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Feb 27, 2020 9:22 PM
mohd dandelion in Amenta
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"Early Amentans didn't hunt in a way that called for physical strength very much. We do fine with a lot of meat in our diets, but evolutionarily insofar as we're predators we're more inclined towards trapping."

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"Huh! Humans are pursuit predators, we're not especially fast but we can walk all day and the ungulates in our ancestral environment could not." 

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"Huh! I imagine there are greys who can walk all day but I don't think most Amentans can. We are better than some of our relatives at going up and down slopes, we have a bottleneck in a hilly area."

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"...Where did Amentans evolve?" 

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He gets out his pocket everything and finds a map of the continent and zooms in. "We're pretty sure it was this area. There were more rivers around at the time, cutting a population of our source species off from easy interaction with the rest, in these valleys and hills."

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"Oh! Yeah, humans are plains apes. Big difference, even if it shows less than I would expect!" 

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"The source species seemed to start walking on two legs in a flatter area - over here - and then there was some seismic activity over here, which changed the climate, drove them east, then we split up and the population in this region lived and developed tools and such."

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"Humans live every which where now but when we were evolving it was all on the plains." 

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"Interesting! So probably we're better hill-climbers and you're better distance-walkers."

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"'The source species'--how far back in your fossil record have you traced your ancestry? We have records of several different ancestor species, showing different stages of development on the path from normal ape to person." 

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"Oh, I was simplifying a bit, it actually looks like this." He finds a family tree style diagram of Amentans' genus; there are indeed stages.

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Cool. She knows enough about humans' evolutionary progress to have questions. What was the general bestial form Amentans were evolving away from, does it look much like Earth apes? Did Amentans' ancestors have some kind of fang-equivalent to lose? (Actually, what do Amentan teeth look like compared to human teeth?) How was the braincase originally shaped and how did that change? 

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The evolutionary biologist knows the answers to all these questions! The living relatives of the family (dwindling precipitously in the tropics, but Amentans aren't yet the sole extant member of the clade) look like colorful gibbons, more or less, and their extrapolations from the fossil record are like so, also roughly "if you saw this in National Geographic as a newly discovered Earth ape you wouldn't be like 'no way' apart from the fur color". The clade hasn't had fangs for a long time, though their tailed cousins do. Here is a dental diagram - Amentans have twelve incisors rather than eight, though their teeth are narrower by enough to have their canines in the right place, and the bicuspid/molar distinction is less pronounced. Skull shape over time chart!

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Oh cool. She knows some things about how human evolution differed, and can provide whiteboards full of diagrams and enthusiastic gesticulations to communicate them. 

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He is SO FASCINATED.

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His enthusiasm is contagious! Rhonda knows many fewer things about evolutionary biology but she can tell him the things she knows! Neoteny in domesticated animals due to neotenous traits correlating with lowered aggressiveness! The Kiwi is a bird that lays an egg almost as big as itself because it used to be huge and the eggs didn't catch up when they evolved down! Galapagos finches! 

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What a delighted evolutionary biologist she has!!!!

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(She is so amused by the Kiwis. The Kiwis are ridiculous and adorable.) 

Dinosaurs! Birds! ...Does Amenta have birds or anything in that niche? 

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Oh yeah, Amenta's got plenty of birds! Here are some pictures of birds. Pet birds, food birds, city birds, wild birds.

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Probably Amenta's birds did not evolve from the kin of Tyrannosaurus Rex, what did they evolve from? 

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It was a kind of reptile, but it did indeed not look like T-Rex. No teeth.

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Huh! No teeth? --Hey, did life on Amenta start in the ocean? 

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It did!

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Cool! So were fish the first vertebrates--or vertebrate-equivalent, she supposes that taxonomically speaking Amentan species with spines are no more related to Earth species with spines than Amentan plants are, but--

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Sea creatures were the first spinebearing things, but they were more like eels than conventional fish.

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