Sunday, August 13, 2017

Bifurcation by Accidental Speciation

It would be expected that an alien civilization would have a single species during its development of intelligence. To have a planet with two different species becoming intelligent at almost exactly the same time seem so improbable as to be non-existent. However, through an accident of geography, if migration happens early enough, speciation could occur, where the population on one landmass evolves some genetic change sufficiently great that it can no longer interbreed with the population on another. On Earth, this has happened countless times with all types of species, but it did not happen with humans. On another planet, it might.

In a previous post, the major possibilities for a planet with two separate intelligent species were outlined, but there, separate evolutionary paths were assumed, so the two species were assumed different, in appearance, biology, genetics, and so on. For speciation, where there is simply some genetic shift in one of the species, when the numbers were very small so it became universal, the two species could remain very similar, and perhaps even indistinguishable, except at the genetic level. They simply could not interbreed.

Most likely, one of the two species would develop the means of transportation first, and manage to travel to the other landmass, where they would, for the first time, encounter the other species. If there were appearance dissimilarities, so that one species could easily be told from another, these dissimilarities would remain after the encounters began, as the species could not interbreed and genes controlling the dissimilarities could not pass from one species to another. It is possible, though very unlikely, that the only genetic change that happened since the transfer of individuals from one landmass to another was the very one which caused speciation, and in that situation, no features would exist to distinguish by appearance one species from another. However, genetic mutation being what it is, it would be very unlikely that only one genetic transformation would have taken place. So, the principal type of situation is where the two species are distinguishable, but not very different.

It was pointed out that the behavior taken by the two species after these encounters start may set the example for how the species, one or both if they both continued to exist, would behave when they traveled to other solar systems and encountered yet another species of intelligent aliens. Therefore, the question of speciation on the home planet of an alien species is quite important. How long might it take for speciation to take place? If this is short or comparable with the time needed for a civilization to develop that can travel from one landmass to another from the dawn of intelligence, it might be fairly common on planets with alien civilizations to have two or more intermingling species, or at least a history of two species having a late initial encounter.

There are some geographic situations which would tend to make the time available for speciation longer. The time gap is between where there was some accidental transfer of at least one breeding pair, if there were two sexes on this planet, from landmass 1 to landmass 2, up to where there is the development of means of travel. The initial transfer might have occurred over a land bridge, which was washed away shortly after the transfer by a typhoon or sunk by a tsunami or torn apart by an earthquake. Alternatively there might have been some raft situation which carried survivors across the gap between the two landmasses.

The earlier this transfer happened during the evolution of intelligence, the more dissimilarities there would be between the two species, and the resulting differences in cultural levels when they had their first encounter. Also, besides the normal evolution of greater and greater intelligence, which is a random process to some degree, there is the effect of the size of the landmass, if that translates into the number of aliens there might be on each of them. If one landmass is larger, say a continent compared to an island, it would be expected that the population would be larger there and more mutation opportunities would occur. Or if one of the landmasses has large amounts of area, but much of it is uninhabitable by the alien species, being a desert or glacier-covered, the same distinction would happen.

At the time of first encounter, there might be little difference between the intelligence levels of the two species, or much; there might be little difference in the cultural levels as well if the intelligence was similar, or there might be much. These distinctions might affect how the species that created the means of transportation, assumably the more intelligence or more developed of the two, would regard the other one. With distinctions being very large, there would be no application of rules that developed on their landmass for meetings between factions there. These rules might dictate war was inevitable, perhaps of some particular sort, or they might dictate that peaceful trade would be the preferred mode of interaction. If the distinctions between the two species, both in intelligence and cultural level, were not too great, these rules might transfer over, and the lack of interbreeding capability not play much of a role at all. The second species might take on the role that some factions played on the first landmass, being allowed to continue their dominion over the second landmass, or perhaps only the part of it they already occupied at the time of the first encounter.

On the other hand, if the distinctions were large, some sort of subjugation might be expected. The dominant species might attempt to exterminate the less intelligent or developed one, and simply take over their landmass, bit by bit. They might attempt to enslave them, for whatever purpose might be economically useful. At the most, the dominant species might simply maintain them as vassals of whatever faction discovered them, with some tribute being taken as transport allowed.

The history of the encounter would certainly become part of the lore that undergirded the dominant species' behavioral choices. If they had exterminated the second species, they might undertake exploration of the nearby solar systems with the idea in mind that if they find anything intelligent there, they would kill it. The other end of the spectrum is the ‘let’s share the universe’ concept that might arise if the first species had simply accepted the second as partners on their planet. This example appears to be a fruitful one for further examination.

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