Necronomcion Convention talk – Biology of the Old Ones, Part 23 – Metamorphosis of the Deep Ones

The offspring between humans and Deep Ones go through a metamorphosis that is somewhat unique to these resulting hybrids.  From a purely biological perspective the term metamorphosis refers to a substantial and relatively quick change in morphology (general appearance) as an animal grows from a young or larval stage to an adult.  This process is fairly common in Terran animal life.  An example from the phylum Arthropoda is given below:

Life cycle of Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) showing metamorphosis (from www.shawnfischer.com)

In the case of the Monarch butterfly, a caterpillar hatches from an egg.  The caterpillar is very limited in mobility and typically uses camouflage and/or the accumulation of bad-tasting compounds in its tissues to avoid being eaten.  The sole purpose of the caterpillar is to eat (and eat…and eat).  It will continuously feed on vegetation until it begins to form a chrysalis, where its cells will breakdown, change and re-organize to finally hatch as a butterfly.  In contrast to the caterpillar, the butterfly is a highly mobile organism that will feed on nectar from flowers instead of leaves.  The chief purpose of the butterfly is to mate and  lay eggs for the next generation of butterflies.

A more appropriate example of metamorphosis, relative to this discussion, is the bullfrog.

Life cycle of American bullfrog(Lithobates catesbeianus) showing metamorphosis (from Sheri Amsel at www.exploringnature.org)

In this example, bullfrogs lay their eggs in freshwater, typically a pond or lake, and the young hatch as tadpoles.  The tadpoles are well adapted to an aquatic life; swimming, breathing with the use of gills and feeding on algae attached to rocks and other surfaces.  However, in a more gradual form of metamorphosis, the tadpoles eventually become adult frogs that are adapted to land.  That is, they live and breath (with lungs and through their skin) out of the water and feed on terrestrial insects and other invertebrates.  However the bullfrog, like all amphibians, must return to the water to reproduce and lay their eggs.

The evolutionary advantage to such a metamorphosis is that the bullfrog and tadpole take advantage of a number of ecological niches.   While the tadpoles are aquatic herbivores, the adult bullfrog is a terrestrial carnivore.  Thus, if one portion of the ecosystem is seriously damaged or altered (e.g. pond dries up during a particularly dry summer) and one part of the life cycle is negatively impacted, the other part still has a chance of re-establishing the population.

Directing this conversation toward the metamorphosis of humans to hybridized Deep Ones, this example of batrachian evolution raises the questions:  Is there an evolutionary advantage to being a hybrid Deep One?  If so, what is that advantage?

Old Innsmouth by the talented artist Greg P. Onychuk; drawing displays some of the common traits of the hybridizing Deep Ones

Simply based on HPL’s story The Shadow Over Innsmouth, there does appear to be both biological and, perhaps more significantly, cultural evolutionary advantages to being a hybrid Deep One.  Spending the first 20 to 30 years of their lives as humans allows them to study human society and gather intelligence on this species.  Knowing where humans reside and where they fish provides useful information on where the Deep Ones themselves should live and congregate.   The Deep Ones are known to interact with select groups or geographical populations of humans and the selection of these populations is probably based on detailed reconnaissance through the centuries.

Another evolutionary advantage may be in the case of colonization.  Having a “larval” stage (e.g. humans) that is terrestrial for a substantial amount of time, provides the opportunity for the movement and relatively rapid colonization of other areas of the planet that are not limited to movement along coastal waters.  The Shadow Over Innsmouth exemplifies this by Old Captain Marsh bring Polynesian Deep Ones back to New England from the Pacific.

Yet another possible evolutionary advantage is introducing more genetic variability into the Deep One gene pool to maximize adaptability to varying environmental conditions.  However, such an advantage is only transferred to offspring if the hybrids themselves can viably reproduce.  A discussion on hybrids and their ability to reproduce will be our next discussion.  Thank you – Fred

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2 thoughts on “Necronomcion Convention talk – Biology of the Old Ones, Part 23 – Metamorphosis of the Deep Ones

  1. Just wanted to point out that there is an error in your reading of “Shadow over Innsmouth” here.

    You write that “Old Captain Marsh bring Polynesian Deep Ones back to New England from the Pacific”, but the story makes clear that the city of Y’ha-nthlei already existed below Devil’s Reef off the coast of Innsmouth, and that Obed Marsh brought up the Deep Ones (native to that area) by dropping a kind of object into the deeps after a certain intonation.

    Just nitpicking. I’m currently in the process of reading all your articles, and rereading HPL’s stories alongside them.

    FYI, I’m doing this to inform a series of books I plan on writing, as I find this website an amazing resource.

    1. Hey Jack – thank you for the comments. Yes, the City of Y’ha-nthlei is off the Innsmouth coast but Lovecraft did also mention that Old Captain Marsh brought a Polynesian Deep One wife home. Thus, I think both are correct. The Deep Ones are global and were so even before Marsh’s trips to the south Pacific. However, I think making a deal with the Deep Ones allow for them to have a terrestrial stronghold off the coast of New England. Thanks again for the comments!

      Fred

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