The Shadow Out of Time – Part 2, Additional Notes on the Taxonomy of the Great Race

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

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

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.



7 thoughts on “The Shadow Out of Time – Part 2, Additional Notes on the Taxonomy of the Great Race

  1. The story does mention a billion years ago for the original race, or possibly the date of their mental usurpation. Is that date now revised by the source (Joshi) you cited?

    If a billion years old, they’re from some evolutionary line of which we have no fossils at all. Tantalizing ideas!

  2. Sorry, quote from story:

    “The beings of a dying elder world, wise with the ultimate secrets, had looked ahead for a new world and species wherein they might have long life; and had sent their minds en masse into that future race best adapted to house them – the cone-shaped beings that peopled our earth a billion years ago.”

    1. Hey Tom – you are correct! I checked and confirmed that passage from the story after your first response and before you provided the actual quotation. Thus, I will bring that up in the next article and discuss how this radically alters the original hypotheses that were proposed. Thank you for identifying that!

      1. I wonder if their evolutionary precursor was a fourplex being, possibly even colonial, with four modules doing similar jobs. Later, each ‘lobe’ specialized into feeding, grasping/defense, and sensory. That was kind if my thinking behind making the cone body four-lobed. As for the oddity of three eyes when all other features are fourplex, it could be one eye atrophied when the head started to be carried in a favored orientation. The ancestral form looked, maybe, more like a carnivorous plant, with four stems waving about, with no obvious front or back.

      2. Interesting stuff – thanks Tom! I will expand a little more on the biology and ecology of the Great Race in upcoming articles.

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