Yithian (drawing by Zippo4k)
In the previous article a discussion was initiated on the taxonomy of the cone-shaped beings (CSB), collectively known as the Great Race when the alien minds of the “Yithians” that occupy their bodies are taken into account. Last time a hypothesis was put forth that the CSBs may be a type of mollusk, being closely related to gastropods (snails) and/or cephalopods (octopus). If the CSBs are caterogrized as mollusks, they are more than likely more closely related to gastropods and in particular the Family Haliotidae which contains only one genus Haliotis. Commonly known as abalone, this is a marine group of mollusks that vary from small to large and are well known to be very edible.
An abalone in a tank at the Ty Warner Sea Center, Santa Barbara, CA. Note the purple layer of tissue under the shell, called the epipodium. Underneath the epipodium is the large, fleshy foot. Also note the tentacles coming out of the shell (from Wikipedia.org).
With some extensive specialization of the tentacles, an increase in size and modification of the shape of the shell, it is possible to imagine the CSBs being related to this family of mollusks. However, a number of people have contacted me with some alternative hypotheses.
It is possible that the CSBs should not to be included in the Phylum Mollusca. In fact, the CSBs may be distinct enough to warrant their own unique Phylum within the Animal Kingdom. According to HPL’s The Shadow Out of Time the Great Race disappeared from the Earth approximately 50 million years before man appeared on the evolutionary scene. Based on S.T. Joshi’s explanatory notes which revised and updated HPL’s cited geologic eras, the CSBs were around throughout the Palaeozoic era which covered from around 570 to 225 million year ago (Penguin Classics – The Dreams in the Witch House and Other Weird Stories).
Most modern phyla of animal life appeared in the early part of the Paleozoic era – during the Cambrian period, which was between 542 and 488 million years ago (Michael J. Benton; The History of Life; 2008). Thus, it is certainly possible that the CSBs were already a distinict species this early on Earth, which would support the hypothesis that they should be classified in their own distinct phylum.
Yithian (by the talented artist Tom Ardan)
Another hypothesis for consideration is that the CSBs may be a residual ancestor of the bizarre marine community of ancient organisms found in the Burgess Shale, British Columbia, Canada. The Burgess Shale provides an incredible account of fossilization of soft-bodied organisms that lived on Earth between 530 and 510 million years ago (Evolution: The First Four Billon Years; edited by M. Ruse and J. Travis; 2009). The extremely strange organisms identified in the Burgess Shale included phyla that are wholly extinct and very strange looking. Were the CSBs a surviving species that outlived many of the other Burgess Shale organisms, only to be later “occupied” by the Yithian minds?
Rendition of the Burgess Shale Cambrian community by Karen Carr of the Field Museum (from http://www.mshanks.com)
Next time another hypothesis will be presented that considers the idea that the CSBs many not even be members of the Animal Kingdom. Thank you – Fred.