Creatures of Owen’s World: Siphonografts

Siphonografts are aquatic life-forms native to the planet Oblik IV (commonly known as Owen’s World).

Siphonografts are marine invertebrates which filter their food from the waters in which they live. They are similar in many ways to the corals and siphonophores of Earth in that they composed of a multitude of individual life-forms, called polyps, which collectively form a larger organism. Siphonograft colonies can be found along rocky shorelines and reefs throughout the oceans and seas of Oblik IV. They secrete a chemical that allows them to chemically bond to surfaces, permanently grafting them to their rocky habitat. As filter-feeders, siphonograft colonies develop into complex structures in order to increase their surface areas. These siphonograft reefs form the basis of unique ecosystems in which many marine animals live.

There are several hundred species of Siphonograft on Owen’s World. Some species form only small colonies, while others have formed colonies that cover vast ares of ocean floor. The largest and most complex siphonograft colony can be found in the Bazaar Reef and covers several hundred square kilometers. The Bazaar Reef siphonograft colony is considered to be the largest life-form on Owen’s World and is clearly visible from space.

Complex Siphonografts

alien coral

While siphonografts are in fact colonies of smaller organisms, the interdependent relationship between colony members are such that the colony itself can be considered as one large organism. Each polyp reproduces independently but is dependent on the rest of the colony in one way or another. For instance, some polyps will feed and pass nutrients to the rest of the organism, while others provide defense, excrete waste, or evolve to be specialized in other areas, such as the secretion of the chemicals that bond siphonografts to the surface of rocks.

Bizarrely, some siphonograft colonies are also known to be linked by simple nervous systems. The nerve cells grow as independent life-forms but have a complex symbiotic relationship with the colony that is not yet fully understood. This nervous system links all parts of the colony and will spread to connect with newly formed polyps in areas of fresh growth. While the purpose of this nervous system is not known, it has been suggested that, through it, siphonograft colonies may be able to feel pain, posses a simple intelligence or, in the case of the largest colonies, even develop the capacity for conscious thought.

The giant siphonograft colony at Bazaar Reef is known to have a nervous system of this type, and may have a potential intelligence several times greater than the human brain, but this has not been proven.

Simple Siphonografts

Other siphonograft species are much simpler. The box maze siphonograft, for example, colonies of which are composed of only simple feeding polyps, chemical secreting ‘bonding polyps’, and a small number of microscopic ‘cilia polyps’ which wave tiny hair-like structures to increase the flow of water around the filter-feeding organism. In order to increase their surface area and thus maximize feeding, box maze colonies grow into a series of maze-like ridges.

Most box maze colonies are relatively small, however, the third largest siphonograft reef on Owen’s World – the Barren Reef – is composed almost entirely of box maze colonies. The Barren Reef is located in the shallow, icy waters near Owen’s World’s northern polar ice-cap.

This article was written by Mark Ball as part of a series on the creatures of Owen’s World.