Putorians, Neputons, and Nanputons
In the early first century A.T. ferrets (Mustela putorius furo) were the third most popular pet species in the Old Earth polity state of USA, and also a popular pet in other western nations. They also suffered from a number of distinct health problems, including various types of cancer. Because of this ferrets were one of the earliest pet species to undergo extensive genetic engineering as ferret-fanciers attempted to overcome these health problems.

Although it proved to be difficult to solve these problems without impacting what were seen as ferrets' desirable traits, such as their sociability, energy, and curiosity, after much work it was eventually done, and in the late first century A. T. several types of new, disease-free ferrets were produced. Purist ferret-fanciers sneered at them, but the less rigid saw them as a great step forward for their pets.

Further modifications to the new ferrets produced types with increased life-span, others with less smell, and still others in which non-neutered females did not die if they did not breed (or have a simulation of breeding) when they came into heat, and had a limited period in heat, rather than remaining so until they bred.

It was inevitable that ferret-fanciers would eventually want to make other changes to their pets, and in time this happened.

Some were modified to give them more common sense, to temper their fearless (and sometime suicidal!) curiosity. This led to an increasing population of feral ferrets, where before their foolhardy curiosity gave them little chance of surviving in the wild.

Others were modified for increased intelligence alone, but this combined with their curiosity made this breed, in general, quite short-lived as they often found their way into fatal situations.

Yet other modification were made to produce better working ferrets, giving them more manipulative forepaws to enable them to work in confined spaces.

It was not long after this, and during the time when mammals such as pigs and dogs were being provolved into sophoncy, that some ferret-fanciers first proposed provolving ferrets into sophoncy too.

There was great controversy in the ferret-fancying world over this, though no-one else really noticed. It was certainly a far less controversial project than, for example, the creation of NeoPigs.

And so the work of ferret provolution began, generally done in the spare time of enthusiasts across the Solar System, on types of ferrets already improved by genetic engineering in various ways.

The work proceeded down two parallel routes. One worked to raise ferrets to sophoncy by purely biological means, involving (among other things) increasing their size to cope with a sophont-sized brain. The other used the addition of bionano processing that would be inherited by following generations of ferrets to the otherwise unmodified ferret brain to achieve the same goal without increasing the size of the ferret.

Although an 'open source' project, the creation of 'Ferret Sapiens', as the species was originally referred to, was not without its problems.

Many of the early pre-sophont and sophont ferret types had mental problems, including hyper-curiosity (where they would compulsively investigate things to the point of not eating), utter lack of self-preservation instinct or common sense, absolute need for company at all times (instances of literal death by loneliness were recorded), excessive gluttony, and others.

Eventually, however, these problems were overcome and the first sophont ferrets of both kinds were born in 526 A.T. By this time the species had been renamed to Putorians, from their Latin species name, putorius.

The Putorians quickly proved to be just what their creators had wanted - sophonts with all the sociability, energy, and curiosity of their non-sophont ancestors, often evidenced a massive, almost childlike, joie de vivre and love of play.

Unfortunately for the Putorians, in 530 A.T. the nanodisaster began. The small numbers, youth, curiosity and wide distribution of the Putorians acted against them during their period and, as far as is known, by 600 A.T. none of the Putorians were left alive. Their genetic code and other information relevant to their creation was widely distributed and survived in many places, as did small populations of non-sophont ferrets.

However, the number of ferret-fanciers who survived the nanodisaster was small indeed, and the Putorian species languished as an extinct footnote in the history of provolution and sophontology.

Much later, in the late 2900s A.T., Coulomb Luthra, a S:1 researcher working on the world of Tibrogargen in the Zoeific Biopolity came across references to the Putorians and became interested in them. E began to spend time working on recreating the purely biological branch of the Putorian race, based on the information that existed in the Known Net, and elsewhere.

With the assistance of various others who e involved in the project, by 3012 A.T. e had succeeded in this and the first of a new race of Putorians were born on Tibrogargen.

The race of New Putorians quickly grew and spread within the Zoeific Biopolity, their energy, curiosity, and sociability, although irritating to some overly staid types, endearing them to many others and propelling them into many niches across the Biopolity. During this time the name New Putorians became shortened to simply Neputons.

It was not long before the Neputons began to range outside the Zoeific Biopolity and into other parts of Terragens space. Since then they have spread far and wide across and beyond inhabited space, their inquisitiveness taking them, as a clade, to essentially everywhere. They also began to diversify, from a single race into a clade of related Neputon types.

Some fifteen hundred years after the creation of the Neputons, in around 4500 A.T., the Vonoiralli Collective, a group of baseline bionano artists on the Solar Dominion world of Niazova became aware of the Neputons and interested in the still-extinct bionano form of Putorians.

After considerable work they managed to recreate the smaller bionano Putorians. And although somewhat limited by being a younger and physically quite small race, since then the Nanputons (as they have become known) have also spread from Niazova across Terragens space, and like the Neputons diversified from a single race into a clade.

Over the years there have been a number of persistent rumours of a third type of provolved ferret, very much distinct from the Neputons and Nanputons. These are rumoured to be ferrets provolved in such a way as to enhance their intrinsic lack of common sense and violent tendencies to produce a race of berserkers.

It is unclear whether these rumours refer to a biological race, or to a race of AIs or alifes whose mental patterns are based upon those of ferrets.

Over the years members of this rumoured third race or sub-clade have acquired the nickname of 'Berrets', from Berserker Ferrets, or 'Kittons', for no obvious reason. However, as far as anyone knows there is no evidence that such a race actually exists.

In terms of physiology, Neputons resemble scaled up unmodified ferrets, with long and flexible necks, bodies and tails, and relatively short legs. Most Neputons and Nanputons have normal tails, but some have modified themselves to have prehensile tails. They retain the relatively great flexibility, strength, and speed of their non-sophont ancestors. Like their ancestors, they are not keen on swimming, and generally not very good at it. However, they are usually quite dextrous in micro-gravity.

Neputons and Nanputons are quite sexually dimorphic. Male Neputons mass, on average, about the same as a baseline human while females are about half the size and one-third the mass of the males. Both are, however, equally intelligent, with Neputons having heads proportionally larger to hold a sophont-level brain, and their limbs and skeletons are adapted for their larger sophont size. Nanputons are the same general size as unmodified ferrets.

Their forepaws and, in some types, their hind feet have been modified into dextrous hands, with which they also walk. Because of this most Neputons and Nanputons use gloves or other such devices to protect their sensitive footpads. They retain dog-like non-retractile claws on the tips of all their digits.

Putorians, Neputons, and Nanputons were provolved as pure carnivores, like their non-sophont ancestors, unable to subsist on anything but meat. Since then some Neputons and Nanputons have modified themselves for a more omnivorous or even herbivorous diet.

In terms of senses Neputons and Nanputons have binocular vision, but also better peripheral vision then a baseline human. They see very well in low-light conditions, but see colours poorly. As such, although they can cope with bright light, most Neputon and Nanputon homes and habitats are, to human eyes, rather dimly lit, with light levels equivalent to an Earthly sunrise or sunset (though there are of course Neputon and Nanputon types capable of coping with most lighting conditions). They were also originally near-sighted, like non-sophont ferrets, but most Neputons and Nanputons have since had this trait engineered out, and see equally well at all distances.

Their sense of smell is very acute, and many Neputons and Nanputons use natural and artificial scents as a means of identification. Their hearing is also very acute, and operates in a higher and wider frequency range than that of baseline humans.

Personality-wise, most Neputons and Nanputons retain many of the traits of their non-sophont ancestors. That is, they are highly sociable, often to the level of xenophilia, energetic, and curious. They also love to play, regardless of age, and show great persistence in things that interest them, giving them a great joie de vivre. When excited they often bounce around animatedly, and even at the best of times are almost constantly in motion.

Many of them appear to have traits in common with Luckies and Smilers, though whether by accident or design is unclear.

Like their unmodified ancestors, most Neputons and Nanputons sleep up to sixty percent of the time, although few of them have to. Some sleep alone, but most like to sleep in a pile with at least one other of their kind.

There are very few Neputon and Nanputon polities. Their curiosity and energy drives most Neputons and Nanputons to live a nomadic lifestyle, rarely staying in one place for long, and as long as they are not mistreated they are quite happy to let more stay-at-home types run things.

In most places their extreme sociability, xenophilia even, means that they tend to get on well with the inhabitants of wherever they happen to be at a given time.

A significant percentage of Neputons and Nanputons become dissatisfied with the degree of variety available in the physical world, and emigrate into the far more varied worlds of virchspace, becoming what are essentially virch tourists. Some of these do eventually return to the physical world.

Others try other lives, changing bodies, substrates and modes of existence time after time throughout their lives.

The curiosity of some takes them up the ladder of toposophic ascension, at a significantly higher than average rate. Many such ascended Neputons and Nanputons quickly vanish.

Yet others crew exploration ships, or pursue scientific and other forms of research, sometimes with a high degree of dedication, others as dilettantes.

Since their recreation, various groups of Neputon and Nanputon researchers have provolved other species closely related to themselves. These have had varying degrees of success, and include the provolution of minks, martens, weasels, polecats, wolverines, badgers and so on.
 
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Development Notes
Text by Tony Jones

Initially published on 22 February 2005.

Page uploaded 22 February 2005, last modified 1 March 2007