Speculative biology is a field of art where science and science fiction combine to come up with alternate ecologies and organisms. With the strangeness we continually discover about nature, how likely is a sexually dimorphic organism like this by scientific illustrator Rachel Caauwe, whose subjects include the weird, the unknown, the misunderstood?
Speculative Dimorphism / Colossal Aquatic Female, Tiny Airborne Male by Rachel Caauwe
This species displays a high degree of sexual dimorphism. The male retains its larval form and develops an elastic, balloon-like airsac that is inflated with the gases that are the byproduct of the floating microbes in the atmosphere. Females grow to a colossal size and are much rarer, appearing in a ratio of one female to a million males. They spend most of their life as a deep sea predator, and when they become sexually mature, they rise to the surface to mate. They have a display of red and green feathery appendages which exhibit bioluminescent receptacles that attract males. The bioluminescence of the receptacles is produced through the same methane and hydrogen byproducts that keep the males afloat. The males mate with the receptacles and sperm is transported through the appendages to the female’s ovaries.
“Living in the oceans of a dense metal rich planet, the Swordswallower moves through the sea on a single undulating ventral fin. As it moves, its jaw sweeps planktonic life into its small mouth at the back of the ‘net’, where it is filtered and any food swallowed. The membrane it uses to hunt may look delicate, but is make from silk-like secretions and is easily repaired by glands in the egg shaped ‘mouth’.
To alter its depth, a gas bladder fills much of its insides and can change volume at will, letting the Swordswallower feed using minimum energy.
Under the shadow of this specimen, a school of smaller fish-size relations of the Swordswallower seek shelter under its shadow. If I predator attacks, the feeding mouth of the large creature can be retracted, and the fish size creatures will hide inside. In return for this shelter, the fish like animals keep the Swallower free from parasites.
Trailing from the rear of this specimen are two long pale strings of gametes, releasing hundreds of reproductive cells into the sea as it swims, to mix in the water with the eggs and sperm of others swimming nearby.
To see the internal anatomy of this critter check out my gallery.
It was painted in Photoshop using standard fuzzy brushes set to between zero and 70% hardness, with hard brushes used for fine details.”
Spokes in Saturn’s B Ring; in forward-scattered light, the spokes are bright. Several moons are visible in these wide-angle shots. Starting near the top and zooming off to the left of screen is Dione; it doesn’t re-appear down near the bottom of the frame – that is Tethys. Mimas is the large moon that we see completing an arc until it leaves the frame on the right-hand side; Janus is the little moon just visible early on outside the F Ring, and if you watch closely for it, you’ll also see Epimetheus, which is co-orbital with Janus, a little ahead of it. Pandora, very close to the F Ring, is also just visible. At the end of the gif, we see Enceladus moving across the top half of the frame.
Saturn’s north polar hexagon basks in the Sun’s light now that spring has come to the northern hemisphere. Many smaller storms dot the north polar region and Saturn’s signature rings put in an appearance in the background.