Spectember #22: Land Dolphins 2 – The Beakening

And so we finish Spectember as we started… with ridiculous land dolphins!

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Spectember Interlude: Furahan Biology

Created by Gert van Dijk, a Dutch professor of neurophysiology and a talented artist (often writing under the name Sigmund Nastrazzurro), the Furaha project has been in development since 1979 – starting as a series of paintings of speculative alien creatures, and eventually expanding to detailed essays on their anatomy and ecology.

Set on the planet Nu Phoenicis IV, Furaha documents the natural history of the world and its plants and animals using paintings, illustrations, CG models, and even animations to show how their limb arrangements work. Although only a small number of organisms are featured on the main site, the associated blog provides much more information, including the incredible amount of scientific background that goes into the creation of the Furahan ecosystems.

Few specevo projects are this rigorous, with van Dijk using physical and biological constraints along with computer simulations to figure out the biomechanics of how Furahan creatures live and move, from the giant millipede-like rusps to the four-winged flying tetrapterates to the swimming membranes of the cloakfish. One of the most heavily debated subjects over the years has involved trying to determine if floating balloon-like “ballont” animals are actually possible.

The blog also occasionally discusses other elements of speculative biology and creature design, including reviews of other spec projects and media.

A fully illustrated book version of Furaha is currently in the works – although being a solo project entirely in van Dijk’s spare time it’s very much a “it’ll be done when it’s done” situation.

Spectember Interlude: Bird Is The Word

Serina is a huge and ambitious speculative worldbuilding project by Dylan Bajda, better known as Sheatherius or Sheather888.

Set on a fictional habitable exomoon, roughly Mars-sized but with enough density to give it about 75% the gravity of Earth, the world of Serina was initially terraformed with a very specific goal in mind. Many species of microorganisms, algae, plants, fungi, and invertebrates set up and stabilized the starting conditions in a mostly-tropical climate, along with a few small live-bearing poeciliid fish in aquatic ecosystems. But on land just one vertebrate species was ever introduced – the domestic canary bird, Serinus canaria domestica.

And, like a massive-scale version of how impoverished island ecosystems often evolve in strange directions in isolation, the initial colonists of this world went to diversify and flourish over the next 300 million years. Ants briefly dominate the early ecosystems and then go on to develop complex symbiotic relationships with bamboo plants, sunflowers become trees, guppies begin to adapt to terrestrial lifestyles, and derived canaries fill a wide range of ecological niches in the air, land, and seas, with some forms even experimenting with mouth-brooding eggs or live-bearing their young.

As time goes on the inhabitants of Serina become increasingly weird and alien compared to their ancestors, shaped by changing climates and devastating mass extinctions. Examples include tentacle-faced birds, highly successful and diverse mammal-like terrestrial tripodal fish, giant manta-ray-like sea snails, and a particularly bizarre lineage of birds with metamorphosing life stages.

With detailed descriptions and numerous lavish illustrations in Sheather’s characteristic art style (all done entirely with a mouse in MS paint and GIMP!), Serina has been in development since early 2015 and is currently still ongoing, with the timeline now in its finale and approaching the end of the moon’s habitable period.

Sheather has also created several other spec projects, including the deliberately fantastical setting of Sheatheria, its successor/reboot Pluvimundus, and the monkey-world Atelemundus (created as a commission for grazatt).

Tomorrow: alien biomechanics!

Spectember #19: Flightless Bats

(Giant Flightless Bats From The Future are bit of a specevo meme, so of course I had to include some this month.)

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