Sunday, 22 September 2013

From the Archives (VII): the Unclassifiables

The Archives contain many sketches of animals with a Bauplan that seems to be at odds or even at ends with the 'canon' shapes of Furahan life forms. Some are actually upgraded to 'canon status', such as rusps. I picked two of them out  for today's post, a short one, as work is encroaching ever more successfully upon free time.

Click to enlarge; copyright Gert van Dijk

The Takkebeest
Anyway, this one was labelled 'takkebeest', and as 'tak' means branch and 'beest' means beast, it is a branchsitter (there's another meaning too, as 'takke' can also stand for 'irritating' or 'bad'). I rather like its general shape, destined to more or less confuse the viewer. You can see that it has toes that branch following the 'Devonian pattern', stemming from a rather fat body. The upper body is equipped with asymmetrical claws. Above that, well, its mouth is separated from its eyes by a long neck. And why not? Cats can hardly see what's right in front of them, and do quite well, so why can't a takkebeest rely on propriocepsis (that's feeling where your limbs are) to deliver morsels of food to the mouth? Come to think of it, humans can't see their mouths either.
   Later a development of the takkebeest was fully developed for a painting, so this particular Bauplan was elevated to official status. That makes it 'classifiable', but I have not yet thought of a name for the group ('Takketheria'?).

Click to enlarge; copyright Gert van Dijk
The Meralgian Nutcracker
This one I labelled in English; as I realised that a book on Furaha would never be published in the -too small- Dutch market, at times I made notes in English. I think it only has four legs, so it is not a hexapod. Indeed, there is mention of it being related to the honeysucker, and that is four-legged as well. Its mouth carries impressive looking teeth, that must be designed to crush nuts. Having heavy equipment at the end of a long snout must have consequences as far as moving the head is concerned but the nutcracker looks rather solidly built, and must be able to carry this off.
  Nothing has been done with the design since, but it's cousin is there, showing that there are more body schemes on Furaha than you might have realised. Is that unrealistic? I doubt it: if you start counting the various invertebrate body schemes on Earth, you will find that there are many. on Earth, there are just not many large animals with different body plans; there are on Furaha... 


Jan said...

Wonderful as usual. Just a question, aren´t the "sharks" on the Life in the Water page also somehow unclassifiable? Their respiration routes and swimming pattern seem to be different from the cannonical furahan fishes.

Sigmund Nastrazzurro said...

Thank you, Jan. Well spotted: I painted the tubesharks before settling on what is now regular hexapod evolution, in which they indeed do not fit. I have been thinking about a solution: keeping them as yet another shape? Or plastic surgery (that would be repainting them as specialised Fish V filter feeders)

Nicky said...

Oh holy cow!! Those unclassifiliables look awesome. Can't wait what they look like with color!

Evan Black said...

It's always nice to see the designs that hit the cutting room floor. It helps illustrate the design parameters of the project.

We may not see only a few animal bauplans dominating Earth's ecosystems, but that doesn't necessarily have to hold true for any and all planets. Seeing a little more variety in the megafauna is interesting and may even help to illustrate a more competitive ecological dynamic.

However, I don't see how the tubesharks differ that greatly from the rest of the "fishes". There are some obvious differences, of course, but I have a hard time seeing them as anything more than a product of adaptive radiation. Am I missing something?

Incidentally, I can't find a search bar on your blog any more, which makes it difficult to look up relevant material (different 'fish' bauplans, etc.)

Jan said...

Evan Black: I think that furahan filter-feeders would look more like manta rays than sharks, because the other furahan fishes do not move from side to side. But maybe the tail is only a steer. Also, for a filter feeder it would be logical to suck water through mouth, but that do not seems to hold for the other furaha fishes.

Of course, there could evolve secondary connection and it could be very efficient design, because the same mechanism would add to the feeding, respiration and locomotion. As we have seen in heart or lungs, animals from Earth are far from ideal when it comes to pumps, just two of them alternating could make a continuous stream and help each other in suction.

Anyway I think that the furahan sharks simply seem too much like sharks. It would not harm the story about botanicists, if they become a little bit more exotic.

Anonymous said...

quite nice glimpses of the odds and ends of Furaha bauplans.

The Takkebeast seems to follow centaurization - the eyes appear to face forward once the upper torso and mouth rear back.

Surely the {Nutcracker+Honeysucker} clade is a side that lost a pair of limbs at some point in hexapod evolution?

all the best to you.


Jan said...

Can I ask about the lifestyle of takkebeast? It seems to me like some non-flying analogue of parrots, but I cannot imagine it to be a good climber.

Sigmund Nastrazzurro said...

Nicky: I was beginning to wonder about them in colour as well...

Evan: I have always been a bit doubtful about having many different Baupläne as large terrestrial animals, but, as you said, why not? I cannot think of a reason against them, as that would imply selection on a Bauplan laverl rather than on an individual or species level. If a body plan is inferior yes, it will not make it, but if the basic design can hold its own, why not?
The tubesharks have their tails the wrong way (vertical instead of horizontal) to be Fishes; their jaws are misplaced for them to serve as Fishes; that trait in particular seems difficult to adapt to Fishes anatomy.

As for the search bar, it was gone when I read your mail first and now it seems to be back; I did not do anything about that (!?!)

Jan: aha; you want them to be more exotic? I will have to think some more. The general shape must stay 'fishy', as I am certain you will agree.

Rodlox: the idea of the 'Takketheria' being a side branch of hexapods is interesting in view of the discussion regarding different body plans. The honey sucker and the other one I did paint do have mouths in their heads, and as such they are fairly close to hexapods. A nearly simultaneous split from common ancestry could explain them, with the hexapods the winners as far as numbers are concerned.

Jan: the takkebeest was developed as a sketch and often these simply gain form as a form, not as an animal with a plan or a purpose. In some cases I do limit the design to anatomical constraints, but these 'unclassifiables' were designed freely. As a result, I have hardly thought about their life style. But, looking at its ability to grasp branches from above and below, it must be more agile than its rotund shape would suggest. Te rest is open to conjecture!

Petr said...

Is it just me, or does the takkerbeest have more than six legs? it has the claws, but then it appears to have more than two pairs of legs on the main body. do my eyes decieve me?

Sigmund Nastrazzurro said...

Petr: you are right in that there seem to be three legs on the left side of the body. It is quite possible that I put the first ones in there searching for the best spot to place them, and then forgot to erase one. Artists who draw humans also sometimes omit or add a finger.
I may have also started drawing it with even more legs, as there are some lines on the tail that could have been the first lines of yet more legs. When not restrained by the need to conform an animal to 'known' anatomical rules, I often play around until a pleasing shape emerges, regardless of the number of limbs...

Petr said...

Thanks for the response, and I of course realize the effect and importance of freely flowing unconstrained imagination, I was not intending to be nitpicky. =)

Sigmund Nastrazzurro said...

Petr: no need to explain, your comment was quite to the point. I had not even noticed there was a limb too many. If you see a sketch often you become more or lee blind to any errors in it.

Petr said...

well the rightmost foot could just as easily be a lichen-like plant on the trunk, I was not certain. =)