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March 4, 2010
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Fhox by thomastapir Fhox by thomastapir
You know, it doesn't really look much like a fox...More like a Tasmanian devil/tiger with an infusion of cynodont and possibly a pinch of mongoose and/or shrew as well. But "Fhox" is so concise, and "Fhylacine" just doesn't have the same associational impact.

Anyway. Another idea I've had percolating on "simmer" for a while now: "Mad Hox" creatures with their morphological segment order "shuffled" via homeobox tinkering ([link]). Additional genetic tailoring ensures a seamless integration of the segments as well as their functional viability. The extent to which this condition was engineered versus "naturally" evolved is up to the viewer's interpretation...Personally, I see it as another massive alien seeding project aimed at playing with potential variations on the default terrestrial genome. Shuffle the genes, ensure the viability of the expressed organisms, and then seed a planet with a basal form and let 'em evolve.

The original idea was to do a number of studies of different animals representing several classes across multiple environments (mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, etc.), but oddly enough this guy is the only one to come together so far. That's not at all what I expected; I thought that a whale shark or gulper eel -like marine/aquatic creature would make for the most "natural" transition, but so far it's been very hard to pull off without making them look too "alien." It was important to me that these creatures show obvious evidence of their terrestrial heritage.

This idea goes quite a way back, and it's something I've more seriously considered since the discussion about alternate body plans under Alternate Biochemistries ([link]). ~Zippo4k's awesome Rametosaurs ([link]) went a long way towards lighting a fire under me and moving this concept up to the front burner, as did a recent exchange with ~newtman001 on Hox genes.

Rough drawing, so will Scrap soon...Again, just wanted to give the idea some exposure for debate.
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:iconspinery:
spinery Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2010
This... This certainly is NOT Sparta. This is madness. I LOVE IT.

Skull acting as a pelvis... hell, this is so wonderfully simple! Like... symmetry of mammal anatomy? Spinal cord is the vartical axis, you get two masses of bone, symmetrical along the horizontal axis of the navel (or end of ribcage)...

belly area of the spine=ribcage, mass transferred from ribs to spine
pelvis=grown-together scapulas
skull=sacrum bone
arms=legs
etc...
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:iconbensen-daniel:
bensen-daniel Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2010
I like how the major sense organs are still toward the front, which makes sense.
I think that we should expect to see the front limbs evolving in the direction of prey-capturing structures. I imagine something like a flexible weasel with large front paws.
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:iconm0ai:
M0AI Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
You've done it again, Tom! "It" in this case means create a fascinating basic concept that allows and suggests tons of possibilities and variations.

I really, really like the idea of separating the mouth and the sense organs. These are features we're so used to seeing closely associated on the same structure, so having them separated creates instant strangeness. The head looks very sensory, with those big high eyes and that long sensitive snout. I think in more derived forms we'd see the snout and other sensory forms take on more strange and exotic forms. Perhaps, in highly derived predatory forms, the sensory head would even evolve into some sort of grasping or killing apparatus. Also in predatory forms, I see the "killer hug" as being a common strategy for taking down prey; tackle the prey, wrap the front limbs around it and perhaps use claws or sensory head structures to injure and incapacitate it, and allow the mouth to do the dirty work. For herbivores, I'm imagining a few possible adaptations. The first puts the sensory head at the end of a long neck so it can watch for danger while an extended mouth grazes; alternately, instead of an elongated mouth, it could snatch up vegetation with a long tongue, or just kneel. I'm also imagining a lot of elephantine trunks evolving on this world.

I agree with veirgacht that the body behind the mouth (postgnathal?) should be elongated. That would allow more room for digestive organs--and with a mouth like that, I would think that this guy would have plenty of digesting to do--and it would also potentially give these creatures that sort of long, barrel-bodied basal synapsid look, which you already know I love.

As for your explanation to whalewithlegs, that's fascinating stuff, and it touches on what I feel is the key to creating truly alien creatures. All lifeforms are shaped by their ancestry. We are what we are because our distant ancestors had features that could be modified to create us. Having a radically different starting point is the key to designing a true alien, I think.

(Sorry for this late comment! I've been procrastinating terribly on going through all my queued deviations lately, especially when they're ones that require a lengthy and thoughtful comment, such as this one.)
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:iconthomastapir:
thomastapir Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2010
--So yeah, alternate topologies--from a Moebius-type ambiguous or reversible surface orientation, with no clearly defined up or down, into the realm of Klein-bottle-like organisms that might not even have a defined "inside" or "outside," which really pushes the boundaries of our consensus definition of life (i.e. discrete boundaries between organism and environment). Michal/~spinery and I were talking about this quite a bit under the Alternative Biochemistries chart and we both agreed that these additional "topological" considerations have vast creative potential in terms of creature design, but we both seemed to run up against the same sort of creative block there in that it was difficult to even come up with a recognizably "biological" organism with such exotic morphologies. Limits of feasibility, or limits of imagination...? I hope we some day discover something that proves to me it's not the latter--but lacking that, I'll settle for a convincing hypothetical treatment. :)

Anyway, reining it in here back towards the original idea, I really like your thoughts on the likely tendency towards trunk-like proboscises and specialized "hug" attacks, as well as the herbivore "periscopes." Those are exactly the kind of more specialized adaptations I would ideally like to include in a "Phase 1.5" treatment of this concept, in terms of the continuum of divergence from terrestrial norms--exploring the kind of features and behaviors that would likely emerge to take advantage of, or make the best of, such a body design.

Anyway, thanks for the thought-provoking and encouraging feedback. Sorry about this manuscript-length reply--I was brainstorming as much as responding to your comments! : P
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:iconthomastapir:
thomastapir Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2010
Thanks so much, Cory! I really appreciate your comments on the viability (or at least originality) of this body design. You know me, I tend to approach things "incrementally" in terms of their degree of divergence from familiarity...So while I see the idea "shuffled" segment sequence and identity as having vast potential in terms of generating true aliens, I wanted to introduce the idea with something a little more mundane or digestible--hence the terrestrial body design and recognizably mammalian morphology. I actually felt like this one diverged a little further than I would have ideally liked; I have this mental image of an essentially orthodox, even old-fashioned illustration of a Thylacine--but with its mouth in the middle of the body; that is, a more subtle sort of "strangeness," which to me always seems a little more startling by contrast with the otherwise familiar ("uncanny valley"/posthumans, I guess).

So what was my point here?? :lol:
I guess that "Phase II" would be taking it into more alien realms, dealing with alien morphology and cosmetic surface treatment. (The Helihox "gazelle" was kind of a halfhearted stab in that direction, with the primary purpose being just to work out a more wholly alien skeletal structure and form of locomotion.) The next stage, my "ideal" in terms of aliens, I guess, would be getting to not just alternative morphologies or even symmetries, but what I have come to think of as alternate "topologies"--truly unique surface orientations. The Moebius Fish was obviously an early attempt at this goal, and...Ach, the library's closing, I'll have to finish this later! : P
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:iconwhalewithlegs:
whalewithlegs Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2010  Student General Artist
Dude, kudos on the alternate bodyplan! I think that I'd be afraid that the front hand would be prone to violent loss, were I to look into buying one of these as a pet, but other than that i love the way you've truly given it two facial spaces, with the gentle almost seal-like fore-face contrasted to the terrible mouth.

Do you think it would be any trouble to explain HOX mutation to me a little? I feel kinda retarded at the moment .. if not, I'll get back to it (and to you about it) on my own, when the time can be had!
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:iconthomastapir:
thomastapir Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2010
Oh wow, the Wikipedia entry ([link]) explains it in fairly concise terms and probably better than I ever could; but to oversimplify, it's the set of genes that determine segment identity and other aspects of body orientation and symmetry in metazoan organisms. So it specifies our anterior-posterior orientation, our dorsal-ventral axis, and our basic body plan--head, main body, legs, tail. So the idea here was that the head-trunk-tail sequence was shuffled to run trunk-head-tail. Of course the presence of Hox genes in the earliest shared metazoan ancestors--preceding even chordates--raises the interesting consideration that the kind of body plan we're familiar with--head/trunk-with-limbs/tail--AND the symmetries and orientation axes we take for granted--may not necessarily be the best or the only default body design for metazoan life. I mean, if you think about it, pretty much every alien that's ever appeared in science fiction (or at least Star Wars and Star Trek) has a body plan apparently derived from the terrestrial Hox template. How likely *is* that, really? It's heady stuff (no pun intended), and opens up a vast range of possibilities for exotic body designs and topologies in alien life.

re: "I'd be afraid that the front hand would be prone to violent loss..."
His front hand--or yours? :omg:
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:iconwhalewithlegs:
whalewithlegs Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2010  Student General Artist
oops, i meant front head there.

thanks for the down & dirty explanation! I think I needed it as not exactly an introduction but an incentive to read the actual wikipedia article. my brainpower is terribly low this week :p
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:iconviergacht:
Viergacht Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2010  Professional General Artist
That is INSANE.
I suppose the main problem a critter built like this would have would be similar to my Nna aliens, which also have a mouth on their ventral side (being descended from something like starfish) once they get a mouthful, their mouths have to effectively stay shut until digestion is completed. Doesn't look like this guy has any room for intestines.
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:iconthomastapir:
thomastapir Featured By Owner Mar 14, 2010
Oo, that's a good point...Damn, I gues I should make the midsection longer. I'll take that into account if/when I do further variants on these.

Thanks! :thumbsup:
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