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Martian physiology: The Mantel

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Martians are covered by a tough mantle of non-living integument, produced by a ring of tissue on the top of the head and held in the mouth at the bottom of the body. The mouth slowly but continuously pulls in the mantel and eats it, at the same rate as it is produced at the top of the body. The mantel is tough and airtight, formed by millions of ribbon-like filaments with zipper-shaped interlocking edges. Where they are produced at the top of the head, they must be preened and made to lie parallel (see Martian mating and childrearing). Oil is produced from glands in the skin around the origin of the mantel and spread across its surface by action of the tentacles, improving its insulating qualities until the mantel is nearly airtight. The inner side of the mantel is likewise coated in mucus, which seals ruptures in the mantel and makes it more resistant to gross physical damage. Commensal organisms and parasites may often be found living in this lining (see Martian lice, Martian scale, the black dust).
The mantel functions as biological armor against the elements. Kept at a consistently higher temperature, air pressure, and humidity inside than out, it is a cloak not of invisibility to sight, but of invincibility to the harsh cold airlessness of the Martian desert. In this, the Martian’s native environment, pressure differential causes the mantel to swell like a balloon (see sketch above left), but on Earth, the mantel cannot be inflated and hangs loose (see sketch above right, with a Gentleman for size comparison). This causes health problems for the Martian, most notably hyperventilation (as the Martian instinctively gasps, trying to pump air into the chamber) and infection (as bacteria tend to multiply in places where the mantle folds). There are several ways to ameliorate or prevent these issues, used by different Martian factions to suit different lifestyles (see strutting, dreading, tightening, immersing, replacing, shearing).
The mantel is breached in five places. The first is at the top of the head where the mantel ribbons are produced. Mucus and continuous grooming and pleating of the mantel ribbons reduces leakage, and artificial skull caps seals it. Some leakage also occurs at the bottom, or “skirt,” of the mantel, where the greater tentacle clusters push through, and the material enters the mouth. A complex system of valves and chambers has evolved to combat this problem, and is often enhanced further by clothing. (see Martian clothing) The mantel is parted at the top of each eye, and then rejoined at the bottom, creating the distinctively clownlike Martian visage. Mucus seals around the eyes’ lenses prevent air and water leakage, although we are told there is considerable leakage of heat through these orifices. The most profound connection to the outside air is through the hole made by the siphon, or breathing tube. Often erroneously called the “mouth,” this simple V-shaped hole is cut through the mantel integument by teeth on the edge of the siphon through which the Martian may breathe. On Mars, exchange of gasses need take place only once every two hours or so, and for the remainder of the time, the hole is sealed with mucus. On Earth, however, most Martians keep their breathing holes permanently ajar, creating the gasping action remarked upon by so many earthly observers.
This is a project where I am extending the history begun by the eminent H.G. Wells in War of the Worlds. As far as I know, this creature matches the descriptions he gives in his book. Let me know what you think.

This color picture replaces an earlier black and white sketch. I'm working on a short story based on this concept. More soon.

The original discussion of the idea: ([link])
Map of mars: ([link])
Continents of mars: ([link])
Martian races: ([link])
Martian religions: ([link])
Martian economic blocks: ([link])
A short story written in this universe: [link]

More...maybe, if there's interest
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anonymous's avatar
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TOKISHTOYSHobbyist General Artist
bensen-daniel's avatar
It is! Especially since it's happening at the same time as the "cracks" in the sun! Dun dun DUN!…
WatcherInThePuddle's avatar
WatcherInThePuddleHobbyist Traditional Artist
Dude, I love those legs so much! I just feel that their body is too elongated though.
bensen-daniel's avatar
I agree. I think it should look more like a canatlope than a watermellon
indigomagpie's avatar
Do the Martians actually eat people, or did the narrator completely misunderstand something else he was seeing?
bensen-daniel's avatar
Well, the First Expedition conquistadors ate people, but those guys were crazy. Chosen by the Doctrinal Empire for political correctness rather than intelligence, half-starved and half-insane with cabin-fever after three years in space, maddened by sepsis of the mantel and surrounded with precious water, they didn't behave like civilized Martians. Now the Second Expedition were much better prepared.
I have a time line of all this somewhere, I think.
rosutu's avatar
This is interesting, in many ways. The notion that the Martians interacted with mankind after the story proper, their use of protection coming here again, their tripod gait still possessing 4+ points of contact, the VERY original idea of nations and cultures amongst the alien species...etc.
bensen-daniel's avatar
Thanks a lot. I wrote a short story about it---might do more in the future. :)
Tripod64's avatar
Tripod64Hobbyist General Artist
B-but...Martians are octopus-shaped bulks with two bunches of tentacles on either side, not phallic owls on stilettos! This goes against everything I stand for, and it must be cast out! These Martians are only demons in disguise! I shall smite them with my prayers! I shall burn them with my holy cross! I shall-
bensen-daniel's avatar
Phallic owl? I love it.
Actually, I'm not as satisfied with this one as I used to be, since I found a way better picture of a Martian here: [link]
GeneralZadrek's avatar
Aww... And the War of the Worlds will never be the same again.
bensen-daniel's avatar
:) A short story from this universe is coming soon, I hope :)
Drhoz's avatar
DrhozHobbyist Traditional Artist
I believe that Wells rewrote parts of his book for later editions?

Also, ever seen the comic Scarlet Traces? Steampunk post-invasion Britain.
bensen-daniel's avatar
Well I recently downloaded one, so I'll re-read it and make sure that everything in my interpretation matches the original.

Someone else mentioned Scarlet Traces, back the first time I trotted this concept out. I haven't read the comic, but it looks like the idea is that the Martians never returned (or if they have, they've been marginalized) and England reverse-engineered their technology.

My interpretation is more like the Age of Imperialism, with the Martians playing the part of the European Powers. So humans didn't take advantage of Martian technology any more effectively than the Cherokee([link])or Zulu people ([link]). And even these guys seem to have mostly benefited from horses, which reproduce by themselves and don't need an industrial-military-complex to support them.
In this alternate history, Europe reacted to the invasion more like Tanna people ([link]) than Japan ([link]).
Drhoz's avatar
DrhozHobbyist Traditional Artist
*nods* Yes, the premises are very different. Yours being a logical outcome had the Martians won, Traces being the outcome since they lost.

*reads the links*
bensen-daniel's avatar
Right. I also think it's interesting to extend Wells's logic (as he says in the introduction, this is a SEE HOW YOU'D LIKE IT scenario, with the Martians playing the part of the English as imperialist colonizers). Wells's Martians conveniently died off, but I'm interested in seeing how they would have built a colonial government if they hadn't.

(yeah, I need to read that stuff in more detail, too)
Drhoz's avatar
DrhozHobbyist Traditional Artist
It's amazing how many genres Wells originated
thomastapir's avatar
thomastapirStudent General Artist
This looks awesome, Daniel! I'd go so far as to say it might be the most successful digital piece I've seen from you yet. Nice work!

Wow, I'd forgotten about that whole awesome discussion on the alternate "Martian colonial" universe...Brings back memories!
bensen-daniel's avatar
Thanks a lot! I'm glad you like it, but what makes you say it's successful? I didn't do anything particularly different from usual, as far as I know.

Yeah, sorry I deleted whatever you wrote on the original martian sketch page, but I have all the information in that huge comment.

Anyway, I'm in the process of writing a short story about these guys. More on them soon.
thomastapir's avatar
thomastapirStudent General Artist
You know, I'm not sure, man....Maybe it's just the quality of the drawing itself. It also seems to me like you're using color with more subtlety, and there's a really nuanced quality to the tonal shading in this one. I also like the little details like the highlights on the ridges of the mantle, especially where it bulges out over the "knees" (?). Yeah, overall I just think it's a really nice piece.

Looking forward to it!
bensen-daniel's avatar
I like the bulges around the knees, too, and I'm not sure what I did. Maybe it's the longitudinal stripes---they let me visualize the shadows more clearly. I'll try something similar next time.
M0AI's avatar
M0AIProfessional Digital Artist
Awesome! This is a very plausible, alien, and fully-realized concept, Daniel. The mantel idea is very interesting! I've already read your discussions of Martian politics and religions, but now I think I need to go reread them, to catch up, and simply to enjoy some interesting material.

As an aside, though, I have species of alien in my Ring universe that is quite similar in appearance. Similar columnar body ending in stocky limbs that curve up into manipulator tentacles after the "foot." The details are significantly different, but the general shape is quite similar. In fact, there's a small sketch of it in one of my earlier Deviations: [link] . I'm not bringing this up to speculate about whether one of us influenced the other in these particular designs, since I'm pretty certain the resemblance is coincidental, but so that you won't be surprised or offended if and when I post a more refined drawing of that alien, since they are indeed similar.:)

Anyway, that aside was longer than my actual comment. Sorry about that! Awesome stuff once again.
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