From Sagan 4 Beta Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The hividot’s previously more subtle adaptations have become far more sophisticated and extreme in the neurocrystal. Many adaptations which helped it survive before have now caused it to take over the majority of Darwin. It has become far better adapted for its lifestyle, as well as being able to adapt to other niches. Neurocrystal has replaced the network peridot and the hividot in its range.

While the hividot was previously able to gather nutrients, share nutrients, and transmit signals, they all did so through the same structures. The neurocrystal has an advantage, in that its different hyphae are now specialized for different tasks. There are now five types of root-like structures that extend from the base of each crystal: collection roots, signal tubes, nutrient tubes, enzyme tubes, and reproductive roots. The collection roots absorb nutrients and water from the ground and detritus, as they did before. The nutrient tubes carry nutrients and water between crystals. The signal tubes carry hormonal signals between crystals. The enzyme tubes carry enzymes between crystals or form branching structures to dissolve organic material. The reproductive roots exchange stored gametes with another colony’s reproductive roots.

Various phytes.

The neurocrystal spreads similarly to its ancestor, forming large superorganisms of asexually produced clones. However, the individual crystals (now called “phytes” for convenience) no longer exist on a mild spectrum, and instead mostly conform to four basic body plans: the deep green phyte, the pale phyte, the eroder phyte, and the mother phyte.

Deep green phytes are tall and leaf-like, and do most of the photosynthesis of the colony. Pale phytes are cheap and inefficient crystals used to quickly spread over an area. In older colonies, pale phytes only exist to relay nutrients, hormones, and enzymes to other crystals. Eroder phytes build up and store powerful digestive enzymes, which they use to break down organic matter and kill rival colonies. They also have the longest roots, and absorb lots of nutrients from the ground. Mother phytes are the rarest of the phytes, and are somewhat of a jack of all trades. They can accept and deliver the most nutrients and enzymes of all the crystals, thanks to their huge fungal base. Mother phytes are also the most sophisticated in hormonal regulation, and are able to receive and process many chemical signals. These are the closest thing to the “brain” of a colony, sort of like the nucleus of a cell. They also produce most of the colony’s gamete spores, though all phytes are able to store these spores for later use. All phytes start out as small protrusions of root with a tiny crystal on them. This young “stem-phyte” will become a different type of phyte according to its environment and the colony’s needs.

Phytes that are injured beyond repair or do not benefit the colony will initiate a self-destruct function if they receive the proper hormonal signals. Phytes that detect that they are injured or otherwise not working properly will start producing a signal known as a “question” hormone. Neighboring phytes that detect that something is wrong (usually if they aren’t receiving as many nutrients as usual) will send out an “answer” hormone. When the question and answer hormones meet in the presumably injured phyte, it will then cut itself off from the rest of the colony and liquify itself with enzymes. This crystal sludge will then eventually be reabsorbed by the rest of the colony.

Neurocrystal colonies can get extremely large, sometimes covering many acres of land. When they get large enough to produce multiple mother phytes, they can be extremely hard to get rid of, and can live for hundreds or even thousands of years if undisturbed. When two colonies meet, they will release special pheromones which they can use to detect each other. They will then “decide” whether to mate with or kill each other. A neurocrystal’s decisions can be based on many factors such as their size, level of nutrients, and amount of eroder phytes, all of which are stored and updated continuously within the computer-like mother phytes.

If two colonies meet and one happens to be hungry, a war will start between them. Most of a colony’s stocked up nutrients will be used growing new phytes and bombarding the enemy with digestive enzymes. While they do not have the precision and capability to target individual crystals or roots, enzymes will usually be applied in areas with a high density of mother or eroder phytes, both of which are the least disposable types of phyte. The losing colony usually ends up being the one that is smaller or has the worst ratio of the four types of phyte. A war between colonies will last until one colony is completely dead, and after that the winning colony will continue eating away at the other colony until it is entirely absorbed.

Colony reproduction is similar to its ancestor. If two healthy and mature colonies meet, they will extend reproductive roots toward each other. When these reproductive roots meet, gametes will flow into them and meet at the point between the two roots. This forms a new root with their combined genetic material, which is then extended a few meters away from the mother colony to grow a new mother phyte. This daughter colony will share nutrients with the mother colonies until it has around 12 crystals, at which point it will be cut off from their supply to start a life of its own.