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And, if it cared, it wouldn’t make that many blunders.

In all populations, even the ones that seems most stable, even the so-called “living fossils”, changes to the genome occur all the time. Because the environment changes continually: new competitors appear or are being introduced from afar; new threats and new opportunities surface and the next generations must slowly adapt to the changed situation.

And sometimes they become too good at what they do: they dominate the landscape for eons and suppress all opposition in its infancy. Let’s be clear here: we are not saying they are perfect now, that now other life form would fare best in this particular ecosystem, only that such is their dominance that no other alternative can develop. An oak tree can be better than a fir, but what good is that if a young sapling cannot grow in the dark of a pine forest?

This is why you need a catastrophe sometimes, a meteor say, a giant ball of fire sent from the heavens, to slam into the ground and make the earth shudder, to awaken the deep rumble of the volcanoes. To create a tabular Rasa, a world scoured anew by smoke and fire and on which a new diversity can rise. To get rid of the dinosaurs.

But on N’rett, the merciful asteroids never came.

 

9

Imagine the larva of some alien species of giant butterfly; a butterfly which discovered the advantages of neoteny early in its evolutionary history.

A giant caterpillar, then, bent in the middle and with its two extremities poised high above the ground like the twin heads of a weird cobra. And which managed somehow to graft to himself the eight limbs of a wolf-spider.

More of the same limbs, slim and mean and sharp, adorn its head, a crown of thorn around its mouth. On the side of that head, two eyes glitter, their pupils dark horseshoes lost on a turf of purple grass. They are situated at the end of two rows of light sensitive patches of skin which extend back and down to the neck.

This creature, up to four meters long, is a Martian at the third stage of its development. After that, it will change little in appearance, only becoming slowly larger and of shorter temper.

But appearances mean little, as your mother should have taught you, and it is the inside of this creature that you should truly dread.

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