To'ul'h Prime Phylogenetic Tree

Evolution of To'ul'h fauna and flora

To'ul'h Evolutionary Tree
Image from Andrew P.

To'ul'h Prime is a wet greenhouse world with a complex biosphere, which is divided into three main zones; photosynthetic skyplankton at the top of the cloud layer and an associated ecosystem, and two deeper zones of detritivores and saprophytes at different temperatures and pressures. The topmost or photic zone has a mean temperature of around 35 degrees Celsius; the next zone has a temperature of around 85 °C, and the deepest has a temperature of about 135 °C.

Arising from a common ancestor two billion years ago, the To'ul'h biota has evolved relatively rapidly into the diversity seen today. This rapid evolution is understood to be a result of the fast metabolic rate of the hot biosphere, and shorter generations among several of the most primitive phyla.

In addition to simpler life, three main superkingdoms of eukaryote-equivalent organisms have evolved to fill the three environmental zones in the atmosphere; Primary Skyplankton (the Photosynthilia) occupying the 35 °C level, Moderate Thermophiles (the Thermophilia) in the 85 °C zone, and Hyperthermophiles (the Hyperthermophilia) in the 135 °C zone at the surface.*

Photosynthilia is divided into three kingdoms. The most prolific are the skyalgae, which are subdivided into red, green golden, brown and blue phyla. Members of the second kingdom, the skyzooplankton, are independently mobile, and most are heterotrophic, although some retain the capacity for photosynthesis. Skyfungi are a third group of multicellular and colonial skyplankton, almost all of which inhabit thelower part of the upper zone and are mostly saprophytic with little or no photosynthetic ability.

Thermophilia is also divided into three kingdoms: the midlevel autotrophic thermophiles which gather the relatively dim light that reaches this level in a form of photosynthesis that is entirely unrelated to that used by skyplankton; the crustose thermophiles which colonise dust particles, and the medusoid thermophiles — a diverse kingdom resembling airborne jellyfish.

Hyperthermophilia is divided into four kingdoms: hyperthermophile fungi, very different to the sky fungi found in the cooler regions above; hyperthermophile porifera, sponge-like organisms, and hypothermophile saprophytes, plant-like organisms that resemble non-photosynthetic trees and grasses. The fourth kingdom, the hyperthermophile animals, includes a phylum of wormlike organisms, a phylum of bilateral organisms including skywhales and the To'ul'h equivalent of arthropods, a superphyle of sedentary detritivores and the phylum of tetraradial animals that includes the To'ul'h themselves.

Image from Andrew P.
A Spockbat, (H'shass'thee) (click for larger image)
Some interesting taxa found on this world include:
— "Blindfish": several species of bilateral aquatic animals; all are blind and navigate using electrosensory organs.
— "Zapsword": Predatory species resembling a cuttlefish, with a long pointed "bill" in place of a mouth and tentacles. This bill is used to direct electric currents that can stun prey.
— "Tesla Eel": a species with long, serpentine body with dorso-ventral fins for propulsion, feelers, battery of electrosensory organs on "head" and beaked mouth.
— "Spockbat": Terrestrial flying predator resembling a cross between a stingray, bat and To'ul'h; named for pointed "ears" that resemble those of a character from an Old Earth TV show.
— "Flying Monkey": Species resembling a spider with webbing between front and back pairs of legs, making four wing membranes. Also has a prehensile tail, well-developed eyes and three "ears" resembling those of a To'ul'h.

Crown of Thorns Medusoid
Image from Andrew P.
A Medusoid (click for larger image)
Medusoids are members of the superkingdom Thermophilia, and are very distantly related to the Hyperthermophile animal kingdom that includes the To'ul'h.

  • The names of these superkingdoms (hyperthermophilia, thermophilia and photosynthilia) are names given by Terragen observers, rather than by the To'ul'hs themselves. The To'ul'hs have their own names for most, if not all, of these species in their various sibilant languages, although their names can be considered the 'common' or local names.

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Development Notes
Text by Andrew P.
Additional material by Steve Bowers; from ideas by Stephen Inniss and Anders Sandberg
Initially published on 09 July 2014.