Speculative Organs

Back to experiments in xenophysiology!

No one draws nostrils like Wayne Barlowe, though Phil Tippett is damn close with Jabba's weird noseholes.
No one draws nostrils like Wayne Barlowe, though Phil Tippett is damn close with Jabba’s weird noseholes.

I’ve got the body parts of at least three different creatures here. I started with the eye sketch first. The idea here is that this creature’s ancestors started out with a compound eye. They had, at the center of their eye, a separate structure, sensitive to infrared. Since then, the infrared sensor has evolved a set of three eyelids that can constrain light down to a pinhole to resolve the complex image with great facility, as well as developing sensitivity to colors toward red on one side and microwaves on the other. Meanwhile, the compound eyes give a great field of view, as well as depth perception, telling the creatures what’s going on all around it and where to point its complex, color-sensitive central eye.

Directly below the eye, you can see a nostril/blowhole. This is a feature of an air-breathing sea creature. The outer area is a sphincter that squeezes smaller when diving, while the flap holds holds closed with water pressure. For some reason, I imagine this creature with a gill system that extends its underwater time like the one possessed by all its ancestors, but air can hold so much more oxygen (or, I dunno, fluorine, or whatever absurdly-reactive gas these guys breathe) than water, that it has this evolutionary advantage over its fellow sea-dwellers by being able to gulp down huge quantities for chasing or fleeing. Maybe it even keeps the air as a reserve. I drew this sketch because nostrils are the best homage I can think of for Wayne Barlowe’s work.

The theme through the rest of this page is one that I come back to periodically, based on some fun speculation:

Over the next millionish years, humans, for whatever reason, become irrelevant to the biosphere of Earth. Maybe we went extinct, maybe we left, maybe our salient characteristics proved more trouble than they were worth and we’ve diverged into descendant primate species.

However, the benefits of social, constructive intelligence remain in the absence of humanity, and crows (common, smart, social, funny) found the benefit of, and started selecting for, social smarts.

Their ability to make and use tools (a capability they have in our time) was an important part of their development, as they learned to build shelters for themselves to expand their environment.

Eventually, the self-induced pressures of tool use favored the three major developments in their physiology: a jointed beak, a prehensile tongue, and eyes positioned far from the skull that enabled them to see what they were manipulating with their beak-fingers and tongue.

In the drawing above, sketching exploratorially as I was, I drew the eyes far too large to be practical for a flying animal (and, indeed, I’m assuming that these critters are flying). I’d assume the eyeballs themselves would, in fact, be much smaller. However, it’s given the head a shape that I really like, and it does two additional things:

  1. It gives canard wings to a bird. We haven’t had a four-winged dinosaurian for 100 million years.
  2. It gives us a mystery: no one knows why hammerhead sharks heads are that shape; or, more precisely, their weird heads do lots of things, because evolution doesn’t plan or design things to purpose.

I designed the tongue after parrot tongues. They’re fantastically delicate manipulators with multiple sections. The back, closest to the throat, is strong and covered in tough knobs. In the center is a smooth section that, in this case, acts like a carpal tunnel to connect tendons from the back to the two cilia-covered knobs in the front that are highly sensitive and, in the case of our corvosapien here, capable of changing shape to feel and manipulate fine objects.

I’ve been thinking about this corvosapien thing for a while. I think I’ll come back to it!

Do you like this speculative zoölogy stuff? I sure do. Help me make more!

Thanks to Sebastian Baker and John Templeton for batting these ideas around with me!

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