The Biology of Giant Starships

Extracted from a popular science article by Jamie Ka, a human field biologist on board the Giant Starship HMS Beagle en route to Messier 4.

Introduction

The giant starships are a species of interstellar beings that evolved from vessels constructed by Primary beings from a variety of planets. Convergent evolution, with considerable exchange of genetic material, makes it convenient to describe them as a single species. The Starships generally have 35-50% of their own genetic material, 35-40% from others of their species and the rest from other Secondaria.

One common feature is the presence of a microbiota of both Primary beings and small Secondaria. The microbiota benefit from having many of their environmental needs met, as well as interstellar transportation, although some never disembark and have co-evolved with their ships over generations.

Although some microbiota perform minor maintenance for their ships, the ships appear to receive little benefit in return. Some ships say they get considerable entertainment value from their microbiota.

Most giant starships are roughly cylindrical, with main engines at each end, often with a ring of secondary engines midships, for manoeuvering and additional defense.

Ecology

Giant Starships are autotrophs, scooping materials from the interstellar medium and from the Oort clouds and gas giants of solar systems they visit. Energy is mainly generated by the black holes in their primary engines.

Few beings risk attacking mature Giant Starships. Their large size (100×10 km) and formidable armour and armaments make attack difficult and risky. Their only predator is the Predatory Starship and even these rarely attack a Giant Starship, especially as other Giant Starships are likely to collaborate to pursue a Predatory Starship if they receive a distress call from one of their fellows. Although the pursuit may take centuries, this helps deter future attacks. However, in the last few million years, Predators have begun to hunt in packs and the attacks are escalating to the scale of warfare, especially in denser star clusters.

Although the microbiota occasionally become parasitic, the starships usually clear these infections quickly. Occasional viruses are found in genetic material (see “Reproduction” below), but starship immune systems clear most of these before activation. However, the few that are activated can be extremely virulent.

Estimates of the population size for the Milky Way vary from 5 to 50 billion. A more precise estimate is difficult because of the light speed limitation and highly variable birth rate. The death rate is considerably lower.

Reproduction

Giant Starships bear their own young live, and also act as surrogate mothers for smaller vessels such as fast transports, both interplanetary and interstellar.

When gestating their own species, the mother provides the highest proportion of genetic material together with material from a few other Giants, including many independent collections for subsystems, somewhat analogous to that in eukaryotic organelles. The development process takes place inside the mother, incorporating processes similar to Primalia development with others similar to mechanical construction. This takes place in a structure analogous to both a uterus and a dry dock. Live birth takes place by having the membrane surrounding the baby merge with the outer skin of the mother so that a large hole is formed, much like endocytosis in Earth organisms.

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