As previously discussed, it is hypothesized that the Shoggoths could only reproduce with assistance from the Elder Ones and their “breeding pits.” However, as revealed in At the Mountains of Madness, the Shoggoths not only acquired increasing levels of intelligence but also the ability to reproduce through fission. This raises two questions. First, how did the Shoggoths acquire these abilities? Second, if they could reproduce through simple fission, why isn’t the world chock full of Shoggoths?
Last time it was described that reproduction and sex occur at the same time for the majority of organisms, particularly multi-cellular forms of life. It was also described that reproduction can occur with no sex in many organisms, particularly for plants and fungi.
However, what was not described last time was that sex can occur with no reproduction and this excludes humans practicing safe sex. Specifically, this involves the transfer of genes between organisms that does not involve the production of offspring. This process is typically called horizontal gene transfer (HGT). HGT can occur between a wide variety of organisms including viruses, eukaryotes and prokaryotes, however, it most frequently occurs among bacteria and viruses; we will focus on bacteria. In practical terms, HGT is an important process to understand since it frequently gives rise to increased resistance against antibiotics and synthetic pesticides. In fact, HGT is one of the primary reasons there is to this day a considerable amount of controversy in applying the traditional concept of “species” to bacteria. I remember reading somewhere that in a way microbial life, particularly bacteria and viruses, are sort of a biological “world wide web”, sharing genetic information in a very cosmopolitan sense. I think this idea comes from Tom Wakeford’s Liaisons of Life but I could be wrong.
Bringing this article back to Shoggoths, this idea begs the question: is this how Shoggoths acquired intelligence and the ability to reproduce through simple fission? Yes, initially their ability to breed was genetically controlled by the Elder Ones, but did the Elder Ones underestimate the power of life and evolution itself? Was there a horizontal transfer of genetic material from other Terran life to the Shoggoths that provided them with the means to eventually acquire increased intelligence and/or the ability to reproduce through fission? It is possible that the very life developed by the Elder Ones, created and then discarded as a “mistake or joke”, slithered away and through its natural evolutionary development, transfered some of the genes that were favored and preserved through natural selection to Shoggoths?
This hypothesis that the Shoggoths acquired intelligence and fission reproduction, through HGT with other “inconsequential” life, in addition with the Elder Ones eventually losing the ability to create life as cited in At the Mountains of Madness, may be the true downfall of the Elder Ones. Thus, the supreme irony would be it was a large “mistake” that the Elder Ones did not destroy the Terran life forms they thought too insignificant to consider, resulting in the “joke” being on them.
Next time the Elder Ones will be discussed in more detail and as part of those discussions we will attempt to address the question of why the world is not covered with Shoggoths. Thank you. Fred.