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Old Jul 2 2007, 08:51 AM   #1
bingley
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Default Before humans reached Pern

what happened during Passes? Why is there any vegetation left on Pern? Wouldn't Thread have wiped out all organic life if there were no dragons to incinerate Thread before it landed? How did life on the planet re-generate itself?
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Old Jul 2 2007, 09:16 AM   #2
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Vegetation grew back after each Pass in the subsequent Interval and especially during the long Intervals that took centuries. But even 50 years is more than enough for vegetation to grow back, even for big, adult trees.

That must mean that the Thread did destroy (most of) the vegeatation but left enough seeds and bits to enable the vegetation to grow back.
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Old Jul 2 2007, 10:28 AM   #3
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I suppose it must have done. How long does it take for life to take over again where volcanic lava has destroyed it in a major eruption?
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Old Jul 2 2007, 10:35 AM   #4
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Don't know exactly but from a documentary on the active Etna volcano in Italy I saw years ago I think very soon, because it seems to be very fertile stuff (so fertile that the farmers rather stay close, with the risk of losing the farm than move farther away).

Interested? Read the following article:
http://volcanology.geol.ucsb.edu/soil.htm
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Old Jul 2 2007, 12:36 PM   #5
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Default Re: Before humans reached Pern

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Vegetation grew back after each Pass in the subsequent Interval and especially during the long Intervals that took centuries.
Were there long intervals before humans reached PERN?

I thought the long intervals were caused by the timing of the explosions that Jaxom and Ruth led.

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Old Jul 2 2007, 02:10 PM   #6
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Default Re: Before humans reached Pern

Shouldn't have been long intervals before the planet was settled (though I would ascribe them being caused by the "disimproved" ovoids that were sewn into the Thread cloud around the Red Star).

When Pern was first discovered, there were a number of circular areas devoid of life, that were in various states of revegetations at the edges. So it clearly survived a Pass without all life being wiped out, with enough left to reseed the bald patches. But there were no longer any four-footed ruminants left on Pern by then -- they found fossil evidence of them but no living creatures, which they found worrisome.

I would guess that the Red Star hadn't made too many Passes before the planet's discovery, or the continental ecosystem would have been more out of whack.
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Old Jul 2 2007, 03:45 PM   #7
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Default Re: Before humans reached Pern

Don't forget Jaxom took to teams back in TIME to shift the planet. I know they went back several centries, possible thoudsands or turns back. Maybe before peoople arrived. I do not rember & do not have to biik to look at right now.
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Old Jul 2 2007, 03:58 PM   #8
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Were there long intervals before humans reached PERN?

I thought the long intervals were caused by the timing of the explosions that Jaxom and Ruth led.

GH
True, wrong thinking on my part. Which isn't to say that there technically couldn't have been (long(er)) intervals in the milennia before the colonists came.

I'm not versed enough in how planets, Oort clouds and such can behave over the course of thousands, hmm... hundreds of thousands of years.
Come to think of that, how long might the Red Star/Planet be doing its passes. Could that have been brought about by "an event" in that part of the universe...

Yoohoo, resident astronomers? Care to take up this gauntlet or am I talking nonsense (again)?
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Old Jul 2 2007, 04:10 PM   #9
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Because of the circles, I have always thought that Thread was a relatively new threat on Pern. It seemed to me that the only way Pern would not look like the Red Planet would be if it had only "recently" come under attack. We don't really know when the Red Star entered the system, do we? It may have only ever made one or two Passes before the planet was discovered and the resulting Threadfall could have been limited due to passing through a different portion of the Oort cloud. Of course, given the time between discovery and settlement, that theory probably wouldn't work. And there is the matter of animals.......... Hans is right. We need one of our scientific minds to step into the room..........
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Old Jul 2 2007, 05:23 PM   #10
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Don't forget Jaxom took to teams back in TIME to shift the planet. I know they went back several centries, possible thoudsands or turns back. Maybe before peoople arrived. I do not rember & do not have to biik to look at right now.
That's what I was talking about.

PERN has 2 long intervals in recorded history. Both attributable to Jaxom, Ruth, and the rest of their teams.

We really don't know the cycle of Thread before inhabitation, other than to know it did happen at least once. But it seems like it should have been on a regular cycle before the "booms".

GH
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Old Jul 3 2007, 01:26 PM   #11
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I don't know why (it may be in one of the COP short stories), but I always thought that a Thread landing in a suitable place would gorge itself stupid and then kind of burn itself out.

I think that the 9th Pass Pernese have a paranoia about Thread that has escalated into "if it lands, all greenery will die forever and just keep going and going and going aaarrrrrrrgggghhhhhh boogeyman". Which is fair enough as on a human scale a single Thread would be quite nasty. But on a planetwide scale? I doubt it.

If I remember my A-Level Geography rightly, what Hans referres to is called 'primary succession'. But that is where the habitat never had life at all. In primary succession pioneer plants like mosses and lichen and fungus and natural forces like wind and water start to "normalize" the habitat, creating conditions nearer to the optimum for plant growth, especially the formation of a soil. These pioneer plants are then dominated and often replaced by plants better adapted to less austere conditions, these plants include vascular plants like grasses and some shrubs that are able to live in thin soils that are often mineral based. It takes only a few years for wind-blown lichens, mosses and grasses to begin to colonise a volcanic island.

But on Pern, the process would be secondary succession. It is a process started by an event (e.g. forest fire, harvesting, or, in this case, Thread) that reduces an already established ecosystem (e.g. a forest or a wheat field) to a smaller population of species, and as such secondary succession occurs on preexisting soil whereas primary succession usually occurs in a place lacking soil.

Since Thread would not be able to strip all the vegetation from the planet during one Pass, it would be entirely plausible for secondary succession to be a very quick process, especially if the vegetation had evolved a way to take quick advantage of such times. In DD and in the original survey story in COP, the strong and persistent wind is mentioned as being a very good factor in how the grassoids had managed to act so quickly.

As a lifeform Thread has always puzzled me. Why would something which loves organic, carbon-based habitats be floating around *thousands* of miles away from the nearest place that can house it? Space and cosy tree-eating don't generally go hand in hand (without some kind of vehicle and massive societies which Thread don't have presumably).
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Old Jul 3 2007, 03:08 PM   #12
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Default Re: Before humans reached Pern

Something that needs to be considered is the fact that Thread would not only consume the plants themselves, but also all the organic material in the upper part of the soil. This might mean that succession would take much longer. Certainly it's not the same as merely burning a prairie, in which new grass starts sprouting very quickly.
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Old Jul 3 2007, 08:40 PM   #13
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Default Re: Before humans reached Pern

There is mentioned of higher tides & worse storms. That would have caused lakes & river to flood burring some of the plants under water were they would stay safe from thread. Also I think in RoP a tree was mantioned sky broom I think that was so hard not even thread could pirce it.
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Old Jul 4 2007, 03:13 AM   #14
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Good observations, Maw
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Old Jul 4 2007, 03:54 AM   #15
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Yes, thread is an aberrant lifeform. Mainly because there's no way any organic material can by itself blast off a planetary surface and contaminate another Oort cloud. So thread is a dead end as an organism.

However, that's one of the reasons why it's so hard to classify Anne's writing as true science-fiction. It's not fantasy, but there's no scientific basis whatever for many phenomena we take for granted on Pern.
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Old Jul 4 2007, 04:59 AM   #16
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Something that needs to be considered is the fact that Thread would not only consume the plants themselves, but also all the organic material in the upper part of the soil. This might mean that succession would take much longer. Certainly it's not the same as merely burning a prairie, in which new grass starts sprouting very quickly.
That's a very good point, Brenda, and not one that I had thought about!!

Personally I think that Thread has been around long enough on Pern to force the evolution of the plants and native animals - I think somebody somewhere posited the thought that the fire-lizard teleportation ability was encouraged and perfected by Threadfall (although maybe a natually occurring ability before that used possibly for self-defence against predators). And the possibly already-hardened sky brooms became even harder? And didn't the original colonists note the hardiness of the grassoid? Perhaps that species became dominant as it had to seed itself and grow on decimated and depleted soils?

Evolution is a funny thing, and stress brings out a whole range of mutations. I'd consider Thread to be a stress!
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Old Jul 4 2007, 07:49 AM   #17
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Yes, thread is an aberrant lifeform. Mainly because there's no way any organic material can by itself blast off a planetary surface and contaminate another Oort cloud. So thread is a dead end as an organism.

However, that's one of the reasons why it's so hard to classify Anne's writing as true science-fiction. It's not fantasy, but there's no scientific basis whatever for many phenomena we take for granted on Pern.
I think that's why I like the suggestion of Thread being a form of biological warfare, used by an alien species to soften up a planet for colonization. That helps explain what the heck it's doing in the Oort cloud in the first place (where it's hard to imagine it evolving), and the dead end nature of it making planetfall and eating itself to death.
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Old Jul 4 2007, 07:53 AM   #18
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I think that's why I like the suggestion of Thread being a form of biological warfare, used by an alien species to soften up a planet for colonization. That helps explain what the heck it's doing in the Oort cloud in the first place (where it's hard to imagine it evolving), and the dead end nature of it making planetfall and eating itself to death.
That could be. Although they ruled out it being a Nathi device, I guess it could be a remnant of an ancient space-faring empire that has long-since died.
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Old Jul 4 2007, 09:27 AM   #19
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The southern hemisphere didn't receive as much Thread as the northern hemisphere, so I would think it likely that there was a large quantity of vegetation still surviving there after a Pass. Then we also know that there was some natural exchange of lifeforms upon the oceans between the two main continents.

However I don't think this would explain the survival of the skybroom trees. Or perhaps they had evolved to withstand all but the most severe attack.
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Old Jul 4 2007, 09:41 AM   #20
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The southern hemisphere didn't receive as much Thread as the northern hemisphere, so I would think it likely that there was a large quantity of vegetation still surviving there after a Pass. Then we also know that there was some natural exchange of lifeforms upon the oceans between the two main continents..
I don't think that the very odd occurrence of a big cat getting washed up on a shore at one point in Moreta's time can be in any way used to explain any kind of exchange between the continents. Yes, it is true that seeds regularly wash up on Scottish shores that were last on land in the Amazon - and drifting at sea can work for vegetation up to a point, and island hopping in an archipelago for other animals on rare occasions. But across an ocean that has fierce currents and is very difficult for humans in boats who know what they are doing (mostly)? I doubt that.

Besides, it's back to the point of what lifeforms? In the original EEC survey they notice that the last large lifeforms, a type of ruminant, died epochs before.

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However I don't think this would explain the survival of the skybroom trees. Or perhaps they had evolved to withstand all but the most severe attack
I think that skybrooms were already a very hard wood before Thread arrived. Thread would then have added the pressure that would have selected for trees that were just that bit harder and were impervious. These would, naturally, out-compete their softer (if only by a degree) contempories and become the dominant tree in its habitat.
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Old Jul 4 2007, 01:05 PM   #21
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I once (in the Kitchen Table era) propounded a theory about Pern having been chosen as the testing ground for an experiment by two groups of alien engineers --- one group designing a weapon and its transport medium, the other designing a planetary defence.

It seemed a bit more likely than a planet evolving a lifeform that chews rocks to produce fire (and also teleports), at some point before a rogue planet brings in a new rapacious lifeform that can be destroyed by fire.

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Old Jul 4 2007, 02:09 PM   #22
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Maybe it seems that way, but the author thought different and we're stuck with that This is Science Fiction after all and not, despite I would like it, history
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Old Jul 4 2007, 02:37 PM   #23
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That's one of the fun aspects of Pern, we can speculate all we want and no one can really be "right" or "wrong" with their theories about things like this. For some reason this whole debate made me start thinking about a gray horse I had many years ago. At first sight I thought he was gorgeous. After I had him a while I noticed that his rear white socks were uneaven, his black mane contained white hairs, his ears were a little large, etc. He tended to be "spirited" and would often start off sessions in the ring with a bit of bucking. But he always bowed up before he bucked to let me know not to fall off, he always jumped clean over anything I pointed him at and he always whinnied and came running whenever I arrived and he was in the pasture. I loved that horse. I also love Pern and the Dragons and even, in a way, Thread. Nothing is perfect, but that doesn't mean we can't still enjoy it for what it is.
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Old Jul 4 2007, 02:38 PM   #24
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I once (in the Kitchen Table era) propounded a theory about Pern having been chosen as the testing ground for an experiment by two groups of alien engineers --- one group designing a weapon and its transport medium, the other designing a planetary defence.

It seemed a bit more likely than a planet evolving a lifeform that chews rocks to produce fire (and also teleports), at some point before a rogue planet brings in a new rapacious lifeform that can be destroyed by fire.

Eriflor.
LOL Hardly Occam's razor, is it? In your theory you need 2 space-faring cultures and presumably at least a 3rd (otherwise why need a defence or attack mechanism at all?). Evolution may seem capricious, but it is a lot more workable than the Testing Ground Theory.

Besides, who knows what other nasties the fire-lizards ancestors needed to flame in their dim and distant past? Or perhaps the flaming was merely a display mechanism that changed form?

I suppose either which way, it's a moot point because we don't know enough about pre-colonisation Pern (let alone prehistoric Pern) to make anything other than educated guesses!

The last part echoing what Sandi posted (which she did as I was typing!).

I like the grey horse analogy.
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Old Jul 4 2007, 05:03 PM   #25
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I don't think that the very odd occurrence of a big cat getting washed up on a shore at one point in Moreta's time can be in any way used to explain any kind of exchange between the continents.

In Moreta's ride it was later sted that some sailor got blow off course & landed on the southern contanet. There they found & caught the large feline & brought it to the Northern contanet.

I think that seeds could go from southern to northern tho. By wind,birds or fire lizards.
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Old Jul 5 2007, 07:27 AM   #26
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In Moreta's ride it was later sted that some sailor got blow off course & landed on the southern contanet. There they found & caught the large feline & brought it to the Northern contanet.

I think that seeds could go from southern to northern tho. By wind,birds or fire lizards.
Ugh, thanks for that Maw!! Got a bit turned around!

And how would fire-lizards disperse seeds? They eat meat!

It's a shame that we never read about any of the other avians on Pern before those mentioned at the beginning of SoP (when the convict - forgot his name now - is wandering through the forest).
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Old Jul 5 2007, 08:45 AM   #27
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Fire lizards eat meat but maybe they have a salad on the side now and then?

Seriously, when a dog has a stomach ache he eats grass to help his digestion; so there's always a scientific way to come up with traveling seeds. Also, don't we read repeatedly that a hungry (or is that only newly hatched?) fire lizard will eat anything, like nuts and stuff?
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Old Jul 5 2007, 09:01 AM   #28
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Fire lizards don't have fur or hair, which {cross threading} brings us back to the question of where dragons and fire lizards do their business since AFAIK the only other way would be for the seeds to pass through their digestive systems
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Old Jul 5 2007, 10:15 AM   #29
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Fire lizards don't have fur or hair, which {cross threading} brings us back to the question of where dragons and fire lizards do their business since AFAIK the only other way would be for the seeds to pass through their digestive systems
Crafty one! LOL Do Fire-lizards poop between like dragons do? If they do then them as travelling seed-droppers becomes moot (loving that word - "moot") and we are back to avians or wind. Wind is totally believable. And as for the avians, it brings us back to the fact that we don't know enough about them to know if they are capable or likely to be a factor.
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Old Jul 5 2007, 08:05 PM   #30
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Wirries could transport them. I know they eat meat, but, if they ate some thing that ate berries or nut it would then pass threw thier system.
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Old Jul 9 2007, 11:58 AM   #31
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That's true, Maw. I think that some wherries do eat some varieties of fruit as well as meat. Plus we have a coastal examples of wherries who could, feasibly, be caught in a storm and end up quite far away from 'home'.
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Old Jul 9 2007, 09:59 PM   #32
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There may even be some spiders & such that cross the ocean on webbs. I think I rember reading about spiders who could do that here. I can defently see how plants seed could cross the ocean & get planted again. Also if there were plants that lived under the sky broom threes would they have gotten protection from thread from them?
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Old Jul 10 2007, 07:35 AM   #33
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I think in DF Wherries are mentioned as carrying seeds. When Lessa and F'nor go south.

I was thinking about the wildlife- It's all very mobile and is either subterranean (tunnel snakes), avian (fire lizards, wherries, other avians) or water based (fish-like, tunnel snake like etc) which is very mobile. The only things that aren't are the creepy crawlies and I assume they can hie somewhere. Anything that couldn't "run" or hide is extinct.
With Skybroom trees- there is two things that could be of use- imperviousness to thread or quick growth- meaning that when a pass is over they can reach for the sky! (sorry)
Thinking about this got me thinking- silicate-boron. Thread does not eat everything it eats carbon- hence metal, stone and silicon based materials are fine. It was noted in either DDawn or Survey PERN that the grass-like stuff was very high in these. Now, take this a step further- what if a plant had seeds coated in a non-carbon based shell- it would be- so long as the shell was thick enough- thread-proof. It could then weather out the fall and sprout later on- perhaps for very short-lived things thread could be a trigger there is enough time between falls for a simple thing to grow and reproduce. There are also plants that can survive in very inimitable conditions here on Earth so the likelihood is that there was on Pern- perhaps some of the seashore things- perhaps why native life is so coast based.
So, using that theory there could be succession, provided seeds are coated or brought in from elsewhere.
The other thing is sand worms- they're only mentioned once and they're not the same as the grubs- could they be a native version preying on thread etc- if so, there could be areas which are protected. There also could be other similar insects about.

just a thought.
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Old Jul 10 2007, 08:46 AM   #34
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Default Re: Before humans reached Pern

That's good thinking, Edith. In the same vein as plants which 'need' fire to spread their seeds around, or are programmed to react very quickly to post-fire conditions. Presumably those and volcanic landscapes are the ones which, on Earth, are our closest analogy to a Pernes post-Thread landscape.

Having seeds with tough boron and silicate high outer casings would also make sense. Presumably skybrooms would have to be pretty resistant from a very early age when they are seeding during a Pass. Or maybe the same forces which the dragons are tuned to and which stress the planet so much, also have an effect on the trees? That is, they only really heavily reproduce when a Pass is over?
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Old Jul 11 2007, 05:06 AM   #35
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That could ba possibily Gidget2. The are some plants & animals that only come out when the weather is right here. In I think Africa there is a frog or something that will burrie itself the ground until it rains. Then it comes out. So I would think that it could be the same on Pern.
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Old Jul 11 2007, 08:16 AM   #36
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But kind of the other way around .... when it stops raining Thread things come out to play!!!
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Old Jul 11 2007, 10:50 AM   #37
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It's been a while since I've read the "colonial" Pern books... Am I right in remembering that there was just the limited eco-system... I vaguely remember somewhere that the fish-like organisms actually ate the thread as it fell and drowned in water.
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Old Jul 11 2007, 11:35 AM   #38
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Default Re: Before humans reached Pern

Yes, the ecosysyem was a lot sparser than they expected, and there were a few comments about the dearth of higher-order critters. To only have a handful of top-tier omnivorous predators on the land (flits, wherries, snakes) is very limited indeed, and whole ecological niches (e.g. grazers) were left unpopulated.
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Old Jul 11 2007, 04:57 PM   #39
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I think in the EEC survey they mentioned finding some kind of large ruminant remains fossilised, and presumed that Pern was in it's equivalent of our Holocene (or thereabouts).

I think I also remember them mentioning an abundant inverterbrate life in the soil (nematodes were mentioned) and also that the most abundant ecosystems were maritime and piscine.
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Old Jul 12 2007, 05:59 AM   #40
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yep. Looking at nematodes on wikipedia that isn't so surprising.
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