A brief extract from ‘On The Biology of Nevermind’, by Peter Phillips, chief zoologist, Nevermind Colony. Full article published in ‘Union Science Quarterly’, issue 391, in the year AL99 (the subsequent analysis was published in issue 392)
Excuse me while I write in prose. I intend this to be simply an introductory or supporting article to a detailed scientific analyses soon to be published in this same periodical.
On arrival at Nevermind, we were impressed by the remarkable diversity of the planet, and yet the creatures all bore certain markers that a zoologist could look at and state, from that day forward, this is a creature of Nevermind. At least until a biosphere containing creatures with similar markers is discovered elsewhere of course. The enormous variety of avian life fascinated me, but many of our people were far more interested in the mysterious echoes that so quickly took a liking to our crops. My assistant of the time, Mathias Graham, began a detailed study of the echoes, which was taken up later by Genevieve Colby and Jessica Marshal when they established the MGMEC for that express purpose. I am grateful to the MGMEC for its collaboration on this article and the analytical paper that follows.
Our first encounters were puzzling, as there appeared to be no true predators on the planet. Of course we now know the error of our ways, but of course, humanity has always held a certain arrogance and pride, that inevitably gets us into trouble eventually. On arrival we first observed the avian life, which consisted of everything from tiny to enormous. It starts with the tiniest of fluttering pollen and nectar eaters, their four wings a blur above tiny, dangling feet. They almost look like cartoon mosquitoes, and are barely larger than Earths bigger insects. From there, we had all manner of species, from the turkey sized geese, which was a temporary name that seems to have stuck with the colonists (the actual genus is to be published in the article later) all the way up to the imposing scalyrok, an immense, lazy seeming avian predator of great power.
The scalyrok gave us an immediate clue to the differences of life of Nevermind, as it had no feathers, rather being covered in soft, almost leathery scales. Now we have studied them in more detail, I can conclude that these leathery scales are far more like the feathers on Earths bird life than they seem at first glance, providing similar protections and using similar construction to create a light weight and effective construction via similar means with very different materials, but more on that in my later article. There was one other factor that the scalyrok revealed to us almost immediately.
The scalyrok, with its powerful claws, massive wings, and its other, fluttering, vestigial wings it exhibited something I had not seen before in avian life. This hexapedal structure, seen on Earth in insects, was a common facet across all levels of the evolutionary ladder on Nevermind. In every nook of the ecosystem, it was there, all except one. The echoes, so named because they seemed to echo the horse, although their kangaroo like hindquarters kind of belied that, consisted of four limbs. This was a surprise, but quickly resolved after the x-ray vision was analysed. The powerful, leaping action of the echo’s hindquarters was provided in fact by two separate pairs of limbs, confirming it as a Nevermind native, and cementing the notion that life on this planet had evolved along a strictly hexapedal family tree.
The fifth and sixth limb of the echo were partly merged with the main rear limbs, and had reversed, joining at the base of the minor limb to create a sprung arrangement, in the shape of a scissor lift. The musculature combines with this, to lend them their amazing leaping ability and also the great speed. It led me to the belief that the echoes were part of a newer branch on the evolutionary tree of the planet, being the only species to have merged the fifth and sixth limbs in this way. There are signs of mutation among some of the nevermice, indicating a possible track for that species in the future, but it is far too long a bow to pull to state it here as fact. Should new discoveries be found with the nevermice, it will be interesting. Their numbers and the speed and power of the echoes would provide them a clear advantage over all other life in competition, which may have effects across the planet.
The echoes, which as you will have noted are a primary subject of study, had one other peculiarity within their biology. Their treatment of protein. These creatures appeared as herbivores, but what we have subsequently discovered is an ability in times of hardship to consume meat, in the form of other, smaller animals, and burn that protein like a supercharged fuel in a vehicle. This enabled them to cover enormous distances at great speed without rest or refreshment. We have observed a certain amount of torpur, though not full blown hibernation, in the creatures following such an event. This combination has placed the echoes firmly at the top of the evolutionary ladder on Nevermind, the biological tools at their disposal placing them out of reach of any other predators on the planet, even the imposing scalyrok.
We assumed the incredibly rapid growth of the vegetation was in order to survive the ravages of an enormous population of herbivorous creatures. To say it was something much greater than that would indeed be an understatement, but more on that later in the article.
*End of extract* The full article is available from the library of the union academy in Lunar City.