actually more like what I was thinking. Plants that became "animal like" or animals that became "plant like" but still belong "inside" one group or the other. They would be physically and ecologically distinct, but share common ancestors.

>>Another animal I just realized I ought to include somewhere is a Greg Bear-type "genetic computer" organism, that can lay eggs that hatch into something useful for the environment it finds itself in. Those things would be extremely competitive on Router.<<

I've always found "DNA altering" organisms a bit contrived. They would have to somehow "know" how to change their own genetics in response, or to encode the information. I think something with a highly "flexible" morphology woudl be more likely.

Something you might be able to use is the "slime molds" from Z-1, though they may not be as versatile on their homeworld the varied environmental pressures of Router may have forced them to be able to adapt themselves, in even more diverse and extreme ways. Some may have the ability to take on spherical morphologies to roll vast distances, like some giant marine protists, some might grow short stubby legs on their "slug" form, giving them a "caterpillar" form, some may be able to take symbiotes form their environment, like photosynthetic algae-like organisms, or organisms that allow them to adapt to the environments of of Z-2 or Z-8, really the adaptive possibilities are endless as long as there is a vacant niche for them to fill.
bensen-daniel's avatar
I like the idea of a slime-mold-like ancestor giving rise to a more complex animal with extremely plastic morphology, probably as an adaptation to life on Router (it has been 100 million years, after all). Not as sophisticated (and unlikely) as Bear's "genetic computer," this creature's cells are all pluripotent, and under different environmental conditions, they do different jobs (I suspect the most important changes they make are metabolic, to allow this thing cross zone boundaries)

>>symbiotic associations<<
Very interesting. I can see some forms of this behavior evolving as ways to carry your ecosystem with you (for example, the floating islands could contain the proper mix of organisms to make their biochemistry self-sustaining, no matter where they float on Router). A more sophisticated version of this behavior would be a swiss-army-knife aggregate, where there is at least one partner in the association that can use the environment to make food for the others. These things would be first-wave successors, colonizing areas that are such a disastrous mix of toxic chemicals, nothing else can live there.

possible chemical pathways: this one is going to take some thought, and I need to remember my chemistry better.
So we have
C02+H20=>02+C6H1206 (terran photosynthesis)
As03+O2=>AsO4 (tape trees)
CH4+H20=>H+C6H12O6 (kelp trees)

but now we need some pathways to provide us with As03 and CH4.

then you proposed an association of pathways:
As+CO+H20(?)=>AsO4+CH4
As+S02+(some source of carbon?)=>(what is arsenine?)+ocs
CO+N2+Li(something?)=>(CN)2+NO+Li3N
Are these three different pathways, or do they interact? (and damn, the last one is horribly toxic!)

Well, how about I use gliding symmetry in the redesign of Z-5?

>>"toroidal" symmetry<<
I think the primitive ones (on the order of complexity of a nematode) digest things with their inner faces. The toy-maker worms are actually part of this branch. Other, more complex animals, simply elongate the torus into a tube, and we end up with terran-standard worm-like bilateral symmetry.

I think the plastic slime-molds, as the substrate for a symbiotic community, would be an excellent candidate for the Ohmu-type arbiters of zone boundaries.
labgnome's avatar
labgnomeHobbyist General Artist
>>but now we need some pathways to provide us with As03 and CH4.

then you proposed an association of pathways:
As+CO+H20(?)=>AsO4+CH4
As+S02+(some source of carbon?)=>(what is arsenine?)+ocs
CO+N2+Li(something?)=>(CN)2+NO+Li3N
Are these three different pathways, or do they interact? (and damn, the last one is horribly toxic!)<<

I propose an arsenic metabolism along these lines:
1(As6)+15(H2)+6(C4H8O4)=>6(CH4)+6(AsH3O4)=>CH4+(AsO4^3-)+18(H+) with the Arsenate ions being used to form the arsenic equivalent ATP.
As6, being Arsenic's common mineral form. You could also use hydrogen slufide, producing sulfur, probably red sulfur or S7, as a by-product.

A sulfur metabolism along these lines:
S8+C4H8O4=>4(H2S)+4(COS)
S8, being sulfur's common mineral form. You would also need "sulfur cycle plants", to run the process in reverse, producing sugar and depositing sulfur.

The sulfur and arsenic "eaters" might also be able to "eat" realgar (As4S4) or other arsenic sulfides, basically running both systems at once.

I also propose a Carbon Monoxide metabolism along these lines:
4(CO)+1(C4H8O4)=>4(CH4)+4(CO3); with CO3 quickly being broken down 2CO3+2H2O=>2(CO3^2-)+4(H+)+O2 for a "proton pump", or 2(CO3)=>2(CO2)+O2 for "aerogenic chemosynthisis"

Finally I propose a nitrogen metabolism along these lines:
N2+6Li=>2(Li3N); which is then stored to be used in respiration for: 4(Li3N)+1(C6H12O6)=>1(C2N2)+2(NO)+12(LiH); finally if necessary 2(LiH)+1(C2N2)=>2(HCN)+2Li or 2(LiH)=>2(Li)+H2 to complete the lithium cycle.
Lithium being necessary as it will "burn" to produce lithium nitride in a nitrogen atmosphere, even in the absence of oxygen.

*Note, I've use the simpler four-carbon therose sugar, for some of the reactions but glucose should also be possible you would just have to re-adjust the proportions of the other compounds.

>>Well, how about I use gliding symmetry in the redesign of Z-5<<
Sounds good to me

>>I think the primitive ones (on the order of complexity of a nematode) digest things with their inner faces. The toy-maker worms are actually part of this branch. Other, more complex animals, simply elongate the torus into a tube, and we end up with terran-standard worm-like bilateral symmetry.<<
Wouldn't they wind up with two side-by-side digestive tracts, nerve-cords and other body systems?
bensen-daniel's avatar
Just read here [link] that butyl methyl sulfide can convert electricity into rotation. It stands to reason that the opposite is also possible. Perhaps this is how the Z-6 magnetic-muscle animals switch their muscles on and off.
labgnome's avatar
labgnomeHobbyist General Artist
They could also use weak bio-electric current to align iron crystals in individual cells, using an electron or proton pump. As long as the cell has a way to control the direction of motion along the cellular membrane, they could use that to control the shape of the cell in question, as well as creating a self-amplifying magnetic field. In simple animals these cells could serve as "muscles". In more complex animals these "electromagnet cells" could be the walls of a ferrofluid "circulatory system", allowing not only expansion and contraction along one direction of motion but multiple or even more drastic changes in shape. This system could function as both muscular system and a hydrostatic skeleton.

I imagine their biochemistry and biomechanics as being somewhere in-between "earth normal" and a complex version of hypothetical "iron-sulfur life".
bensen-daniel's avatar
Oh wow. I hadn't thought about biological ferrofluid. It could make this thing look like anything.
A potential problem: if you had two organisms standing next to each other (or even two limbs), would their magnetic skeleton/muscles interfere with each other?
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bensen-daniel's avatar
Thank you so much for the chemistry help!
1(As6)+15(H2)+6(C4H8O4)=>6(CH4)+6(AsH3O4)=>CH4+(AsO4^3-)+18(H+)
What if we switched out sulfur for arsenic here? Then this metabolic pathway could be for whatever eats the hydrogen produced by kelp-trees, and provides them with methane to manufacture more H2.

The reason I want to switch out arsenic is using Arsenate ions instead of ATP should belong to the tape-tree biome.

S8+C4H8O4=>4(H2S)+4(COS) and the opposite. Could be a cycle maintained by fungi and micro-organisms in the kelp-tree biome.

>>4(CO)+1(C4H8O4)=>4(CH4)+4(CO3); with CO3 quickly being broken down 2CO3+2H2O=>2(CO3^2-)+4(H+)+O2 for a "proton pump", or 2(CO3)=>2(CO2)+O2 for "aerogenic chemosynthisis"<<
Do we have a pathway that produces carbon monoxide?

I'm not sure what to do with the Lithium nitride cycle, although it sounds cool.

So I see two places for these alternate chemical cycles:
1) Accidental changes in global biosystems after the planets were linked up to Router (as with the tape and kelp trees)
2) Bio-systems that evolved ON ROUTER to take advantage of the borders between biomes. For example, if my biome produces lithium, but yours doesn't recycle it, lithium will build up on your side of our mutual border. Same for whatever you produce and I can't use. Over time, the border will grow into a wasteland filled with unusable organic gunk. That's a great open niche for micro-organisms, which will detoxify the soil and pave the way for re-colonization. I see the biome zone boundaries as constantly growing and contracting as neighbors poison and take advantage of each other.

And by the way, this is something that will make Router VERY profitable for Terran explorers. Need to clean up the arsenic in the soil of an old gold-mine? Router has evolved microbe communities, plants, and even animals that clean that soil, then die when they run out of arsenic to metabolize.

>>Wouldn't they wind up with two side-by-side digestive tracts, nerve-cords and other body systems?<<
I don't think so. Stretching out the torus would leave the digestive tract on the inner face of the new tube, and give more room for the ring-shaped brain and heart and so on.
labgnome's avatar
labgnomeHobbyist General Artist
>>The reason I want to switch out arsenic is using Arsenate ions instead of ATP should belong to the tape-tree biome.<<

It was intended for the tape-tree biome, but I wasn't paying attention and assumed that the tape-trees completely reduced the AsO4^(3-) all the way to pure As.

>>Do we have a pathway that produces carbon monoxide?<<
Again, this path was intended for the Tape Tree biome.

>>I don't think so. Stretching out the torus would leave the digestive tract on the inner face of the new tube, and give more room for the ring-shaped brain and heart and so on.<<
Ok, I suppose what I was envisioning was more of a "flattening out" of the body.
bensen-daniel's avatar
Sorry, I feel stupid about this, but I've looked at the formulas backward and forward, and I don't see the connection between.

1(As6)+15(H2)+6(C4H8O4)=>6(CH4)+6(AsH3O4)=>CH4+(AsO4^3-)+18(H+)
and
4(CO)+1(C4H8O4)=>4(CH4)+4(CO3)
2CO3+2H2O=>2(CO3^2-)+4(H+)+O2 or 2(CO3)=>2(CO2)+O2

They don't seem to have anything to do with each other.
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whalewithlegs's avatar
Very very cool, man ... this pulls together so many interesting ideas. I like them all, but Z8 - highly intriguing!

These look similar in some ways to some of my early Muir creatures, before it was really a cognizant project. It's kind of cool to see the same thought processes taking place ... geometrical and HOX-alteration body forms come first. Actually, I should show you my files, if you're interested.
anonymous's avatar
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