by Gabriella Buba
Dr. Sharn Ghorzna and Dr. Traugh Duluk’s research team of the Golgoth Institute
It is widely accepted that Domestication Syndrome in mammals, a series of morphological changes including: depigmentation, shorter jaws, smaller teeth, reduction in ear size, and increased docility occurs when wild species are selected for tamer offspring. The explanation for this wide range of morphological changes is tied to reduced adrenaline production, wherein the diminished fight-or-flight response results in increased docility and adaptability to communal habitation. This decrease in adrenaline production has been linked to undersized adrenal glands, a fairly common mutation that arises due to spontaneous embryonic mutations resulting in reduced size and numbers of neural crest cells. Neural crest cells are a band of embryonic cells that play a large part in the development of pigment, cartilage formation, jaw length, tooth size and quantity, as well as the size of the adrenal gland (Wilkins, 2014).
After extensive studies of Urban, Village, Small Band, and Solitary Elves, our research team concludes that the Urbanization of the Elf and the morphological changes seen therein can be explained by a similar evolutionary mechanism. In this paper we will explore the connection between increased ability for social cooperation in a species naturally given to a Solitary lifestyle and reduced adrenaline production caused by a smaller neural crest.
The Solitary Elf vs the Urban Elf
It has been argued by our esteemed colleagues at Alberich University Subterra that the Solitary and Urban Elves are completely different species that have not shared a common ancestor any more recently than we at Golgoth have shared one with pigs (Klien, 1530). We argue that our respected, though vertically-challenged colleagues’ findings are not supported by the breadth of observational data, due to their reluctance to spend time above ground. Anyone having devoted a modicum of time to studying Elven culture and communities can see the clear evolution of the Elven species from Solitary to communal living habits. Indeed, in a mere ten generations our researchers have observed how a single family line of Solitary Elves can become urban-dwelling Elves, taking on the morphological appearance of Urban Elves that have been living in their cooperative social environment for fifty generations or more.
Our team has been tracking the migration of Solitary Elves into urban communities for over 200 years and is prepared to conclusively denounce previous theories of separate-ancestor origin. We will demonstrate the trait-by-trait morphological shift marking the need for increased social cooperation in Elven societies enabling them to engage in trade and treaties with the kingdoms of other sentient species on more equitable footing.
Decreased Adrenaline Production: The Initiating Step to Fostering Social Cooperation
Measurements of adrenal gland size and activity were conducted humanely on already-deceased specimens, by biopsy and scans in our catch-and-release program, or by paid volunteer sampling among our partner Elven communities. Our measurements show across Elven subspecies there is a correlated change in adrenal gland size and observational flight distance of Elven individuals when encountering unknown Elves in their territory. Observational flight distance, or the distance an unfamiliar Elf could approach before the subject fled or reacted aggressively, was measured by presenting the subject with an unfamiliar Elven individual from our partner program.
Solitary Elves spend the majority of their adult lives alone, only socializing during the large mate-finding gatherings that occur on every lunar eclipse. Through extensive sampling, our team found they have adrenal glands that are 3x larger than their Urban relatives at a median of 26.7± 0.9% g. On average, they react to the presence of an unknown sentient in their territory as soon as the individual is within 840m. It is notable that Solitary Elves were found to have a flight distance that was 31.4x greater than their Urban relatives. Our team did not show a clear correlation indicating why one individual might react with a dominance display vs. a flight response, though forthcoming research suggests the lunar eclipse dulls the fight or flight response. This may allow Solitary Elves to safely come together at these important times of their lives to mate and produce offspring, which are raised for 3 years by the female of the species completely alone and without the aid of the male.
Paired or Small-band Elves live in cooperative mate pairs, or bands of five to seven, usually family groups. In our observations, it is most often a pair of sisters who will conscript their mates to travel together accompanied by one unmated juvenile, usually related. These bands do not much differ in lifestyle from Solitary Elves except that their cooperation allows them to hold and defend larger territories and hunt larger prey. Paired and Small Band Elves have adrenal glands that have a mean combined weight of 17.9± 0.7% g, twice as large as their urban relatives. While they are known to react with aggression toward Elves who do not share the band’s particular blended family scent, they will allow such intruders to approach within 506m, making their flight distance only 19x greater than that of their urban relatives.
Village Elves live in cooperative communities of 20 to 50 individuals and in small, settled societies. Their adrenal glands at a mean weight of 12.7± 0.8% g, are only 1.5x larger than their Urban relatives. Although Village Elves still show significant distrust towards Elven individuals not from their village, their flight distance at 217m is only 8x larger than the Urban Elf. Given time to acclimate they have been known to conduct limited trade with outsiders of Elven, Orcish, and Dwarven persuasion.
Urban Elves maintain large settled colonies of up to several thousand individuals, and experience easy interspecies cooperation. They are seen to operate in work crews under Elven supervisors and accomplish engineering feats such the great tree city of Baden-Wurtt and the terraced farms of the Caprian Coast. They quickly acclimate to the arrival of new Elven individuals, absorbing them into the colony in a matter of days. Their adrenal glands are quite small, at an average combined mass of 8.6± 0.5% g. They have an average flight distance of 26.7m however several individuals were observed to express no discomfort or affront until unfamiliar Elves were within 3 meters. As such the Urban Elf comingles easily even in large groups of strange Elves. Dominance fights are rarely seen among working-class Urban Elves, reserving territorial displays for leadership positions or settling disputes with rival colonies. This increased affinity for social cooperation has greatly improved Elvish ability to operate in civilized society interacting on near equitable levels with Orcish and Dwarven communities. Despite much exaggerated accounts of Elves hunting fellow sentients during lean winters, the last verified account of such an incident is over 100 years old. Truly it is amazing to see how a naturally solitary and predatory species has been able to adapt themselves to a communal lifestyle when they do not naturally prefer it as do the Orcish Clans and Dwarven Houses.
Depigmentation: How Hair Tone and Pattern Changes Affect Elvish Hunting Strategies
Our colleagues at Alberich Subterra often use outdated phenotypical hair pigment differences between Solitary and Urban Elves to justify categorizing them as separate species (Schmitt, 1567). To that, we say it’s clear they haven’t spent appropriate time investigating the genetic reasons for coloring variations between Elven communities. Furthermore, dwarves, a naturally subterranean species, have reduced visual acuity at distance and a tendency towards colorblindness, which necessarily reduces the quality of their observational data, particularly in non-subterranean environs. My respected colleague Dr. Duluk’s paper on the development of dwarven songs and cave soundings explores this topic in depth (Duluk, 1790).
Extensive and exemplary research has been done by our fellow Golgoth Institute Researcher, Dr. Utumband, to show how the prevailing dark blue coloring of hair helps Solitary and Small Band Elves thrive in their densely forested environments, which are dominated by blue tip spruce and purple plum. Furthermore, their utilization of grease paints of ash and animal fats to camouflage their shape can further exaggerate the features of the colloquially called Forest Elf (Utumband, 1801). This use of paints in addition to their dark foliage-mimicking hair helps them to blend into the undergrowth, thereby allowing them to successfully stalk and take down prey many times larger than themselves, even when hunting alone.
As Elves begin to operate in village communities where communal hunting strategies and even early attempts at farming remove the need for stalking and hunting strategies, depigmentation and spotting becomes common. This mutation is caused by the shrinking neural crest cells, and generally, appears as stripes of blond around the face.
Finally, there is the Urban Elf, operating in a large colony, rarely hunting alone, with the bulk of their diet being grain-based supplemented with livestock and rarely wild game. Such individuals often show total loss of hair pigmentation. Our research has shown the prevalence of depigmentation is directly correlated to the reduced size of the neural crest.
Jaw and Teeth: Reduction of Dentition and Resulting Dietary Alterations
The reduced neural crest also leads to significant reductions in jaw and tooth development across various Elf communities.
Although tooth number and pattern remains the same across Elf communities, the length of the jaw in Solitary Elves and the pronouncement of front incisors and canines cannot be denied. This arrangement of teeth and jaw allows them to hunt and consume prey, largely raw, using their teeth as their primary weapon and utensil.
Paired and Small Band Elves are often seen using crafted weapons such as spears, and employ community hunting strategies. This is an important adaptation given their shrinking jaws and canines, which are on average 1 cm reduced in size from their fully Solitary relatives. Some Small Band Elves have even been observed cooking their food.
Village Elves, while primarily carnivores, eat largely cooked diets, and hunt using bows and spears in advanced group strategies.
Urban Elves have been observed domesticating deer and elk to supplement their diet of grains and vegetables. This can be clearly seen in their dentition which is far more adapted to eating cooked meats and grains. Note also the reduced canines and shortened jaw more favorable to their omnivorous diet.
Reduced Cartilage Production: The Cause of the Altered Ear Form
The final and perhaps most readily visible difference between Elven subspecies to the outside observer are the changes in ear form. The reduced neural crest causes significantly reduced cartilage production. Without the high cartilage production, the traditional long-peaked Elven ear seen in Solitary Elves is not possible. In paired and Small Band Elves this is often observed in the folding or drooping of ear tips. Village Elves retain the readily recognized pointed ear but have even more reduced point length, by as much as 3 cm. Meanwhile the Urban Elf often has fully rounded ears (Figure 3).
Based on our extensive genetic analysis and anthropological field studies, we, the researchers representing the Golgoth Institute of Orcish Sciences stand fully behind our hypothesis that the reduced size of the neural crest and its effects on adrenal production have resulted in the self-domestication of Elves as they have adapted from a solitary predator species into beings more given to social cooperation.
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Schmitt, Garlan. “Humans and Elves a Separate Species: As Shown by a Study of Their Divergent Architectural Development” Urbani Izziv, vol 14, no.20, 1567
Utumband, Duran., et al. “The Utility of the Native Hair Coloring of the Solitary Elf in Their Natural Environment” Anthropology (Golgoth), vol. 17, 1801
Wilkins, Adam S., et al. “The ‘Domestication Syndrome’ in Mammals: A Unified Explanation Based on Neural Crest Cell Behavior and Genetics.” Genetics, vol. 197, no. 3, 2014, pp. 795–808. Crossref, doi:10.1534/genetics.114.165423.
Gabriella Buba is a chemical engineer who likes to keep explosive pyrophoric materials safely contained in pressure vessels or between the covers of her stories.
A speculative take on comparative anthropology and genetics in the vein of Body Ritual Among the Nacirema by Horace Miller seeking to humorously subvert the traditional hierarchy of fantasy worlds.