In the previous article, I noted that the Shoggoths were bred by the Elder Ones, which eludes to sexual reproduction, while later it is said that the Shoggoths learned how to reproduce through simple cellular fission, known as asexual reproduction. To better understand what this means, I want to briefly review the definitions of both reproduction and sex.
In most eukaryotic organisms (animals, plants, fungi and protists) sex and reproduction occurs at the same time. Examples of such organisms are shown below:
Reproduction is simply making more copies of one’s self, progeny, which in turn increases the number of individuals in a population. Sex provides a means of increasing genetic variation, while at the same time increasing the number of individuals in a population. That is the value of sex from a purely biological perspective. There is a mixing of genetic material, one set of chromosomes inherited from the male and one set of chromosomes inherited from the female. This mixing gives rise to increased genetic variation, which is the raw material used by evolution through the mechanism of natural selection.
While reproduction and sex commonly occur at the same time, they can also occur separately. For example, many organisms can reproduce without having sex. Such organisms are essentially making cloned copies of themselves. Almost all plants and fungi can reproduce asexually and a few animals can as well; a few examples are shown below:
The organisms listed above are a sample of some forms of life that can asexually reproduce. For example, populations of many types of zooplankton (small animals that live in lakes and ponds such as Daphnia – see above), are entirely composed of females and reproduce through parthenogenesis. Essentially, eggs are formed on the back of the Daphnia and hatch; they are complete genetic copies (clones) of the parent female. However, like many organisms that increase their numbers through asexual means (parthenogenesis in animals; fragmentation in plants), they still have the ability to sexually reproduce and this it typically done during times of stress.
In the example of the freshwater zooplankton Daphnia, they hatch from resting eggs in the sediment as water temperatures increase from winter into spring. Through spring a into most of summer the entire population is female, making cloned copies of themselves. However, with the onset of fall, associated with lower water temperatures and reduced supply of food (algae / bacteria), a portion of the population becomes male and sexual reproduction occurs. This mixes up the genes among the population, hence increasing variability among the population. In addition, resting egg cases (called ephippium) are created and effectively over-winter in the sediments.
Sexual reproduction is far more “expensive” from a resource perspective and is less efficient than asexual reproduction. So then, why have sexual reproduction at all? Why not continue to make clones of ones self? The answer is that, barring any rare beneficial mutation of an individual, if all individuals are genetically the same with no variation, then a change in the environment has the potential of wiping out the entire population instead of only a portion. Thus, the increase in genetic variation results in an increase in adaptability, which in turn means an increased chance of the species surviving changes in the environment. This is the value of sex.
Sex was something that Earth life stumbled upon early in its evolution and has produced such beneficial results that it is utilized by the vast majority of eukaryotic life. However, if one wanted to design and control a species, one may not necessarily want a species to reproduce sexually (or reproduce on its own at all as in the case of the sterile grass carp, used to control nuisance aquatic plant growth). Thus, while multicellular life was created by the Elder Ones, it was a failed experiment and slithered away into the steaming fens to grow, reproduce and “stumble” upon sex. I believe the Elder Ones wanted more control over the life they created and this was manifested in the Shoggoths.
The Shoggoths were a controlled and managed population. They could only reproduce sexually with the assistance of the Elder Ones, who placed their creations into the breeding pits. Thus, it appears that discovering the ability to reproduce on their own, through simple fission (asexual reproduction), was just as important, if not more so, than acquiring intelligence to begin to rebell against their extraterrestrial masters. Next time I will wrap up some final notes on Shoggoth evolution and we will subsequently move to the Shoggoth Maters, the Elder Ones. Thank you – Fred