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Snaiad is a fictional alien planet and exobiology project created by Turkish artist Nemo Ramjet. Currently it exists in an ever-updating website format, but the artist and author has expressed a great deal of interest in getting the idea published. Snaiad is meant more or less to be a natural history guide to an alien world, talking about the planet's geologic past, the natural history and evolution of its inhabitants, and to a lesser extent the much shorter human occupation of the planet.
Snaiad is an old world, having a history of life going back almost eight billion years, almost twice that of Earth's. There have been several waves of complex life, and just as many mass extinctions; one setting the complexity of life back to essentially pond scum. While the present fauna have not shown evidence of sapience, civilization has possibly evolved twice on Snaiad: once 3.2 billion years ago (the approximate age of the controversial "Dosadi Screws"), and again thirty million years ago with strange stone axe-like artifacts. The ancestors of the main "vertebrate" clan on Snaiad evolved from sea cucumber-like ancestors one billion years ago, crawling onto land in the form of plant-animal symbiotes. However, a mass extinction wiped the plant-animal symbiotes out, leaving what would become the modern body plan of Snaiad "vertebrates".
Like on Earth, humans only appeared on Snaiad very recently in the planet's long natural history. The people who colonized Snaiad were a "mixed bag" of settlers hailing from a group of Mediterranian countries, including Greece and Turkey. However, Snaiadi immigrants did not have to start from scratch, bringing with them numerous advanced technologies from Earth, including nanotechnology. This, along with Snaiad's human population only being about fifteen million at most, has prevented humanity from wreaking the same ecological effects on Snaiad that their ancestors had on Earth.
All Snaiadi "vertebrates" have a two-headed system. The first head, extending from the "shoulders" and most easily recognized by humans as a head, typically has the eyes and ears (when present), and contains the reproductive organs. The eyes of Snaiad "vertebrates" are liquidless silicate lenses, surrounded by heat-sensing pads in most species, which enhance vision and allow the eyes to be small. The first head also usually has jaws, a beak or something analogous, which originally developed from bony sheaths that protected the reproductive organs.
Although the first head often takes the role of biting and chewing, it does not actually consume the food, having no connection to the digestive tract. The true "mouth" is in the second head, which protrudes from the chest and varies from creature to creature, from a simple tongue-like organ of many Snaiad creatures, to the almost ungulate or kangaroo-like muzzle of the more advanced herbivores. A very few species can actually chew with their second head, such as the Tromobrachids, Jetocetes, and the advanced herbivores.
A Snaiadi "vertebrate's" digestive system is very similar to ours. First the food goes from the mouth of the second head into the stomach, where it is digested. Afterwards it passes into the intestines. There are two kinds of intestines in Snaiadi animals; thick and thin. Thick intestines seem to play a role analogous to the crop of a bird, and help to further break down the food. The thin intestines are similar to our intestines, both absorbing nutrients from the food and passing out waste products. Snaiadi animal waste products are rather dry and pasty, much like the waste products of the birds of our world.
Like Earth vertebrates, Snaiadi "vertebrates" have an internal skeleton. However, their "bones" are black or brown and made of a wood-like hydrocarbon, rather than calcium. These burn readily, and "vertebrate" fossils are not as common on Snaiad as on Earth. Another key difference between Snaidi "vertebrates" and Earth vertebrates is the presence of numerous hollows and indentations in the skeleton, which serve as anchorage points for the hydraulic muscles.
Most major muscles in Snaiadi vertebrates are hydraulic, working on the principle of pushing out with fluid rather than contracting and pulling the bone. These muscles are filled with fluid, which accumulates in fluid reservoirs in their pectoral armature and skid (the Snaiadi equivalent of shoulders and hips), to be cleaned. The hydraulic system also functions as the lymphatic system, and probably evolved from the water vascular system of their sea cucumber-like ancestors . Snaiadi "vertebrates" also have secondary muscles that are fibrous and work like those of Earth vertebrates.
The brain is located in the shoulders, typically very close to the digestive tract. Much like the muscular system, the nervous system of Snaiadi "vertebrates" displays an unusual duality, consisting of fluid-filled vessels along with more familiar fibrous "nerves"; the latter generate and receive electrical signals, while the former carry them along the body. This duality is also evident in the brain, which is actually two organs working in tandem, one being a dense knot of "nerves" and the other a bizarre, convoluted tangle of microscopic tubules in a sac called the worm basket, which contains millions of glands and vesicles communicating with each other via a cryptic alphabet of chemicals and protein equivalents. The worm basket seems to play a role in recording memories, and its tubules have been observed to twist, coil and corkscrew when an animal is dreaming or working on a complex task.
Snaiadi "vertebrates" were originally ovoviparous, and some (e.g. the Turtiformes and Polydactyls) still are. However, most living species are viviparous, keeping their young in a pouch inside their first head, slightly reminiscent of a marsupial. Snaiadi animals typically give birth by "vomiting" out the eggs or young. In some species with small first-head beaks, the young rip their way out of the pouch with specially developed womb-beaks. This is not harmful to the mother, as the pouch is not needed for anything else and rapidly heals over.
Snaiad life comes in a huge variety of forms, like Earth. Unlike Earth, there are two plant "kingdoms", red plants and green plants. The former of the two is said to be more closely related to animals. One of the major plants of Snaiad is sprog, a green, spongy plant that is relatively tough and covers large areas of the ground in mats of up to a meter thick, similar to the grass of our world. Sprog is riddled with holes and typically inhabited by countless small creatures. Another unique biome of Snaiad is the pinnacle range, a vast plain dotted with small "islands" of dense vegetative growth—the remnants of ancient jungles which have developed into cathedral-like, many-tiered structures of symbiotic plant life.
The author has mentioned many groups of Snaiadi animals that do not belong to the main "vertebrate" clade, including arthrognathans, elastozoans, trikes, and others, but nothing in-depth has been written on them as of yet.
There are many branches of Snaiad "vertebrates" including:
There are approximately eight continents on Snaiad: Aucaterra, Notor, Glacia, Thalassia, Vesterna, Isterna, Midland, and Oroland, as well as a number of smaller landmasses such as Mapag and Endland.
Expedition (book), a similar book by Wayne Douglas Barlowe also about the ecology of an alien planet.
Alien Planet, a film based upon the above mentioned book.
Sagan 4, an astrobiology project.