Provolved Ungulate colony

Image from Steve Bowers
Star YTS 1256559-72-6544
Type: G5 V
Distance from Sol 4089 ly
Constellation Cassiopeia, near NGC 559

Planet: lifeless EuGaian terraformed to an Earth-standard environment

Amboseli was colonised in 8515 by a group of ungulate provolves emigrating from the Ulysses Network, which they saw as excessively consequentialist in outlook. The planet, surveyed at long range by the Argus Array and by several automated probes, was known to be an almost perfect target for easy terraformation. Advanced planetary engineering techniques were used to create an Earth-like environment on this world by 8802, at which time the provolves, mostly sophont antelopes and caprids, began to populate the surface.

Slightly warmer than Old Earth, Amboseli has six large continents with low relief, mostly covered in high plateaus covered in grassland and lowlands with marshland and forest. The south polar continent is ice-free but almost completely unpopulated. What would be a desert in the largest northern continent has been micromanaged to become an extensive savannah.

The Founding Herds

Five species of provolved ungulate arrived in the first colonisation wave; Wildebeeste, Red Lechwe, Springbok, Duiker and Mountain Ibex. These were fully sophont versions of old Earth species which had been provolved many thousands of years ago. Early attempts to provolve antelopes had resulted in individuals with ungainly, large heads and correspondingly large neck muscles; some examples of these early provolved species can be found on worlds with moderately low gravities, but more recent clades (such as those found on Amboseli) have smaller cranial volumes, allowing them to maintain a more balanced body plan. This reduced encephalisation is possible because of neurotechological optimisation, and the redistribution of both higher consciousness and autonomic functions into biotech processors spread throughout the animal's body, especially along the dorsal ridge.

These species live on the wide grasslands in herds, and have few permanent structures. A population of envirobots operate and maintain the eco-optimisation machinery, including the artificial wetlands in the heart of the Northern Desert. These non-sentient but very competent bots are controlled by the antelope though biotech neural interface devices, which grow symbiotically within almost all citizens on this world. When necessary these bots can be called upon to perform other functions, making them the equivalent of handtech on this world. With no manipulative limbs, the antelope rely on robotic help to maintain their infrastructure and to reshape their world when necessary. These assistants are also extremely useful in emergencies of various kinds.

Wildebeest culture

The herds of provolved wildebeest on this world are almost constantly on the move, passing from one biome to another and only pausing during the breeding season, when groups of females congregate around temporary territories established by the males. The wildebeeste herds are large and varied; perhaps the greatest diversity of cultural forms on Amboseli occurs among this species. Some members of the herd form extensive tribe minds, sharing news, information and thoughts across a wide spectrum of topics while still maintaining their individual identities. Other herds or sub-herds form closer bonds, losing their individuality to a greater extent and becoming true group minds.

A small, but significant, number of wildebeeste reject all forms of group-think, and become lone minds, interacting with the herds as individuals and seeking to increase their personal well-being. These individualists often acquire more powerful biotech processor arrays, and may leave the herds altogether, exploring the planet's extensive land surface or even venturing off-planet into the cultural milieu of the Terragen Sphere.

Lechwe culture

On this world provolved lechwes form separate herds of male and female individuals, who tend to live in the wetlands for most of the year and only mingle during the rutting season, which occurs on higher, drier land. The males establish arenas on the higher ground, which are entered by females for mating purposes. These arenas have great cultural significance, with certain favoured arenas being much more popular and reserved for males with high standing in the community. Competition between individuals for the favoured sites is intense, and largely depends on the perception of an individual's social worth as measured by a large number of seemingly insignificant factors. Early in the history of Amboseli the status of individual males was often decided by combat, with the strongest or most aggressive taking precedence; but since that time a more elaborate, ritualised form of social dominance has become established.

In many ways this means that the Lechwe culture on this world has become more rigid and ceremonial, as the complex rules of interaction that decide precedenceact to restrict cultural development. Another consequence of this arrangementis that male and female herds have quite different cultures, and rarely interact outside the rutting season. Note, however, that the mating that occurs during this period is largely recreational, since (like most bionts in the Terragen Sphere) these provolves have greatly extended lives and a low death rate and therefore a low birth rate; mating rarely results in offspring.

Springbok culture and chasers

The fastest of the antelope on this world, provolved springbok place great emphasis on physical fitness. When this world was populated, it was stocked with a wide selection of biomes incorporating species drawn from DNA data banks all over the Perseus Rift, most of which came originally from Earth and the ancient Burning Library Project. But no large predators were introduced that might threaten the herds; even the smaller predators such as jackals were modified to avoid the herds instinctively. This meant that the springbok would never get the chance to demonstrate their skill at evading pursuit. Competitive sprint races and jumping events form a major part of their recreational sport activities, but to recreate the thrill of pursuit many springbok herds use modified envirobots as chasers, robotic predators that mark their prey with long-lasting scent or colour on capture, to inform other springboks that the victim has been caught.

Duiker culture

Small provolves that live in forests, these antelope are omnivores that occasionally hunt small rodents. Since there are few predators on this world, the duikers often find that they are among the apex predators in their biome, and some have elected to augment their predation skills to improve their hunting success. In some cases augmented hunting duiker act as chasers among
particularly adventurous springbok herds, but have strict taboos against killing or eating them. In most cases the hunting duikers are too slow to catch the 'boks, but using stealth and skill they are sometimes successful.

Ibex culture

Not antelope but caprines, these provolves live in the few mountainous regions of Amboseli. They make the most extensive use of handtech of all species on this world, for rescue purposes and to build precarious shelters and structures high on cliffs and hillsides. Slender bridges and vertiginous pathways link the homes of these sophonts situated among the hills, which often have excellent connectivity to the planetary web and Known Net.

Amboseli today

In the current era a number of additional ungulate clades have come to this world, joining the herds on the plains and plateaus; but the biological carrying capacity of the planet is finite, therefore immigration is strictly controlled to match emigration. Loner wildebeeste, lechwe anxious to escape their restrictive society, and hunter duiker looking for more challenging prey are among those that leave this world, often to destinations in the Zoeific Biopolity. Incoming species include provolved kudu and impala, human/ungulate rianths of many types, and even a few lazurogened Gigantopithecus provolves, herbivorous, knuckle-walking gorilla-like lazurogens that live in higher forests between the duikers and the ibex. However a strict and long-standing cultural taboo exists against any humanoid clade, including bipedal androids and neogens; the only human tourists that travel to this world come in the form of non-human remote presence devices.

In the early days of the colony the Amboselans were assisted by the transapient Tji Wara, an ascended antelope of the S:1 toposophic level. By helping them to choose this particular world, Tij Wara ensured that the Ambolselans could persist into the far future. Even if the ungulates of this world lose the use of their (independently self-replicating) hand tech robot assistants, they will have a good chance of surviving into the deep future on this planet. Without the administrations of the envirobots the planet will remain inhabitable for at least one gigayear, since it closely resembles Old Earth in many important respects.

Tji Wara has since that time transcended to another level and moved away from the system, but despite this Amboseli seems to have been carefully prepared for a long independent future. Apart from a minor interspecies conflict between the Lechwe and Wildebeeste soon after the departure of the transapient this world has been largely peaceful.
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  • Ungulate - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    General term for terragen hoofed, herbivorous, placental mammals. The hoof is made of the protein keratin. Representative baseline ungulates include horses, sheep, pigs, deer, camels, bovids, and many other species. Many ungulate species have been provolved, others have been raised to presophonce, or geneered or adapted in various ways.
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Development Notes
Text by Steve Bowers
Initially published on 21 May 2012.