In HPL’s tale The Shadow Out of Time a previously unknown species and it’s associated civilization is discovered. In typical HPL fashion, how this discovery is made is very unique and details on this will be discussed in subsequent articles. However, for this article the focus will be on the unknown species – the Great Race.
The Great Race of Yith (from S. Petersen’s Field Guide to Cthulhu Monsters (1988); illustration by Tom Sullivan)
First thing that should be stated is that the “minds” of the Great Race are alien but there cone-shaped bodies are of Terran origin. This being the case, as a resident species of Earth, it may be possible that the cone-shaped beings are also the by-product of the Elder Things creating complex eukaryotic life some the bacterial communities of the Archaen Eon.
In order to minimize confusion, a few definitions will be established. First, the term ‘the Great Race” will be used to describe the fused entity that is the mind of the aliens and the body of the Terran cone-shaped species. When focusing solely on the mind of the fused entity, the term Yithian will be used since Yith is the planet where they come from, switching with the minds of the cone-shaped beings on Earth, just prior to some world-wide catastrophe on Yith. However, even Yith was not the ultimate orgin of the minds, which is unknown. Finally, when referring specifically the body of the fused entity, the term cone-shaped being (CSB) will be used.
Another illustration of the Great Race (from Nottsuo)
As a Terran species, the cone-shaped being (CSB) appears to be some highly specialized form of mollusk (Phylum Mollusca). In particular the CSB may be in a taxonomic Class onto it’s own since it appears to have traits of two major groups. First, the large fleshy foot is a trait that snails (Class: Gastropods) possess. Second, the tentacle-like appendages at the top of the CSB reminds one of similar organs found on an octopus or squid (Class: Class: Cephalopods).
Example of a Gastropod, the land snail Fumonelix jonesiana (from http://www.bioweb.uwlax.edu).
Example of a number of Cephalopods (e.g. squid and octopus; http://www.tolweb.org).
It’s the large plate-like “exoskeleton” or “shell” of the CSB that is perplexing in its investigating its morphological taxonomy. We do not know what the plates are made of; if they are composed primarily of calcium carbonate then that is more evidence they belong in the mollusk phylum. If these plates truly represent an outer shell then the CSB may be more closely related to snails. However, some cephalopods have internalized shells (e.g. cuttlefish, which have an internal bone called a cuttlebone), while others have entirely lost their shell (e.g. octopus). Without examining the internal anatomy of a CSB it is difficult to conduct a formal taxonomic assessment of them relative to mollusks.
Are the CSB are a highly evolved and specialized form of gastropod, cephalopod or some other unknown class of mollusk? The octopus is considered to be the most intelligent invertebrate on Earth. If any group of invertebrates has the potential to acquire higher levels of individual intelligence it would be the octopus. Are the CSBs a more “advanced” form of cephalopod or do they deserve a separate taxonomic class onto themselves within the mollusk phylum. Conducting a cladistics analysis with mitochondrial and /or ribosomal DNA, or possibly with RNA, with samples from CSBs and other mollusks would help to solve this riddle.
However, as we will see next time, it is possible that the CSB do not even below in the mollusk phylum. In fact, maybe they are not even animals at all. More details on this will be provided next time when we talk about the other aspects of CSB biology including reproduction. Thank you – Fred
The Great Race of Yith by Pahapasi.