Origin of Species
In the dark cold empty void of the universe, orbiting around a smallish binary star system atop the nucleus of a red-and-blue spiral galaxy, spun a planet.
The planet was young and not entirely stable yet. Volcanic activity still marked fiery lines over its crust. Meteors still struck its surface regularly, or burned as they attempted to enter its atmosphere. Its oceans, composed of a solution of water, were still contaminated with iron and other heavy metals, and boiled in the heat of the impacts and eruptions. A ring of debris around it, still patchy, still forming, and a collaboration of medium-sized satellites, kept the orbit of the planet just unstable enough to give it yearly seasons and pulled its oceans into three daily tides. A core of nickel, iron and cobalt gave the planet a protective envelope of magnetism that blocked solar wind from the two stars. An atmosphere of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and neon warmed the planet to a high temperature- But things were changing. In the caress of the toxic oceans, new types of complex acids had formed in volcanic sludge. The compounds were complicated beyond compare, but their complexity caused them to replicate themselves, over and over, whenever the conditions were correct.
Sometimes, however, an error would occur when the collections of molecules replicated. Often, the error resulted in the organism being unfit to continue creating copies of itself. But sometimes, the error was beneficial, and a new trait was preserved in molecular code. Large molecules became cellular bodies. Eventually, self-replicating organisms reached a stage of complexity in which they could be classified as Alive.
Thus began a new age.
Cyanobacteria spread through the oceans, forming millions of stromatolites on the shore. They needed energy, and they took it from the sun and the air, breathing oxygen into the atmosphere and using the carbon dioxide to fuel themselves. The oxygen rusted the metals in the oceans, leaving them habitable, and the planet cooled as its cloak of carbon was diminished. The conditions for life were improving, but the conditions in which life could appear were dwindling. Life would have to adapt itself to populate the planet.
And adapt it did.
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Years Passed: 0
Player Species Count: 6
Mutation Points: 2 (all)
Around a series of volcanic vents in the deep ocean, a chemosynthetic species of cells was thriving. Moved around by the currents, they were occasionally washed from one vent to the next, ensuring the expansion and continuation of the species as each vent eventually died. But the species could not control its movement- It went where the currents dictated. The species was slowly growing more complex, however, as it increased it's numbers. New proteins were building up in it's cellular wall, for the process of producing food from the minerals of the vents, for respiration, and the removal of waste. The genes of the species were still unstable, and mutation occured often near the heavy metals near volcanoes in the depths. Filaments outside the membraneous covering of it's body developed in a sudden and startling shift- But unlike many rapid changes that killed the induvidual, this mutation proved advantageous. The filaments moved as the cytoplasm in the cell moved, but if moved in unison, pulled the cell along the black cooled magma. The prokaryote could crawl. Soon it spread widely through the oceans with it's ability to move to optimal locations around each vent, chasing them as they shifted- A valuable advantage.
1 Mutation Point spent to evolve motile pili
Near the surface of the vast oceanic plains, another species of early Cyanophyta was taking it's first steps on the path of life.
Brought to the surface aloft plumes of warm volcanic water, much of the population found itself in unfavourable conditions. However several colonies, through providence and serendipity, arrived in mineral-rich flows, fed by the rising water. With the challenges and limitations of it's new habitat, the species began to develop new methods of coping and producing energy. The slow engine of evolution eventually lead to a marked increase in the efficiency of the species ability to photosynthesise, primarily through an increase in the surface area of the cell. As time went on, the species began to spread across the surface of the equatorial oceans, tingeing sections of the sea an eerie pale cyan.
1 Mutation Point spent to evolve photosynthesis as an efficient primary method of energy production.
Along the streams of hot water escaping from the volcanic vents along the sea floor, another bacteria strain developed. As the hot water carried the small creatures to places in the ocean of more toxicity than where it developed. Slowly, the poisons that would have killed another cell became integrated into the bacterium itself. By chance, many cells that had been exposed to the toxins absorbed other bacteria and grew an organelle capable of injecting cells with the poison before using the remaining organelles as protein to continue surviving.
1 Mutation Point spent to evolve an injecting organelle and consume the remains of dead organisms.
Life had begun to abound in the right conditions. The warmer oceans were gaining a greenish tint of chlorophyll. Below, the volcanic vents began to harbour many new colonies of tiny cells. Extremophiles of many colours and strangely shaped stromatolites increased in number in their own habitats. The many new species barely conflicted; Only pushing each other out when nourishment became scarce. But the climbing populations could not all survive, and nature was finding crueller ways of supporting a species.
In addition to the toxicity of the bacteria below, poisoning others and absorbing them to survive, the species that crawled with tiny fibrous pili were competing with others. Sometimes, despite their mobility, they couldn't keep up with the spread of other bacteria. But they could move from place to place on each vent, and a still source of nutrients was no longer a requirement. The other bacteria were only processed packages of the nourishment from the vents. The mobile bacteria, over many an era, became capable of absorbing them directly into their membrane, then moving on. A new species of predators had been born, feeding on the vulnerable. The predatory species followed their prey populations through the water, occasionally coming into contact with other species at other depths and lines of volcanoes.
Occasionally, though, an anomaly occured in the absorbtion. The loose strands of DNA in an absorbed cell could combine in weird ways with the predator. Often, the anomalous cell died. But sometimes, the gene code of one of the two species melded with the other to become dominant, leaving a new induvidual with most of the genes of one species but some adaptations of another- Potential for strange new populations.
1 Mutation Point to become predatory
0 Points left for this species
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Not all of the mobile bacteria were predatory. The new species largely replaced the old mobile chemosynthesites, but in some places chance left them undisturbed, still absorbing energy from the vents as the predator species had done. Farther from the equator of the planet, time had brought about new changes to the bacteria. Where they were dominant, the cells with moving pili came into regular contact with each other, dividing and surviving together. In time, they developed new, compact strands of genetic code inside themselves, which could carry beneficial mutations from cell to cell. The bacteria gained the ability to share these compact strands of DNA by connecting to each other with their pili and sharing the compact code through their membranes. In large populations, mutations could now spread faster, a new edge if they came into contact with other species.
1 Mutation Point to develope a way of sharing DNA through plasmids, allowing for faster evolution
0 Points remaining for this species
Down in the depths of the primordial oceans, life was developing at a heretofore unseen rate. With the evolution of rudimentary predation, an explosion of new mutations and species erupted around the system of underwater volcanic vents as prey species began to develop their own defences. Far above them, on the surface of the early seas, other species, free of predation and with an abundance of natural energy, had begun to develop along a different path. One particular species of Cyanobacterium had already achieved dominance in it's territorial waters banding the equator. As the species developed, colonies began to form more rigid cellular structures; in essence their cellular membranes hardened, with an increase in their porous nature. The net result for the colony was a form of uni-species altruism, as cells 'shared' energy and nutrients between one other, as well as effectively blanketing the equatorial ocean surface with an almost unbroken film of bacteria.
Species evolves firmer, more porous cellular membranes, leading to more cohesive colony behaviour.
As the flow of life-sustaining nutrients moved to and from the habitats of the bacteria, so did the expansion and recession of their population. A particular species that already had evolved feeding off of other cells as its primary method of survival was being weakened by the lack of nutrition decided to change with the tides. Slowly and steadily, they evolved a state of intense feeding when food was rich and then a protective covering and state of dormancy during famine.
1 Mutation Point used to evolve the ability to be in a protected state of dormancy when food is scarce.