Acties (Ray-Finned Fish Provolves)

Image from Stephen Inniss

Actinopterygian or Ray-finned fishes (as opposed to lobe-finned, from which all Terragen land vertebrates are believed ultimately to be derived) were not originally considered by many to be promising candidates for provolution - being cold-blooded, small-brained, generally non-social, and lacking fine manipulators or anything that could easily be adapted as such.

Nevertheless, beginning in the 4th or 5th Century AT (exact time uncertain, but available evidence suggests it was around this time), and continuing long after, culminating in the various great pan-sophontist experiments and projects of the early Federation period and beyond, various species of this (by far) largest and most diverse class of Terragen vertebrates were gifted with sapience. Collectively, these became known as "Acties."

It would be impossible to convey in the space of several paragraphs the full scope and variety of this immense class of provolves (comprising, like eir non-provolved cousins in the animal kingdom, by far the largest and most diverse class among vertebrate provolves). Nevertheless, some generalities can be made.

Metabolism is generally increased, almost but usually not quite to warm-blooded levels, to provide more energy and improved temperature control to the augmented brain, and one or (occasionally) more extra layers of subcutaneous fat are added to better retain body heat in water. The earliest fish provolves, both ray-finned and otherwise, were generally larger species from warmer waters, and domestic species such as Chinese carp and goldfish. Later of course, other types were also provolved.

In many, though not all, species, the internal swim bladder was modified to function more as a lung, enabling the provolved fish to draw oxygen from the (usually more oxygen-rich) air more efficiently. This allowed the provolved fish to better support its increased metabolism and improve its stamina, by making short trips to the surface for a quick "gulp" of air. All fish provolves (ray-finned and otherwise) known to date have retained eir fully-functioning gills and the ability to draw oxygen from water at least as well as eir non-provolved cousins.

The number of eggs laid at one time is generally greatly reduced (though there are exceptions). Fertilization is now generally internal rather than external, and the embryos are generally more developed at the time the eggs are laid. In a notable minority of species, the female, after being fertilized, releases her eggs into a special pouch on the male's body (The male in this case is most often her mate, but any will do), who then incubates her (or eir) brood and carries it to term.

Communication (within a species and between species) is usually handled by multitudes of color-change cells distributed throughout the fish's skin, as well as by gesturing with the fins (Sound is rarely used). Ray-fin provolves tend to be the most extravagantly colored and elaborately bedecked of all Terragen species. Beauty contests which involve particularly colorful and frilly ray-fins, and members of other species, are often academic.

The lack of effective manipulators was compensated for partially by having teams or pairs of ray-fin provolves work together, using eir mouths (usually equipped with improved-dexterity lips or small tentacles resembling those of a star-nosed mole) for manipulation, and coordinating eir activities with one another as though each individual fish were a hand of the same creature. Groups, or couples, of ray-fins working together this way do often display this level of mutual coordination.

Relations with other sapients have generally been friendly, with the notable exceptions of some prim, neo-prim, or non-sephirotic clades and subcultures of Bitenic Squids and Dolphins, who, despite provolution all around, have difficulty seeing smaller fish as anything but food. Ray-fins, and polities where ey hold enough influence, are known to have instigated or exacerbated numerous conflicts between Bitenics and Dolphins, on worlds and in habs where all three groups of provolves live, hoping to keep eir two antagonists occupied with each other (taking advantage of the fact that Bitenics and Dolphins are already on less-than-friendly terms with each other generally). Occasionally, this strategy of the acties has backfired, with unfortunate consequences.

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Text by Mike Parisi

Initially published on 24 January 2004.