The Skies of Anu | Alien Biology

Every form of life on our planet — from
species that swim in the water to those that soar through the air, from the largest land
mammals to the smallest of insects — all these creatures and their patterns of life
are, in some way or another, determined by the same, invisible force: gravity. Earth’s gravitational pull influences the
parameters of animals’ body plans, maximum size, and behavior — often limiting the
ways in which life can evolve. But an earth-like level of gravity isn’t
a constant through the universe. Imagine a planet where gravity is much, much
weaker than it is on earth. What kinds of fantastical forms of alien life
might evolve? This speculative hypothetical is the inspiration
behind the fictional alien world of Anu, a creation of the talented artist Sam Vilasboas. The organisms on Anu have evolved into very
different forms than what could feasibly exist on our own planet.

Vilasboas is an awesome worldbuilder, often
creating entire diagrams going into the hypothetical science behind the forms of low-gravity life
populating planet Anu — including an entire taxonomy chart showing how the various aliens
we’ll be exploring in this video are related to each other. If you want to check out more of their work,
as usual I have links to them in this video’s description. So, for this entry into the archive, we’ll
be taking a documentary-style deep-dive into this incredibly detailed low-gravity world.

Not surprisingly, the most fantastical forms
are in the air, but let’s start where life often begins — under the waves. The small, rocky planet of Anu doesn’t have
much water compared to earth. But like on our own planet, multicellular
life likely began within these depths. Starting at the base of the Anu evolutionary-tree,
we have the very simple Necroviscera, jellyfish like organisms with emaciated forms that swim
in the low-pressure depths. These lightweight organisms are small and
relatively uncomplicated, but they’re basal to many other more fantastical lifeforms on
the planet. Moving up the evolutionary tree, we have these
“fish-like” lifeforms present in most bodies of water on Anu.

Ingentriadix are a basic example of such an
organism. Thanks to the semi-universal nature of hydro
dynamics, the artist imagines these lifeforms aren’t much different from fish on our own
planet — although they don’t have to worry as much about water pressure in the depths
thanks to the lower gravity. Feeding on organisms like Ingentriadix are
species like the Litzacrista, early predators about the size of a tiger shark.

They usually hunt alone, ensnaring prey in
their four-part jaws — which the artist imagines most species on planet Anu have due
to a common ancestor. This is another species which lives in the
low-pressure depths, drifting along on silent fins. On land, organisms become more complicated,
and start to truly adopt unfamiliar forms which take advantage of the low gravity. This spindly group is the Flammanasus — organisms
that likely wouldn’t be able to stand up on our planet, but move just fine in Anu’s
gravity. The artist imagines they travel in packs,
like you can see here along one of Anu’s many beaches. In this image, a young Flammanasus picks a
senseless fight with another pack member to show strength.

And according to the artist, loses quite badly. In another image, two Flammanasus walk along
the muddy bank of a river, looking for a high spot to warm themselves in the sun. Temperature regulation is critical to Flammanasus
survival. The artist imagines that specialized organs
all along their bodies accumulate and burn fats, creating heat when needed. The Flammanasus use this adaptation in a specialized
manner: they can heat the air stored in the space in their upper jaw. At night, Flammanasus — which can see in
infrared light — use these flashes of heat to communicate with one another, as this image
demonstrates. A larger land-dwelling organism is the Dracocentaurus
— a species with legs too spindly to support a sizable body on our planet, but whose limbs
are effective in its own low-gravity environment. These omnivorous creatures have evolved two
long, pointed limbs for spearing prey, which superficially resembles the insectoid claws
on various types of mantises.

Despite their fearsome appearance, the large
Dracocentaurus are a social species with some signs of early intelligence, with packs exhibiting
significant social complexity. Even larger still, and less cunning, are the
gargantuan Brachicornibus. These mighty grazers take full advantage of
the low gravity, growing over three times the size of an earth elephant. Their strange, antler like front limbs are
a powerful form of defense, making them essentially untouchable.

But the Brachicornibus aren’t the largest
organisms on planet Anu. That distinction goes to the Necrocampus Continentale
— which at a glance just look like a field of savanna grasses, but are actually a single
massive lifeform. A cross-section reveals these ‘grasses’
are just the top part of the huge, cell-like structures that makes up these curious organisms. The artist imagines some of these cell networks
form whole biomes of their own, and are so large they can be seen from space. In the places where two of these lifeforms
meet, elevated areas form — which makes the organisms almost analogous to living tectonics
plates. A genuinely unique speculative concept. But the land isn’t the only place to take
advantage of Anu’s low gravity. In the vast skies above this small planet,
a truly unique ecosystem has formed. The skies of Anu are like an aerial ocean,
with lightweight organisms gliding along on fins similar to how creatures move through
the seas on Earth. Near the bottom of this aerial oceanic food-chain
are the Endocrura, lightweight organisms whose size allows them to be easily scattered by
the winds. Most live within the equatorial forests on
Anu, and can display mesmerizing colors like tropical birds on our own planet.

Other Endocrura have adapted to the cold lands
north of the equator, like this fuzzy, sleek species whose color helps it blend in with
the snow. Often called ‘wolves’ due to their pack
hunting behavior, these species can both leap great distances to catch prey and scavenge
on the ground — although they aren’t true fliers like their relatives. Higher up in the atmosphere, larger organisms
take flight. This is an example of a Foliopalum, a brightly
colored herbivore that sails along on three sets of paddle-like wings. These colorful noodles eat leaves and giant
spores which are sometimes released into the air by specific plants. The idea of flying spores reminds me of dandelion
seeds, which, as I’m sure you know, can also become airborne on gusts of wind. But where there’s herbivores, there are
carnivores. The Enodoptera are a group of large equatorial
predators which the artist has nicknamed the ‘air-sharks.’ One specific species is the Orbualus — a
high-altitude ambush predator that specializes in capturing low flying prey.

Their keen eyes allow them to scan for prey
far below them, then dive down at high speeds and pierce their target with their front limbs. Like birds on earth, Enodoptera will sometimes
rest on the trunks of tall vegetation in between periods of searching for food, which can be
a draining ordeal. Here, a group takes a break after an unsuccessful
hunt, looking for some shade where they might hopefully get some rest. Another type of Enodoptera are the Stellapulmo
— snake-like predators that fly along the riverbanks of a region called Eden Valley
— a biome surrounding the largest lakes on the planet Anu, and one with the highest
concentration of biomass of any region. In this lush environment, serpentine Stellapulmo,
flourish in large numbers: catching small creatures when they spot them from above. A larger Enodoptera are the Bia-lavis-qualus,
lion-sized aerial predators that glide in packs through the skies above mountainous
regions. They hunt and eat any terrestrial animals
on the mountain ranges that they can take down, which likely includes most species of
the aformentioned Flammanasus. But there are some organisms in the skies
far too large for most predators to consider hunting. The Abzulong — which actually fall into
the Enodoptera classification despite being herbivores — have long, narrow bodies which
wouldn’t be able to take to the air in earth’s gravity.

On Anu, however, the Abzulong rule these clear
skies. Or at least, mostly. In truth, even the massive Abzulong aren’t
completely safe. Not when the Crommus Rex is on the prowl:
the biggest flying creature in the skies of Anu. These giant organisms almost resemble small
airplanes — and consume anything they can fit in their mouths. Which, as this diagram shows is quite a lot
— as the artist imagines the Crommus Rex has not a four, but a six-part jaw that can
fit around almost anything. A true apex of the low-gravity ocean-like
skies.

The unique low-gravity lifeforms of planet
Anu are just one speculative interpretation of what life on a planet with lower gravity
than our own might look like. If you like exploring this fictional world,
consider supporting Sam Vilasboas by visiting the links below. There are other species of Anu on their page
which I didn’t get to here, so check those out if you’re interested. Also, thanks for watching. If you enjoyed this entry, please lend your
support — and like, subscribe, and hit the notification icon to stay up to date on all
things Curious. See you in the next video..

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