Life Forms – Wyzdom

LIFE FORMS

Wyzdom hosts a variety of wholly alien life forms. Only a fraction , some 238,000, of Wyzdom’s estimated million species have been classified. Most is known about the life forms on Chiron. The oceans and the other continents remain to be studied in detail. Studies to date indicate that life evolved quite separately on the five major continents outside the arctic regions. This fact is not surprising, for the continents are far more isolated from each other, and have been so for a much longer period, than the continents of Earth. Totally distinct classes fill the different ecological niches on the various continents, but certain basic physiochemical similarities exist between all of Wyzdom’s native life, possibly because, as on Earth, the life of Wyzdom originated in the sea.

Vegetation

Plants constitute the majority of individual species on Wyzdom, as they do on Earth, but there are no forms as advanced as the angiosperms, the majority of Earth’s plant species. The class of angiosperms includes the flowering, fruit-bearing plants of greatest importance to Humans, since all our food grains, edible fruits, and most vegetables come from them. Angiosperm seeds develop in an ovary at the base of a flower, but no plant native to Wyzdom uses this kind of reproductive mechanism. In some native species, seeds develop in cone-like structures, while in others, seeds develop on the underside of leaves, very like large spores.

Many species employ true spores, in lieu of seeds, similar to Earth’s ferns, while others have no reproductive organs at all, but multiply by dividing. These plants send out a long root which pushes up new foliage. After the foliage develops, the connecting root dissolves.

The plants of Wyzdom resemble the plants of Earth in superficial ways, so natives call them “grasses,” “shrubs,” and “trees.” Most plants employ a green substance resembling chlorophyl for photosynthesis. Hence, from a distance a forest of Wyzdom looks like its Earthly counterpart. Only on closer inspection do the differences emerge.

Brown bark covers some Wyzdomite trees while others possess great green stalks up to 25 centimeters in diameter. At lower elevations, the trees are shorter than those on Earth in order to withstand the high wind forces. The strength of the wood of many of Wyzdom’s trees far exceeds that of any wood on Earth, while other Wyzdomite trees contain soft, flexible cores that allow them to bend without breaking in the high winds. Fewer species of native trees lose their leaves each season and some broad-leafed plants remain green throughout freezing winters.

One class of plants unlike any other on Earth are the chlorofungi. These large plants, with the structure of mushrooms, reproduce using spores. Colored green, they derive half their nourishment by absorbing decayed or living organic material and half by photosynthesis. Some grow quite large and resemble the giant toadstools of Alice in Wonderland.

Animals

Animals on Wyzdom also appear less evolved than those of Earth. The only warm-blooded creatures are flying animals that resemble birds. Zoologists divide them into four classes; some sport feathers, others do not. Although some flying species lay eggs, others birth their young alive. Although some possess mouths with teeth, others have horned beaks and no teeth. At lower elevations, large predatory “birds” fill the ecological niches of large predatory mammals, like lions and tigers on Earth. The largest of these captured to date weighed more than 45 kilos. These extremely dangerous birds can fly only in the dense air at low elevations. Lowlanders protect themselves against them by encircling their living compounds with ultrasonic fields. When venturing outside protected areas on foot, all lowlanders, even children, carry ultrasonic beam generators that repel the birds. Although most Wyzdomites frown upon wholesale slaughter of these magnificent predators, on extended exploratory trips, pioneers carry laser guns as well.

Smaller, cold-blooded animals, similar to Earth’s reptiles, and amphibians, live on the ground. They fill a wide variety of niches in the food chain, but most are relatively harmless. Few have scales like Earth’s reptiles, and few are found a t latitudes greater than 50°. Even smaller creatures, with structures resembling Earth’s arachnids or insects, can be found on all land masses. They generally lay eggs that can survive freezing winters. The most common class, called “inocts,” walk on eight legs and have evolved into a wide variety of species. Inocts aren’t harmful to people since they have little interest in Humans as food and do not carry Human diseases.

The nocht months and am months influence the behavior of Wyzdom’s land life almost as much as do the seasons. Many plants grow only in the am months and retire to a semi-dormant state in nocht months. A variety of inocts and cold-blooded animals remain active around the clock in am months. Many inocts emerge from their eggs only during am months. The constant light of the am months influences even the warm-blooded birds. They use this period to force-feed their young to rapid maturity.

Marine Life

As on Earth, Wyzdom’s oceans teem with life. More than 70 percent of the photosynthesis that produces breathable oxygen takes place in the seas, but little is known about sea life. Most people on Wyzdom don’t live near the water and the oceans have little commercial importance.

Wyzdom’s “fish” resemble their Earthly counterparts, but no warm-blooded sea creatures have been found to date. Several varieties of 12-legged “octopus,” nine-pointed “starfish,” and creatures resembling giant sea slugs, sea urchins and anemones are present. A highly-mobile abalonelike monovalve is among the most interesting shellfish. Seaweed abounds, but as on Earth, microscopic plants in the sea produce most of the planet’s oxygen. Of greatest interest are a class of photosynthetic, swimming “animals.” Although they produce part of their energy from sunlight, they derive the rest from filter feeding. These small creatures extend filigree arrays of light-catching tissue several times the size of their bodies while floating motionless in the water. If a potential predator approaches, they can retract it and swim away so quickly that they appear to vanish in the wink of an eye.

Microorganisms

Microorganisms ranging from viruses to highly mobile, one-celled plants and animals flourish in Wyzdom’s air and water. Their structure strongly resembles their Earthly counterparts, but when scientists probed their genetic code, they found a fundamentally different organization. Consequently, Wyzdom’s microorganisms have not yet posed a health hazard to Humans. Ironically, the low incidence of native diseases may prove harmful in other ways. Wyzdom’s natives have begun to lose their immunity to Earthly diseases. Should such diseases then be brought from Earth by immigrants, they could have as devastating an effect as common measles had upon the Polynesians when Europeans first settled the Pacific Islands. Viruses indigenous to Wyzdom also may mutate into forms harmful to people. For these reasons, the Wyzdom Institute for Disease Control constantly researches the microbiology of Wyzdom and monitors disease control activities on Earth. When infectious outbreaks occur, Wyzdomites should be able to contain them without any large scale plagues.