Five-Fingered Crystalblight

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Taxonomy
Ancestors and Descendants
Ancestor: Colony Crystal
Descendants: Crown-of-Thorns Crystalblight, Star-of-Bethlehem Crystalblight

The five-fingered crystalblight evolved as a result of competition between crystal flora along the eastern coast of Glicker. Due to the lack of space to grow, some colony crystals began to live on top of other crystal flora. They grew smaller in order to fit on their hosts. Eventually, some specimens began to parasitize their host by eating their way into the chitin shell of large crystal flora species. However, instead of outright feeding on the core, the five-fingered crystalblight will integrate its mycelial network into the host's core and directly leech nutrients from its host. While 50 cm is their maximum size, smaller specimens will grow if the host is too small for a normal crystalblight to grow on. Its exposed network has become less prominent due to the presence of Photosagnia rombusi, with the surface network reducing from 50 cm in size to only 20 cm in size. The remainder of the network consists of integrated mycelium. However, Photosagnia rombusi is less dangerous to the crystalblight and its ancestor, the colony crystal due to the perpetual production of enzymes, which makes it harder for Photosagnia rombusi to parasitize. This makes it somewhat advantageous for the host to have attached to it, as it can decrease the chance of it being attacked by Photosagnia rombusi. Once its mycelial network has reached its maximum size, its reproductive organs will form in the center of a ring of five 15-20 cm long crystals that form around the same time. It is at this time it decreases the amount of nutrients stolen from the host in favor of gaining nutrients from photosynthesis.

The five-fingered crystalblight reproduces by spewing spores from the center of its network from a series of sporangia. However, an odd mutation that developed in the spores caused the haploids to develop into multicellular crystals. They are somewhat similar to the crystalblight's distant ancestors, as they are little more than small, fully-crystalized octahedrons. However, this is where the similarities end. The gametophyte's eight vertical sides are lined with small spiracles that lead directly into the fungal core of the gametophyte. These spiracles are connected to a ciliated network of digestive, respiratory, and reproductive cells. The cilia force the water through the channels, and cause them to flow through the previously mentioned cell types. Gametophytes will produce flagellated gametes from its gametangia and release them through the spiracles. These crystals occur in large numbers due to the sheer number of spores produced by the sporophyte. This also offsets the sheer number of crystals lost to Photosagnia rombusi, as it has little trouble finding itself inside of the gametophyte. To make matters worse, the gametophyte does not produce its enzymes as aggressively as the sporophyte. Because these octahedral, floating crystals are so numerous, it is not hard for a gamete to come across another of the opposite sex. From there, they will fuse to form a diploid larva. The larva is little more than a blob of flagellated mycelial cells with a photosensitive ring on its anterior side. It will feed upon whatever microbe it comes across on its journey to the ground. Its photosensitive ring allows it to detect its position in the water column, and it will generally swim into dark areas, which hopefully is caused by the shade of a large crystal 'plant'. From there, it will plant itself onto its host and absorb its photosensitive ring and flagella and develop into a sporophyte.