A slight follow up to an early piece, we return to the world 12 million years hence. The biosphere has nearly finished recovering from the Anthropocene mass extinction, South America has rifted away from North America, a mountain range is connecting the Indonesian Islands, a sea now penetrates deeply into East Africa, and a sea has disappeared as Africa smashed into Europe. The ocean’s life assemblage has notably changed; there are no baleen whales, nor are there pinnipeds. Instead, the two main tetrapodean groups in the ocean are toothed cetaceans—a group of old—and otters—a comparatively new kid on the block. While the otters themselves are important enough to warrant their own piece, for now we’ll focus purely on one representative of the cetaceans. By 12 million years hence, a sapient cetacean had evolved, utilizing a prehensile penis/clitoris to fabricate some tools. They will be known as the Qucha.
For the sake of brevity, their evolutionary history won’t be delved into very much . While they started as hunter gatherers hunting in the sea grass ecosystems of the Panama Strait, they have slowly spread out into different environments. While hunting gathering is still used, different foraging tactics are necessary to survive in some radically different ecosystems—and none are as extreme as the open ocean. The pelagic realm is home to beasts of unmatched speed and endurance, where almost every prey item can bolt out of all but the most elaborate traps, and where predators can run down even the most athletic Qucha. So in order to survive in such an environment, the Qucha acquired a mutual relationship with a distant relative.
The Koloha is just the perfect relative. The Koloha are predators with exceptionally high endurance who hunt a wide variety of prey: from gulping schools of fish and squid, to devouring sharks and other cetaceans, they are near the apex predators of their environment. Indeed, all their sole fear is the massive dragon shark, a 50-foot requiem shark that cruises like its ancient tiger shark relative. While not quite as intelligent as the Qucha, the Koloha are intelligent enough to make decisions on their own right. While at first they were adverse towards the Qucha, they began tolerating their presence as the Qucha pods proved to be mostly harmless, indeed they were hugely useful. The Qucha’s excellent planning lead to a higher hunting rate for both Koloha and Qucha. Furthermore, the Qucha proved to be extremely effective protectors, aggressively swarming attacking dragon sharks and adeptly striking at the fish’s more sensitive areas. Indeed, Koloha who swam with Qucha have significantly increased odds of survival.
Over time, the relationship formed to make diverse cultures of Qucha who swam with Koloha, using their slipstreams to cruise the oceans and hunting prey with far greater efficiency. Milk, teeth, and bones (when possible) are utilized to the Qucha’s advantage, and they thrive in an ecosystem that would have been considered extremely foreign. But perhaps most interestingly, the pelagic Qucha still retain contact with other Qucha populations. If one was to ask a Qucha who lives in the reefs, they would likely have only poor things to say about their nomadic compatriots; at best, the pelagic Qucha would be considered uncultured weirdos, at worst, they would be considered bloodthirsty barbarians. Neither viewpoint is fair however, because the nomadic Qucha serve as a surefire way to allow for the dispersal of technology and ideas to the many different reef cultures, who are frequently separated by hundreds of miles. Sometimes though, the pelagic cultures are known to attack reef cultures, using their massive Koloha compatriots as beasts of war. Indeed, the image of a 40-foot whale barreling toward a reef garden is sure to strike fear into the hearts of any Qucha living there.
 For more information on their origins, click this link: whachamacallit1.deviantart.com….
META TALK FIRST:
Ughhh, I've been absolutely atrocious at showing my art for the past year, and I really got to apologize for the silence. The last year has been pretty hectic for me and I've been finding I've just not had that much time to work on things. To add to that though, I've also had a problem with coming up with concepts to draw. It's not so much that I'm not world building as much-I am-but most/all the concepts are related more to geopolitics, statistics, climatological and geological processes-in other words, shit that's not fun/possible to draw. I'm not really sure when I'll get out of this rut, but I'll try to get more drawable concepts out on the table.
Anywho, onto the piece.
The Earth has undergone many extinction events in its past, and will probably have many in its future, but there’s one particular mass extinction that would be considered close to humanity’s heart; the somewhat boringly named Anthropocene mass extinction, occurring between 12,000 years ago and ~350,000 years hence. While the extinction rates fluctuated significantly throughout this time—reaching an apex in the 20th and 21st century—it resulted in 65% of life dying out. In particular, the oceans witnessed a die off of 75 percent. Once the mass extinction was finished, few species would be left to replace the open niches, and some terrestrial oddities would eventually fill those vacant areas.
One example of terrestrial organisms that would come to occupy one of those niches were the descendants of humans. The merpeople can trace their origins from the boat people, a human species that was highly adept at dealing with marine environments. They possessed kidneys with elongated Henle loops, so as to reclaim more water from their bodies, and their digestive tract were specialized for water metabolizing. The merpeople only progressed farther down those adaptations, featuring large lungs, and the ability to focus their blood flow to the most vital organs.
While the boat people, having evolved 3 myh, enjoyed an extended period of expansion through the Pacific and Indian Ocean (during which they rendered the babyfaces extinct), their success was not permanent. The Indian Ocean population would die as the Indonesian orogeny killed the monsoon and chilled the Indian Ocean 5 million years hence. By 6.5 million years hence, a virulent STD would wipe out huge portions of the boat people’s remaining population, and the stage was set for something new to originate. 7 million years hence, an isolated population of boat people in the South Pacific Ocean evolved to become even more adept in the waters, and the merpeople were born. This new species would expand throughout the Pacific and would directly compete with the remaining boat people for the same food sources. In the end, 7.3 million years hence, the boat people would be rendered fully extinct, and the merpeople would be last of the hominid line.
While the merpeople’s adaptations—namely the allocated bloodstream flow and webbed hands—limited their dexterity, they were still prolific tool users. They utilized knives and spokes made out of coral and rocks on shore, and would occasionally make nets to capture prey. Most of the nutrition they acquired was derived from sea life, but their connection to land wasn’t fully severed: their children had to be born on shore, and water-sex was still not perfected. But once they are on land, it becomes clear that the merpeople are not well equipped for walking. While they still walk upright, their perineum is so enlarged and muscular that the merpeople must awkwardly shuffle and must put their weight heavily on their heels so not to have the balls of their feet drag. This makes the merpeople look noticeably different, and they are followed with several mental differences; chief among them, they lack the extreme level of communication and cooperation found in our species—separate merpeople troops rarely contact one-another, never do they enact in trade. This crucial point would lead to their eventual downfall.
The harbinger of death would ironically come from a clade that was almost entirely wiped out by the merpeople’s ancestors. Cetaceans were hit extremely hard by the Anthropocene mass extinction: all baleen whales were rendered extinct, and almost all toothed whales died out, having suffered from both heating anoxic oceans and desperate humans seeking sustenance. One of the survivors of this clade was the common dolphin. This species would diversify in many different ways, but chief among them was the sophont dolphin species named the Qucha. The Qucha first evolved off the Ecuadorian coasts just as the Panama Isthmus was torn apart, 12 million years hence. They sported a penis/enlarged clitoris as a manipulator, depending on the sex. From the temperate-to-warm sea grass ecosystems from which they originated, the Qucha’s diets were extremely malleable and, significantly, they were highly communicative. So when they spread and learned new things, ideas and inventions could flow rapidly and successfully to different groups. This would be the key to their success.
As the Quchas moved to different environments, they adopted different strategies of foraging. When the Quchas reached the reefs, they adopted an extreme form of gardening in which entire cultures were formed around tending to species that could be utilized for food and tools. This system of foraging was so successful that Qucha populations of these ecosystems could reach in the hundreds of thousands, although most numbered in the thousands. Unfortunately however, these gardened reefs proved to be a magnet for many predators, and merpeople are no exception.
Thus we come to the point of this picture. Taking place 12.4 million years hence, the merpeople’s diversity has already become extremely diminished; the opening of the Panama Strait had brought on significant changes to the ocean currents to the detriment of the merpeople. However, some still survive in the Central Pacific, and it is here that this pair of merpeople have made a mistake that will cost their lives. Finding an easy and large source of crabs filling a crevice, the merpeople split roles and get to work. The mermaid butchers the crustaceans with her dagger and the merman kills some strangely aggressive squid that tried to attack him. But just as soon as they begin the slaughter, the mermaid hears something to her left. Lacking real echolocation, she strains her eyes to spot the unknown threat in the distance. The sounds become clicks and whistles, coming from dozens of different sources. Then, out of the waters, the mermaid can make up the shapes of many dolphins, swimming towards the pair at full speed and armed to the teeth. There is little chance that the pair will survive this encounter between the two species. Indeed, this type of encounter is becoming depressingly common for the remaining merpeople, and it seems like the cetaceans have turned the tables by playing the Long Game.
I'm a Homo sapien of the male persuasion that currently attends a college in Maine. I'm majoring in geology and am planning to probably work mainly as a paleoecologist. Despite the fact that I'm constantly slammed by papers and tests, I somehow find a lot of time to screw around...Is that a good or bad thing?...who knows...
Favorite music: Anything but hick country and Taylor Swift country
Favorite style of art: Realistic
Favorite cartoon character: Terra from Teen Titans was the shit
Personal Quote: "Aw, I thought I invented the saying Awesome Possum "