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  1. DarkPen14

    DarkPen14 Senior Member

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    Gigantic Turtle

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by DarkPen14, Oct 3, 2019.

    So, I'm sure everyone's at least seen pictures where the world is just a big island on the back of a turtle that for some reason never submerges...
    [​IMG]
    Look familiar?

    Well, it makes no sense to me how that can be, but it got me thinking that if a sufficiently large turtle that didn't submerge had fertile soil on its back, and someone lived on it, that might be what they perceive to be the entire world, or at least, the land. Which got me thinking that maybe such swimming islands could exist, with some hadwaving. There's just one problem: What would it eat? A turtle large enough to have an island on its shell would need large amounts of food, but where would it get that food without submerging?

    At first, I thought jellyfish, like in real life, but that has issues of its own, like where are they? The turtle can't dive, or the island would sink. And then I thought that perhaps the food is grown on its back, like it eats its own moss, but there's no way that much vegetation could grow within reach of its mouth.
    If there's giant prey-species, then that means the predators are just as large, so what does that say for the people living on the turtle's back?

    Or how destructive would it be when it's time for the turtles to mate? Short of females not having islands and the people on the male's back praying that their island doesn't slide off, I don't know how damage would be minimized there. Perhaps there's some level of symbiosis between the creatures on its back and the turtle?

    There's a lot of questions here, and not all can be answered, but hopefully we can get a conversation going that will help solve these problems.
     
  2. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Discworld (terry Prattchett) is supported on the backs of four elephants standing on a giant turtle ... i suspect you're not supposed to take it too literally, its a parody of the weirdness of creation myths
     
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  3. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Member

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  4. SpokenSilence

    SpokenSilence Member

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    I guess (correct me if I'm wrong!) there was some part of world of warcraft (the one wit the pandas) that involved an island at least on the back of a turtle.
    Not to mention windows had a pic of some city on the back of a turtle as a default background in one of its versions. (I've used that a while, just can't remember what version that was)

    Seems to be a rather popular thing lately ;)
     
  5. DarkPen14

    DarkPen14 Senior Member

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    Those are all good points to draw from, but how would such a creature actually live? It's all fine and dandy to know who else does such, but the life cycle and occupational hazards of the turtle island are the problems
     
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  6. SpokenSilence

    SpokenSilence Member

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    I guess this is where myth and magic play into it...

    So how would a turtle carrying the world on the back live. If it carries an entire world (e.g. like the discworld) it would obviously live in space, or not?
    So weight would not be a problem. But food and air, definately. One I actually can think very little about, but something like using the energy of stars/the sun and the different form of loose elements in space

    Honestly, I come up with some "galaxy-eating" monster-turtle xD
     
  7. DarkPen14

    DarkPen14 Senior Member

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    On that scale can we even call it a turtle? That's a god.

    But actually, it's just an island. I'm thinking the biggest is the size of Greenland, cuz why not? With smaller ones swimming around the same gigantic ocean bigger than the earth.

    If there's an ecosystem with giant turtles, does anything eat the turtles? Giant sharks would make sea travel more dangerous than it already would be when giant turtles are kicking up giant waves and it's hard to get off the island, even moreso since there probably wouldn't be much as far as metals or even stone on the back of a turtle.

    Maybe humans chip off pieces of the shell? But how much wouldn't hurt the turtle?
     
  8. SpokenSilence

    SpokenSilence Member

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    Or a monster?
    I mean... I probably wouldn't worhsip it... or sould I?

    I do like the sound of it.
    I don't think it would work with giant sharks. There's no shark able to eat an entire blue whale, is there? I guess it'd really be more like with the whales: the young giant turtles would be endagered, and the severely sick/wounded. But I don't suppose any ocean culd just come up with enough energy to sustain both giant turtles and giant sharks.

    The waves sound really realistic. But how is it about diving? Most turtles do, regularly. To find food etc.

    I guess the outer layers wouldn't hurt the turtle, after all the shell is supposed to be protective and shield the turtle from harm. A friend of mine owns a tortoise. I can ask him wether e knows about the pain.
     
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  9. DarkPen14

    DarkPen14 Senior Member

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    That's another concern. What could possibly feed such a creature? And if it dived, what would happen to the island? Initially, I was thinking the island would float on its own and the turtle would come back to carry it, but the only reason I can think of to justify that would be that the island was some kind of nest? Perhaps they reproduce extremely rarely and the eggs take decades to hatch? But that has issues as well.
     
  10. SpokenSilence

    SpokenSilence Member

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    Especially since the island then would be the egg?
    Okay this is leading nowhere.

    What if there was some magic into this (apart from having a giant turtle, to start with) ... like: they do reproduce extremly rarely and it takes a good deal of magic to hatch the egg. In order to protect and care for the egg until the hatching can take place the turtle has to return.
    It does so everytime it reproduces as it come back to the place where it hatched ... like all turtles do.
    Edit: and I'm back to the island than would be egg-problem.
    A turtle would hide the eggs in the sand of an island, but since it's big enough to carry the island that wouldn't work either...
    Another problem of logic... Islands don't float. They're mountain tops that are higher than the sea level. So in order to float the island would have to be of exceedingly light stone basalt or else.
     
  11. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Member

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    Maybe it hibernates and only wakes up once every few centuries to eat and breed. At which case, anything living on it is screwed.
     
  12. SpokenSilence

    SpokenSilence Member

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    @Naomasa298
    Nice idea... but why would humans or anybody else then return to live there? And were would they come from?
     
  13. DarkPen14

    DarkPen14 Senior Member

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    Perhaps the larger island-sized turtles are too old to reproduce, and instead younger, smaller turtles flock to their larger parent turtle island to breed? Perhaps that is how you get off the turtle, you hitch a ride on a smaller turtle that's about to leave, and they have an instinct to build the floating nest when something is on their back?
     
  14. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Member

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    Because they don't know it's a giant turtle. And they'd come from anywhere that humans live, just like the way the ancient Polynesians colonised remote Pacific islands.
     
  15. SpokenSilence

    SpokenSilence Member

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    Wouldn't something like that manifest itself in legend and myth...
    If generations just vanish?
     
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  16. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Member

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    Yup.
     
  17. DarkPen14

    DarkPen14 Senior Member

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    Such an event might occur if the eggs hatch and there's baby turtles skidding around on the shell, destroying houses and such
     
  18. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Contributor Contributor

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    hmmm...reminds me of cosmic marbles (or something like that). the idea is that you take a bag of marbles and dump them out. each marble is a different universe, but all of those universes reside in something else all together. so theres a multiverse.

    here me out (havent read the rest of thread so maybe this was mentioned):

    what if the turtle was a tortoise. and there were many giant tortoises living in the equivalent of the marble bag. the tortoises have their own world; they live eat and drink in that world, but on their backs are different other worlds.
     
  19. Thorn Cylenchar

    Thorn Cylenchar Member

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    Maybe have it be a turtle in terms of general appearance(shell, ect) but in terms of what it actually is, have it be more of a filter feeder? Of course given the size you are talking, bigger ones would potentially be a danger to humans if they got too close to the mouth well it is moving.

    Given its size, it would likely have a very very slow metabolism, so maybe only needing to breath every month? Longer? Have the humans develop a native religion around it with a scientist/witch doctor who calculates when it will have to breath so the humans can offer prayers or take shelter. Or, give it gills. It is turtle like not a turtle. Mating- given how real turtles mate, this would be very bad for any human settlements. But any animal that big probably breeds very slowly. Maybe have it breed similarly to a frog- female deposits floating eggs and makes fertilize them?

    Regarding resources: wood would be easy given the size -birds poop, people and animals die, debris collects, over time you get soil. Shell is obvious(given size, your probably talking a couple meters thick at least). Bone would be likely as if you have one species this big, you get others.... minerals, make the water very mineral dense(which would support why a turtle that large can float, like the dead sea) so the animals and plants feeding from the water absorb the minerals over their lifetimes which the humans can process out of the bones.
     
  20. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    Is your giant turtle just an animal or some sort of god? I'm struggling to figure out if you mean a gigantic turtle floating around in an ocean with a literal civilization on it's back or if you mean some eldritch god that nurtures the universe where being on it's back is metaphorical like Stephen King's Maturin.
     
  21. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber i can edit this now Contributor

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    If you're going to be ultra-scientific about it, then there's no way the turtle would be able to support its own weight anyway. And if it's a magical one, then these points of practicality like feeding and breathing are moot.
     
  22. DarkPen14

    DarkPen14 Senior Member

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    This is not by any means an insult, but if you'd read the rest of the conversation you'd see it's a really big animal. By now, though, we've established that the island on its back is some kind of nest, and off-forum I've made some progress.
    So, they average a few miles across, some are bigger, some smaller, depends on their age. They meet in shallow waters to mate, and then the couples take turns placing the eggs on each other's backs. The mating season lasts six months and occurs once every thirty to thirty-five years, depending on how the whether screws with them or how far they are from the breeding waters. Eggs take a few years to hatch, usually close to five or six, and the babies hang out on their parent's back until the parent swims by an island the babies can survive on, which could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, depending on where in the ocean the eggs hatch.
    Once on the island, the babies will burrow, as turtles do, and scoop some sand onto their back as a kind of camouflage, helps them hide from predators if they can disguise themselves as a sandbar or other small island. This is where some magic comes in to handwave. The turtles have a kind of moss that grows on their backs, which it turns out, is very buoyant when it's not attached to the turtle shell. That, combined with the plants roots on the island and some turtle magic, makes the island float when the turtle dives.
    The structures people build on turtle backs are built to be easy to disassemble, repair, and relocate in an emergency, such as during mating season when anything on the rear half of a female's shell is bound to be crushed, the people relocate out of the danger zone, pray like hell, and stay out of the turtles' way. Some people prefer a kind of airship and just disconnect from the island during mating season.

    Another thing I thought of, since Zaratan eggs (I'm probably gonna call them Zaratans) are so vulnerable, and these things grow big enough to have a fully developed ecosystem on their backs, if someone could get their hands on one and control it, such a mobile fortress would be extremely useful. So perhaps there is a magically screwed-with version that doesn't grow beyond a certain size.

    But it is an animal, we're just sorting out how the Zaratan would fit into an aquatic ecosystem
     
  23. DarkPen14

    DarkPen14 Senior Member

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    Perhaps, but magic can't do everything. You can only handwave so much. Big turtle? Weird but not impossible in a setting with gods and magic. Where does the turtle fit in the natural order of things in its world? Gods have stuff to do, they can't sit there and nurse Zaratans 24/7
     
  24. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber i can edit this now Contributor

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    Ok. I see where you're coming from. Are you going to make the entirety of the planet's landmass rest on the backs on giant turtles, or just a portion? Because I could totally see these turtles living in a relatively limited area, and have a certain tribe living on them as their way of life, but if the entire planet is just water with turtle islands floating around, then that seems more unrealistic. I doubt any sort of advanced civilization could develop on the back of giant turtles.

    I would buy it if you told me they're filter feeders, but as to diving, tell me why you need them to be able to dive? If it's just because that's what normal turtles do, well, these aren't normal turtles. Why not make it so they exclusively float on the surface in their "island life stage." I doubt their skeletons could stand much diving anyway, and it introduces too many problems.
    For added realism, consider why the hell a giant turtle would have dirt on their backs, and where it came from.
     
  25. DarkPen14

    DarkPen14 Senior Member

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    A considerable portion of landmass. Considering the planet I envision these things existing on is somewhat larger than Earth. I envision a few natural landmasses in size similar to India, as well as several islands, which is probably where human-like life would have started to evolve.

    I'm not sure I can by them as filter feeders. Perhaps if they get part of their nutrition from whatever they can strain out of the water, another part perhaps from chowing down on unsuspecting carnivorous sea creatures, possibly like alligator snapping turtles, using something as bait to lure food towards their mouth and chomping down. However, that raises the question of why do they even have shells then, since they'd be a mix between filter feeders and ambush predators? There are gods in the setting, so maybe they were created, although short of emulating Judaio-Christianity and saying they were made for humans just feels wrong to me. I can't imagine a god, let alone a group of gods, making humans and then going 'oh shit, there's not enough land for these monkeys and stretching out a turtle.
    As to the dirt, as I explained above, the very young Zaratans scoop sediment and vegetation onto their backs to camouflage against predators, and as they grow they add to this, eventually it takes the function as a nest, where they keep eggs and hatchlings safe until they are ready to be dropped off at a landmass to grow up and continue the cycle. There's air ships and such, water travel is possible, but dangerous because turtles so large would no doubt create an area of danger for boats, so if you wanted off the island, you'd have to either hitch a ride on a hatchling leaving the island, hop on an airship, or get very lucky when the turtle stops swimming for whatever reason.

    Perhaps humans or other human-like species (still working on that one) have a semi-symbiotic relationship with the turtles. The Zaratan probably could survive without humans on its back, but humans need a place to live, and as a species we seem to have a knack for killing things that want our stuff, so perhaps the turtles don't mind us being on their backs because with humans up there, anything trying to get to the eggs is gonna have a hell of a time doing it, so the species reproduces more successfully when we're involved.
     

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