Endless Blue – Week 22 – Life Began in Water, but Would Not Linger   1 comment

Evolution

Life Began in Water, but Would Not Linger

The variety of biology in the Endless Blue is astonishing when put into perspective.  With the deeper oceans and wider spaces, life was able to adapt in all directions.  The first unique aspect of Elquan evolution is the development of phytoplankton.  This relatively unremarkable microscopic organism may be the most simple biological life form, but held within it was the potential to populate every ecological niche on the planet.

Sea

Phytoplankton is not a single species, but a multitude of plant types so small it is impossible to see them with the naked eye.  However, their high reproductive rate, in conjunction with their chlorophyllic abilities, means large colonies can be perceived as a fuzzy green haze in the water’s currents.  These microphytes — algea colonies — still bloom in this same manner today, creating massive swaths of emerald in the azure waters, and serve as the basis of the food chains for every living being in the world.

As plants, they require sunlight to photosynthesize the food they need to survive, so when feeding they tend to be found near the surface of Elqua’s oceans.  It is this innocuous behavior that eventually led to the explosion of biodiversity that roams the planet.  The vast, interconnected oceans let the blooming patches excel and spread across the low-albedo waters.  Massive, practically continent-sized algae colonies that dwarf the collected land mass of Elqua many times over could sprout just below the surface of its pristine waters, basking in the life-giving rays of the sun and successfully thrive.

Acting as progenitors, these simple plant-cells multiplied, diversified, become more complex and robust, eventually leading to newer life forms that the phytoplankton then served as a primary food source.  The cycled continued, with those creatures developing more advance bodily systems; organizing cells into organs, creating new senses with which to explore their fertile new world, a bundle of nerves and bones and veins in such infinite diversity that it makes the whole idea of life stemming from a single primitive cell seem ludicrous.  Yet, that is exactly how it happened.

Land

With all this emphasis on aquatic life, one would be led to believe the scattered islands of the world are barren shale and sand.  Nothing could be further from the truth, and life has taken to these new environs just as easily as it did in the seas.  Life, as it is want to do, spreads wherever there is space to exist.  Sometime long in Elqua’s prehistory, the predecessor of modern phytoplankton was so plentiful in the oceans that it spread onto dry land, forming a kind of rolling moss, and there began their own digression of evolution.

Elqua became encompassed by an epic ice age, the planet frozen over most of its surface, separating the phytoplankton of the sea from the that on land, and in the ages the frozen environment lasted allowed time for the land locked cousins to evolve further into a divergent life form, a purple-shaded rhodoarchaea that took advantage of the green-hued light that filters through the planet’s Sargasso Ring to initiate photosynthesis.  By monopolizing on retinal in the place of chlorophyll, these rhodoarchaea survived in the green hued areas where normal plant life that required red and blue bands of light to survive could not.  With the Sargasso ring circling the globe almost directly over most of the island mega-archipelagos collectively known as the Spine of the World, this ensured a competition-free zone where the rhodoarchaea evolved, and thrived due to the extra concentration of the green light needed for retinal photosynthesis.

These rhodoarchaea reproduced and branched into more complex forms.  However, the cold was not ready to let go if its grip on Elqua.  Slowly the creeping ice sheets that encased the world’s oceans began to encroach the lands covered with rhodoarchaea, until its coverage of all the globe was almost complete.  As miles of ice and snow packed over the impotent micro-organisms, the rhodoarchaea fell into a state of stasis, their retinalic  processes slowing down to almost a crawl, preserving the redish-tone plankton until the day would come that the ice shelf retreated and what little land there was could thrive.

Eventually the ice shelf retreated and disappeared, leaving the two ecosystems — water and land — truly independent of each other.  Now, where the kelp and seaweed of the waters are a lush green and olive, the plants that thrive in the shade of the Sargasso Ring are purple and violet.  The aberrations the evolved to  live among the magenta leaves are as different from the behemoths swimming amongst the kelp as even the most disturbed mind could imagine.

Sky

But before the total gelid encrustation of Elqua could complete, a second amazing change took place.  An offshoot of the rhodoarchaea began producing methane and hydrogen as a by-product of their retinal-based photosynthesis.  As the life forms multiplied and became more complicated, organelles formed that encapsulated those gasses.  When those organelles became engorged, the lighter than air hydrogen caused these nearly weightless bio-forms to become air-borne, floating a few millimeters above the surface of the land.

The methane was mostly expelled as waste, until a fortunate mutation developed the production of a exothermic acid.  The ejection of the methane, coupled with a squirt of the acid, cause a small combustion and as a result, thrust.  True air-based life was born, the aerostat, and it took the form of organic dirigibles.

As sky life diversified, an organic form of pulse jet arose.  A cone-shaped nose with a sphincter at the tip would open up to allow oxygen into the body.  Inside a heat-resistant organ, the methane is seeped via pores along the chamber’s inner surface.  Then two minuscule jets of reactant chemicals derived from the hydrogen created by its retinal process — hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide — combine in the oxygen/methane mix and cause a strong exothermic reaction, giving of enough heat to ignite the rich gases and causing combustion.  Another valve on the other end of the creature serves as the exhaust, directing the exhaust through a final sphincter in the rear of the creature.

The amounts of chemicals produced are incredibly small, and it is only the microscopic mass of the creature and the rapid pace of inhalation and emanation that allows this organic combustion engine to even exist.  The squared-cubed law illustrates the larger the creature, the more massive the amount of chemicals required to sustain flight, and with too large a combustion chamber, the chemical reaction becomes uncontrolled and the temperatures generated would cook the creature from within if it did not simply explode.

From those three microscopic life forms — the phytoplankton, rhodoarchaea, and aerostat — diversity bloomed like a cornucopia, spilling into every corner of the ecosystem.  The blood-red riverfalls of the southern ice cap, the gargantuan sea sifters of the periphery, the jet streaming helikites swarming the atmosphere, all can be traced back to tiny, humble, simple celled life.

One response to “Endless Blue – Week 22 – Life Began in Water, but Would Not Linger

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  1. Pingback: Endless Blue – Kickstarter Day 09 – The Epochs of Elqua « Endless Blue

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