by E. A. Lawrence
CONGRESSIONAL DISCOVERY EXPEDITION
AUTHOR and DIVISION PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Zephraim A. Mallory, Jr., P.hD
MISSION DATE: 2467_1.42.8
CDE CARRIER: PEREGRINE
CDE CARRIER DEAN: Zephraim C. Mallory, Sr., PhD
RESEARCH DIVISION: XENOANTHROPOLOGY
STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE OUTLINE FOR: FIELD STUDY INTERVIEWS
ON: SILICA [14.03.49.60.22.23]
WITH: Social Amphibian Ectothermic Digitigrade Biped Society
INDIGENOUS SELF-APPELLATION: Wannana
IN: Southern Hemisphere, Central Riparian Region, Bordering the West Coast Beta Ocean
DURING: Quinquennial Vernal Precipitation Event called “Anamee”
BACKGROUND: The Meteorology Division defined that five years are needed for Silica’s atmosphere to gather enough moisture from the ice caps and scattered seas for one planet-wide storm season. The xeric environment recedes, the seas rise, and the seeds thrive in loamy sand. The plants are efficient. Cell growth from germination to maturity in the Southern cirronns, a photosynthetic plant similar to the Bambusoideae, is effective enough to capsize a poorly placed hover ferry because it grows 91 cm an hour; operators must use care. It is strongly recommended that no field work be attempted until the cirronn groves are mature.
Silica is dominated by amphibious life forms. It is likely that Silica was an aquatic or at least a more water-abundant world between 1 to 2 million years before present. Based on the magnetic fields of the poles and the geologic record, it is probable that Silica’s axis of rotation shifted. This cataclysm triggered widespread extinction when abundant terrestrial freshwater became a quinquennial sight. The amphibian vertebrates underwent an adaptive radiation event and two dominant species emerged (see related CDE Argos Geology & Paleontology Dual Division Ground Science Report, by Pichard, J. & Mallory, Z.C.): the omnivorous, sentient Wannana and the alpha-predator rotpar. These species differ genetically by 2.5% of novel genetic code (see related CDE Peregrine Biology and Xeno-Linguistic Division Co-Report, by Mallory, Z.C. et al). Wannana do not resemble rotpar beyond an equivalent camouflage of nutrient dependent chromatophores that facilitate dermis ranging between cirron-grove-green and loamy beige in color. At 3 meters tall, the average Wannanan towers over human field researchers but though obligate digitigrade bipeds, they prefer to crouch when casually conversing and human researchers are able to communicate with them well. It is comfortable for humans to read their wide, round faces. The Wannanan expressive brow ridges are hypothesized to facilitate a copacetic degree of micro-expression during conversation and their language is effectively translated by our software but the word Wannana is consistently translated as “dreamer” regardless of context.
Silican organisms reproduce synchronous to the Anamee. Both the Wannana and rotpar depend on the cirronn groves as well as the dynamic riparian ecosystem bordering the Beta Ocean to survive. Like the majority of Silica’s terrestrial animals, the Wannana estivate in the sand during the inter-Anamee years. Rotpar hunt and scavenge on the wing, in the water, and even in the sand without aestivating on the scale of the rest of Silica. The only amphibian on Silica with true flight, in appearance a rotpar resembles the extinct amphiuma of the North American southeast of Earth, with a conical head on the end of a muscular, serpentine neck. Rotpar have a long tail with a keratinized terminal spine. The anterior legs are short with excavating claws; the powerful posterior legs terminate in talons. The rotpar are obligate carnivores, highly intelligent, and opportunistic apex hunters. A wurnn, the juvenile rotpar, is a diminutive version of its parents. Rotpar fathers guard the growing wurnns while females hunt, and occasionally bring food to the males guarding their eggs. Every step the wurnns take is within sensory range of the father. However, the rotpar offer no recorded interpersonal nurturing behavior to their young. Rotpar actively hunt the Wannana. All field researchers engaged in Wannana interviews must follow standard off-ship safety practices with particular emphasis on wearing full personal protective equipment and working in teams to avoid injury (see Peregrine Field Safety Checklist, edition XII, sub-section 4, Predation Avoidance & Survival).
During Anamee, the Wannana congregate in the riparian zone parallel to the sea to dance, sing, and reproduce. Prior studies conducted by the CDE Argos and earlier work done by the CDE Peregrine have documented the natural history of the Wannana but have succeeded in only minimal xeno-anthropology. Couples mate and lay their eggs. However, the complete metamorphosis of Wannana-tadpoles to metamorphs must occur beneath the sand during estivation. Wannana-tadpoles have been observed burrowing beneath the muddy pools to estivate as the Anamee ends, using their powerful, fatty tails to propel them underground. During Anamee stubby-tailed metamorphs emerge at half their adult size and act familiar with their adult caregivers who do provide parental care. The females and post-Anamee metamorph juveniles guard the eggs at night, when the young wurnns and Rotpar females hunt. Guarding behavior consists of performing fierce threat displays of vocalizations and twirling cirron-trunk stave weapons. The guardians circle the eggs in shifts, relieving each other to sleep, eat, and otherwise relax. The mature male Wannana care for the elderly and act as sentinels of the eggs within their individual rookery pools.
Though the rotpar hunt the Wannanan rookery pools daily and the Wannana vigorously protect their eggs to a sufficient degree, they do not retaliate with lethal violence against the rotpar even after observed high depredations of eggs, Wannana-tadpoles, and metamorphs. Numerous observations and encounters with the Wannana provide evidence for a hunter-gatherer society with distinct language groups, complex social communication culture, and sophisticated cirron & bone-based tool use (see related reports from both the Peregrine and Argos Biology Divisions by Mallory, Z.C. & Goodel et al), but no formal Xeno-anthropology Division study has been conducted to better understand Wannanan culture. The landmark Mallory & Goodel studies posited in their respective Discussions that the societal development of the Wannana is constrained by the lack of surface time to technologically develop effective agriculture and long-term survival infrastructure to overcome the incredible predation of both the rotpar, meso-predators, and the harsh environment of Silica. However, their post-autopsy descriptions of Wannana physiology describe a large brain to body ratio as well as complex brain physiology that both Mallory, Z.C. and Goodel admitted defies an easy analog to known physiologies described by CDE missions. Given the complex social behavior evidenced in previous missions that suggest estivation acculturation due family-group behavior despite a presumed absence of direct contact. No artificial subterranean structures have been found on Silica during numerous geologic studies.
KEY QUESTIONS: How does a culture persevere when it is active only one-year for every five spent estivating? How do Wannanans complete metamorphosis and acculturation to their social band during estivation? Are there structures in their brains or body that allow for a way to socially function?
PROCEDURE: This is a broad scale procedural outline to direct plans on site.
- Arrive five days post-Anamee (coordinate with Meterology Division)
- Set up operations in the same area explored by both Mallory, Z.C. and Goodel to facilitate data comparison
- Make contact with Ziarrara (see attached photo)
- If Ziarrara is unavailable, Xharrara or Syggl, her kin are also good contacts
- Ask to be guests
- Interview every host group member and take detailed notes
- See attached interview form from the CDE Argos Xeno-Anthropology division mission to Alpha Centauri
- Offer every development stage possible of the host group the emotional imaginary communication set
- The more mature individuals show most curiosity about visible media, especially watercolor paint
- The adults are more interested in building bricks, pliable textured metals, and felt boards
- The metamorphs are most interested in the beeswax-based polymers
- The interests of the Wannana-tadpoles are unknown but will be explored
- Catalogue and discuss all products of both steps five and six to build relationships and answer key questions
- Assist in everyday food gathering and predation avoidance activities to the safest extent possible
- See reports from both the Peregrine and Argos Biology Divisions by Mallory, Z.C. & Goodel et al for a comprehensive list of possible hazards and means of navigating same
- Ask individuals with whom a rapport has been cultivated to complete both EEG and MRI testing over the course of various stimuli like emotional imaginary communication, ordinary conversation, and song.
- Offer to share all results and be explicit about activities to build trust
- If possible, explore how the estivation process is prepared for and conducted
PROPOSED RESULTS ANALYSIS & FUTURE DIRECTIONS: A full portfolio of imaginary communication projects as well as all interview notes and brain activity records will be tabulated for analysis by both the Peregrine Statistical Division and its Analytic A.I., Quest. The results will be prepared to present at both the CDE Conference at Io and the Intra-galactic Research Symposium. A better understanding of cultural development in a periodically xeric, high-predation-risk environment and the intersectional role of physiology, ecology, and social behavior in survival will enrich the Xeno-Anthropology discipline across diverse worlds. Silica is a singular world in the experience of the CDE. Creative approaches to cross-cultural communication are necessary to truly understand a society that defies easy comparison to known terrestrial experience and there is much that we can potentially learn to inform future CDE missions across multiple worlds.
E.A. Lawrence’s fiction has been published in the anthology ROAR 7, edited by Mary E. Lowd and in the August 2020 issue of Electric Spec. She lives with multiple sclerosis and many fountain pens in the upper Midwest of the USA. When she’s not writing fiction, she works in academia as a scientist to support medical research.