Sunday, August 22, 2010

Neurobiology of the Elder Things

Working with the somewhat sketchy descriptions made by the survivors of the Miskatonic University Expedition to Antarctica, Caio Maximinio (a graduate student and adjunct Professor at the Federal University of ParĂ¡, Brazil) has authored a speculative paper on the neural evolution of the Elder Things. In "And through Strange aeons, even Death may Die" at The Descent of Brain at Nature.com, Sr. Maximinio examines the cladistic position of the Elder Things had they evolved on Earth (and addresses the issues with this assumption), and contradictions between their likely nervous structure and that described by the Peabody-Lake Expedition. An excerpt

"It is clear ... that Elder Things are characterized mainly by their barrel-shaped body. This body can be divided in similar halves by more than two planes that cross the longitudinal axis of the organism. In taxonomy, this is called radial symmetry, and two phyla in the kingdom Animalia have it: Cnidaria and Ctenophora. This plan is particularly good for animals which are sessile or sedentary, or for animals which are free-swimming, because they can sense their environment from all sides equally. Notice, however, the pair of wings that Elder Things' have. A paired structure such as this represents a variation in the "radial symmetry" theme, called biradial symmetry . The only phylum to present this type of organization is Ctenophora, composed of less than 100 species - all of them marine, occurring specially in warm oceanic waters. This is consistent with the hypothesis (made by Lovecraft, based on a few geological conjectures of his time) that the poles once were much warmer places."
Very interesting work, and illuminating on issues of both terrestrial and extraterrestrial biology.

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