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Episode 5: The World of Matriarchal Squid

In an ocean surrounded by a miles-deep sheet of ice, the lady squid reign supreme. Don't let their artsy mating rituals and inverted ice mountaineering fool you; they will rip your head off and throw it to the vents.


1. Sarah McAnulty is a squid biologist and the executive director of Skype A Scientist. You can follow her on twitter at @SarahMackAttack

2. Cecilia O'Leary is an ocean ecologist who models the populations of fish! You can follow her on twitter at @GonzoScientist1

3. Kate Helen Downey is the co-founder and creative director of Caveat NYC. You can follow her on twitter at @katehelendowney


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 a squid biologist, an oceanographer, and a theater nerd who just so happens to be the co-founder of Caveat NYC. I hope you're ready to talk about some matriarchal squids. Let's get started. The first thing I'd like us all to do is introduce ourselves. So Sarah, you're at the top of my screen, would you mind telling us and the listeners who you are, what you do, and the fictional worlds that you're inhabiting right now, so books you're reading, like TV or games, whatever.

Sarah 0:46

Sounds good. Yeah. Hi, I'm Sarah McAnulty. I am a squid biologist, and the executive director of a nonprofit called Skype A Scientist, that is basically aiming to match up scientists with as many people as humanly possible to get people talking with scientists. So yeah, I'm a science communicator, basically, and I help other scientists do that as well. The fictional world I'm living in, Animal Crossing is probably the world I'm living in the most. It's a sad, stressful world out there. So I'd rather be just like picking peaches or whatever. I just finished a sci-fi book yesterday by Blake Crouch called Recursion, which is all about like, memory and time travel and cool stuff. But I just finished that yesterday, so I'm not living there anymore. And I am usually watching The Good Place, like in the background all the time. So yeah, that's where I'm living.

Moiya 0:54

That sounds awesome. I'd love to be living there too. Yeah. Cecilia, what about you?

Cecilia 1:44

Sure. Yeah. My name is Cecilia O'Leary, and I am I guess I'm kind of a mix of an oceanographer and a fisheries biologist. I study anything that's on large scale in the ocean basically. And that also involves climate, and in terms of fictional worlds I'm in. I'm always in the fictional world of Schitt's Creek. That's my number one favorite show. And if you follow me on twitter at all, you'll know that I'm constantly putting Schitt's Creek gifs, and I'm actually also reading a book, I forget what it's called right now. It's not really a fictional world. It's actually about a woman who is on one of the mountain rescue teams in Seattle. And she writes about each of the different mountain rescues that she goes on, And I'm sure about halfway through the podcast. I'll remember the name, the title of the book, but yeah, those other worlds I'm in.

Moiya 2:32

Oh, that sounds so interesting. And I can you know, later edit in...

Cecilia 2:37

When I remember...

Moiya 2:37

... images or whatever. Yeah. Kate, what about you?

Kate 2:41

Yeah, I'm Kate Downey. I am the co-founder and creative director of Caveat, which up until March was a live events venue in the Lower East Side in New York. Now we are on the Internet, and we do live streams six nights a week. But yeah, Caveat puts on a ton of shows pretty much every night of the week, and every single show will make you a little bit smarter and a little bit drunker. Sometimes it's comedy about neuroscience. Sometimes it's drag shows about secret features. Like we have coming up with Sarah. And sometimes it's comedy about political science and circus. So we do a ton of different stuff. But it's all about making entertainment out of information. And fictional ... worlds I'm inhabiting are currently I just finished The Great, the first season of The Great on Hulu, which was aggressively marketed to me on Instagram. They were correct. I loved it. It's Catherine the Great, like early days of her kind of coming to Russia, and like she's like 19 and figuring it out. And it's like Elle Fanning. Oh, and it's just it's like, everything is beautiful, and like it's very like Versailles. Everyone's wearing beautiful clothes, but they're talking in a very contemporary way so it's like what I thought The Favorite was gonna be and it was not. Yeah, no.

Moiya 4:11

Yeah. I didn't know this about you ahead of time, but you liking period TV shows just really fits in with what I already knew about you.

Kate 4:24

I do. I don't like ... ones that take themselves very seriously. But I love any period piece that like has a sense of humor and like plays with it. And .... I love the way that they talk in this. It's all it's like contemporary, but they all have like great accents. But they're all going like, "fuck you".

Moiya 4:46

That's great.

Kate 4:47

It's amazing.

Moiya 4:48

Awesome. And I will post links to all of the stuff that our guests are doing down in the description of the video and the podcast, so you can definitely follow them there, but now let's move on to building our world. So whenever I build a world, I always answer questions in the same order. And that order is intentional, because I think that this is the order that just makes sense if you're using logic to create a world. So first I start imagining the environment, like what's the climate, the geography, the physical setting, like, and then I start thinking about biology, which depends directly on your physical environment. Biologists, correct me if I'm wrong. And then I delve into culture, which is the biggest chunk because there's so much to it, but that will depend directly on your biology and your environment. So that's the order that I do things in. And I have picked a setting for our world. The guests know what the setting is and viewers and listeners, you might be able to guess what the setting is based on the expertise of the guests. I've invited. A couple marine biologists, an oceanographer and someone whose Twitter handle used to be @wrongwhale.

Kate 6:03


Moiya 6:07

So the the world we're imagining today is not actually a planet at all. This is my first non planet, but it's a moon. And there are a couple of moons in our solar system that astronomers think might have a good chance of hosting life. These are Enceladus and Europa. They're icy moons of Saturn and Jupiter, respectively. And they have these icy shells on the outside; but underneath, there are liquid oceans and astronomers think that there's a good chance that they are liquid water oceans, which is very exciting for life. If you're wondering how the heat gets in there, there are a couple different mechanisms. The most common is that the other moons that are orbiting the planet and the planet itself will pull on this moon, Europa or Enceladus and that will create friction through gravitational and titled forces, that friction creates heat, which actually means that you can have a liquid water ocean underneath an icy surface. So that's our world, another consequence of it being a moon instead of a planet is that it's really far away from the sun. So there aren't natural sources of light as powerful as the sun. And we can get into how that would affect our life forms later on in the show. But first, I have a question that I think just shows how little I know about oceans. Why are there currents in our oceans? And would there be currents in this world in this subsurface ocean? Where there's no wind?

Cecilia 7:43

I can definitely take that question.

Sarah 7:45

I think that Cecilia is gonna be the best one to answer this one for sure.

Cecilia 7:48

That is a super good question, and there's a couple of different reasons that we have currents. The simplest of those are there's wind based currents. So the wind is pushing the surface water and then there's also the thermohaline circulation, which is the fact that we have different temperatures and different densities of seawater due to the salt content. And so that pushes the water around. And so there's a bunch ... things that might happen in this world with the currents, which was totally the first thing that I wanted to talk about, we're gonna have to like, basically reconstruct currents; because those reasons that currents happen might still exist, depending on how thick this ice is, and whether there's any breaks in it. So we can still get wind currents. But also one of the things that directs the currents that are on Earth is the existence of land, right? So anywhere that the currents go, they're often redirected by land and there's a lot of physics involved in that. But basically, if there's land that can't keep going through it, right, and also the land prevents super super large waves and stuff from happening because you can't get as much - there's not as much space for the late or for the wind to be blowing those waves across. So I think one of the first things we would have to figure out about our planet is sort of like, where is salt gonna come from, because there's a bunch of different places where salt comes from on earth that wouldn't necessarily happen on this planet. And how thick is our ice gonna be? How much is this temperature changing? And then we can answer the rest of the current questions.

Moiya 9:22

Great. So these moons have rocky solid cores. And astronomers think that there is ... almost like a liquid mantle core in either Europa or Enceladus, I don't remember. And so they have cores, very similar to Earth, but then it's just a very deep ocean. Something like maybe 10 kilometers deep, and then there's a very thick shell of ice, many kilometers deep.

Cecilia 9:53


Moiya 9:54

So that's, that's the world we're going for. There are salts that will just exist because those are the compounds that were around when this moon formed. So there will be salts in the core in the ice, the salt in the ice will lead to very interesting, not plate tectonics, but like subduction of the ice sheets. So that's what we're working with.

Cecilia 10:19

Yeah, so I think it's gonna be like, everything will be kind of almost turned over coming from like the bottom up, because we're not gonna have sort of like weathering and precipitation is a lot of where we get the salts in our ocean from. And then we also have sort of new water that forms at the surface that we think about it when water comes up to the surface of the ocean. It's sort of like re- energizing what oxygen, and nutrients and temperature and all that. And so our thermohaline circulation, which is driven by the salt content and the heat content will be start from sort of the bottom up because that's where we're getting our heat from. And so that will be what drives the density differences that happen in our ocean currents. So I think that's the biggest thing. And then the other thing to think about too is if we have this really thick sheet of ice at the top, that means that our water won't get the chance to interact with the atmosphere. So it's not going to change temperatures there, it's not going to get any oxygen or other gases from the surface, it's not going to get any nutrients unless there's something frozen in the ice. So that will that will be what happens within ocean currents.

Moiya 11:28

Amazing. So here on Earth, we have different regions, there's like mountain regions and forests and ocean and desert. I'm wondering if there would be a similar division of regions that could happen in this ocean and would that depend on salt content or density or temperature or like, how would you envision that taking place?

Sarah 11:50

Well, I think what we have in the ocean instead of having these different biomes kind of all over the place like we do on land, you have that but it's all about depth and the amount of light and the amount of pressure that you have. So there's more biodiversity on land on Earth, because there's just more stuff happening in terms of different kinds of environments; and in the ocean, it's really more about yeah, how much light do you have? How much pressure do you have? And in some cases, you might have a little extra thing here and there like the hydrothermal vents, which I'm sure we're going to talk about later. So, yeah, the question is, is any light getting through that ice? Probably not. So I think you're gonna have a much more uniformed situation on this planet then you would typically have when we think about Earth.

Kate 12:43

But could you still have like valleys like once you get to where kind of the rocky core starts could you still have mountain ranges and valleys and would be like water environment there be significantly different at like the top of a undersea mountain, than at the bottom of an undersea Valley?

Moiya 13:05

I would think. Yeah, I don't know how mountainous the rocky surface at the core would be. But a lot of studies or some studies have been done about these kind of the subduction or this like almost plate tectonic movement of the ice shell. And that could mean that they're like upside down ice mountains near the top. And that would be really exciting I think to explore.

Kate 13:31

Wouldn't that end up being, like if everything is kind of flipped around and there's like more stuff happening towards the core in terms of like temperature ... would like upside down ice mountains near the surface kind of be like the bottom of the ocean for us? Because it's like the further away from like the source of heat and like nutrients, possibly?

Cecilia 14:03

I think in this system, for sure, because so one of the things that is sort of like the primary driver of where stuff is in the ocean is the nutrient levels and the light levels, right? And so if we're basically getting rid of light it sounds like then we won't necessarily have the same productivity zones at the surface. And so in addition to restructuring the currents, we're also restructuring the entire ocean food web, because we're not gonna to have most of it. It's the same as land, so we have primarily on the top of photosynthetic base food web right, so we have all the allergies and stuff that use light and nutrients to produce energy, and also oxygen. So if we have to get rid of all that. That means that that life that's usually on the top that most of the larger things eat and also that life that's on the top when it dies it falls and feeds other stuff in the ocean. That's gone. So I almost kind of envisioned the top being like a desert of sorts, and we don't have that feeding of carbon life on the top down to the bottom. So the only carbon life there's going to be will be these extremophiles that we have in the bottom from the heat source. So that's what I see, in my mind, at least.

Moiya 15:17

Awesome. Sarah, do you have any thoughts to add?

Sarah 15:20

I completely agree. I mean, I think the the blooms of life are gonna come from these chemical sources like hydrothermal vents like we have on Earth. So we might get bigger animals, but the source is totally flip-flopped. Yeah, exactly. Like others said.

Moiya 15:35

Yes. All right. So I love that we've thought about, like, where the source of energy and nutrients is going to be coming from 'cause that will help us decide where our dominant life forms live, or like where all of our life forms live. So let's move on to biology. Let's think about what those life forms actually look like. What types of physical traits and characteristics do you think a species would have to have to claw their way to the top of the food chain? Or like ... fin their way to the top of the food chain, whatever?

Sarah 16:10

Well, I think first of all, one thing about humans is that we tend to, like project our own ways of getting through the world on other animals. And I think we got to throw that shit right out the window, because we are visual creatures, like we rely on vision for a lot. And if we're living in a completely dark place, the way we see is not going to be how these animals get around, they're probably going to need to be really good smellers. They may also need to have some kind of way to sense movements and anywhere around them. And maybe they are seeing things different from us. Like we know that snakes are using heat pits on their faces to sense basically the heat of their prey. I don't know if -

Moiya 16:54

Sarah, you knew that. I did not know that.

Sarah 16:56

Fish do that too.

Cecilia 16:57

Yeah, there's some fish, like rat tails that have these little sensory pits for odor.

Sarah 17:03

That's what I'm talking about. So when we were going to have animals with lots of pits on their face to sense instead of the eyes. Maybe that's how they're seeing who's around, what's happening in their environment. Also, maybe echolocation may be important.

Moiya 17:19

Yeah, 'cause sound travels so much faster in water.

Sarah 17:22

Yeah, yeah.

Cecilia 17:24

Yeah, we can switch everything right. So we can have visuals but we could also just completely switch. We can talk about visuals when we get to squid, obviously, but you could, you know, mimic like a marine mammal world or a fish world which is mostly auditory. And everything that they do is making different noises at different frequencies and sound travels much further to so you can have longer distance communication, which we might need if our existence is dependent on hydrothermal vents, which would be scattered they wouldn't be connected necessarily.

Sarah 17:57


Moiya 17:57

Nice. Fun fact about me, I fell asleep to whale songs all throughout high school.

Sarah 18:05

Really? Yeah, they're very calming. They work.

Moiya 18:08

They're so soothing. I love them a lot. Yeah, I love that we started talking about senses. That's really important. What other traits? Like what would their bodies be like, as I do a little body roll.

Cecilia 18:22

There's a couple of things. Sorry, there's a couple different things besides the darkness and the food, like dealing with the cold and the pressure would be another thing that we'd have to deal with. Right? Especially if you want to travel between heat sources. So there's a number of different adaptations that different animals have, at least in the fish and marine mammal world. So they have different proteins that keep their blood from freezing. And then marine mammals will have tons and tons of lipids to keep themselves you know, warm enough and they have different types of circulation. And then there's also -

Moiya 18:55

Is that what we call blubber?

Cecilia 18:57

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, which is actually a lot of the polar food webs are based around the transfer of lipids. So it's like slightly different than food webs that you find closer to the equator. And then the other thing that also would be dealing with the pressure, right, so if our systems are based down at the bottom where the heat sources are, the organisms will have to deal with pressure. And I'll let Sarah talk about how invertebrates do that. I don't actually know how that is, but I know that there are some fish that they find it depths that have these proteins that are I think, I don't know how to pronounce it because I've only ever read it, but I think it's called piezolytes, they actually help them tolerate the intense pressure that they feel at depths when they're found by these vents.

Moiya 19:44

That's so cool.

Sarah 19:45

That is cool. Um, so basically, the one great way of getting around a huge pressure situation is just don't have any air in your body whatsoever. If you've got air in your body, it's not going to go great if you're changing pressure a lot So I think probably swim bladders or something that fish have that help with buoyancy, they're out the window, we're not dealing with those. Can't have those, it's just not gonna work out. And then I think if we're dealing with like a one hydrothermal vent, and then a lot of incredibly cold, incredibly high pressure water, we probably are going to have animals that are incredibly like adaptable between different temperatures. So one there's,these really, really cool adaptation that octopuses have called RNA editing. And so basically, you know, you've got your DNA strand, and then the RNA is the copy that actually codes for the protein that you're gonna end up making. And so, cephalopods on the whole are very adaptable in their RNA because they can get the RNA copy, and then fuss around with it a little bit using these other proteins called eight hours, that basically say okay, today I need this particular protein to be a little bit more suited for this situation as opposed to this situation that's incredibly anthropomorphize. But you know what I'm saying like there are different isoforms to different situations. And so there's this one octopus, that was one of the like the first examples where we showed this was happening, because when you put it in cold water, you'd get one type of protein. And then when you put it in warmer water, you get the same protein, but different, basically. And so if that's what you have, if you have to have an animal that's going from pretty hot water around a hydrothermal vent, to incredibly cold back to incredibly hot, maybe these animals might have proteins with shorter lifespans, but that you're pumping out all the time. So you can quickly like switch your method for different things you need.

Kate 21:46

That's really cool. Does that like, change how, like ... I want it to be more dramatic than it is probably.

Moiya 21:58

We can make it super dramatic.

Sarah 22:01

We're making up an imaginary world so let's go. Why not?

Kate 22:04

I'm sure like in octopuses it is like, it's just happening inside them, like, how we oxidize blood or whatever but like, what I want it to be is like, a costume change.

Sarah 22:19

Yeah, I mean octopuses are doing costume changes literally constantly, so that can scratch that itch for you, they do that. But yeah, I mean, they're probably not doing it consciously it's just there's a system that tells the RNA, "hey, it's time to change our tune here."

Kate 22:37

Hmm. Very cool.

Moiya 22:39

Um, I would love for us to get weird and creative, and Kate, I know you've seen a lot of poorly drawn pictures of whales. So I wonder if you've seen anything in these pictures that we know are totally wrong here on Earth, but might give us some inspiration for a weird thing we can add to our lifeform here.

Kate 22:58

Yes, absolutely. Such a strange twist of fate that this is why I'm called into podcasts now. So, years ago, I worked as a tour guide at many museums around the country, and I became really fascinated with ... like scientific drawings of whales from the 17- and 1800s, because in the 17- and 1800s, science was a really flexible term, which didn't really mean anything. Um, and so scientific drawings of whales would be basically like, someone who had seen a whale would describe it to someone who could draw and was interested in science and they would draw what someone had described to them and they would be like science, it's a whale. This is what it is put it in a book. And so there's so many drawings of whales and they're beautiful like ornate like they're really amazing drawings, but they're very incorrect in terms of whales; and if someone might have seen a whale or a sea creature and decided it was a sea monster, and so described a sea monster and was like, "that's a whale. That's what's out there". And people were really terrified of the ocean and like what was under the ocean, and there was all this stuff about like, "hell maybe is under the ocean, because we don't know what's there. And it might be hell", I don't know.

Moiya 24:23

I mean, fair.

Kate 24:24


Moiya 24:25

That's a mysterious place.

Kate 24:27

Right, and then the only other way that people could occasionally actually see a whale, if they were not whalers was if a whale died and like ... washed up on the beach. And they would actually because it was such a strange thing they would like have carnivals on top of the whale. So ...

Cecilia 24:47

On the whale?

Kate 24:48

Yeah, I can. I'll send you some stuff.

Cecilia 24:50

Ugh, that sounds really smelly.

Moiya 24:52

It does.

Kate 24:52

Yeah, but I think everything was smelly then. But there's literally drawings of like a ... Big Top set up like on top of a whale, and then people just like in a line like walking on top of the whale and like people were like cooking parts of the whale on a little stove and it's insane. But anyway, obviously what happens to a whale when it has been like rotting at sea for a long time and been eaten by things and then washes up and continues to bloat. That's not actually like what a whale looks like. So I don't know if this is helpful to this discussion, but one of my favorite parts of these drawings is the whale penis. When it washes up on shore and it's bloated, whales have really long penises, obviously, but usually they're like tucked into a little pouch, I think is the scientific term for it.

Moiya 25:47

All of the polite whales use their penis pouch.

Kate 25:50

Yes, exactly ... but when they bloat, it sort of like spills out, and it sometimes it's like kind of like a loose sock. There's all of these like drawings of whales with their tongues sticking out, and then like really long, like loose penises coming out. Yeah, that's ... one of my favorite elements of these drawings, that people were like science whales have giant -

Sarah 26:18

Big, floppy dicks. Yeah, great.

Moiya 26:22

I did an episode with Kyle Marian, who's a former physical anthropologist, and she brought up that common discussion in physical anthropology is genital size and how it relates to social structures. And I promised her, that I would start off my next Exolore discussion with "so how big do we think their genitals are"?

Cecilia 26:45

Here we go.

Moiya 26:47

So how big do we think their genitals are?

Cecilia 26:51

I mean, it's a big open ocean?

Sarah 26:55

Well, we can look to the Barnacles. They have incredibly long penises that's one -

Kate 27:03

Comparable to their size, not like just in general.

Sarah 27:05


Moiya 27:06

That's because they like they can't move, so right they're gonna reproduce they would need to have these long things that can make babies.

Sarah 27:12

Exactly. So I think ... the penis size is going to be very dependent on how much you're moving. So -

Cecilia 27:21

Are we gonna have things moving?

Sarah 27:24

I think?

Moiya 27:25

I think so. Yeah. I mean, that was part of why they need to be able to adjust temperatures if they're moving from hotspring to non-hotspring.

Kate 27:34

Yeah, and I think if we're later gonna talk about culture, I think it's pointless to talk about culture if nobody's moving.

Sarah 27:42

Or super isolated cultures.

Kate 27:44

Right, but if everybody's just like staying put forever, then culture is just ... doesn't really matter.

Cecilia 27:53

Well, the other thing too, is that ... we haven't really talked yet about hydrothermal vents, but they have a limited lifespan, right? They don't last forever. So eventually things would have to move. If they don't have some way of dispersing for reproduction, they would have to move from vent system to vent system. So it could be almost some sort of like nomadic or fish infusions kind of society?

Moiya 28:17

What's the time scale of that? Is it like many generations can use the same hydrothermal vent? Or is it like, "oh, it's another month, I have to move again"?

Sarah 28:26

Within the scale of decades, I think.

Cecilia 28:28


Moiya 28:29


Sarah 28:30

So some animals will have multiple generations, probably most of animals I'm thinking of that live in hydrothermal vents on Earth are going to have multiple generations for sure. But you know, not like tens of generations if we're thinking of organisms that are living as long as humans do.

Moiya 28:49


Kate 28:52

I wonder if there are things that they need, that are outside of the like, thermal vent area ,that they have to like gather or go on treks to get these things.

Sarah 29:06

Yeah, 'cause you're gonna have a lot of like the same stuff at a hydrothermal vent like that sulfurous stuff, right? But maybe like broadly in the ocean that we're working with, there's gonna have a lot of something else like some kind of mineral you need that's been totally covered up by this hydrothermal vent schmutz. And so you got to go outside, grab your stuff, bring it back to home, and then work with it.

Kate 29:30

Okay, this relates very closely to a really fascinating book that I just read. I'm at my boyfriend's parents house and it's not the house he grew up in, but they saved a lot of like his stuff. And I found the very first "Animorphs" book ... I don't know where it is right now, but it has like a kid turning into a lizard on the front and if you flip the corners, it's got like a little flip book in it in a real like, innovative move for a book. And I started reading it out loud to him as a joke; and then I was like, "ah, shit. Now I have to finish reading". So I read the whole book, and I must have read these when I was a kid, but I like don't remember them at all. And the whole plot is that these aliens ... that have come to earth and they're like slugs that crawl into people's brains and control them. And then there's another race of aliens that are trying to save people and they give them the power to morph into animals. That part is not important.

Moiya 30:41

That sounds very important to the plot of the story.

Kate 30:45

To the plot, but not for our discussion, but these alien slugs that live in your brain are called "Yeerks", and they can only live in your brain for three days and then they have to go to a yeerk pool. To like gather essential nutrients that are not available on earth to like, soak that back up for like, an hour, and then they ... can crawl back into your brain. So I wonder if it's something like that where it's like, they can live at the hydrothermal vents, and they have everything that they need. But like every so often, there's like a nutrient.

Cecilia 31:23

Yeah. Hydrothermal vents, there's, I mean, the most frequent example that you see in most things is that there's this symbiotic relationship between bacteria and worms, where the worms can eat the bacteria and the bacteria can oxidize the sulfide that's in the system, and that's how they make energy. And we could totally make this a parasitic situation instead, where it's living inside something and taking advantage and then traveling far. Maybe it could animorph into some sort of squid situation.

Kate 31:56

What did you say that it was bacteria that can ... and I know that there are some symbiotic or like parasitic situations where like an animal will basically like gather certain kinds of bacteria that perform a job for it. And so ... I guess that's symbiosis then, and if these animals had that bacteria on them, and then could go to the thermal vents where like, the bacteria could do its work, but maybe, I don't know. Yeah, I don't know what they need to leave for but ...

Cecilia 32:29

Yeah, so it's typically like, it's symbiotic and that the animal that the bacteria is living inside and sort of regulate the flow of nutrients and stuff that get to the bacteria. And sometimes they'll even eat the bacteria or the energy, and then the bacteria are chemoautotrophs, so they can produce energy from the chemicals in the water rather than photoautotrophs, which is what we're used to seeing, which is taking the light and producing energy instead. Um, so you could do that, and then I don't know what you would need, I guess maybe more space. Or what would be like a limiting resource and this?

Moiya 33:04

Well, I'm picturing these hydrothermal vents almost like watering holes.

Cecilia 33:08


Moiya 33:10

And people can gather at the watering hole and they can spend time there, but if a predator comes by, like you're gonna scatter and I like the idea of us thinking about all these different creatures that would exist on this world, and how their schedules ... interplay with the schedule of like this dominant kind of apex predator in this environment.

Kate 33:36

What does the apex predator look like?

Moiya 33:38

Yes, so this is the dominant thing. Let's focus on that, and start thinking about the traits that would just lead you beat everyone.

Sarah 33:51

There's an animal that I am picturing that lives near like oil rigs, like very deep in the ocean. It's called the Magna pinna or the The Bigfin Squid or the Long-armed squid, depending on who you ask, but basically, they're about person sizeish. And they have very, very long, tendril-y arms that like hang down from their regular suction cup arms. And they're about eight meters long, and they kind of look like they have an elbow. So it's like squid face, and then just eight elbows, and each elbow's got this eight meter long dangler. And so maybe our big predator like you may not see the predator right away because he's eight meters away, dangling his danglers. And then maybe like the danglers also are very good at ... I don't know, let's say that they're covered in mucus, okay, because we don't want anyone to smell the predators around because that's important and they're very fine danglers that go with the flow because you don't want anybody to feel that you're around. You got to be a real stealth predator - not necessarily visually, but on all these other aspects of sensory organs that we're working with. So we're going with the flow, so you can't feel them, you're covered in mucus so you can't smell them. Much like parrotfish when they sleep, they cover themselves in a big slime ball so that they can't be smelled. And so that's also what I hereby declare our big predator's doing. And so when our predator bumps that dangler into our, whatever is living there, that's when it'll grab on and pull it up like the claw from Toy Story.

Cecilia 35:42

I think our predator should also be able to detect heat, because it will be able to find the hydrothermal vents that way, and I can't remember why but I know it must be the chemical processes that are happening, but hydrothermal vents also give off like a dim bioluminescence which I think they should be able to detect too.

Kate 36:01


Moiya 36:02

Mm hmm.

Kate 36:03

I love that.

Moiya 36:05

Yeah. Okay, great.

Kate 36:06

If you introduce light then you then you're introducing all kinds of stuff like ... creatures that can sense light better would maybe do better in certain situations. Yeah, I love that.

Moiya 36:25

Awesome. All right, so it's called the Magna "paenna?"

Sarah 36:29

Magna pinna. P-I-N-N-A.

Moiya 36:31

Magna pinna. Alright, so that's what we're basing our, like powerful dominant species on. And they can't spend all their time at the hydrothermal vents because then none of the other creatures that they presumably eat would ever go there and they wouldn't have a source of food. So there's like some migration to in a way from the hydrothermal vents for everyone. Cecilia, what did you have to say?

Cecilia 36:52

Okay, so I just thought too, our predator... So presumably there's variation in the thickness of this ice ... I've decided that there is, so there's a lot of seals like Weddell seals that use their teeth to dig through the ice to create air pockets. So I think that our really super large predator would be able to have some sort of teeth or something hard, some calcium hard surface that allows them to dig through the ice so they could hide at the surface as well.

Moiya 37:26