The fauna of the 'Verse?

UPDATED: Tuesday, October 9, 2007 00:12
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Sunday, September 23, 2007 3:14 PM


I've been wondering something, and thought maybe something had been published on the subject. If not, I'd be interested to hear what the other Browncoats think.

What kind of critters do we expect to see on the planets of the 'Verse? Obviously, we know there is livestock; I'm mostly thinking on less obviously useful animals. Now, first, I think it's needed to point out the length of the journey from Earth-That-Was. Somewhere (maybe in the Serenity RPG book?) it is stated that four generations were born and died on the coloney ships before arriving at their new home. Obviously, a generation is a vague unit of time measurement, and there is some subjectivity as to when they start and stop in the first place. So let's just ballpark it and say that the ships were in transit for anywhere from 1 to 2 centuries. Now, a situation like a colony ship, in which everything must be controlled, not only food and water but even oxygen, I don't see large populations of "accidental" animals being allowed to survive. For a trip of this length, such a population would have to be able to sustain itself over many generations without getting caught. So, for example, if two rats sneak on board, their descendants would be so imbred after a few short rat generations that survival would be difficult. You'd need dozens of rats to stow away on the ship and survive to procreate, generation after generation. A specimen or two of vermin sneaking on in food stores is almost guaranteed, but enough to sustain a population without being noticed and eradicated starts to seem implausible. Or consider mosquitoes: They lay their eggs in un-managed, stagnant water. How much of this do we expect to find on an environmentally controlled spaceship?

Next, any indigenous life in the 'Verse would almost certainly have been killed in the terraforming process. Joss has said that there are no aliens in the 'Verse. I have always appended to that: "And if there were any, they're dead now."

My point in all the above? I believe any animals that survive in the 'Verse are there intentionally, for one reason or another. So, obviously we have livestock, and we have several examples of other animals in the show.

1) When Kaylee is shot in "Serenity," Mal soothingly says "That ain't no more than a mosquito bite." Now, would a population living without mosquitoes since leaving earth-that-was maintain a phrase like this vestigially for a handful of centuries? I doubt it. I think all the people in that cargo bay knew what mosquitoes were, and given the limited amount of knowledge the working-types generally seem to have about earth-that-was history, that means they probably encountered them in life. So, let's assume there are mosquitoes.

2) In "Serenity," a sign for food says "Good dogs." Possibly this is a euphamism for something, but more probably there are actually dogs, either as pets, food, or both. Jubal's neighbors are also said to have had a dog (golden retriever?) so keeping dogs as pets and even some of our current breeds are known to survive.

3) In "Safe," the hill folk are seen skinning what appears to be a jackrabbit. Didn't look like a cute widdle bunnie-wabbit to me, looked like what was left of a wild animal.

4) Also in "Safe," Kaylee admires a carving of a swan. There is an implication, however, that the carver had not seen one, seeming to indicate that swans were more or less exclusive to the central planets. One could also take from this, though, that there have never been swans since earth-that-was. Inara also questions initially whether it is a duck, so we may also believe there are still ducks. (Unless, like possibly with the swan, Inara is speaking only of a now-extinct species.)

5) In "Ariel" there is mention of feeding birds in a park, so we have at least semi-wild birds.

6) In "Objects in Space," Jubal thinks Simon asked him if he was "a lion." Obviously he misunderstood "Alliance," but would his brain have gone there so easily if lions were just a creature that he'd read about once or twice in school? I doubt it. So there are probably lions.

7) Also in "Objects in Space" Mal mentions a planet whose economy revolves around fish and fish-related activities, and mentions sturgeon in particlar. It is not clear, however, whether these are wild and caught or captive-bred.

8) We can fairly assume that there are still Fireflies. Since there would not have been the need for such a ship on the single-planet existence of earth-that-was, the design must have been developed and named in the 'Verse, and it would be a bad marketing strategy indeed to name a ship model after an animal that people (and only educated people at that) had only read about in books.

So, what do we think is the state of wild animals in the 'Verse? Were dozens of specimens taken and bred in captivity on they way, in order to help create stable interactive ecosystems on the newly terraformed planets? If so, how were the animals able to maintain their ecological niches through so many generations of captive care? Was one of the colony ships a great "ark" on which all possible animals were housed? Were dangerous animals included, wolves, tigers, etc? Were many marine creatures included, given the great infrastructure and effort required to make tanks for them onboard ship, especially huge marine mammals and the countless species yet to be discovered? Are the only wild animals in the 'Verse feral, formerly domesticad escapees from houses or zoos? Could the animals have been grown in test tubes from DNA samples (easier to transport, but you are back to the very-limited-gene-pool problem, also doesn't feel practical within the technology level of the 'Verse, but still possible)? Is there a marked difference in the distribution of species between the core and the border? The Alliance owns all salvage rights, do they own all the animals, too, like in feudal Europe?

Clearly, I'm brimming with questions. Please, discuss.

Aaaaaaand go.

"When you can't do somethin' smart, do somethin' right!" -Jayne Cobb quotes Shepherd Book


Sunday, September 23, 2007 5:05 PM


Very interesting question. We also know that there are lots and lots of horses. Easy to breed despite a long gestation. Genetic diversity would be easy to take care of because even now some breed registries allow frozen semen to be used.

I would also assume that the easiest way to carry such a diverse group of animals would be frozen embryos with a few live female animals to reproduce for several generations to ensure survival and then carry the embryos to term.

I'm not sure about the wild animals like wolves and lions. Maybe they just exist in zoos in the Core planets.


Monday, September 24, 2007 5:26 AM


Y'all fergot geese, and goslings...


Monday, September 24, 2007 7:06 AM



Originally posted by NewOldBrownCoat:
Y'all fergot geese, and goslings...

Bah! I tried to remember all the critter references, but I knew I was bound to forget one. So, since goslings were juggled (even if Wash was just making stuff up, he wanted Zoe to believe him, so it must at least have been POSSIBLE), then we know that there are geese on odd-culture border worlds, so by association the similar water fowl of swans and ducks probably do exist in the 'Verse. I would see geese and ducks being on border/rim planets, but swans being basically ornamental, probably are more or less confined to the core (hence the "longing" to see a real swan).

Thanks NewOld.

"When you can't do somethin' smart, do somethin' right!" -Jayne Cobb quotes Shepherd Book


Monday, September 24, 2007 8:26 AM


I'd wondered about this for a long time too. I thought that maybe they used the "Jurassic Park Method", as I like to call it. And I just assumed that part of the terraforming process was to include flora AND fauna that would thrive on a particular planet or region of a planet.

Excellent topic!

Patsy: When you were two years old, we tied you to the central reservation of a motorway.

Edina: But you were like a homing pidgeon, sweetie....back within a week!


Monday, September 24, 2007 12:49 PM


When the settlers first arrived, they might have applied their familiar Earth terms to the local fauna, even if they weren't related.

I bet that for the voyages of exploration, there would be small livestock (e.g., chickens or guinea pigs) kept in cages on board ship for food in transit, and there would be a few live cattle or goats or sheep to be used to build herds depending on local conditions. So if a planet had a lot of grass, it would be suitable for cattle ranches, whereas if you live near a dense forest, you can let your pigs wander around and eat acorns.

I think that probably there would be a lot of planets where the hapless sculptor *had* seen a duck or goose because they're pretty low-maintenance and can eat weeds, bugs, and waste parts of vegetables.


Monday, September 24, 2007 12:54 PM


From The Message with the Kaylee/Bessie/Simon scene, this line was deleted:

Simon: It's mutated. Most of the breeding on the outer planets was done by shipping DNA scrip instead of animals. The first herds were grown in labs, then set loose. Every now and then...

(for those wondering where it was, the next line was: Kaylee: But cow? How do you figure? )

I doubt the worlds had life before the humans arrived. Part of the "No Aliens" stuff would extend to wildlife and fauna IMO.

Everything is from Earth that was, or adapted from it in some way.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007 7:20 AM


Thanks for the quote NBZ; I wasn't aware of the deleted line. That one sentence tells us a lot. "DNA scrip" was probably the method used for bringing animals from Earth-That-Was to the 'Verse, then. Certainly that would have been a lot more stable than moving live animals. Also, once you have that ability, then why not bring a whole zoo of animals and grow them later, not to mention wild critters to help the terraformed ecosystems be stable and as earth-like as possible.

As for life existing in the 'Verse before human settlers, I don't imagine any would be left NOW. Still, with that many planets orbiting a sun that is enough like ours to sustain earth-like planets after terraforming, I can't believe there wouldn't have been SOME life, though I don't imagine anything more advanced that bacteria. Again, anything that there was would have been wiped out by the terraforming, anyway, so the whole debate is completely speculative.

"When you can't do somethin' smart, do somethin' right!" -Jayne Cobb quotes Shepherd Book


Thursday, October 4, 2007 3:04 PM


defenitly some good points made. but yeah i think dureing the terraforming pocess it wasnt just the ground they has to bring in plants and most likely animals. and i mean ALOT of em or they cloned em on world (unlikely i know). but the lion thing really that is a VERY famouse animal i can see refrences to it very far in the future.

--my two cents


Tuesday, October 9, 2007 12:12 AM


Not an ecologist, so may be off-base here, but I think a lot of things would just have to be kept just for the Earth-type planets to be Earth-type, and that includes the bugs. Everything is connected.

If you have planets that are mainly ice, then there must also be planets that are basically bayou, or desert. Or prairie. Or even quite pleasant farmland. The Core might be quite neatly kept, urban parkland, but then there would be wilderness areas, or even whole planets kept like National parks...

If the leaving of Earth-that-was was to keep the whole of the human experience alive when the planet died, they would take everything of that experience with them.

I see...a planet called Savannah, maybe. Somewhere with herds of wildebeest, and lions.






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