Introduction

There are seven subspecies of Shayanans, ranging in size from the mostly arboreal Vine People, small enough to be ignored by Imperial motion detectors, to the Sea People, who can weigh as much as walruses, though not flabby. Land Shayanans are generally shaped like very large spider-monkeys. The more aquatic varieties are shaped more like sea otters.

All Shayanans have shiny, almost glassy-looking skin. In the right light, their skin appears to have optical depth, as if you can see down into it. Most varieties have markings that remind Earthans of felines: tabby cats, tigers, leopards, jaguars, ocelots, cheetahs, etc. The colors mostly look like shades of green to human eyes: ranging from an almost golden yellow through green, turquoise and teal to an almost pure blue. Shayanans see farther into the ultraviolet than humans, so the colors look different to them.

They have four opposable fingers on each hand (or foot) and can also grasp things with their prehensile tails.

Vision and Colors

Visible light wavelengths for humans range from 680 nanometers (red) to 380 nanometers (violet), with peak sensitivities at 440, 540, and 580.

Visible wavelengths for Imperials typically run from about 420 at the blue end to 720 at the red. Archaic and fringe populations have full color vision, but quite a lot of the modern civilian populations have the equivalent of red/green color blindness, although in their case it is blue and green that merge. The colorblind groups also lose a bit of their already limited blue range.

Shayanan vision extends nearly as far redward as human vison -- to about 670 nanometers -- and well into the near ultraviolet. Their peak sensitivities are at about 380, 440, and 580 nanometers: not quite as UV sensitive as bees, but close.

Shayanan skin has two main pigments scattered through the surface layers. One reflects blue and green frequencies, mostly blue. The other absorbs blues and greens, reflecting the lower frequencies, and higher ones. The combinations mostly look green to humans.

SunPeople, who have a very dense surface layer of the non-blue pigment, tend to look almost metallic gold to humans -- the color is a little redder than gold, but not quite red enough to be described as coppery. In bright, full spectrum light, they look 'spooky' because the UV that is reflected by the "gold" pigment comes right into the edge of the human visual range: there's a sort of subliminal awareness that there is something there besides the gold, but human sensitivity to violet light is too weak for it to be identifiable.

Imperials, especially the colorblind ones, have trouble seeing the green on green Shayanan skin patterns, though not as much trouble as they would have if there was an actual green pigment involved instead of a blue one (which mostly looks black to them) and a gold one (which they can see).

SunPeople are called 'gold' by both humans and Imperials, but they don't look 'gold' to Shayanans, because gold doesn't reflect UV. On the other hand, Shayanans also don't think gold metal is suncolored (which the gold people are). Shayanans, like bees, can see the UV of the sun through heavy cloud cover, so they always know where it is if it is above the horizon.

Speech and the Shayanan Mouth

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Shayanans have very complicated mouths. From a distance their faces look somewhat like South American monkeys, but this is misleading: the apparent 'nostrils' are shallow sensory pits without airway connections. There are small vestigial gill openings along the throat, which seem to be a neotenous reversion to facilitate speech: they do not occur in related, non-speaking species. The mouth is 'T'-shaped, with a cleft in the lower lip, and the point of the lower jaw is cartilage or ligament: something stretchier than bone. The air passage is located below the tongue: it does not intersect with the digestive passage. Also located beneath the tongue proper are checmical receptors (equivalent to our sense of smell), an extensible stinger, and several venom sacks. The lips are quite flexible: they suckle their young in pouches, and retain the sucking musculature as adults.

The primary organ used for speech articulation is the stinger rather than the tongue, though the tongue also plays a role. When the venom sacks fill, the shape of the oral cavity changes, and Shayanans can use tongue position to enhance or minimize the effects, or to imitate them in the case of reported speech.

Smell, Taste and Chemistry

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Shayanans are chemically very complex: they have venomous stingers in their mouths, and possess grooming-oil glands at their wrists and at the base of the gripper part of the tail. They have chemical sensors (taste/smell) on their palms and tail-gripper as well as in their mouths and respiratory system, and their ability to recognize the substances they encounter ranges from good to amazing.

The venom sacks are arranged in pairs, and most individuals can produce both hemotoxins and neurotoxins, as well as some very efficient saliva that isn't specifically toxic (though it won't do much good to anything it gets injected into). The atoxic venom is used in 'venom-cooking' certain kinds of food before they are chewed and swallowed.

The grooming oils include components with antibacterial and antifungal properties, as well as lubricants and sealants. Skin that is well groomed is not adversely affected by water-born salt or abrasives, or many other hazards.

It is better to groomed by someone else than by oneself: the subtle chemical differences provide better protection against infection and prevent the skin from going all cloudy instead of shiny and translucent. (The clouding effect may be the result of the microbial residents of the skin developing resistance to the counteragents in the individual's own grooming oils.) Grooming activities are a constant part of Shayanan social interactions, filling many of the functions that are served by casual conversation and non-reproductive sex in humans.

Shayanans have a fair amount of conscious control over the fine composition of their venoms and grooming oils. They can tune the alkaloid content of the venom by deliberately varying the plant components in their diet. The grooming oils contain hormonal and pheromonal fractions which express and propagate emotional and physiological states, and, to some extent, mental ones. (There are spoken forms which can be used to report the effects of chemical communications, but they are almost impossible to translate into human languages.)

Shayanan cultures have very little tolerance for overt violence between individuals: acceptable demonstrations of dominance are more a matter of biochemical seduction than physical force. The ability to generate stronger and more persuasive chemicals, and to resist the persuasions of others is socially valuable. Crossbreeds between the sub-species tend to have a broader chemical repertory while being simultaneously less tightly attuned to the signals of the parental subspecies, and they have traditionally filled roles as healers, priests and shamans, also forming the traditional aristocracy in some cultures.

Shayanan Reproduction

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Imperials assigned linguistic gender terms to the Shayanan sexes. One could argue that they got them backwards biologically, but the Shayanans don't care. References to the sexes in the following discussion will follow the Imperial assignments.

In the Nedranetsta, a related species with less complex social structures and shorter lifespans and childhoods, twins are the norm, and will usually be pouched by the two seed parents, with elderly and pre-adult members of the group as backups. (It's been suggested that the ability to handle more complex social interactions was the evolutionary advantage that led to the spread of speech in teresstiral hominids. Their more complex social system may be why Shayanans are a linguistic species and Nedranetsta mostly aren't.)

A few weeks after fertilization the mother produces a small tadpole-like baby. In both Shayanans and Nedranetsta, once the hatchling is pouched by an adult, it stays with that pouchparent, except in rare situations usually involving death or the imminent threat of it. A mother has the option of pouching the hatchling herself, bestowing it on another (in Shayanans usually the seed-father or a member of the mother's household, sometimes a grandparent with a separate household) or discarding it if it looks or tastes wrong.

The discard option is rare, and causes gossip the will impede the future reproduction choices of both seed-parents, but is considered better than raising a seriously defective pouchling. If the mother's status is high enough that she mated early in the breeding season, she may try again the same year when a discard occurs, though breeding late will do nasty things to her status. (The breeding season sort of starts in the center of a community and ripples outward pheromonally.)

In both Shayanans and Nedranetsta the pouchparent of an unweaned pouchling will not be involved in a breeding season. For Nedranetsta that generally means missing alternate breeding seasons. For Shayanans, that can mean missing as many as 4 successive breeding seasons.

Shayanan pouchparents are often elderly, or young adults (there is a term, sellithi, for people who are mature enough to be pouch parents but not physically mature in the ways needed to be a seed parent). They may be reproductive adults who want an official heir. Or they may be subordinate adults within a community.

The dlia, kellya, and acharya terms are concerned with who your parents are and who you inherit which kinds of property from (or bequeath them to). The default primary heir is acharya (both seed and pouch child) of the same sex. The residuary legatee for household and personal effects is the youngest pouch-child, either dlia or acharya. (Grandma pouches a seed-child of her own acharya-Heir, and the kid gets Grandma's house, is a very common pattern.)

The current Hasri lacks an acharya child of her own sex, -- kind of like the Bennett's in Pride and Prejudice not having a son. She still has time to produce an Heir... but the situation is beginning to have political effects.

Seed children who aren't pouch-children are entitled to some support when they are small (if their pouchparent is not part of a seed-parent's household) and a hefty lump of support (sort of a dowry or scholarship/apprenticeship fee) when they're old enough to go out on their own. An estate can't be fully probated until all of the minor seed-children have grown up and been dowered.

Males compete to be the mate of an in-season female. There are several words used for these competitions, depending on the specific ritual that is used. The Hasrian term is chevet.

If there were less than 4 competitors involved in producing a specific child it's very scandalous. Eight is respectable. If there are 16 or more competitors, some may be sellithi advertising their availability as pouchparents, or females who want to block one or more of the male suitors. Being part of a chevet as a competitor (if she does well) may also accelerate the onset of a female's own breeding season, improving her effective status within the community.

Males only breed once per season, and some competition losers won't breed at all that year, becoming pouchparents instead or not wanting to make a second choice, so an early female has better choices. Late breeders are mating with losers, or guys who didn't get close enough to the important females to compete seriously.)

The last couple of rounds of competition (that take the competitors from 4 to one) are always wrestling. This seems to be necessary for the mating that follows to be effective. Earlier rounds of competition can be anything the lady chooses: if her favored suitor happens to be a poet, everyone may be asked to recite a poem that he has created.

People describe what happens to them during breeding season as seed-hunger and pouch-hunger. Seed-hunger is the eagerness to breed, which hits in-season females and the males who approach them closely enough to be affected by their pheromones. Pouch-hunger is a desire to have a baby in one's pouch, and can strike almost any adult who has contact with a fertilised female, including the competitors in the chevet. Pouch-hunger is the emotional part of the body's priming itself for lactation.

Not everyone takes part in a breeding season. Young adults and elders, and peripheral members of a community, tend to be more responsive to the pheromones that trigger pouch-hunger than seed-hunger, and most lactating individuals don't respond to either class of pheromones. Individuals who don't want to take part in a breeding season avoid contact with in-season females. The females have the option of not mating even though they are in season, though the availability of acceptable males for the cheden seems to be one of the prerequisites for the breeding season happening at all.

Individuals who find themselves seed-hungry or pouch-hungry at a time when reproduction would be imprudent (or would involve distasteful social entanglements) can also short-circuit the pheromonal effects by dousing the seed-pouch, milk-pouch, or both with salt water. This is a drastic, very uncomfortable choice that requires a fair amount of will-power.

The Sexes

When the Imperials arrived on Shayana, they found a species with basically 2 sexes. Sex A has an intromittive organ and a somewhat more itinerant lifestyle. Sex B has a more settled lifestyle and is apparently viviparous in a marsupial sort of way. So the Imperials decided Sex A were the males and Sex B were the females. However, the intromittive organ is technically an ovipositor, and the 'females' are the sperm producers. And the species is technically ovo-viviparous and marsupial rather than viviparous and marsupial.

Shayanans are warm-blooded, etc. but in reproductive terms they are amphibians who have solved the problem of living in sea water without having their tadpoles pickled. Both the seed-pouch (where fertilization and initial development takes place) and the milk-pouch (where lactation takes place) are environments where the developing infant is protected from external salt levels.

Outside of breeding season, the Shayanan sexes are nearly indistinguishable visually: the ovipositor is stored internally, like dolphin penises, and the minor skin pattern changes fade quickly once hormone levels drop. To the extent that they care which sex someone is outside breeding season, Shayanans do it by taste/smell, not visible characteristics. Elekath, Captain/Owner of the trading ship Shovana, is frequently assumed to be male by Earthans because of impressive upper-body musculature, but is actually female by the standard terminology, (which of course means that she is a sperm-producer).

Lliratha

The Shayanans generally consider that they have seven subspecies, or lliratha. The Nedranetsta are considered a separate species -- they don't cross-breed or exchange pouch-fostering with the others -- but still people.

The lliratha can be arranged in a circle according to how easily they can crossbreed with each other: each lliratha can breed most easily with adjacent lliratha and least easily with lliratha on the opposite side of the circle. It is generally impossible to produce a direct cross between lliratha that are more than two notches apart on the circle. All of the lliratha can pouch each other's babies, though size differences can make it difficult.

The limitations on crossbreeding are partly biochemical and partly due to differences in the complex surfaces of the 'seeds' produced by what are generally referred to as males. Fertilization is partly triggered by the fit of the correct 'key' into the female's reproductive track.

Healers are people with lots of biochemical control. The best Healers have the most hybridized ancestry, which gives them more biochemical options. The Hasri's inner clan are essentially a three-way cross (3, 5, and 7) and back-cross frequently to maintain their potency.

There are hundreds of languages on Shayana, all with various words for ones' own and other lliratha. The three major trading languages all use variants of a system that was used (if not invented) in the Rope-Miller's Tale. In that system, most of the lliratha are assigned plant references which can be loosely approximated to Earthan forms.

There are two mostly aquatic lliratha (Sea People and Kelp People), two mostly arboreal (Tree People and Vine People) and three that are mainly ground dwelling Reed People, Fern People, and Sun People). The Imperials enslaved a lot of the ground-dwellers. One of the Shayanans' early victories came in the fact that they managed to convince the Imperial authorities early on that any references to sea-dwellers and tree-dwellers were mythological. Localborn colonists suspected otherwise, but were patronized for being taken in by the tall tales of superstitious natives

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Sea People -- Lliratha Rrait

Killer whale coloring in shades of greenish blue with some spots. Very large (males and females similar), but not until after second puberty.

Sun People -- Lliratha Thi

Metallic flake gold with light green cheetah spots. Very permanent sellithi and sexes similar in size. They are called Gold People by humans.

Kelp People -- Lliratha Ïr

Blue-green tiger stripes. Sea otter-like life style. Smaller than land people, larger than arboreals, females larger than males, and rarer. Skewed gender birth-rates, also situation more complicated than sellithi-ness (they can back-slide due to status changes).

Tree People -- Lliratha Gezh

Larger than vine people, jaguar patterns. No size differentials, sellithi rare in pure lineages.

Vine People -- LLiratha Xazh

Smallest lliratha, ocelot patterns. Little dimorphism. Sellithi usually evidence of childhood malnutrition or mixed ancestry.

Fern People -- Lliratha Auth

Green with faint snow leopard rosettes. Less dimorphism and incidence of sellithi than reed people.

Reed People -- Lliratha Eg

Tabby cat stripes. Lots of sellithi and strong size differentials: females largest, males smaller, but no consistent difference in size between sellithi and non (various etiologies?)

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