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Episode 4: The World of Dancing Seals

The shape of Earth's orbit has NOTHING to do with our seasons, but what if there was a world where the orbit shape DID affect its climate? Apparently genital size on that world would depend on tooth size just like it does here on Earth... for some reason.


1. Misha Grifka Wander is a getting their PhD in English at Ohio State University. They're the cohost of the podcast Big Dice Energy and you can follow them on twitter at @MishaGrifka.

2. Shannon Odell is a neuroscientist and comedian in NYC. She cohosts two different podcasts, Fun City Ventures and the Science of Self Care. You can follow her on twitter at @shodell

3. Kyle Marian is a comedian and former physical anthropologist. She introduces academics to the world of stand up comedy in her show Symposium. You can follow her on twitter at @kylemarian


Moiya 0:07

Hey there, nerds. Welcome to Exolore, the show about facts based fictional world building. I'm your host Moiya McTier, and today I'm joined by an English PhD student, a neuroscientist, and a former physical anthropologist, her words, not mine. Today we're imagining the life and culture on an alien planet that has a very eccentric orbit. So, let's get started. Let's start with introductions so that everyone knows who you are, and what you're doing here. Misha, you're at the top of my screen. So do you want to start by telling us who you are and what you do and something that you're reading or watching right now?

Misha 0:47

Sure, um, my name is Misha Grifka Wander, and I am an English grad student at Ohio State University. I focus on media from web comics to videogames and speculative fiction, so sci-fi and fantasy with a special focus on sort of gender, race and environmental issues. And what I'm reading right now is actually a really cool academic book that I'm writing a review on called, "The Paradox of Blackness [in] African American Vampire Fiction", I believe, which is using stories about African American vampires as a lens to explore what it means to be black in America.

Moiya 1:38

That's amazing. I don't think I've ever even read or seen something with black vampires.

Misha 1:45

Yeah, that's one of the things they investigate. They're like, if you think vampires, you think it's white thing, right? It's really cool, and I can talk about it for hours. We can do that off recording.

Moiya 2:02

Please, I would absolutely love that. Shannon, do you want to go next?

Shannon 2:06


Moiya 2:06

Who are you? What do you do, and what are you reading or watching?

Shannon 2:09

Yeah, I'm Shannon Odell. I am a neuroscientist. I just finished my PhD in neuroscience in December.

Kyle 2:19

No big deal.

Shannon 2:21

No big deal. I studied memory. Um, right now, I am watching a lot of Tara's House, the last season - the latest season that is. I'm almost done with the episodes that are out on Netflix, and then I guess there's some like episodes they have in like the backlog, but then it gets shut down. So anyway, I've been loving it. I love Tara's House.

Moiya 2:54

Awesome. Kyle, what about you?

Kyle 2:57

I'm Kyle Marian. I am a science communicator, a comedian like Shannon, shout out.

Shannon 3:05

Oh yeah, I'm a comedian, too. I forgot.

Kyle 3:09

Plug, plug right? And I used to study Physical Anthropology, Human Evolution, and I taught Human Gross Anatomy for a while at Stony Brook University. And yeah, I know a little bit about a lot of stuff that I don't know is relevant anymore. So

Misha 3:33

I realized I didn't do we didn't do pronouns mine are, they-them.

Shannon 3:39


Kyle 3:40

And I'm also she-her.

Moiya 3:42

So my name is Moiya McTier. I'm an astrophysicist and a folklorist. So that's what I'm bringing to this, my pronouns are she-her, and hers and I am reading "The Poppy War" by R.F. Kuang, and it's given me very like, "The Name of the Wind" vibes, which is one of my favorite books by Patrick Rothfuss. So I recommend, it's pretty good. It's like, "The Name of the Wind", but better and by a woman and it's like set in kind of East Asian cultures with myths and it's really cool, the world building is pretty good which is relevant to our discussion.

Kyle 4:28

Oh, did I share what I'm like watching reading? I don't think I did. So the last thing that I watched was "Portrait of a Lady on Fire", which was very beautiful. Um, but I feel like my actual reading time is spent playing Catan. Relevant? Yeah, yeah. Okay.

Shannon 4:52

I've been doing a lot of that too, so I get it.

Misha 4:54

Animal Crossing.

Moiya 4:58

I also could have included, like what are you playing? What other worlds are you inhabiting in your brain? Alright, so let's get started on the planet. So ... you may have seen in the subject line of the email that I called it "Eccentric World", which I realized might not be very clear. So the planet that we're building today is a planet that has an eccentric orbit, which essentially just means that instead of an orbit, that's a circle, the orbit is an oval if I can make that shape with my hands. So it's an oval, and one side of the oval is much closer to the planet star than the other side. So over the course of its year, the planet spends most of its time very far away from its star, and it spends a little bit of time very close to its star. So summer on this planet is like a few weeks long, and over the course of its year it experiences extreme temperature and brightness swings. So when the planet closest to its star, the star looks two times brighter. It looks twice as bright as our sun does, and the temperature is about 20% higher than we get here on earth. And when the planet is the farthest away from its star that it gets, the star looks very dim. It's about a tenth as bright as our sun looks, and the temperature is like half the temperature that we get here on Earth. So that's what we're working with. Let's get started with questions. So the first thing that I usually start with is thinking about the biology, and what the aliens on this planet would look like. So what types of physical traits do you think the aliens on this planet might evolve?

Kyle 6:51

So funny? I think well for me, one of the things is like okay, so if on this planet some sort of humanoid like, actually evolved on it. It's interesting because the relationship that we have with the sun, there are hypotheses out there about why humans ended up bipedal, and why we chose to do that in our evolutionary history of our ancestors. One which, our ancestors evolved in Africa, particularly in like savannah areas that had some trees and not and so like, prior to getting on two feet, there's a hypothesis that we were arboreal, so living in trees swinging and trees more like chimpanzees, bonobos. And so like there was a point where we moved on from that kind of tree environment and that kind of ... pushed us to evolve to walk on two feet. And so I wonder what that would mean in terms of like, not having too much sun? In which case, you didn't need to have, like a pressure to be on two feet and and be less exposed with the heat or not have as much hair, for example, for your thermo regulation. So, maybe these are just like, hairy, like surface dwellers, or maybe they're naked underground people. I don't know.

Shannon 8:29

That's what I was thinking a lot about the temperature swings and like what that means and because, you know, like, most species kind of like homeostasis, you know, they like things to stay the same. So I'm wondering ... do the species like all live underwater, like deep underwater all the time, so they don't really have to be affected by the change in temperature, or like, are they super mobile in terms of like, they go up high into the mountains when they're in the hot time; and then you know, when it's colder they go back to ... not the mountains? Why can't I speak? But like trying to think of how they would want to regulate their temperatures, and how that would change their behaviors, not just like, whether they have theater or not, or like what they look like, but also like, I'm of course thinking about their behaviors because neuroscientists.

Misha 9:31

I was just thinking like, we have animals that hibernate during the coldest part of the winner. And maybe in this world, I wonder if we instead would have animals hibernating during the hottest part of the year because most of the year is the coldest part of the year.

Kyle 9:47

Yeah, um, and to add to that, too, like, a lot of animals, especially mammals are like either diurnal, so during the day, animals or nocturnal during the night and if they evolved eyeballs like many of us, they would have giant pupils because they're probably more accustomed to darkness. That sort of thing so like, super cute anime like giant pupils.

Shannon 10:12


Misha 10:16

Like then if it was twice as bright as our sun, I feel like it would be really hard on your eyes that had evolved for mostly like a tenth of our sun's brightness.

Shannon 10:24

Or like two weeks, they're just like walking around with their eyes closed.

Or maybe -

Moiya 10:31

I mean, that's hibernation., right?

Shannon 10:34

Or thinking about hibernation and life cycles, maybe ... the life cycle only lasts the warm season. And you know, maybe it's a species that lays an egg and the egg, you know, kind of just sits there the whole winter and then only hatches. That would be kind of fun. I would love to live in an egg.

Misha 10:54

I feel like that would make sense that there were these species that do have that like really short, just for a summer lifecycle, but then I feel like the vacuum left, the rest of the year will be filled by something right?

Kyle 11:14

The night walkers and the day walkers.

Moiya 11:21

So there are obviously going to be a lot of different species on this planet. I'd like us to focus on what type of species and what traits and behaviors we think would lead a species to be the most dominant on the planet like the human equivalent? It doesn't have to look like humans. In past Exolore episodes, we've decided turtles, moles, like various creatures that are based on animals here on Earth, rose to power because their traits just made them more successful. So can you think of any animals here on earth that you feel would do very well in this environment?

Misha 11:59

I think that you have ... two potential options right, or the like animal that's like well adapted to the cold part of the year and is able to sort of hide or hibernate or move to withstand the warm part of the year. Or highly adaptable animals more like humans, I guess that are able to survive throughout the year through use of mobility or tools or something like that. I feel like you could follow either path.

Moiya 12:28

Yeah, I haven't done anything with migratory animals yet in an Exolore episode; so maybe they migrate because just like we have here on Earth, different latitudes experience seasons differently. And so you can have an animal that just moves to a different latitude during the hot seasons. It moves to one of the poles.

Shannon 12:53

Yeah, I like that. I like a migratory animal. I'm trying to think of what animals are the most migratory. It could be fun to do like, a goose or something like a bird, or like a butterfly, I don't know.

Moiya 13:08


Misha 13:11

Or whale.

Moiya 13:12

I would love to do like giant geese. Giant geese would make me so happy.

Kyle 13:21

I think one of the things that like popped into my head too is even if they're migratory what their skin or exoskeleton might look like, because the more that they can easily thermoregulate or like it might be that during the times when the planet is farther away from their star, that you know they have softer skin and like you know, but then during the times when they're closer to the star they have, you know, they look like the Tesla new Monster Truck thing.

Moiya 13:58

Are there any biological mechanism I can actually make that happen?

Kyle 14:03

In humans, I mean a lot of animals. melanin is a huge player for allowing our skin to be adaptable, right? Um, so I'm kind of curious what that means for animals that would then have to deal with, like, extreme seasonality. I'm trying to think. I don't know. Not sure what comes to mind.

Moiya 14:31

Okay. Misha, what were you gonna say?

Misha 14:34

I was thinking that I don't remember who I think was maybe Shannon mentioned underwater? Living in water is like a potential way to help with the homeostasis issue. Um, because you know, water I believe.... I'm not the scientist here [but] water heat up less fast than land.

Kyle 14:58

Very scientific, hundred percent.

Misha 15:02

So that like animals ... like seals, for instance that are able to pack on the blubber for the cold time of the year, and then maybe these animals would be able to like dive and spend those two weeks of the summer like pretty deep, where the sunlight can penetrate as much and so the heat from that really close star would not be as big a deal for them.

Moiya 15:28

Yeah, yeah, let's go with that. Let's go with seal people.

Misha 15:34

Also, it's cute.

Moiya 15:35

So cute, and maybe during the summer weeks, they can find like cute little underground or like underwater caves? So they can still breathe because they breathe air right?

Shannon 15:53

Seals? Yeah. Seals are mammals, yeah?

Kyle 15:56

They're mammals. Yeah. I was confused if you meant like, this new creature on your planet is air breathing in which case, I don't know. Your choice.

Shannon 16:08

Do we know what the atmosphere is like?

Moiya 16:10

That's the great thing about this.

Shannon 16:12

Do we know?

Moiya 16:14

You can assume that everything except for what we decide is different is exactly like Earth. Okay so we have settled on seal people, so they can put on blubber when it's colder and they can migrate pretty easily through the water. I absolutely love this. Let's move on to talking a bit past their biology let's think about their culture. Kyle, you look like you have something to say.

Kyle 16:40

I'm so glad that you said that because as soon as we started talking about sort of, like what is called phenotypes so like what something looks like. Immediately in my head and like, oh, sexual selection! You know, like during the winter months versus during the summer months of two weeks, like when do they mate? And also, what is like the signal of like, "hey, I'm hot"?

Moiya 17:10

Let's talk about you know what would that be? What would a mating ritual on this planet look like?

Misha 17:17

I was thinking about like, if you're talking about underwater caves. I kind of liked the idea of having that time when in the summer when you like, go down into the depths, and it's like two weeks that are like totally different from the rest of the year. And I feel like that could feel sort of like a sacred time of the year or potentially that's the time when you're like, "hey, I found a really cool cave. Come on, check out this cave I found".

Shannon 17:46

I love that. And that reminds me of my favorite animal behavior that I can think of, which is bowerbirds that create the ... bowers. Does anyone else know this?

Misha 18:00

I'm not familiar.

Shannon 18:01

Um, so bowerbirds, they're birds, and they like use twigs, or they'll use anything they find to create like, a beautiful little space in the forest, and that's how they attract mates. It has nothing to do with the mating, it's just they create a beautiful space. And then the mates come and they check it out. And they're like, "oh, I don't like it" or "oh, I like it". And I just love that idea.

Kyle 18:29

That's perfect. I love that because it's like the sexual selection is can you signal to others that you can make the coziest den during the hottest months or the hottest weeks of the year.

Moiya 18:47

I also love this because I imagine that sets up a market or like an industry for consultants who will help people build the best, like underwear cave dens that they possibly can to attract mates like that that is a job that people will have on this planet.

Misha 19:07

Well, and like I think that translates really well from the pure like sort of biology of like, "can you make a safe place to live during the summer," to the cultural like "well, like, I really liked this person's, you know, cave at first, but they had decorated like really pretentiously. And so I wasn't ended that". Like it translates really well into culture and the sort of like, higher intellect.

Moiya 19:34

Yeah, there could be whole reality TV shows about this.

Kyle 19:38


Shannon 19:40

I wonder what that cave paintings would be like?

Misha 19:44

Picking a cave before you pick your partner.

Shannon 19:46

Yeah, it's like blind dating. You just see the profile, but you don't get to see the pictures and it's like choose, and it's like "okay"!

Moiya 19:58

Oh, this is fantastic. Since we're talking about dating and mating anyway, what about beauty standards? What types of traits would be really attractive on this planet?

Misha 20:10


Shannon 20:11

Yeah. blubber.

Kyle 20:13

Fur, a lot of fur.

Shannon 20:18

Big tail.

Moiya 20:19

Maybe tusks? Do they have tusks? Is that walruses?

Shannon 20:23


Moiya 20:24

I don't know anything about seals apparently.

Kyle 20:28

Sea lions I think have tusks, but we can verify 'cause we have internet.

Moiya 20:36

Or we can just make it up 'cause we are creating this creature in our minds.

Shannon 20:40

Seals have whiskers, right?

Misha 20:44


Kyle 20:45

Yeah. I mean the question of tusks though is also like tied to dominance, right and showing, you know. In primates, the size of your canines, like really also signal both, like competition as well as like, you know, diet; but one of the other things too that's interesting is that that kind of like show of teeth plays a role in you know whether or not you're like trying to be submissive or like trying to be dominant in groups, especially for social groups. So like, if they're social animals, then there's a lot of those dynamics that like flow into dentition in many ways.

Moiya 21:35

Kyle, is that this is about to get real personal. Is that why I'm very attracted to people who have long canines? Like, this is just something I've noticed about myself.

Misha 21:45

Maybe it's because you like vampires I assume.

Kyle 21:48

I think it's that.

Moiya 21:53

Okay, cool. Glad I put that out there. Awesome. I'm really interested in how they would kind of preserve and pass on knowledge from generation to generation? So I feel like this plays really well into Misha and Shannon's respective backgrounds in English and memory. So how do you think they would do it? If you could come up with like your ideal way for them to pass down knowledge?

Misha 22:28

I feel like there's a question of preservation just due to the physical, like, situation of being underwater, right, because like paper, not not super great. Um, even like stone carvings, I think ... deeper down, I don't think they would be worn away as much. Again, science not not my thing. But um, I feel like you have a question of like, durability, and I wonder if those like seasonally linked rituals and storytelling and like behaviors that you're expected to do, and modeled by your parents and everyone else in your community would be an important vehicle for transmitting knowledge. Yeah.

Shannon 23:22

I feel like my mind went immediately to that, because like, it's seals, they don't really have hands. I don't think so. For writing and stuff, but I like to even think about the idea of even like language and like, what would language be? Is it actually like a vocalized thing or could like language exists in like, you know, kind of like performance, like the way they swim or, like how the communication happens? Could be a cool thing to think about, like, what's the best way to communicate underwater? Maybe there's different forms like, there's long range communication versus like, if you're actually visually in front of someone. But yeah, I love the idea of like, there's like seasonality to it, though. Like, what are the rituals? What are the stories? What are the performances they're doing?

Misha 24:17

That makes me think of dance as something that like, is better underwater because you can move in more directions. Especially if you don't have hands like that's fine. You can do cool tail dances, and that might also be something that ties into this sort of mating and sexual differentiation, where like, if you are really eloquent as you dance, like that's the equivalent of being really well spoken and really charming. And also, potentially, like, you feel confident enough in your ability to care for yourself and your family that you don't mind burning a couple extra calories, doing a cool dance.

Kyle 25:04

One of the things that jumped out at me too is like, this is I feel like our chosen dominant species is very social, like, because a lot of these things, you know, it's a lot harder, even in the ocean to communicate and build kind of culture without that level of social connection. And so, I don't know, maybe some of their language could include bubbles, and dance and that sort of thing.

Shannon 25:33

Yeah, I mean, especially if they breathe oxygen, they can make bubbles.

Moiya 25:39

And there are so many different types of bubbles. I don't know have you seen those really cool videos of like ... the donut bubbles. Like, they can make bubbles of different shapes underwater, and I feel like that will add some complexity to the language that would be really great.

Misha 25:56

I also wonder if there's we're talking about, like having a really social species which I think makes total sense. If you have like seals, I think you have like a little pod and they travel together. And would this species have like, you know, extended clan groups or extended pods that, um, develop their own style of communication and if they ... happen to meet like a whole other pod in the ocean, are they going to necessarily have the same link? Maybe only one of the pods relies on dance, and one of them is like, we think bubbles are better. One of them is like, "we just poke each other with our noses".

Shannon 26:36

Maybe there's a whole like a career which is just like being a translator for the different pods. You go from place to place and you're like, "I know all these languages".

Moiya 26:49

I think that'd be an especially important job because as they migrate, they're gonna run into so many different pods, that even if you don't speak the other language, it's important. to have some way to communicate with strangers. So yeah, a translator is another coveted position among these people.

Misha 27:08

That also makes me think that they might have ... like a gifting culture? 'Cause I feel like a lot of human societies that often run into language barriers have like robust tradition of posting and gifting, because that crosses language barriers much easier.

Shannon 27:24

I love that.

Moiya 27:25

What would some gifts be?

Shannon 27:29


Kyle 27:30


Misha 27:32

But also decorations, I think it sounds like aesthetics is really important to this culture. Um, things that you can put in your home, things that you can use to decorate your area, and attract whoever you're trying to attract would be really valuable.

Moiya 27:53

So things like stones and coral and colorful underwater plants type of thing?

Misha 28:01


Shannon 28:02

Yeah, I could see there also being another career of like, thinking only jobs of like, individuals who go out like, not near where the pods are and just search for things like at the water's edge to collect and bring back, like weird plants or like, just like weird rocks and stuff.

Misha 28:28

Yeah, well, there's stuff like petoskey stones and stuff, but I think only they're a lot easier to find ... on the beach rather than like, all the way underwater.

Shannon 28:41


Moiya 28:42

What are those?

Misha 28:45

I'm from Michigan, where it's a big thing; and they're named after a place in Petoskey. It's this specific kind of rock. They look pretty normal when they're not wet, but when you get them wet, they have a sort of tiled look to them. That's from little fossils there. It's just like a little colony of sea creatures that are all over in Michigan. They're really pretty and people like polish them and use them as jewelry and stuff.

Moiya 29:18

That's so nice.

Misha 29:19

Yeah. Michigan trivia.

Moiya 29:25

This could fall into the realm of gifts, but I have a two parter question. The first part of this question is for Shannon, and it has to do with drugs. So I'm really curious about what makes some substances react with our brains to get them high. Is it because they're rare in our environment? So our brains just aren't used to them?

Shannon 29:49

Yeah, I mean, it depends like what we're looking about in terms of drugs, if we're looking at the high aspect then it has to do with ... the feeling of like high is like associated with serotonin it's an actual like, you know it activates serotonin receptors in terms of like the addictive nature of why we like drugs or we seek out drugs has to do with dopamine so another neurotransmitter so it's it's not actually that they're like rare, it's actually that they act on receptors we already have in our brain so that's why they actually work the way they do. They kind of take advantage of I mean - I don't know if drugs take advantage of these receptors that we already have in our brain or they've co-evolved with us sometimes to kind of be that way. So yeah. It's interesting to think about. Are we thinking about ... what drugs would be?

Moiya 30:52

Yeah, and drugs can be recreational, they can be spiritual, they can be used for so many different things. They can be given as gifts. And so I was wondering if we could think of what types of mind altering substances they might have in this society? I guess that's just something we like have to make up unless we know the chemistry of everything under the ocean.

Shannon 31:17

Right? True. I mean, we could also think about things like, if they do have, you know, brains similar to ours, like, if we're talking about novelty, like most species are drawn to novel things, you know, novelty actually elicits, you know, a rewarding response. So maybe super novel things in these species' brains, do act like a drug where they become really addictive because you want that novelty.

Misha 31:54

And that would maybe stimulate a migration response as well.

Shannon 31:58

Oh, yeah, that's true of like you want to go to a new place? And yeah, 'cause they have to be driven. Yeah, in some way.

Misha 32:06


Moiya 32:07

Yeah, and I can imagine that there are some things like plants that only grow during the three weeks of summer. And so there's there's a huge push to gather as much of that during that short period as you can and kind of stock up for the rest of the year.

Shannon 32:21

And you can even think about, like, you know, things that are grown in warm, or they might be high in sugar and things like that. And that's always going to be something that's rewarding as well because it's just like a high energy content. And yeah, most species brains are wired to really like things that are high in energy.

Kyle 32:46

That makes me think that like because the summer weeks will be more extreme in temperature, right? You're more likely to get fruits and flowers that are like so sweet during that time, and so they'll probably be like, the rush to land specifically for that sort of thing. Or like there's a very particular seasonality where these guys will, you know, get high or get drunk, right? Like sugars get you drunk - fermentation. So, yeah.

Misha 33:20

So maybe there's that push pull of like, it's sort of dangerous for them to go up to the surface because of that extreme heat, but you have like, if you're one of the daring ones, and if you're willing to like put your body through that. There's all these cool flowers fruits like algae blooms, I don't know, that await you on the surface, and will be really valuable if you can make the journey back.

Moiya 33:45

That's another job right there. Yeah. I like that we keep coming back to different roles that this society would have, that makes me happy.

Shannon 33:54

I like I like saying that their roles and not jobs, because they're not constrained by Capitalism on anything.

Moiya 34:01


Misha 34:03

No capitalism.

Moiya 34:04

We're not trying to dictate their economy. We haven't explicitly talked about how they would perceive and measure time, because we measure time by ... the sun always looks the same, and it has a very predictable way of moving across the sky, especially if they're underwater; and with the weird orbit that this planet has that's just probably not the same. So how do we think they would measure time? Or perceive it? Would they even care? Are they a very chill people?

Misha 34:46

Hmm. Well, I feel like you'd at least have this season in terms of like, you'd at least have the year marker because if they're migrating and if there's that like, intense hot time, they would probably notice that. As for like day-night cycles, though, that's really dubious, whether I think they would keep track of that it would depend on what their sleep cycle is a little bit. Right?

Kyle 35:11

I guess my question for Moiya, too is like, what would the tides be on this planet? Especially since like, the sun is a little farther, are there you know, the stars are a little farther like are their moons? What are the other things that might affect their environment? Especially if they're water-based, primarily?

Moiya 35:39

That's a really great question. I hadn't even thought about tides, but now that you bring it up, so the planet has a moon it's the same moon as ours. It goes around at the same speed, which means when the planet is far away from the star, the moon is ... dominating the gravity slightly more so that the tide is slightly bigger. And then when the planet is very close to its star, tides probably wouldn't be as extreme because the star is just dominating gravity so much. So that would even make it easier for them in some ways to go up onto the shore and collect these fruits, and flowers that grow in the summertime.

Shannon 36:28

Yeah, I like the idea that they're like, very in tune with the tide. Like they can regulate and by like, paying attention to the tide they're seeing where it is. You know, I wonder if there's even some like kind of structures in like different pods like kind of a calendar system of like when the tide gets to there when the tide gets to there. They know kind of where they are in the year.

Kyle 36:54

That also makes me think that if the tides are extreme, when they're away from the star, then that might mean like if they're like real estate-wise, there'll be plenty of caves because of like water erosion right, near the shore and so what would that mean in terms of like prime real estate for you know housing down? Or homing it up you know?

Moiya 37:23

Yeah, and if this isn't a capitalist world, how do they decide who gets the nice caves?

Misha 37:37

Is a nice cave, one that is underwater like ... deep underwater all the time? Or is it one that like has a lot of variety, 'cause I think who gets it, what might also depend on what constitutes nice because, if worse, maybe if the nicest caves are ones that are like safely underwater all the time, people who are older or needier or likely to be protected somehow might get those. But maybe if the sort of riskier caves are more desirable, that probably would lead to more I think competition between people for it.

Moiya 38:21

I like that you brought in age. It made me think of how the stereotype is that old people move to Florida when they retire. Here in the U.S., like the very safe caves that are always like very stable and always underwater, the older seals will move there. And the younger seals just like young people want to live in cities where there's lots to do and things are changing all the time. The young seals are living in these like more unpredictable and less stable caves. So it's not necessarily a matter of nice versus less nice, but people have preferences. And there's enough of different types of caves for everyone to get what they want at the time. But Kyle, what were you gonna say?

Kyle 39:06

Oh, um, and also along the lines of what you're saying, Moiya. I feel like that would also have implications for like, the types of, you know, attraction. Are you attracted to the "bad type", the "home type", you know?

Shannon 39:23

How dangerous of a cave do you like?

Misha 39:30

That also brings up the question that I think we are imagining that you like ... choose a cave location, you decorate it, and that's a home space for you. How does that fit in with them being migratory? Do they always come back at some point in the year to their same caves? Or is this something where you set up your cave for two weeks, you show it off, and then you leave and you don't maybe you ever see that cable again?

Shannon 39:55

Yeah, that's it. Yeah, that's a good idea. Are there like two sets of caves, the winter cave, and the summer cave?

Misha 40:05

There's a lot of societies that have basically like, winter and summer habitations that they go back and forth between, especially for grazing. And we haven't brought up the possibility of any kind of like domesticated animals for the seals, but I think that's well established.

Moiya 40:24

Yeah. What would their farming or livestock look like? Do they herd fish?

Misha 40:33

I feel like you can't really put them in like a pasture ... like you can't build a fence. But there are species like symbiotic species. I remember like there's that particular kind of coral I think it is that clownfish like to hang in, and so maybe if you were able to cultivate like a coral and a specific place, so that you knew it would draw the symbiotic fish; if you were careful, you could harvest some of those fish while leaving the sort of symbiotic system in place.

Moiya 41:13

That's tricky, and I love it.

Shannon 41:16

Yeah, I like that ... rather than having like, you know, sheep, or anything like that, it's more like farming. I immediately thought that they would have like, logs that have like algae and fungi and stuff, living on them that they like collect, and they place in like a little farm. But like that's a similar thing. It's kind of like collecting things that naturally occur and just kind of collecting it into a space and kind of nurturing it so that they can then feed off of it.

Misha 41:50

Yeah, feels a little bit more like forestry almost rather than agriculture.

Shannon 41:53


Moiya 41:54

What about fashion? Like, I know that seals don't wear clothes, here on Earth, and if you're underwater, you probably don't wear clothes like we wear.

Shannon 42:04

They all have hats, top hats, all of them. That's the one thing they have, top hats.

Kyle 42:13

They must have a top hat. Totally.

Misha 42:17

And everywhere they swim, they're just like, "stay on".

Shannon 42:19

It makes no sense, but it's kind of a thing.

Misha 42:28

I think you could do something really cool with tattooing? Um, there are inks and needles aplenty, underwater, even if not the kinds that we usually use for tattooing.

Kyle 42:45

Well, there's a lot of animals in the ocean who, you know, get scars and scarring in many ways, and it becomes part of their story and their signal to their social group. So that could be part of it.

Moiya 43:01

I really like that. I also really like the idea of elaborately decorated tails. Like, I think of tails as something that are purely functional. But what if they found a way to turn them into something like art? And that's how you really like show your individuality, and your personality.

Kyle 43:26

Maybe at one time, there was a seal that like, fell into a bunch of kelp and then came back home and it was just the fashion

Moiya 43:39

Like a feather boa made of kelp.

Kyle 43:41

Yes, right. Like at first it was like, "oh my gosh, I gotta get out". And then everyone's like, "you look good". Yeah, that's a thing.

Misha 43:52

Yeah. I also love the idea too, of decorating your tail with like life cycle marking. Like, maybe ... either when your community or you determine like, "I'm an adult now", you fill up like a certain portion of your tail with scarring or tattoos or jewelry. And then like at another important moment in your life, you do like another section, and so you can like glimpse at someone's tail and sort of see where they are in life, and how they feel about that by the amount of decoration and the type they've chosen.

Shannon 44:29

Yeah, I like that, especially in terms of like when we were talking about communication and language, since it's a little more like elaborate. There might just be a lot of visual cues that they'll be able to tell like a lot about a person just by like how you decorate your tail.

Misha 44:44


Kyle 44:45

Because we also talked about the desire and the danger of going into, you know, the mountains or whatever, during the hot summer months; what that means in terms of them, going back into their habitat, and like, what plants they drag with them on their bodies, you know, and that becomes part of like, their ... story or their fashion. It's like, "oh, you know, Joe over there, went into the brushes and so he's covered needles. How cool", versus like somebody else who's just covered in like, I don't know. Like moss, like, "oh, you just stuck around the shores I see". Okay.

Moiya 45:34

Yeah, it's like this planet's version of that magazine question like, "what do you always carry in your purse"? "What do you always have with you"?

Misha 45:45

And someone's like, "willow branches". They're like, "yeah, okay, we all have that".

Kyle 45:49


Moiya 45:53

Right. So we're getting to the end of the hour. So, do any of you have any last thoughts about this planet? Something that you wish we had said but didn't?

Shannon 46:04

Did we name the species or does that happen at the end?

Moiya 46:08

What do you want to name them?

Shannon 46:09

I don't know. I just like the idea of naming them. If anyone has any ideas - I'm bringing nothing to the table. I just would like it.

Moiya 46:23

You brought the question to the table, and that's more than half the battle.

Misha 46:29

I'm so bad at names, I'm like the "Moiyans".

Moiya 46:37

That's like scientists who name units after themselves. It's like the most narcissistic thing you can possibly do. You know, if the the viewers or the listeners want to come up with a name for this planet or this species, I'm sure we would all absolutely love to hear it or see it. Any other last thoughts about the world?

Kyle 47:01

One thing that like a lot of biologists and evolutionary, like scientists always end up thinking about is like, size of genitals, and I hate it. But it's like, there is always a million papers about the size of the genitals because of their social structure, or how they evolved. Like, I cannot tell you how many papers I've seen specifically about, "oh, poor gorillas, one of the biggest, if not the biggest primate, and has the smallest body ratio to their genitals, or like to the penis", and you're just like, "why is that a paper but also fair"? Yeah, I guess it's a biological question. Sure.

Shannon 47:47

Yes, you should have started there, huh?

Moiya 47:53

I will definitely start the next Exolore episode with "so how big are the genitals"? Well, Kyle, how big do you think their genitals are?

Kyle 48:08

Um, I think it would just depend on like how big their teeth are? Right, cause I mean, it's the signal.

Misha 48:17

I have a horrible image of like, seals have just massive teeth, like their cute little seal faces and they open their mouth and [makes grunting noises].

Shannon 48:25

I like the idea of their genitals being in their teeth. You know, right?

Kyle 48:32

Evolution is weird, you know?

Moiya 48:34

You mean in their mouth, or like actually in the teeth? Like their teeth open and it comes out?

Misha 48:41

Yeah, they bite people to reproduce. We're back to vampires.

Shannon and Kyle 48:45

There you go.

Kyle 48:46

Full Circle.

Moiya 48:48

Okay, I feel like we were all joking but this is officially canon for this planet. This is real. Great. So now we are actually very close to the end of the hour. If people want to learn more about you and keep up with what you're doing, how can they do that and let's go backwards from before. So, Kyle, how can people find out more about you and what you're doing?

Kyle 49:15

They can find me on Twitter and Instagram @kylemarian.

Moiya 49:24

And what are you doing? You do a lot of cool shit.

Kyle 49:28

I mean, there's a pandemic, so I've been on hiatus. So mostly just like you know ... playing Catan. If anyone wants to play Catan Universe with me, let me know. That is where I am because I don't own a Nintendo Switch. There you go.

Moiya 49:48

Nice. Shannon What about you?

Shannon 49:50

Um, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram both @shodell. You can check out the podcast I host called "The Science of Self-Care" where me and two comedians look at the science behind the latest self-care fads. You could also follow me on my other podcasts called "Fun City", which is an RPG Shadowrun podcast.

Moiya 50:20

I think Misha just found a new podcast to listen to.

Misha 50:22


Moiya 50:25

And Misha, what about you?

Misha 50:28

You can find me on Twitter @MishaGrifika. Um, I talk about a lot of stuff, including being a PhD in English. And I also write speculative fiction, I draw, and I am on an RPG podcast, a D&D podcast called "Big Dice Energy". You can check that out.

Shannon 50:54

Oh! And I found a new podcast.

Kyle 50:58

I really want to learn how to play D&D.

Misha 51:01

I can help!

Kyle 51:05


Moiya 51:05

Great. I've found so many new podcasts. Thank you for that. And thank you for being on the show. This was so fun. Yeah, I'm gonna be thinking about this world for a while. And to our listeners and viewers if you are also going to be thinking about this world for a while, please feel free to make some art about it, share it with the hashtag Exolore, and I'll check it out. I absolutely love when people send me art about the worlds that we create here. So please do that. But I think that's the end. We'll end there. Thanks again so much. And that's our eccentric planet. If you liked this episode, then share it with your friends and be sure to subscribe to Exolore, wherever you get your podcasts. That way you know that you'll never miss a new episode when it comes out. I'll catch you next time on another world.

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