An alien species: tabayd (biology)

Yes, yet another. C.f. diophel, cuilco, falarandru, and thaugomur. This time I’ve gone for something a little different: a cliché.

 

Name: Tabayd

Body Plan: tetrapod vertebrates

Stance and Gait: bipedal, walking

Dimensions: tabayd have a similar build to humans, but are typically shorter. Modern females are around 4ft tall, and modern males around 5ft; exceptionally, males may be as tall as 6ft (taller heights are possible, but only with specific medical conditions). On average, tabayd are slightly heavier than healthy humans of equivalent height.

Skin and Pelage: tabayd have soft skin, covered in an extremely short and fine coat of hair (imperceptible to the casual eye) – this is shorter but denser than human vellus hair. The skin is typically a light brown, slightly more red than that of humans; exact skin colour varies with race, but there is less variation than among humans – there are no pale-skinned tabayd at all (other than albinos), and the darkest are only a dark brown, never black. Females have short terminal hair on their scalps, the backs of their ears, and a small line on the spine in the small of the back; males have short terminal hair all along the spine, and on the backs of their ears, and long terminal hair on their ears. Terminal hair is a shade of brown, of a more yellow tone than the skin, varying from black to blonde; unlike in humans, darkness/lightness of the hair is not associated with darkness/lightness of the skin.

A noticeable feature of tabayd skin is its slight looseness: tabayd have very slightly more skin than is required, attached elastically to the body via subcutaneous energy and water stores – any particular patch of skin may slide over the underlying body by several centimetres. The effect is more noticeable on the torso. When standing, the result of this is to produce creases or wrinkles in healthy skin, especially above the hips: on a healthy tabayd, these lines should not droop or hang, but should be visible creases – the absence of these is a sign of obesity, while skin that hangs is a sign of malnutrition or dehydration (as the effect is the result of subcutaneous deposits).

Diet: tabayd are omnivores.

General Appearance and Behaviour: tabayd are broadly similar in appearance to humans, and also broady similar in evolutionary niche: savannah omnivores. Tabayd are a little less hyperevolved for stamina than humans, but are correspondingly a little more powerful in short bursts. They are, however, more adapted for dehydration, with greater subcutaneous water stores; their fat deposits would also assist in staving off starvation, except that their base metabolism is somewhat faster than that of humans. The higher body-fat percentage of tabayd, and their looser skin, gives even the males a somewhat ‘feminine’ appearance to human eyes, belying the muscles hidden below; females, on the other hand, have a somewhat ‘boyish’ appearance by human standards, on account of their more slender hips.

The most obvious difference, however, at least to human observers, is that tabayd females have six breasts. In fact, they have as many as sixteen ‘nipples’, arranged in eight pairs. The first (upper) three pairs are associated with visible ‘breasts’, typically of declining prominence from upper to lower (though tabayd breasts are never large by human standards), and these breasts possess mammary glands capable of producing sizeable quantities of milk. The fourth pair of nipples are visible, and associated with a soft area around them, but this area is only very slightly prominent; there are associated mammary glands, but these are small and can produce only limited milk. The fifth pair, more lateral and immediately above the pelvis, has only a very small nipple, and no mammary gland; the sixth, seventh and eight pairs have no visible nipple at all, but only areolae, forming a lign of three small dots on the upper inner thigh. The fifth-through-eight pairs are vestigial, and their primary functions are as erogenous zones and for signalling purposes (tabayd areolae are typically very pale, but turn red with blood when the individual is sexually aroused). Male tabayd lack any visible nipples or areolae at all, although they do still possess a denser distribution of nerve endings in these areas than elsewhere.

Senses and Faces: tabayd have similar sensory abilities to humans, and similar sense-organs, arranged in a similar way. A tabayd face is unlikely to be mistaken for human – the cheekbones are slightly more prominent, for instance, the nose thin at the top but broader at the bottom – but one species could masquerade as the other with the aid of very minimal prosthetics. The largest difference is the ears, which are slightly larger and more pointed for tabayd, and which bear hair on their reverse. Tabayd faces are also notable for being the only part of the body with noticeable coloration patterns: the skin around the eyes and in front of the ears is somewhat paler, while the skin around the mouth is somewhat darker.

Reproduction and Development: tabayd reproduce sexually, with internal insemination. The male genitals, including the testicles, are external, but the testicles are protected within a cartilagenous ‘box’ held close to the body.

Tabayd males are sexually active throughout the year; tabayd females are in ‘nature’ only sexually active when in heat, which occurs between three and six times per year (becoming less frequent with age and food supply, and when living in larger communities) and lasts around a week. Females in heat are very sexually active (if possible), but not to an obsessive or personality-altering level as in some species.

Although females experience heat regularly from puberty until menopause, they are only rarely fertile. Fertility is inhibited by a variety of factors, including the pheromones of other females, but primarily by breastfeeding: lactation in tabayd females is not limited to the period after the birth of their own child, but can be triggered by close contact with any infant; however, milk quantities are much higher, and the possibility of a failure to lactate much lower, in the period after they have borne young themselves.

Gestation is very brief, and young are born defenseless, with undeveloped digestive and mental faculties, so require a great deal of attention. Their childhoods, conversely, are lengthy.

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