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This page contains content from Underrail: Expedition expansion.
Jarl Asmund Genetically Engineered Animals, article for the Lemurian Intelligencer The last month's edition featured a wonderful article on the cultivation and genetic engineering of plants (Crimson Meadows, by Benedict Osbourne). This article prompted me to write my own as a follow-up [MISSING] the basic philosophy of ecological development that NFT and by extension us, Lemurians, have undertaken. The difference is that I will be focusing primarily on the animal kingdom. Natural environment is a term [MISSING] denotes an environment that encompasses all living and non-living things that occur and interact naturally [MISSING] without intervention from outside forces, like human beings. Lemuria used to be a fully natural environment before our arrival, with living inhabitants which were, while far more diverse than our foreparents had anticipated, still much less numerous and less varied [MISSING] the world from which they came. Fish and fungi were abundant, and arthropods and smaller mammals [MISSING] But large terrestrial animals and plants in general (on which Osbourne elaborated) were, barring a few exceptions, a thing of the past. It was a healthy ecosystem, no question, but it was clear then and clearer now that there was room for improvement. For it is our duty [MISSING] develop the environments which we inhabit, to populate them with life [MISSING] not only human. [MISSING] also our duty to cease our intervention as soon as we've aided nature sufficiently, because a healthy ecosystem must be self-sustaining. [MISSING] we, the Lemurian Agricultural Committee, [MISSING] a long-term plan for the rejuvenation of the animal kingdom of Lemuria. The basic premise [MISSING] through means of genetic engineering - a fixed number of selected species which would then be released into the wild and continue evolving through natural mechanisms - as opposed to the hitherto artificial ones. These "base" animal families would then further evolve and branch out into other species [MISSING] the fundamental idea was to introduce into the environment all elements deemed necessary. The plan also included an important clause: Reduction of reproductive cycles in all engineered species of animals as much as possible while also engineering their DNA in such a way as to boost mutation rates in a controlled manner and within certain limits, for great care must be taken when [MISSING] speed up the whole process greatly. I will now elaborate further on both of these important points. The reproductive cycle is, essentially, what determines the speed at which evolution occurs, since only through conception, through merging of gametes (reproductive cells), and therefore their chromosomes, do we get an actual new organism with a different set of traits. But that alone is insufficient. We already have species with incredibly short reproductive cycles, like small insects, and they do not differentiate very fast [MISSING] Environmental factors are also important, but that means we've [MISSING] natural selection. There is an important step before we can reach any of that - mutation rate. Mutation is the primary driving force behind evolution; natural or artificial selection do not create new species, they merely select them - determine whether organisms survive and reproduce. Mutation is what causes changes in the cell's DNA, and these changes could, if not deleterious, result in a healthy creature [MISSING] different traits. Mutations can arise in many different ways, from radiation or chemical damage, erroneous DNA repair [MISSING] but these somatic, or acquired mutations do not necessarily become hereditary mutations, also called "germline" mutations, and can be deleterious to a living creature, giving rise to diseases such as cancer or [MISSING] Mutation rates differ between species, as well as between different regions of the genome. Therefore [MISSING] task [MISSING] our genetic engineers is to modify the base family's DNA as to fine-tune the mutation rates [MISSING] controlled hypermutation [MISSING] specific segments of the genome [MISSING] to increase the probability for mutations which are more likely to benefit the creature [MISSING] increasing their heritability [MISSING] and decreasing the probability for deleterious mutations to occur. This is important, [MISSING] faster reproduction of animals more susceptible to mutations [MISSING] work exponentially to their benefit. Natural selection will take over from that point [MISSING] life will expand and diversify faster than it ever could [MISSING] planned stabilization of mutation rates after [MISSING] number of generations. Several enclosures have been constructed so far [MISSING] contain the animals and monitor their progress [MISSING] one of which is the Animal Enclosure 3, near Crimson Meadow Horticulture Center [MISSING] office I am sitting right now and writing this soon-to-be article. [MISSING] Through my window I see a herd of blubberous bovinoids grazing on juicy red grass; soon these majestic creatures will become the first of our artificially evolved animals to be released [MISSING] In ten years, once the vegetation spreads further and more species become introduced into the wilderness, this cavern will be teeming with life richer than ever.