Isummon_Durt wrote: »
Here is a list of observations I made about the skeleton
- If the life on 4546B features toxic blood, that would lend to the Lost River brine's toxicity as decaying matter falls into the cave.
- I believe that Vanadium is a key component of the enzymes inherent in the planet's life.
Edit: Scifiwriterguy has a great suggestion on the blood. Per my own research into cobalt for a game I'm developing, I learned that cobalt often is collected as a byproduct of dredging for copper and nickel, and that all three are found around thermal vents as material is ejected from the vents. Analyzing the terrain of the Lost River, we see plenty of nickel deposits, though copper would need to fall into the cave system from the Blood Kelp forests at the entrances. The thermal vents are present, often overgrown with pyrocoral, creating the high likelihood of cobalt presence in the Lost River.
Just did some quick digging on Titanium, and it turns out the metal is naturally occurring on Earth, being the ninth-most abundant metal on Earth. I have seen plenty of complaints by others of Titanium being found in-game, with the belief that it is a purely man-made metal. Titanium forms in igneous rock, which explains the sheer abundance in and atop 4546B's undersea volcano, either in large deposits, or in minute clumps. Titanium has no biological purpose for Earth life, yet is found is surprising concentrations. 4546B's creatures likely have concentrations of Titanium, which poses another likely metal for the Sea Dragon to absorb for its chest armor, and for the Lost River titan to absorb for its bone density, resulting in the longevity of the extinct leviathan's skeleton.
Muninn_Crow wrote: »
I thank you, Maalteromm, for your questions. I am always happy to find others willing to pose thoughtful questions. (much less partake of scientific debate! ^^) It also prompts me to learn new things for my rebuttal. XD
scifiwriterguy wrote: »
Nice work, @Isummon_Durt.
The Lost River creature that gave us the Gargantuan Fossil as the wiki calls it (I call him Snaggletooth - he's my little Lost River mascot) is a weird one, but some suppositions can certainly be made, and several of those put forth certainly hold water. (No pun.) I'm going to have to disagree on a few points, though. (Science and point-by-point stuff in the spoilers sections as usual.)
The big one is the assumption that the biology of 4546B is similar to Earth's - it isn't. There are some phenotypical similarities, but it's a radically different biology all the way down to the basics.
Principally, the biochemistry of 4546B is way, way off the Earth baseline. Every creature in the game, when injured, bleeds yellow. This is in stark contrast to Earth, where the two most common blood colors outside of the class Insecta (which contains all insects) is either red or blue. This is because iron and copper are both common and readily bioavailable here on Earth, leading to hemoglobin (iron-based, red blood) and hemocyanin (copper-based, blue blood). Yellow is a weird color from a terrestrial standpoint because yellow-colored oxygen-carrying pigments are rare and require specific (and less common) components. Specifically, on Earth, the closest we have is coboglobin, which appears yellow when deoxygenated (whereas human blood appears dark, dark red) and is clear when oxygenated. The catch is that rather than plentiful iron or nearly-as-plentiful copper, coboglobin is built around cobalt, which is a little hard to come by. It's why coboglobin is so rare in on Earth. Insects also have yellow-tinted blood, but that's not blood at all; it's hemolymph, and doesn't have oxygen-binding pigments like true blood. It's a result of an open circulatory system, which gets kinda complicated and isn't entirely germane to this discussion. Still, if you want to know, ask.
The widespread incorporation of bioluminescent compounds in macroorganisms is another substantial departure from Earth biology; here, only organisms that live largely or exclusively in the midnight regions of the oceans or in lightless caves exhibit noteworthy bioluminescence. It's a tricky and biologically expensive trait that, apart from those specific environments, serves little function.
Finally, the sheer lack of structural diversity is also an eyebrow-raiser. Most of the organisms on 4546B follow one of only a handful of basic structural configurations: eel-like, ray-like, bony fish-like, and arthropod-like. Mammalian life seems entirely absent, as do a whole host of other classes in Terran taxonomy. It's a weird setup which we can explain (or at least handwave away) by saying the planet used to be more biodiverse but the carar led to mass extinctions.
So, while some of the creatures on 4546B look reminiscent of things we have here on Earth, it's only skin-deep; their basic biochemistry is substantially different, their evolutionary tracks are different, and, well, they're the products of an alien ecosystem. Having terrestrial-pattern creatures everywhere in the galaxy is a symptom of lazy writing, but people accept it because of Star Trek.
Points with which I have no quarrel at all: estimated size of 1200m; resultant extreme caloric requirements; a possible ancestor of stalkers; it's not an eel.
It's big, and big things need lots of fuel. There's a pretty clear - although not conclusive - comparison of the dentition on the skull with a stalker, and while the skull is heavier and shorter, it's not difficult to see how selection pressure could favor the longer-snouted, thinner-boned architecture of a stalker over time, particularly in the environments they inhabit.
Realistically, this creature could represent a common ancestor of stalkers and reapers; millennia of evolution could easily account for the minor phenotypical differences. However, it's worth noting that nature favors forms which are most efficient for a given environment, so parallel evolution cannot be entirely discounted, either.
A particular thumbs up is due for the statement that it's not an eel. It almost certainly isn't, and, as stated, it's likely a reptile. Specifically, an aquatic legless lizard. Legless lizards are often mistaken for snakes but when you take one apart, its skeleton is the same as a lizard, just minus the limbs. In the case of the skeleton we see, this is a good explanation, particularly as the ribs appear to be bony and not some lesser structure.
Where we start to diverge: So ancient as to be an ancestor to rays; went after smaller prey; stupidity; body shape.
While unlikely this thing is an ancestor - however deep - of rabbit rays, we can't rule it out entirely without some detailed testing like a genetic panel. (This is also why modern taxonomy is in such an uproar; bad things happen when you make assumptions based on how something looks.)
Something this big is going to need to do one of three things, or a combination: eat literally tons of small prey, go after larger but more dangerous prey, or have one damn slow metabolism. Humpback whales get by with filter feeding despite having a body weight around 66,000 pounds. They strain out plankton, krill (a favorite) and small fishes from the water as they swim, consuming an average of 5,000 pounds of food per day. The bigger the critter, the more they need to pull in; blue whales eat up to 8,000 pounds of the same foods per day. Now, Snaggletooth was about 1,200 TIMES the size of a blue whale, so if its total mass and metabolic rate were anywhere near comparable, it'd need to choke down about 4,800 TONS of food per day just to break even. That's a lot. So it's unlikely; unless there were some much larger and/or more energy-dense prey back when it lived, it would've depopulated the planet by itself. Ergo, its energy demands weren't that extreme. The two easiest ways to jack down energy requirements are to eliminate endothermism (go "cold-blooded") and let the thing sleep a lot. Crocodiles are a good example here. They eat infrequently, sleep much of the time, and their body temperature fluctuates with the environment. That saves a lot on caloric requirements, probably enough to make this thing plausible. The other thing we can do is assume that Snaggletooth didn't hunt. Considering its body shape, dentition, and likely caloric needs, patrolling looking for prey would be wasteful. Instead, it's more likely it was an ambush predator, hiding in its cave and snapping on anything that moved close enough to be eaten. Ambush predators have very modest caloric requirements compared to mobile predators, and would explain a lot in this situation. So, when you shuck right down to it, giant alien moray eel (but not an eel).
"Stupid" is a relative term, but could it have even approached sentience? Maybe. Sapience? Probably not. A sentient creature experiences its world subjectively, and that does not require "intelligence," merely consciousness, so we can take that one almost as a given. (Sci-fi notwithstanding, "sentience" is not exactly an accomplishment. If it's operating on anything better than reflex, it's sentient. Your dog is sentient. The earthworm he's eating is not.) The problem here is that the thing is so dang big, almost too big. Titanosaur Argentinosaurus huinculensis was only 39.7m long, so that's not even in the running against a blue whale. This monster has its size working against it for one basic reason: its nerves. In your body, the fastest nerves are involved with proprioception - your ability to know where all your bits are in 3D space so you can move, interact, and basically live as a human - and they top out at a conduction velocity of 120 meters per second. At 1,200 meters long, if you bit Snaggletooth on the tail, it'd take 10 full seconds for that message to get to his brain, and another 10 back for a response. And 120m/s is about the best we can do on Earth (or at least that we've seen). And the whole dinosaur butt brain thing? Yeah...total myth. So we're stuck with one of two possibilities: a distributed nervous system or a damn slow central one. Given the size of the skull's potential braincase, I'd personally lean toward a distributed nervous system with ganglia handling local operations. (This is the "secondary brain" system @ranmafan mentioned, although they're entirely reflexive and don't make decisions; they're not "brains" so much as a "wad of neurons.") Of course, this means operating largely on reflex, and there goes sentience out the window. But if you do that, you don't need a spinal cord anymore, which would mean this thing was either an invertebrate or was the weirdest damn vertebrate that ever lived. If it's really an invertebrate, then it's a eel with bony ribs (which transcends weird) or is something for which we have no terrestrial analogue.
Lastly, we can't assume a flatter body shape regardless of its thermoregulation. Lizards are flatter so as to be more thermally efficient while basking. But human beings are also flatter than round for entirely different reasons. Most creatures are flattened.
Disagree strongly: position of spinal cord; eye count; depth limit; skull fins; precursor trolling.
A spinal cord technically can be placed just about anywhere, but it needs to be protected and can't get in the way of other structures. Having one installed on your ventral side is a whole lot of problems. So where's the spinal column? @Muninn_Crow had a decent hypothesis, although that kind of torque on the neck would be problematic (the skull should've ended up on its side rather than spun 180 degrees.) Assuming it's not the mutant bony eel possibility, it's still there. I just blame Hollywood for the confusion. See, skeletons aren't naturally articulated, and that skeleton has been there awhile. Once decay takes out connective tissues, a skeleton just kinda...falls apart. Take a look at a whale fall sometime. It's a pile of bones, not a skeleton that could be recognized. It's entirely possible that once the skeleton dearticulated the vertebral bodies just fell into the mud and sank.
Assuming one of them isn't a sinus of some kind, I count six eye sockets. Of course, it's possible that one of them is a sinus for cooling the brain (brachiosaurus did the same thing), but it's unlikely. They all look like orbits.
There's very little to limit Snaggletooth's depth, even if he is somehow an air-breathing creature. Whales don't get the bends (or "fizzy seltzer blood" which conjures up such a great image - I used to use cherry soda for classroom demonstrations for just that reason). Decompression sickness only occurs when you perform gas loading while under pressure. In English, that means that only if you're breathing while under pressure can you get the bends. Whales take a deep breath on the surface, dive, swim, and resurface to exhale and do it again. Human freedivers do the same, and despite falling to depths of up to 214 meters (that'd be Herbert Nitsch) they won't get the bends either. Only by breathing gas at depth does the blood load more gas than it can hold at surface pressure. (It's also worth noting that the gas involved is nitrogen, not oxygen. Pure oxygen can't give you the bends. It can kill you in no fewer than a half dozen other ways, but not the bends.)
No way to tell what the soft structures of the creature looked like. Without an actual, preserved-in-situ fossil to work with (like a mud fossil) we can only make educated guesses based on skeletal structure. Nothing on that skull necessarily points to fins.
I really doubt the precursors had the inclination (or the time) to fool around with a skeleton to convincingly confuse some alien paleontologist that may or may not survive being shot down by their giant flashlight from hell.
Maalteromm wrote: »
Titanium isn't the best insulator, although it has many other advantageous properties which might justify its use. And even with the best insulator out there, the Dragon would still need either an effective way to shed off heat or display a very high body temperature (to the point of being extremely exotic by Earth standards).
Maybe the Dragon has some sort of "biological thermoreactor" (almost scifi magic) and is able to extract energy from the surrounding heat, only resorting to feeding when in need of specific nutrients.
BIPPITY wrote: »
Anyone pick up on the fact that the upper and lower front canines are perfectly in line and would prevent it from ever closing its mouth. Which it also wouldn't be capable of because it doesn't have a joint between the mandible and the skull.
Yeah this doesn't really mean anything I'm just highlighting that these skeletons are very poorly designed.