Arunde Armored Halovore
|Arunde Armored Halovore|
|Classification||Scavenger/Reducer & Saprotrophic Decomposer|
|Size||(~1 m) / (10 kg) when in free swimming phase|
|Weapons||Special (corrosive chemicals, ECM, ramming with spines)|
|Homeworld||Arunde (Core 2603)|
|Reference||Ronald B. Kline, Jr.|
The Arunde Armored Halovore is a species of bizarre decomposers, which possess an unusual biochemistry adapted for the exotic nature of their home planet Arunde (world). The name halovore, refers to their habit of digesting compounds filled with halogens and their methods of anaerobic respiration. They undergo a metamorphosis between mutually interdependent floating, swimming and sessile life cycle phases.
Physiology & Ecology
The ecosystem of their world strains what typical sophonts understand about biochemistry and ecology. They are saprotrophic scavengers and reducers. They decompose organisms with chemistries poisonous and toxic to most unprotected sophonts. They release digestive enzymes from networks of fibrous spines. These are left in carrion and develop. The by products of their respiratory electron transport pathway are halide ions and dehalogenated compounds. Extruded layers of halide crystals built up at the exhaust ports of gas exchange organs. These jagged salt layers provide some short lived prismatic protection versus laser weapons and more limited protection versus kinetic energy impacts. Vast swarms of the free swimming iridescent green rods slip through the hydrocarbon soups of the world's fluidosphere. Free water and oxygen are not found here. The lack of oxygen makes jets of hydrogen an effective method for propulsion for the motile phase of this species. When carrion from other equally unusual species is located with low energy radar, the free swimming swarms coat the bodies with spiny barbs. These serve two functions, they dissuade hijacker and intimidator species, with a tendency to steal kills and it serves to introduce the immature sessile phase of the organism.
For sensory perception of and communication within their complex marine fluid environment they use biological radar, radio waves and passive EMS arrays. A complex organ with metallic salts and crystals produces bursts of low energy, low frequency radio waves. Piezoelectric cubic octahedral lead(II) sulfide crystals similar to galena, allow a near solid state radio wave emitter and transceiver arrangement. This allows the species to signal other members of its species. If disturbed the sessile form of this organism will shatter purpose evolved, and adapted defensive crystalline structures to release a powerful radio frequency burst to jam, dazzle and disorient would be predators. These radio waves scatter off the metal and plastic bodies of species here and is assisted by the partially ionized electromagnetically conductive state of the fluid "oceans" of this world. The hydrogen jet propelled rod also has several hundred sets of "eyes" tuned for EMS reception from the infra red through the ultra violet portions of the spectrum. There are parallel sensory wiring laterally arranged down the 1m length of the free swimming form. These passive arrays are 90 degree offset from the dorsal and ventral emitter/receiver arrays tuned to the radio portion of the spectrum. In this case the atmosphere permits radio waves to reach the surface of the planet from the system's primary. Some of the local autotrophs utilize this energy source to catalyze their respiratory pathways.
Free hydrogen is sequestered with pressurized PVC tubes. Thousands of spiny hollow filaments coat the prickly body of the free swimming green cylindrical rod. Minute pressured releases of hydrogen ions allow near perfect submerged agility and evasive maneuverability. The protons render the pH of the fluid so low, it swims through its own acid. There are no gas bubbles as the highly reactive protons are immediately incorporated into the chemical compounds of the fluid seas. Free oxygen would be disastrous in this environment, at these temperatures. The lightweight, low density hollow body cavity is a matrix of layers of chemically inert polyvinyl polymers. The central cavity is a maze of pumping sleeves, fluid static tubes, conduits and anabolic and catabolic "organs". There is no microscopic cellular structure as such. The whole organism is one large functional unit. Like one giant cell, except made out of inorganic materials and not subject to the surface area versus volume, and surface tension limitations of "normal" phospholipid bilayer fluid mechanics.
When food is located and coated the spiny surface coating is shed and replaced. Rods dock to obtain enough energy to replace their spiny coatings. Rods must return to colonies with energy while they wait for new decomposer colonies to develop, grow and establish an exploitable energy bank. Mature decomposer colonies use radio lure signals to attract free swimming rods. The rod's spines are the result of the anaerobic respiration. The halogen compounds reduce into salty crystals which, when combined with certain metals provides structure, support and strength. The acid/base neutralization reactions keep the pH of the fluid seas in balance. However, water is never permitted as a secreted chemical product. A layer of highly organized polymer assembly machines arrive with the spines, shed by rods who impact the bodies of dead "animals". The newly arrived colony building spines saprotrophically reorganize the bodies of the recently deceased into a larger sessile form. The mass of these PVC plastic tube networking forms is limited only by the size of the carcass they land on. Colonies of these can be several metric tons if available food supplies permit. Before the food is gone the decomposer has to build energy reserve plastic fruit clusters. These are used to feed the more energetic motile stage. As these fluid wanderers navigate the hedgerow of spines and crystalline thorns, they do not always return to the colony that built them. As adaptive templates and growth construction patterns adaptively emerge, this fabrication software is "genetically" exchanged when the rods dock for food. As the food supply dwindles and the growth party nears its sad end, as much biomass as possible is converted into the reproductive spores. Docking/feeding/resting rods exchange patterns and templates with more developed sessile colonies. Each arriving rod can deliver new patterns and templates for adaptive manufacturing. The hugely adaptive, and mimicking free floating spores are released into the fluid column. What remains of the colony is further recycled by other, smaller species. Speciation on this world occurs in this planktonic, often autotrophic phase. Some species are radio wave triggered, carbon chain synthesizers, and others are chemosynthetic. These spores are small, but macroscopic. These gritty, particulates float in the currents of the world's fluid oceans. What adult forms they develop into is anyone's guess. All ecological niches are provided for within competitive limitations. Some of the bigger heterotrophic consumers are truly spectacular.
Life Cycle & Reproduction
It is the free swimming rod structure that drew early scientists' attention. This prickly body is cylindrical with rounded ends. It develops from a free floating, near planktonic, plastic spore. This tiny form masses a few grams and is a chemosynthetic autotroph and uses its anaerobic respiration to obtain energy from molecular compounds released by native organisms' digestional byproducts. As it grows the body undergoes a metamorphosis into the larger 1m long, 10kg free swimming form. It is still strictly speaking a chemosynthetic autotroph, with a catch. To truly feed, to build up more massive energy stores it docks with a larger sessile colonial form. Its function is to wander, using its sensors to locate corpses of local fauna. It signals members of its species and these sub-surface jet propelled marauder swarms descend on the energy source in need of nutrient and energetic recycling. The spiky coating left behind sets up shop as a chemical depolymerizing factory. As this form grows more massive, defensive layers of salty crystalline armor accrue. This sessile form is the truly armored stage. The PVC layer thicken as well as the saprophyte grows into its food source spreading out a complex geometric network of plastic nutrient recovery feeding tubes. Ampules of densely energetic "fruiting" bodies in coatings of polyvinyl polymer accumulate as the host carcass is dissembled. Clusters of the free swimming form dock with these food bearing pods and load up on food storage molecules. The stalks and stems of these iridescent forms were seen as quite beautiful, if a little breath taking, by early Vilani colonists and later exploring Syleans. As the food concentrations dwindle, the clusters of free swimming rods set forth to find more bodies in need of resource recovery. The sessile form releases the tiny floating spores when ever the rods dock and detach. The concept of genders in the traditional sense doesn't really apply to this species. The replication "enzymes" are non protein based. The bodies of these organisms look like they were made on a three dimension printer. Nano particles facilitate synthesis and decomposition reactions. As anaerobic energies permit the organism extrude more polymers to build the next layer of its organs and bio-machinery. Non cellular assembly sites akin to rows of non-protein ribosomes, jigsaw puzzle together complex polymers like blind watch makers. They are chemically powered by the same reduction reactions.
Diet & Trophics
This species of decomposers are on a tight energy budget. They use a form of anaerobic respiration called reductive dehalogenation, more specifically a form of reductive dechlorination. They are obligate anaerobes due to the lack of free oxygen in the exotic atmosphere on Arunde. This biochemistry has a pretty good reduction potential but requires that certain developmental stages of this organism are free floating and another phase is sessile. They recycle halocarbon compounds. They are built from thick layers of polyvinyl chlorides (PVCs) polymers. In simpler terms, they breath deadly halogens and are made from plastic. These materials were commonly understood to be strictly inorganic and inimical to life. They can circulate concentrated HCl and uses ketones and esters to digestively dissolve their organochloride foods.
History & Background
They are thought to have possible uses for hazardous waste clean up on worlds with problems with the aftermath of lower technology industrial manufacturing. That is, provided the dangerous nature of their chemical processes can be dealt with. Several square kilometer shoals of free floating plastics for example, could be converted into their biomass.
Until the true nature of the ecosystem on Arunde was better understood, several early colonial efforts ended in total failure with significant loss of life and capital outlay.
The tiny local human population of the world mainly works free lance for off world concerns. Large overt megacorporate efforts are ill advised. Export of these organisms is done mostly in secret, a poorly kept, commonly known secret. Companies held by near endless layers of proxy fronts and anonymous holding companies, on lower technology planets, with large hazardous waste problems can use these seemly inorganic organisms to eat their problems. Spills, leaks and contamination is seen as food to their digestive and energetic processes. Containers of these organisms don't test as living, because most "life" detector machinery ignores PVCs and such as inorganic, it looks like plastic packing material on the scanner. Of course processing planets who use their living waste disposal engines must be really careful. Free hydrogen diffuses through all kinds of "air tight" seals. Many species of sophont have a strange habit of breathing oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide around these beasts. It can also be difficult to explain to customs officials why your living hazardous waste machines keep jamming all radio and radar signals in their vicinity at seemingly random intervals.
Travellers' Aid Society Advisory
In small numbers this species is chemically harmful. In large numbers in their native environment they can be dangerous for the unwary. Not only do they possess the ability to eat several forms of synthetic colonial technology as tasty food, if it is left lying around, they wreak havoc with most forms of radio communication and radar based navigation making other forms necessary to survive on their planet.