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  1. - Top - End - #691
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    Quote Originally Posted by Conners View Post
    Are there ways to encourage the huntintg reserves, so that you can hunt them more steadily and in larger quantities? Killing wolves and such predators would help.
    Pre-columbian north american societies manipulated the environment in rather subtle ways to encourage/attract certain animal populations. For example, noting that the kind of plant growth that occurred after natural prairie fires attracted more wildlife, they would sometimes start prairie fires themselves.

    As for killing predators, while that has been done, some studies show it's not without potential risks. Basically ecosystems are complex, and the interdependency of species may be difficult to understand. The elimination (or near elimination) of predators, may have unforeseen ramifications on the ecosystem and might cause systemic collapse.

  2. - Top - End - #692
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    @HeadlessMermaid: Hmm... what are the causes of animal migration, and what attracts them to particular spots? I think I know a way to work it, with that.


    @fusilier: So, growing the right plants is a good way to attract potential animals.

    Do you mean just with overpopulation of other species, or something even more unforeseeable?
    Last edited by Conners; 2012-10-07 at 12:45 AM.
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  3. - Top - End - #693
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    Quote Originally Posted by Conners View Post
    @HeadlessMermaid: Hmm... what are the causes of animal migration, and what attracts them to particular spots? I think I know a way to work it, with that.


    @fusilier: So, growing the right plants is a good way to attract potential animals.

    Do you mean just with overpopulation of other species, or something even more unforeseeable?
    Something even more unforeseeable -- because the interactions are complex, and the results not immediate. Note that it's probably a matter of degrees, so it may be possible to reduce other predators by some small amount, but determining where the tipping point is precisely would be almost impossible. Hypothetically, a decrease in the wolf population may lead to an increase in the deer population (and therefore more available for human consumption), but at the same time it may lead to an even larger increase in the rabbit population. The rabbits may eat more foliage, depriving the deer of food, and ultimately leading to a decrease in the deer population. In the short term you may get more deer but it ends up not being sustainable. The fact of the matter is, the scenarios I've heard are actually much more complicated than that, with many many more layers.

    In short, complex systems are . . . well . . . complex . . . and understanding or predicting/anticipating long term changes can be very very difficult. Note that the example I gave above (about intentional prairie fires) may have been less disruptive to the system, as it was an occasional recreation of a natural event. If overused it would probably have caused severe problems -- but if used sparingly, may have effected a subtle change in the populations of animals, without unforeseen disruption to the ecology. Also it tended to be used by nomads, who could change which area they decide to influence, allowing previous areas to recover and rebalance. Much like letting a field go fallow.

  4. - Top - End - #694
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    Default Re: Random Worldbuilding Questions (Biology, Geography, Society, etc.)

    You could have a situation where you kill a predator to have more of prey animal A, but it turns out that the predator mostly killed prey animal B, and now that prey animal B is uncontrolled, it eats away all the food that prey animal A needs to survive. And so prey animal A also becomes extinct.
    Not sure if exactly such a thing had happened, but that's one of the possible scenarios. And the number of possibilities is endless.
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    Default Re: Random Worldbuilding Questions (Biology, Geography, Society, etc.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Conners View Post
    @HeadlessMermaid: Hmm... what are the causes of animal migration, and what attracts them to particular spots? I think I know a way to work it, with that.
    Well, they're looking for food, water and safety. That's true all year long of course, but migration revolves around specific conditions which occur periodically.

    Some migrations are reactions to changes in the environment. For example, a river might flood in the savannah every April, and attract animals from huge distances away - because there's suddenly water and grass all over a land that's usually parched. Or, the weather is getting colder in the autumn, so birdies fly south (assuming northern hemisphere) to get warmer. :)

    In any case, the trigger is a periodic natural phenomenon: the changing of the seasons, ice forming or thawing, monsoons (possibly), river floods, etc. The effect may include shortage of food here, surplus of food there, or too many predators gathering. Either way, animals move towards an environment that they're best suited for.

    Other migrations are about mating or giving birth, and may require an area that's really, really safe from predators. For example, pregnant caribou gather in herds of many thousands (or is it packs? damn, I never learned collective names properly ), and move north. Their destination is safe (a subarctic zone where no predator sets foot), but the road isn't - wolves prowl the area. So every year, they go all the way up there, running at top speed and barely stopping to eat, evading wolves as best as they can.

    As soon as they arrive, they go straight into labor, stay for a single day (there's not enough food to sustain them longer, and if they delay, winter will catch up with them and the whole place will freeze), and then move south again with their newborn young. It's astounding, really. IIRC, the distance that caribou cover during their migration is the longest of all land animals. If you include the oceans, of course, whales take the prize.

    Finally, keep in mind that we don't always know why exactly animals migrate, or why they go this way instead of that way. Maybe there's a damn good reason and we haven't figured it out yet. Or maybe conditions have changed and the original reason doesn't exist any more, but they keep following their instinct regardless. So leaving some migrations a mystery (why do they move? nobody knows) may actually be a good thing and help immersion - I mean, we're talking about hunting elves, not trained zoologists. The Druids may know, but they won't tell.
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  6. - Top - End - #696
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    elves are long lived and are often depicted as living in the same area with little to no meaningful technological or social change for 100s or even 1000 of years. the elves might be the natural predators of the varies animals in the area.

    combine that with druids who really do understand their effect on the environment you might have a be able to manipulate the environment quite effectively.

  7. - Top - End - #697
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    Default Re: Random Worldbuilding Questions (Biology, Geography, Society, etc.)

    Thanks for that.


    Another dragon question: How strong could their eggs be? Dragon eggs are likely to be quite a bit larger than ostrich eggs, and I can imagine them being very strong as far as eggs go--just a question of whether it's something you can crack open a warhammer, or whether your need a sledgehammer.
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  8. - Top - End - #698
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    Got a question for everyone, not sure if it's or anything like it's been asked so-

    What would the world be like if the oceans were to rise on earth and most land became swamps or submerged completely, assume that it rose enough to cover everything but the highest elevated land and mountains?And there is also a low amount of light even in the middle of the day (Always heavy clouds)?
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  9. - Top - End - #699
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    Default Re: Random Worldbuilding Questions (Biology, Geography, Society, etc.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Crazyfailure13 View Post
    Got a question for everyone, not sure if it's or anything like it's been asked so-

    What would the world be like if the oceans were to rise on earth and most land became swamps or submerged completely, assume that it rose enough to cover everything but the highest elevated land and mountains?And there is also a low amount of light even in the middle of the day (Always heavy clouds)?
    I think the easiest thing to look at would be the conditions on Earth circa 12,000 years ago, at the end of the last ice age. Sudden ice melt raised sea levels some 300+ meters, inundating formerly coastal areas, breaking open the Bosphorus straits (and hence making the Black Sea turn from being a freshwater lake into a saltwater sea of about twice the size), completely altering climates, etc.

    These changes would completely devastate ecologies near the former shore, ranging from a few miles inland to several hundred (see Florida size during the last ice age). The changing weather patterns will effect rainfall and will drastically change what food sources are available, causing mass die-offs of many species. Those that can adapt will continue on, but populations may have suffered, leading to a very delicate situation with reproduction, and may result in significant in-breeding for some generations in more extreme cases.

    For a slightly more drastic example, you could look at the Sangamonian interglacial. Here's another map of Florida during this period, to give you an idea of the difference.

    As for having continuous heavy cloud cover, it depends. Is it clouds from water vapor, or is it more like a sheen of dust in the upper atmosphere from, say, a volcanic eruption?
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  10. - Top - End - #700
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    Default Re: Random Worldbuilding Questions (Biology, Geography, Society, etc.)

    If all the ice on earth would melt, the effect on the shape of the continents wouldn't be too extreme. Coastal areas would be flooded, but only in few places the water would come significantly distances inland.

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    Problem is that the majority of all people does live in these coastal areas. Not sure about the numbers, but a rough guess would be one third to two third of all people on Earth having to move inland. While Japan still looks like Japan, I think the number of people who would have to move would be over 90% and they already are awfully short in building space. And with Northeast China, Thailand, Bangladesh, and the American East Coast Gone, it's plain to see that a lot of people would be directly affected by wet feet. And that doesn't even yet mention South America and Africa, where I'm not so familiar with population distribution, but the numbers are probably very significant as well.

    With less ice, less sunlight would be reflected and instead be absorbed by the land and the water, which might increase temperatures quite significantly. More sunlight and more ocean means more evaporation, which means more clouds. Which in turn means less sunlight that reaches the oceans. And then we are back at the problem of climate being one of the most complicated systems in the universe known to men, and predicting any weather paterns would be difficult.
    There would be new areas that don't get any rain at all anymore, but overall I would expect a lot of storms with massive amounts of rainfall., for which none of the places that are not drowned yet would be prepared. Would easily take a hundred years or more for people to figure out how to make a living in that world. At which point the number of people might be drastically lower depending on how sudden the change is. If it is gradually over 500 and you would assume the process started about now on Earth, it might not even be a great problem as post-industrial countries always seem to shrink at significant rates and the worlds population might very well be down to 3 billion or less by that time and people have a lot more technology that would help easing the transition of constantly moving entire cities every couple of dozen years.
    If compressed into about 100 years, it'd be the end of the world as we know it.
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  11. - Top - End - #701
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    Default Re: Random Worldbuilding Questions (Biology, Geography, Society, etc.)

    Question: If you have a severe Ice Age and the warmer latitudes are "moving" towards the equator, would it be possibly for the bands of desert climate north and south of the equatorial rainforests to meet and eventually disappear? So that you would have South European, New South Wales, or Argentina like climate near the equator.

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    Or do the deserts have more to do with the air currents that circulate around the earth in different bands? South of the Himalayas there are huge jungles in India, and to the east Southern China has a rather cool and wet climate, even though these regions lie directly on the northern Desert Band of Mexico, the Sahara, Arabia, and Persia.. Instead we have the Gobi desert that lies much farther North than all the others, aparently because the Himalays are somehow in the way.

    Or in short, can you have a world with both arctic tundra and relatively warm tropical jungles, without huge stretches of desert between the tropics and the temperate zones?
    Without resorting to making the whole world small islands.
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    Default Re: Random Worldbuilding Questions (Biology, Geography, Society, etc.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    Question: If you have a severe Ice Age and the warmer latitudes are "moving" towards the equator, would it be possibly for the bands of desert climate north and south of the equatorial rainforests to meet and eventually disappear? So that you would have South European, New South Wales, or Argentina like climate near the equator.

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    Or do the deserts have more to do with the air currents that circulate around the earth in different bands? South of the Himalayas there are huge jungles in India, and to the east Southern China has a rather cool and wet climate, even though these regions lie directly on the northern Desert Band of Mexico, the Sahara, Arabia, and Persia.. Instead we have the Gobi desert that lies much farther North than all the others, aparently because the Himalays are somehow in the way.

    Or in short, can you have a world with both arctic tundra and relatively warm tropical jungles, without huge stretches of desert between the tropics and the temperate zones?
    Without resorting to making the whole world small islands.
    I guess that depends on how the desert is formed.

    One of the main reasons for a desert is the rainshadow effect, whereby one side of a mountain range is wet, while the other side is dry. This is what you see in the American west, South America, parts of Australia, and the Gobi, among others. Removing the mountains will (in theory) remove the desert, or at least make it much smaller.

    Of course, this doesn't apply to most of the Sahara, as there aren't many mountains there. While there is the Atlas mountain range on the northwest corner, it is probably only responsible for a relatively small amount of the desertification. Instead, a fair bit of the desertification is caused by changes in ocean currents, jet stream, and angle of incidence of the sun. Around 6000 - 8000 BCE, the Sahara was much smaller than it is now, and was often visited by monsoons, resulting in a rainforest which is now typically associated with central Africa (the Congo and surrounding regions). Of course, there was still some desert due to the Atlas mountains, but it was much smaller. It's just changes in rainfall patterns that grew it to the size it is today.

    EDIT: Oh, and for your ice age question, it is currently believed that the Sahara is about the same size now as it was at the peak of the last ice age. It was after the ice age ended and global climates were drastically changed that it had monsoons.
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  13. - Top - End - #703
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    I think that during the Ice age the climate was on the whole drier than it's now, so you're more likely to loose the rainforests than the desterts. I don't know if the climate belts would change, now deserts like the Sahara form in the high pressure areas where prevailing winds mostly blow off land. Of course this is all very complicated, the Monsoon changes everything in South- and East-Asia.

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    What does everyone think would happen in a world with a natural respawn mechanic? The idea I'm working with is that respawn happens whenever people die of anything other than old age, but is pretty unpleasant, and costs them a few years of their life. I'm wondering if this would encourage risk taking or warfare, but perhaps there'd be other effects. As a note, this is meant to be a world with very little competition for resources.
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    you would likely see more risk taking because people with poor descion making skills would have multiply opportunities to get them selves killed.

    You need to specify more detail of the respawn do they respawn in perfect health? away from dangerous conditions? how about starvation?

    warfare might utilize weapons designed to capture rather then kill, if people respawn in a safe location it might be necessary to completely immobilize a prisoner to prevent him from escaping by slitting his wrists.

    If the entire population always lives to old age you will have a huge number of old people overpopulation will massive a large numbers of them wont be particularly productive.

    expect either totalitarian population control or constant wars for territory.

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    Quote Originally Posted by banthesun View Post
    What does everyone think would happen in a world with a natural respawn mechanic? The idea I'm working with is that respawn happens whenever people die of anything other than old age, but is pretty unpleasant, and costs them a few years of their life.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andreaz View Post
    A Biologist friend of mine, upon reading this question, started to scream "Plesiosaurus" and ran off.
    Waaaaat.
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  18. - Top - End - #708
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    I've heard tell that gnolls, lizardmen and other animal-human-things are impossible, or at least biologically hard to design/exist. Why is that?
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    Default Re: Random Worldbuilding Questions (Biology, Geography, Society, etc.)

    I guess the main reason for gnolls would be fingers. Fingers are an amazing thing for climbing tress, and moving through the incredibly complex three-dimensional environment of branches, which often includes jumping and catching a branch in mid-flight, also requires huge amounts of brainpower.

    An animal that has paws and runs on flat ground really wouldn't be very likely to evolve fingers.

    That wouldn't be a problem for lizard-men. There are a number of reptiles that already have what is pretty much fingers, and many are well adapted to climb rocks and rubble, which is not quite the same as tree branches, but not terribly different when it comes to three-dimensional thinking.
    For a moment I was thinking, that size might be a problem, but not only do we have komodo dragons, that are pretty much human mass, but also dinosaurs! Get velociraptors to adopt a tree-climbing lifestyle and you would have everything needed for the evolution of humanoid reptiles.

    I think the two primary components neccessary for the natural evolution of civilization creating species are being predators and living in groups.
    Herbivores always seem to evolve two strategies to survive as a species: Being too big to attack, or being so numerous that it doesn't hurt the species when lots of individuals get killed by predators. Both versions do not encourage the evolution of creative and analytical thinking. To survive, you just eat all day and when a predator comes you either run away with everyone else, or you just stand together and kick at everything that comes too close. Trying out new things only increases the chance of getting eaten, so intelligence and curiosity is sorted out by natural selection. On the other hand, predators need intelligence, adaptability, making descisions between their options, and recognizing opportunities. You need to feed, but when you get injured you might not be able to hunt for enough food to survive until it's healed. Also, chasing after prey cosumes a lot of energy, so you should strike only when you are reasonably sure you will actually catch it and get food. Predators always need to calculate risks and rewards, which prey animals almost never do.
    Being a social animal is quite self explaining. Culture evolves infinitely faster if you can build on the discoveries and knowledge that others have made before you. A mother could teach her offspring how to make fire before they leave her to hunt on their own, but the speed at which new discoveries are spread is incredibly slow and quite often knowledge would be lost when certain lineages go extinct. In social animals, where you have groups of dozens that stay together all their life, you have much greater potential for the discovery of new amazing skills. If you have primitive primates and the skill of making shaped sharp rocks is still too difficult for everyone to master, that's not much of a problem because the one or two individuals who have a knack for it have dozens or even hundreds of children to select their apprentices from. And if there are a few people who have it figured out, they can share the result with the whole group. That's something you just can't do in a solitary species like tigers or eagles.

    That said, while there are a lot of animal-people that make not much sense, gnolls and lizard people are not among them. Those are even probably two of the most likely ones. Other candidates would be wolf-people or lion-people, and then the list gets really short very soon. Dolphin-people perhaps, but they are stuck in an environment that makes the development of hands extremely unlikely. They clearly have the brains for it and if they would have hands, I think they might even be on the level of early cave-men. But there is just no way to get these bodies evolve to a shape in which they can work on objects with both hands in front of their face.
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    Default Re: Random Worldbuilding Questions (Biology, Geography, Society, etc.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Conners View Post
    I've heard tell that gnolls, lizardmen and other animal-human-things are impossible, or at least biologically hard to design/exist. Why is that?
    Not really impossible. Implausible, probably.

    This first part is going to assume evolution by natural selection (ENS) is true, so ignore it if it isn't in your world.

    First, it took a very long time to get from something like a rat's paw:
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    to primates with opposable thumbs with ENS. And while opposable thumbs are not strictly necessary for tool use (after all, crows and dolphins use tools), they are very helpful and probably necessary for advanced tool use. Something like a hyena's paw or a lizard's foot has even further to go. Moreover, opposable thumbs only evolved because of a very specific circumstance (climbing in trees) that gnolls' and lizardfolk's ancestors probably didn't have.

    Don't even get me started on sprouting wings from a biped's back, or a bird growing a set of arms.

    Second, human-level intelligence is either very hard to evolve or not all that useful. I actually favor the latter hypothesis, since until very recently in evolutionary terms we were just another predator in the savannas. Either way, it seems like multiple independent origins of human-level intelligence through ENS is unlikely, even though crow- or dolphin-level intelligence is reasonably likely to evolve given the correct opportunity and circumstances.

    Third, bipedalism is hard. It's even harder when you're starting with digitigrade mammals or non-dinosaur reptiles and only have ENS to do the necessary modifications. In the first case it's because of how the knee and ankle joints work; in the latter it's because of hip joints. And unless you have an extra pair of limbs handy, you probably need bipedalism to have human-level intelligence (see the first point).

    The following points apply regardless of whether ENS is true.

    First problem, at least for lizardfolk and the like, is that a big brain requires a lot of energy, and a lot of energy requires being endothermic. Sure, you can make them endothermic like some dinosaurs, but without that they're screwed.

    Second problem is brain size. Most animalistic humanoids and anthropomorphic animals basically have the animals skull grafted on a humanoid body, with maybe the eyes more forward. You're going to need to expand the skull up and out significantly to have anything approaching human intelligence. Compare chimp and human skulls, and then compare chimp and hyena skulls, for instance.

    These problems apply only to specific creatures

    Biology doesn't scale well. Particularly arthropods (insects, arachnids, crustaceans, and the like) because of their circulatory and respiratory systems, but elephant people and mouse people will have problems too (mainly with weight bearing and retaining/shedding heat).

    Humanoid flyers have lots of problems. There's the problem of mass, to begin with. The largest ever flighted bird, Argentavis magnificens, weighed about as much as a full-grown human male, but it also had a wingspan of over twenty feet, and its wings were three or four feet deep. Contrary to popular belief, bird bones aren't lighter than mammal bones even though they're hollow (they're more heavily mineralized, and the pneumatization is paradoxically to increase stiffness), so that won't help either. Then there's the whole problem of aerodynamics and the lack of a tail which is almost strictly necessary for flight.

    Merpeople are going to have problems keeping warm. They'll have to be endotherms, as I said above, but as popularly depicted they don't have the blubber or fur (or both) that marine mammals have to keep warm. Darfellans are a little more realistic, but at a minimum a bald aquatic mammal is probably going to need ~20% body fat, considerably more in temperate or arctic waters. (Compare this to the 2-5% for human men and 10-13% for human women.)

    There are also probably considerable problems with assuming you can create a species with the social structure of a non-human animal (e.g. prides, strictly hierarchical packs, herds, schools) and get a psychology that humans can even try to relate to. Even more so solitary creatures. But this is a much less well-understood field of science, so you can handwave it a bit more without raising as much ire from ethologists than you might get from physiologists if you handwaved the other stuff I mentioned.

    Edit: I didn't see Yora's before I posted. I agree with a fair amount of what she said, but some of it I disagree with.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    I guess the main reason for gnolls would be fingers. Fingers are an amazing thing for climbing tress, and moving through the incredibly complex three-dimensional environment of branches, which often includes jumping and catching a branch in mid-flight, also requires huge amounts of brainpower.
    There's considerable debate about whether a three-dimensional environment is necessary for the evolution of intelligence. Certainly it can't hurt and probably helps (c.f. corvids, dolphins, primates), but it can't explain the jump from monkey- to human- intelligence since we were out of the trees before we were any smarter than modern chimps.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    That wouldn't be a problem for lizard-men. There are a number of reptiles that already have what is pretty much fingers, and many are well adapted to climb rocks and rubble, which is not quite the same as tree branches, but not terribly different when it comes to three-dimensional thinking.
    For a moment I was thinking, that size might be a problem, but not only do we have komodo dragons, that are pretty much human mass, but also dinosaurs! Get velociraptors to adopt a tree-climbing lifestyle and you would have everything needed for the evolution of humanoid reptiles.
    Or, y'know, of birds. That same situation (well, not velociraptors, but their close relatives) happened during the Jurassic.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    I think the two primary components neccessary for the natural evolution of civilization creating species are being predators and living in groups.
    Groups, I'll agree with. Predation not so much. Actually it seems to be a varied diet more than anything. Of the four groups closest to human intelligence, there are corvids (omnivores), parrots (omnivores, but mostly herbivorous), dolphins (carnivorous), and non-human great apes (2-4 omnivores, depending on how you split them up, and two herbivores, with the omnivores all leaning toward herbivory). The only carnivore on there has a considerably varied diet compared to other carnivores (fish, crustaceans, molluscs, etc.). Even we probably didn't become predator-omnivores until after we developed our modern intelligence; before then we were most likely scavenger-omnivores.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    Other candidates would be wolf-people or lion-people, and then the list gets really short very soon. Dolphin-people perhaps, but they are stuck in an environment that makes the development of hands extremely unlikely. They clearly have the brains for it and if they would have hands, I think they might even be on the level of early cave-men. But there is just no way to get these bodies evolve to a shape in which they can work on objects with both hands in front of their face.
    It would take a long time, but something like the boto could potentially evolve that way.
    Last edited by Jeff the Green; 2012-10-12 at 03:39 AM.
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    Default Re: Random Worldbuilding Questions (Biology, Geography, Society, etc.)

    That's good to hear. Was worried there'd be a great host of complications to do with the concept of lizardmen and gnolls.

    Any comments on likely behaviour or outlook? Or, can I just assume what I want (within reason), on that front?
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    Default Re: Random Worldbuilding Questions (Biology, Geography, Society, etc.)

    For gnolls, do a little research on hyena packs. It's really interesting if you can get over the horror that is pseudopenises. For lizardfolk you're probably on your own since AFAIK there aren't any extant social reptiles. Maybe base them on birds?
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    Default Re: Random Worldbuilding Questions (Biology, Geography, Society, etc.)

    Actually I was wondering about intelligent carnivores, would they ever develop agriculture and civilizations on their own? Aren't they stuck with being hunters or herders. Even with agriculture they'd need a lot more space than the typical human farmer that ate mostly rice/wheat/maize. There probably wouldn't be cities of carnivores.

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    Default Re: Random Worldbuilding Questions (Biology, Geography, Society, etc.)

    From global warming to Snowball Earth (or Slushball Earth, anyway)!

    I'm really looking for a bit of a bibliography, some good books to look into in figuring out how societies or civilisations might exist on a world that's suffered massive glaciation to the extent that open seas really only exist at the planet's equator. I've got Frostburn, but this is for something a bit more involved, so I'm looking at trawling through The Worst Journey in the World and Mawson's Will on the more practical difficulties of getting around in subzero environments, and possibly picking up Kim Stanley Robinson's book Antarctica because he seems to love Showin' His Work and that's at least the type of environment I'm aiming at, but I'd prefer some solid non-fiction texts if I could.

    Does anyone know of any books that might be of assistance in informing me how people, animals, and plants live, thrive, or survive in very cold environments?

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    Default Re: Random Worldbuilding Questions (Biology, Geography, Society, etc.)

    I think there's potential for carnivores to develop agriculture to maintain larger herds than they might otherwise. Obviously, they would be raising crops exclusively to feed their livestock, so it wouldn't be as rapid or as natural a development as human farming. But there's a definite evolution from hunting herd animals to domesticating and herding them to managing the landscape to support your herds (clearing/maintaining fields) to growing feed crops to keep larger herds through the winter. Of course, it might not be economical to do that until you come up against a severe shortage of grazing land. So I guess the answer is, if you're doing the world-building, you can justify it either way.

    As far as cities, I don't see any reason you wouldn't have some. But as you noted, carnivores require a lot more land to feed them. I think that just means that populations are smaller all around, though, not that towns/cities don't exist. Once you reach a point where food production is efficient enough to support a substantial number of individuals who aren't engaged in food production (or directly supporting food producers, like a local blacksmith/tanner/cobbler/whatever who makes things farmers need), they're going to gather somewhere. That might never reach the level of what we would call a city, but a decent-sized town seems feasible.

    Another thing to consider; meat doesn't keep anywhere near as well as grain. That could also put a cap on carnivore city size; to feed a city, you'd need some combination of a large meat-preservation industry (salting, smoking, whatever) large feed lots at the city, and a near-constant flow of livestock to provide fresh meat. In any case, the logistics of supplying a consistent flow of meat to a decent-sized settlement warrant some consideration. Also, this is going to make any carnivore city very vulnerable to siege tactics because they simply can't store enough food for a long period.
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    Default Re: Random Worldbuilding Questions (Biology, Geography, Society, etc.)

    I think the biggest issue to developing hands for predatory species is... why? Hands are great for small object manipulation, but for predators taking on prey larger than themselves it's much more useful to have a limb end in something that can inflict harm rather than pick up pebbles.

    I remember reading the theory that it wasn't so much trees that evolved to give hominids thumbs, but rather insects. Picking up small insects and eating them was advantageous enough to encourage the development of a thumb.

    Going theoretical here, so bare with me...

    Lets say in this world an area like the savanna exists. There are in it hyenas and larger predators, antelope and other grazing animals. Now lets introduce nuclear winter. No, I'm not going radiation->mutants here. Massive nuclear fallout causes death of almost all animals, and plants begin to die off rapidly. Grazing animals go first, followed by large pack hunters. Hyenas don't do so badly, they're pretty good at eating the carrion. So we wind up with lions dying off, as their larger body size and primary diet of killed prey are detrimental.

    Carrion starts to become scarce, however insects begin to thrive. We have a few pockets of hyenas left, eating carrion, that now begin to focus on a primarily bug-based diet. Fast-forward a few thousand years in this sort of post-fallout environment, and we'll start to find hyenas with more fine-motor control designed to catch insects. Throw in some binocular vision to help them pick up bugs from the ground, adjust their stance to more of a squatting gait to permit them to grab insects with their forelimbs. Probably a lot smaller at this point, too.

    Reintroduce grazing animals. Larger prey starts coming back, and the hyenas begin eating those as well. Not much competition exists for them, so they grow in size with the herbivores coming back. Bam, you have a proto-gnoll.

    Granted, this has some assumptions involved, but it's a simple way it could play out.

    Why would we never have furries, though? Fully bipedal anthropomorphized animals? Gnolls/Lionmen? My favourite reason for why humans are hairless ties in heavily with why we stand upright, and why we have hair on top of our heads.

    Humans are weak. Yeah, we're smart, and that's great, but we're small and weak for even our size. We're also slow. We're slow and weak. BUT! We can run for a long time, even in intense heat. Humans are amazing at attrition hunting, where you basically chase an animal in the middle of the day when the sun is highest, when most animals want to sit down under trees. Most animals can go for maybe 30-40 minutes of running in this situation, humans can go for hours and hours. By being hairless and standing upright we are able to avoid most of the sun and regulate our heat better than anything else. We use this to chase things until they pass out and then we kill and eat them.

    Lizardmen are exotherms, they don't regulate their own temperature. This path of evolution is out for them. No lizardmen

    Gnolls would greatly alter yet again, losing most of their hair and having their snouts/nasal passages greatly reduce, as that is how they currently thermoregulate. Looking more like just oddly-headed humans.

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    Default Re: Random Worldbuilding Questions (Biology, Geography, Society, etc.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Ormur View Post
    Actually I was wondering about intelligent carnivores, would they ever develop agriculture and civilizations on their own? Aren't they stuck with being hunters or herders. Even with agriculture they'd need a lot more space than the typical human farmer that ate mostly rice/wheat/maize. There probably wouldn't be cities of carnivores.
    Stephen Fry makes an interesting argument in one of his TV series that it's the development of language -- as in, the ability to convey concepts to other humans -- that sparked the rise of human civilisation. He notes in his series that whilst the other primates are good at mimicing language to the point of being able to be taught a decent vocabulary, they're not much good at pushing that into original thought or conveying abstract concepts. Fry suggests (on some anthropological foundations) that using language allowed human beings to coordinate their actions to become better predators. That's as distinct from wolf or lion pack behaviour which is more or less instinctive/Pavlovian drilled into them and doesn't depend on the carnivores actually coordinating via language as such.

    When human beings figured out how to do that, the foundations of agriculture and civilisation were in place. Language allowed humans to convey concepts to one another, cooperate, and attempt to find more optimal methods of doing things other than via brute force evolutionary development.

    So, wildly theorising, an intelligent carnivore might well develop agriculture and civilisation -- if it learns to cooperate with others of its species for mutual advantage and figures out how to convey abstract concepts?

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    Default Re: Random Worldbuilding Questions (Biology, Geography, Society, etc.)

    The best sources I know are a couple of BBC documentaries on youtube. Obviously, you always get "Britain in the Stone Age", "Britain in the Ice Age", and "Britain in the Bronze Age", but to learn about the basic technologies and challenges, that works well enough. That's pretty universal stuff. However, that environment is usually very dominated by the sea. But I think much of it would also apply to large lakes.

    "A History of Ancient Britain" is the one I remember the most.


    "British Isles: A Natural History" also has an Ice Age episode that looks quite good. It's about the geology, but I think understanding what actually happens in an Ice Age help a lot to get a feel of how things would be.
    Last edited by Yora; 2012-10-12 at 09:32 AM.
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    Default Re: Random Worldbuilding Questions (Biology, Geography, Society, etc.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Jacob.Tyr View Post
    Anti-gnoll stuff
    The thing is, you're assuming that gnolls or lizardmen would use the same survival strategies as humans (attrition hunting). If that's the case, you're right, we are uniquely well-suited for endurance at high temperatures, and there are reasons gnolls or lizardmen wouldn't work as well.

    But there's no real reason to think that hypothetical intelligent species would evolve along the exact same path humans did. Your proto-gnolls could continue on the path to civilization while still using the same pack hunting techniques that work just fine for furry hyenas. There's nothing that says you have to run long distances in the heat to be smart.

    The way I see it, there are only three requirements for the evolution of intelligence in a species: 1) a survival strategy that provides a substantial competitive advantage for increased intelligence of individuals and cooperation among individuals, 2) enough time for natural selection to work, and 3) a lot of luck. The physical structure of the species and exactly what its survival strategy is are largely irrelevant - as long as those three requirements are met, intelligence can plausibly evolve. If tool use is a requirement, then you also need some impetus for the evolution of grasping hands, but that's it.
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    Default Re: Random Worldbuilding Questions (Biology, Geography, Society, etc.)

    Keep in mind there are a number of non-insect eating animals with almost hands. Raccoons have fairly adept hands and if you ever look at the skeletal structure of a bears hand they are also very human like.
    Assuming all humanoids must follow the human model exactly is silly.

    Also I believe octopuses are cold blooded and they have very effective limbs and are fairly smart. So being cold blooded in it’s self should not necessarily prevent you from developing agile manipulating limbs or big brains

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