|Classification||Varies, Chemosynthetic Base|
|Locomotion||Sessile, Swimming, Flying|
|Speed||Varies, mostly very slow|
|Strength||Nomad=Strong, Flyer=As human|
|Social Structure||Small Pods 1d6|
|Reference||Ronald B. Kline, Jr.|
Physiology & Ecology
Thick mats, and growing masses of fibrous organisms cover soil substrates near geothermal vents. Amorphous and asymmetrical, the somatic structural tubes of these species loosely resemble the hyphae and mycelium of fungi. They are not strictly nucleated nor cellular in nature. The bodies of the larger macroscopic species are composed of specialized “tissue” bundles held together by complex hydrocarbon polymers. There are photosynthetic autotrophic varieties tuned to the wavelengths of light which penetrate the exotic atmosphere. The biochemistry is strange, the structures are replicated polyesters and resins. They are synthesized from aromatic and aliphatic hydrocarbons. The terpenoids are common in particular. They degrade and metabolize toluene anaerobically, using nitrate, iron (III), or sulfate as electron acceptors. Alkylbenzenes, such as m-xylene or ethylbenzene are utilized by a number of strains. Because of the cold environment the pace of life is extremely slow and gradual. Humans are hot and fast compared to these organisms. The native biosphere is reliant on cryoprotectants with thick colloidal suspensions to keep their tissues from freezing solid all the time. As it is most of the vent biomes experience prolonged periods of being frozen solid. Life had adapted to exploit opportunistic heat sources. Feeding and breeding occur while the energy levels last, before the next freeze hits. Their heptane and pentane based circulatory fluids don’t freeze until nearly -129 degrees C. Their respiratory functions focus on obtaining nitrogen and nitrites from the atmosphere. NO2 cycles to ammonium and eventually into nitrates with NO3. At higher temperatures and in the presence of diatomic oxygen most of these species are explosively combustible. These cell-like fibrous structures can rapidly divide and multiply in number. They can reorganize and dynamically reconfigure themselves in response to environmental triggers. They don't truly move, they grow to where they are stimulated to be. This taxis can be triggered by gravitational field strength, chemical concentration gradient, thermal energy reception and pressure changes from surface contact. This effect is similar to thigmotropism and hormone analogs moderate the reaction.
Life Cycle & Reproduction
There is no sexual reproduction as such. There are no genders among these organisms. They begin as planktonic spores. They emerge from seasonal blooms from the vent communities. Injured “adults” don’t really bleed when attacked, they release clouds of hydrocarbon and benzene encapsulated endospores instead. Wind or fluid borne these spores are initially photosynthetic autotrophs. Eventually clumps of these slimy polyester bound nodules accrete to form thick sticky mat colonies. The bottom layers are composed of saprotrophic decomposers. The middle layers specialize as thermally triggered chemosynthesizers using the pathways mentioned above. The surface and superficial layers are thin filamentous photosynthesizes. All “species” on this world emerge from these colonies of tacky mat.
Diet & Trophics
There is a free swimming lifeform that haunts the shallow hydrocarbon seas and lakes. The natives refer to them as tacky nomads.
Non sentient, bilaterally symmetrical, poikilothermic, heterotrophic consumers, they are 723kg fully grown. They are 6-7m tall standing upright. They have a broad tapered torso, the ventral ribbed keel resembles the hull of a shallow boat. The dorsal resin shell plating is also segmented. A frilled ridge runs the length of the body from the back of the head to where the two legs attach. This dorsal ridge is motile and can be raised to act as a sail. Wind assist allows them to conserve energy while drifting. When they emerge dripping from the dank oily fluids, they walk upright on their two thick hind legs. Motion without true muscle fibers is remarkable. Rapid reorganization to fibers and tissues allows a response akin to contractile motion. Because of their low energy levels and the extremely low surface temperatures, they move slowly. They are bipedal with two powerful segmented swimming legs terminating in broad splayed feet with four webbed and clawed toes which have a flutter kick pattern as they churn through the seas. Two powerful segmented arms with three rotating sections, end in four webbed fingers. The hands act as broad paddles and control steering and contribute pulling the beast through the water at a steady 2kph rate. They slowly migrate as large amphibians across the desolate surface from one liquid environment to the next. The mouth is surrounded by nine short feeding tentacles, lined with chemoreceptors akin to olfactory and gustatory chemical detection. The anterior “head” is surmounted with five eye stalks, two eyes are specialized for telescopic distance vision above the surface, two for shorter range IR scanning below the waves, and one is used to track UV levels for seasonal variations which control their cycles of life. There is no true nervous system, chemical "cell" signaling gradually diffuses from one fiber bundle to the next down concentration gradients. They are slow to react to environmental stimulus. The organism basks near the surface of the hydrocarbon seas for warmth, and the ventral surface is lined with seven pairs of filtration vents. Contractile muscular pumps pull fluids through the body and expel it quickly from paired venturi, for sudden bursts of speed, when escape is necessary. The organism filter feeds on microscopic life forms that drift in the fluids of these exotic seas and lakes. They can also opportunistically graze on thick floating mats of spongy microflora and fauna with the anterior “cranial” mouth parts. Their true function within this bizarre ecosystem is to move nutrient acquisition equipment from one liquid environment to the next, under difficult conditions which would be impossible for the sessile colonial forms of life. Because they can swim and are amatory they developed to exploit resources farther from vent colonies. Even if caught in the open and flash frozen, they eventually thaw and continue their migratory trek and or restless search. They are relentless and grow extremely slowly over their long lives. Think more redwood than rat. These seem more assembled than born, and their growth is often associated with the gathering of other organic resources, although the biochemistry of this world is vastly different from most "organic" systems.
There is a flyer, an intermittent consumer form, with a 39m wing span. The natives call them flying mat. These wings are composed of carefully aligned fiber bundles arranged in long stands. These filamentous strands form a cross linked mesh which effectively catches the atmospheric gases of this world. A membrane selective ion channel gated cascade makes them move. A depolarizing ripple from wing root to wing tip makes the wing oscillate, several times per second. This vibration causes thrust over the vast surface area of the wings. They mass 48kg full grown. Their purpose is to search for other mineral rich zones and any areas of warmth. They soar and glide, scanning with five eyes tuned as the swimming form, but utilized differently. They also exhibit four clawed appendages. The front pair of arms can be used for movement and for grasping. The rear pair are used for legs. These forms develop very slowly over vast life spans and travel until the reach new terrestrial sites suitable for colonial exploitation. The tacky mat establishes itself and the wing form decomposes into the simpler forms in a massive spore release. This release is also triggered if the form is attacked or damaged. While conducting their search patterns they collect nutrients from established vent communities along the way. They gradually climb into the faster jet streams in the upper atmosphere to rapidly relocate to new growth medium resources. Gliding and flying is not a taxis, these energetics are different. Either form, if broken or damaged by circumstances, accidental or deliberate, can be rebuilt and reformed from tacky mat colonial resources. This remanufacture feature makes is difficult to accurately gauge their longevity. Some of the striding nomads have been tracked and data recorded on them since the first outsiders landed here. The locals have names for them and school children track their glacial movement rates.
History & Background (Dossier)
What is truly strange is that these macroscopic swimming and flying forms are not found in the fossil record of this planet. Before colonization all life on the planet was colonial and microscopic. The macroscopic forms developed too rapidly to be normal evolution. The tacky mat colonies activity levels spiked as aliens from the stars brought more warmth and energy to the surface of the planet and the climate changed. As a result the tacky mat colonies began to develop these forms as if by design to more rapidly reach remote locations, previously devoid of life. The forms are tailored to exploit the habitats available. A superficial resemblance to humanoid shapes has been noticed by xenobiologists. No other life forms on record have used biomimicry on this level before.
Travellers' Aid Society Advisory
Quick and agile by comparison, moving humanoids are in little danger as long as they don't sit still too long. Floating and flying forms move faster with help from the planetary winds. However, if hindered or blocked, they slowly react and static structures are then in jeopardy. They can crack rocks and destroy structures in their way, very gradually. This is akin to a tree weathering and growing slowly through solid rock. They can exert enormous pressure and force with their limbs and bodies. They will fracture and crack concrete and steel buildings, in their way, eventually if given a chance. What looks like movement is actually extremely rapid growth.