1. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    History of life in your science fiction story.

    Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Wreybies, Sep 16, 2009.

    I was chatting about lizards and salamanders with Dave today and it gave me a question. (I love conversations that give me questions)

    I always try very hard to think about the why of my science fiction beasties. Why are they the way they are? How did evolution mold them? What were the materials at hand for evolution’s work? What were the stresses that brought about change?

    I have every book imaginable on speculative evolution because of this.

    So my question is this:

    If you take evolution sufficiently far back, you have to have some sort of starting point. Even here on Earth, scientists posit the idea that life may have arisen more than once and was squashed down and obliterated only to start again given the propensity for life to evolve if the materials are available, which they are here on Earth in abundance.

    What if previous starting points of life had not been completely squashed out? What if there were lineages of life, all on one planet, which never converge at some point of commonality because that point does not exist?

    Now, continue with me for a moment, please.

    What if the laws of probability rolled the dice in favor of allowing descendants of these completely disparate lines of life to continue on into the future to compete against one another in the game of life.

    How might this alter the evolution of life on a planet?

    What are your thoughts on the probability of such a scenario?
     
  2. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    If I'm reading this right, you're suggesting that during a time before our own evolutionary whatevermajig (so back as far as, say, jellyfish) something else started, went dormant and everything started over again from the soup and became us...

    And what would happen if the old stuff came back and was like "sup"?

    I guess there's a couple of things that could happen. I mean, realistically you'd expect carbon-based life forms seeing as we're split from the same mould, built to exist in a oxynitrous (made up) atmosphere with gravity and all that. Basically it'd be a biological version of two different cultures from completely different continents meeting - there'd be differences, but similarities.

    On the other hand you could just go Predator/Xel' Naga/Warhammer 40k and mess everything up completely - our world is built on the ruins of an ancient and dormant race.

    But what it boils down to is that xenofauna is xenofauna, regardless of where it comes from, and there are heaps and heaps of real life examples of ecosystems accommodating, dying or retaliating in response.
     
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, no. I mean all the way back to the first chemical processes that crossed the line from being non-living to living. I mean the very beginning.

    I mean this:

    The spark of life glimmers into being on two completely separate points of a planet. This initial spark of life is unique at each point. Life continues forward for these two different and unique ways of being alive.

    I don't mean that they come up out of the ground to wreak havoc on this, our world. I mean a world where these two (or three, or four, or however many) manners of existence manage to survive on into the game of life.
     
  4. Dcoin
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    Dcoin Contributing Member

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    I think there would be a dormant gene, within life itself, that would continue to develop without the primordial do over, yet never expressed. Eventually it would create an advanced life form but not an alien, rather the ultimate expression of that long dormant gene.
     
  5. losthawken
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    losthawken Author J. Aurel Guay Role Play Moderator Contributor

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    It always amuses me how people think that because an incredible improbable event seems to have occurred it must have been inevitable or even common...

    Dissents on the origin of life aside;), I think this is a great question and a great idea! I too put a lot of thought and effort into my sci-fi beasties.

    I've recently been thinking on similar lines but with a different twist. Biological life is in competition primarily over food-resources. But what if a different form of life had different limiting reagents?

    I've been trying to rationalize a crystal-based life form (as opposed to an organic molecule based like ours). Also, how about a gas phase fluidics system instead of our liquid blood.

    Anyway, I'm not sure where to go with your questions except to say that I've been thinking them too. Telling the actual thoughts in detail would take a whole novel...
     
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  6. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    If two completely different life sources began on the same planet, how is that different from two different life sources on two identical planets meeting each other?

    Xenofauna == Xenofauna =P
     
  7. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Actually, we are thinking very much along similar lines, you and I. :rolleyes:

    Now extrapolate the question out one more level:

    The scenario has played out as I have described and there is a creature which evolutionary pressures molds into sentience.

    What would be the concepts of life that this creature would have given that it has been given a very different palate from which to draw it's ideas, concepts, faiths, mythologies, and sciences?

    No need for actual concrete answers. Just thoughts on the matter.
    I'm a Pisces. I have little use for answers, but questions are for me an incurable vice. ;)
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Interesting that you should raise this, because over the last day or two I have been reexamining the basis of the life forms in one of two SF novels I'm working on, and how their biochemistry is inimical to ours but not deliberately hostile or predatoiry.

    My colonists can (hopefully) survive this world. The native life forms are sufficiently different that we aren't food for them and vice versa. We are mutually at best non-nutritious, at worst poisonous to one another.

    However, both biochemistries would compete for the same resources. I don't believe tey could both have evolved on the same planet. One would have developed first, and the other would never gain a foothold long enough to develop to self-sufficiency. Proto-life is too fragile.
     
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  9. losthawken
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    losthawken Author J. Aurel Guay Role Play Moderator Contributor

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    I haven't been able to work that out quite yet. In the example I'm using for myself, my crystal based creatures live in deep space, use solar radiation as energy and I'm toying with the idea of justifying a few bends in the rules of physics to have them generate their own matter for building materials (don't worry E=MC^2 still applies).

    In such a scenario evolution itself would operate on different rules. I could foresee evolution progressing through the unique development of 'eternal' individuals as opposed to happening through successive generations. Each organism would grow more and more unique by collecting 'mutations'.

    Sounds cool, but how do you get conflict out of such an idea? Every story needs a conflict. What would motivate you if you didn't need to compete for resources and could just contemplate the universe for eons without interruption?

    Perhaps they could compete for the 'mutations' trying to devour one another to gain new properties... hmmmm... I may be on to something...

    *hurrys back to his 'creative writing folder' and opens an unfinished project*
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Keep in mind that in deep space (i.e. between star systems) solar energy is practically nil. Do you mean planetary space within a star system?

    Sorry to go off on a tangent, but thought this might have some bearing on your xenology.
     
  11. losthawken
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    losthawken Author J. Aurel Guay Role Play Moderator Contributor

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    You're right. I was using 'deep space' a little loosely, I meant planetary systems that are far from the reaches of human technology.

    Your idea on biochemically incongruent (not sure that's a good word or even a word at all :cool:) co-inhabitants is interesting. It seems like if it is a major premise you could expound some interesting tenants of economics. Unfortunately I fell asleep in economics class and can be of no further help.

    Good luck!
     
  12. TWErvin2
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    I guess it would really depend on what niche or areas the two life strains would inhabit. Maybe one is based on DNA, and the other on some other 'chemical trait foundation' to pass on while reproducing in some way.

    I would imagine they would compete against eachother. If one were not dominant over millions of years, then they would still both exist, at least where they have a common territory they compete for space. Maybe they would not compete for food or resources as they would be on totally different levels. One needs a certain kind of material to fuel themselves, while the other could care less (up to a point).

    If you go by evoloution, however, and survival of the fittest, where the two come into contact and compete, one would be driven out (or to extinction) over the many millions and millions of years, I would think.

    There are types of bacteria and such for example that don't need oxygen to metabolize. They can live in areas where there is no oxygen source, so they would not compete with other organisms in their space. They could possibly compete where there was oxygen, if they were equally or better fit and adaptable.

    Kind of rambled a bit, but hope that makes a little sense--and I think it was on the topic of discussion.

    Terry
     
  13. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    What if that other branch also evolved into something like dinosaurs, and something like a raptor evolved into a humanoid rather than a rat-like creature as we believe we came from. rat-like creature, to monkey like creature, to ape-like, to human.

    So raptor-like, to lizard-monkey- to reptilian ape, to reptilian human.

    Perhaps they still deliver children via egg. Or maybe they are similar to marsupials. Or maybe they lay a few eggs at a time.

    What if an aquatic creature like the octopus, which are extremely intelligent BTW, evolved into a humanoid? Or just into a creature of human intelligence. Could it's tentacles form legs or anything like hands after it walked on land for many generations? Or how would tentacles evolve to make land mobility easier?

    If an orchid can evolve to resemble a female wasp in shape, pattern, color, and smell, hell, anything is possible.
     
  14. luckyprophet
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    luckyprophet Member

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    I'd like to be nearby Jupiterian

    This reminds me of Verne's Time Machine ...

    I have to admit that, however I work with futurism, I never think of alien lifeform or future. But I thought about bringing J. Verne's work here, because he thought it.

    I can't see any interesting answers to futuristic lifeforms. To me -- please read that twice ... -- to me, it's too speculative, and makes no sense. It all depends on the purpose of your writing. Why do you write about the future? I have my reasons, but what is yours?

    As you said, you like conversations that give you hints for thoughts, questions. I think every futuristic stuff has such a character: "it could be like this, that noone ever thought before: what do you think (scientists, philosophers, religious people, &c.)?"

    I put some questions to scientists: "Hey, scientists!: it might be easier than mankind have been thinking, what do you think? ...", like Verne's trip to the moon. He knew nothing about it, but, a century after that, people were doing it, because it was ... near enough.

    If you wish to question the origins of life, you might try to come up with something new, because there are a lot of "aliens" in "sci-fi" today, but serious scientific stuff? I can't see any! Alien lifeform doesn't make sense to me. Now, how would you convince me that it makes sense at all?

    P~
     
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  15. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    My reason for this particular question and thought process is this:

    I am a staunch Multiculturalist. I feel (personally) that Globalism is a rather dangerous lie.

    Science Fiction at its best should be a venue, a platform, to speak about aspects of the human condition which might be sufficiently too disquieting to be able to speak about them plainly without damaging the reader or being simply too much of an affront to the reader's sense of self.

    This particular notion of two completely disparate life forms, utterly unrelated to one another, inhabiting and having as birthplace the same planet, is an analogy, a method for me to explore my inner personal beliefs on multiculturalism and my view of the human condition from that aspect.
     
  16. Franz Hansen
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    Franz Hansen Member

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    There was an episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea that dealt with this.
     
  17. Chinspinner
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    Interesting question.

    Firstly I would say that whether the lifeforms evolved separately from the primordial soup, or from a more recent separation, the theory of Convergent Evolution is likely to have the same impact; and given the same conditions, similar solutions for survival will be found. This will result in relatively similar lifeforms which must be able to sense (two eyes, ears, a nose etc), move in (two hind walking limbs) and manipulate (two dexterous, opposable forelimbs) their world (if they have something approximating human intelligence).

    Lets just say there are two continents which never meet. One retains dinosaurs and the other develops mammals. Well the vast period that dinosaur's spent on earth without developing higher thought suggests that higher thought isn't a particularly good evolutionary solution in that scenario. Sight, speed, strength, defensive mechanisms etc were apparently more useful than being a weak bag of bones with a large brain. But, if they did they would need a large head relative to body size, dexterous and opposable forearms/ hands, and at some point they would need to have intelligence analogous with apes in order to make that final jump to something human-like... the most intelligent dinosaur we know of is probably a parrot (or at least a feathered, bird-like dinosaur with comparatively high intelligence); so they would probably be parrots which have evolved manipulative hand-like structures in place of wings capable of flight.

    So parrot-man and ape-man then meet. Well, if early enough in the evolution/realisation of higher thought I think it would be much like Neanderthals and early humans. They would co-exist quite peaceably and interact often until one was able to adapt to their environment more readily (particularly in the event of an ice-age or similar). At this point one would simply out-adapt the other, expand more quickly, use resources more quickly and the other would quietly die out (as they would both be attempting to fill the same niche).

    They are my thoughts on the subject.
     
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  18. Robert_S
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    I hadn't considered two reasoners on the same planet because I figure the competition for resources would kill one of them off. There's a theory that Homo Neandertalensis went extinct because it couldn't compete against Homo Sapiens.

    In my story world, I'm planning two reasoners within the same star system, but they are extinct because they killed each other off so all that's left is an archeological study.

    It my belief that any reasoner is going to go through a stage of dominance assertion, whether internal to their world, as we're seeing here on Earth, or external to some other within their local system.

    Most known races are dead by their own hands. The 14-15 that still live represent < .1% of those that either had fortune on their side or were simply strong enough to survive, but none come out of the event unchanged, ideological wise.

    For 99.99%, life evolved like ours: any competitor went extinct and the dominant one evolved in isolation of any outside intervention/interference.
     
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  19. GingerCoffee
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    Given the rate of planet discovery and what that says about the number of planets, and the common elements and conditions throughout the Universe, life evolving elsewhere is essentially inevitable. 'Common' is relative. One planet with life in the galaxy is rare. One planet with life in every (or most) galaxy, given the number of galaxies in the Universe, would make life common.

    We use gas, we inhale. But you can't pump a gas through the tissues efficiently. You have to consider physics. Insect size is limited for that very reason. And they were larger when the O2 concentration on the planet was higher. But you might have very thin organisms that breathe through their surfaces.

    You need to consider what is necessary for metabolism and movement. Crystals have just the ability to make copies, but nothing else. How would you make then sentient?

    There are some examples which reveal a lot. For example, vision evolved twice. Insect and mammal eyes have different evolutionary paths. And insects, bats and birds show flight evolved at least three times. Four times if you look at the fossil record:

    Flying and gliding animals
    This makes some assumptions that might not be valid. We don't yet know which evolutionary events resulted in the human brain, but we do know intelligence is common in the animal kingdom. What isn't as common are the steps we took in communication and technology.

    Intelligence is a necessary adaptation for cooperation like pack hunters need, socialization with gregarious animals, and some food finding and hiding from predators such as cephalopods do.

    We don't know how intelligent dinosaurs were. We know some had very small brain cases in proportion to body size. But as for birds, it's not just parrots, but crows (corvids) that are extremely intelligent and that is challenging our assumptions about brain size, structure and intelligence. I'm not suggesting brontosaurus was intelligent, but surely velociraptors would have been.


    This is curiously almost the opposite of what @Chinspinner concluded about intelligence not being the most important evolutionary skill. I think we can say intelligence is what led to humans dominating the planet.

    I'm curious how you are defining 'races' and what you mean by they are 'dead by their own hands'. If you are talking about Homosapiens, genetic evidence demonstrates there are no clear racial divides. Even Australian Aboriginals that were isolated some 60,000 years from the rest of the population did not evolve into a different race.


    One thing to consider is we only have a sample size of one, that is, life which evolved on Earth. But one can go back through time and put some interesting pieces of the puzzle together. For example, the Earth has gone through some major temperature and atmospheric changes and the life at the time of these different environments differed.

    Larger insects, which I mentioned above, can exist in higher O2 levels. Microbial life on the early Earth changed the CO2 and O2 levels in the atmosphere. Shellfish led to enough carbon sequestration to affect the Earth's temperature. Acidification of the oceans is dissolving the coral reefs.

    One could certainly play with these differences in predicting unusual lifeforms. Several sci-fi authors have imagined jellyfish like organisms kilometers long living in the clouds of gas giants. I can see a dense gas atmosphere acting like an ocean in evolution. What might evolve in the methane of Titan?
     
  20. Chinspinner
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    All I was saying about intelligence is that people consider humans to be the pinnacle of evolution. They aren't, creatures evolve to best suit their environment and intelligence is not always the solution, in fact human intelligence has only occurred once and has failed to enable us to live in balance with our environment which suggests that it is a rare solution and perhaps not a long-term solution. That said we are very adaptable.

    Intelligence is obviously a sliding scale and social/pack animals require it (to varying degrees); however, I was referring to human intelligence when using the term for simplicity.
     
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  21. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    TMW you're like, "Hey, who necroed this thread?" [​IMG] and then you realize it's your thread and then you're like: :pop:

    BTW, since I started this thread back in 2009, the discovery of certain megaviruses that share very little in the way of genetic structure or physical structure with either other viruses or anything else on the planet might hint that there may be some holdover models from completely different traditions of life still tootling around. It may not be very grand to have just a virus-like representative left from a prior or different show, but it's something. ;)
     
  22. GingerCoffee
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    TMW from the urban dictionary -Touch My Wiener, Too Much Work, That Moment When, Too Much Woman or Tell Me Why? ;)

    I'm going to guess, 'that moment when' from the context. :)


    You are referring to technology.

    I don't want to argue with you, but I don't see evolution theory the same as you do in all respects. I don't completely disagree with your and you are of course, welcome to your own opinion.

    It's true, evolution is just a process of random mutation and natural selection processes. As such, intelligence is not a goal or pinnacle per se. But evolution is a dynamic and sloppy process. It doesn't result in perfect fits all the way around, nor does the environment and threats/amplifiers stay the same.

    By our intelligence/technology we've become the most flexible life form on the planet, able to survive in all climes and dominate all other life forms including the microbial world (though that remains an arms race). No other life form on the planet has achieved that kind of success.

    Living in harmony with the environment is a bit of the noble savage myth. If by that you are referring to an episode of punctuated equilibrium, I think we're doing pretty well. We aren't the longest surviving species but then who is to say, given we are not extinct yet.

    Anyway, intelligence may be more important in the scheme of things than you believe. I think the jury's still out.
     
  23. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Interestingly, and as an aside, that doesn't look to be the full picture anymore. There is quite a bit of discussion that has been going on in the primary literature about evolution outside of traditional Darwinian mutation--->selection. You can find some that focus on purely physical properties of organisms, others looking at things like the ontogenic adaptation (which was once controversial but has become much less so), epigenetics, and so on. All of these different processes, including Darwinian selection, give a much more interesting picture of evolutionary processes, and also one that makes more sense than trying to explain every evolutionary development as the result of a mutation and selective pressure. If I can find a link to a good resource on this, I'll share it. It potentially opens up a lot of interesting avenues for SF writers who want to address issues of evolutionary biology.
     
  24. GingerCoffee
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    I know all that @Steerpike but there's only so much detail one can go into in a post. But most of that still falls under the heading "selection pressures". No one in biology speaks much of survival of the fittest anymore.

    There is amplification, such as a person with political or economic power or based on culture that has more children. Other genes are amplified when competition is lessened such as with genocide or war.

    There are neutral genetic variations that are still reproduced.

    There are some fascinating microorganisms that shut down genetic repair mechanisms when exposed to toxins effectively increasing the mutation rate.

    And genes can be turned on or off by other genetic actions. Scales and teeth were found hiding in the chicken genome just by turning off the suppressor genes. Epigenetic mechanisms play a part in turning genes on and off.

    Then there are the protein folding prions in Mad Cow Disease that aren't even related to genetics.

    So yes, it's not simple Darwinian survival of the fittest.
     
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  25. Robert_S
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    In my story world, the individual races evolved on their own worlds. There is no shared world other than the one they have their collective council and those that are colony worlds.

    As for "dead by their own hands," I'm positing in the story that all races were at the core, competitive. It's how they survived to become the dominant species of their respective worlds, but that same competition over critical resources lead to most killing themselves off in a nuclear firestorm or other major conflict that brought them to the brink of extinction. Those that survived are the ones the were strong enough or smart enough to survive this moment in their development.

    That moment in sociological development is coming for the human race now. It's becoming more expensive to supply oil as discoverable pockets become fewer and fewer and nations are facing off for a fight over the remaining scraps of their world. The catalyst character, BES, was really not supposed to reveal herself, but rather wait until humans either died or survived to find her. An unusual event occurred that forced the revelation: the US sent a mission to Callisto as a show of technological prowess and might and that mission crashed into her.

    In the second planned gn, a battle takes place on a near barren world. It could have developed reasoners (beings that are intelligent to reason), but evolutionary scientists believe a massive solar flare scorched the world during an important phase in evolution and what ever life would have developed reasoning capability got wiped out and all that remains are lower critters.

    Absolutely. I really have only a few races well defined. Moanocs, which are a bit larger than humans, have digitigrade legs, humped backs, etc. Another unnamed invertebrate race I'm envisioning live in colonies where the members maintain physical contact and communicate via superficial nerve endings in contact.

    Another race I'm thinking as being one of the founding members of the coalition/consortium (I still haven't decided a name, other than to avoid alliance and federation), is quite a bit larger than humans with their heads hanging low on their torso.

    I'm considering one race that is quadruped. Two arms, four legs.

    The enemy are pretty humanoid, but are digitigrade, have two forward facing eyes and two peripheral eyes, giving them almost 360 degree vision. And they altered their evolutionary development using genetic engineering.

    Most races I have conjured so far are humanoid for the most part. It makes it easier, but I feel it important to show some that diverge from human appearance by a wide margin.

    I tend to think in terms of:

    Reptilian
    Mammalian
    Avian
    Insectoid
    Cephalopod
    Vertebrate
    Invertebrate
    2, 4, 6 limbs (I'm of the mind that most would have some symmetry in there development)

    I tend to think in terms of what they evolved from and try to imagine what parts of them would get little use and what would get much use to decide how evolution would favor it.

    Most reasoners have forelimbs, that evolved from continuous use in manipulating their environment.

    I don't think of green or blue skin. Coloring comes later and it varies as a matter of where on their world they developed.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2014

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