Supreme Chancellor (Owner/Admin)
Joined: 14 Apr 2008
Location: Columbus, Ohio, USA, Earth, The Solar System, The Milky Way Galaxy
|Posted: Mon Jan 23, 2023 10:58 pm Post subject: Species Types
|This expands upon and updates the the basic species types that WEG Alien Encounters p.7-8 (somewhat poorly) deals with. This is more correct and more complete, but still without getting too sciency.
Judging by the prevalence of anthropomorphic animal species in the EU, it is quite clear that many Star Wars creators and fans also enjoy anthropomorphic animals. How many different species of cat people have appeared in the franchise, starting with the 70s comic series? A lot.
For starters I have linked a google doc spreadsheet with a basic overview of the real world taxonomic relationships of the Alien Encounters species types. I have added a second chart to the document with select mammals. These are greatly simplified, with many pieces missing:
Select Taxonomy of Select Earth Species Types (Here is a taxonomic hierarchy for quick reference.)
On the above document, if you scroll down below the two taxonomy charts you will also see a very basic select real world evolution chart.
A word on Convergent Evolution
Convergent evolution is a real world phenomena where similar features can evolve in relatively unrelated species. Of course, all Earth life is related if you go back far enough. In the real world, alien life may not be anything like Earth life because it evolved independently on a different planet. In Star Wars, common species types such mammals and reptiles evolved independently on thousands of worlds, which would seem to be convergent evolution to the extreme.
Another notable example of convergent evolution in Star Wars would be the humanoid form of countless species of many different types. From what I learned about the evolution of the anthropoid/humanoid form in my college biological anthropology class, it would seem that all humanoid species in Star Wars had a biological ancestor that brachiated in arboreal environments like ours did. Humanoidism would not seem to be particularly advantageous underwater, so amphibious humanoids particularly strain disbelief suspension because it seems that there are just too many evolutionary steps for a humanoid species to still retain the ability to breathe in water. Yet Star Wars has many amphibious humanoid species.
Star Wars doesn't normally worry too much about how species came to be, but some extreme convergent evolution must be baked into the premise of the galaxy (and this is even without humans mysteriously existing in this galaxy). I guess we can just say it is the work of the midi-chlorians executing the will of the Force by nudging evolution, then suspend disbelief and not worry about it.
The general format for species type is the primary species type preceded by further defining adjectivals as needed, ordered from least to most significant. Below are some species types and attribute definitions. Both canons use many real world biological types to describe species, so I do too. Star Wars has some unearthly species types too, but most species are at least vaguely comparable to Earth species in some way.
Like WEG Alien Encounters and The New Essential Guide to Alien Species, I use the Earth terms for Star Wars species descriptively only, without any implication of evolutionary relationships (which most species would only have with other species from their own planet). Many species of various types may have attributes they don't have on Earth, such as sentience, humanoidism, or having a different number of limbs than that type has on Earth (the latter of which is usually specified in with species type). And there is evidence of genetic engineering occuring in the history of some species, possibly by the Celestials.
Most life in the galaxy is organic, meaning it's biochemistry is based on carbon compounds, with water as a solvent. Bacteria, Plants, and Animals are common kingdoms of organic life. Most sentients are Animals.
Bacteria, one of the oldest forms of life in the universe, are ubiquitous single-cell microbes that lack a nucleus and other membrane-bound organelles. Some bacteria are harmful to multicellular organisms but many are beneficial. Midi-chlorians are bacteria that inhabit the cells of more complex life forms. Bacterial is the adjectival word that means relating to bacteria. The remaining species types below are ones that have sentient, macroscopic species.
Plants are generally sessile organisms that predominantly obtain energy through photosynthesis. Trees are plants. Revwiens are an ambulatory, sentient plant species. Botanical is the adjectival word that means relating to plants.
ANIMALS (5 vertebrates, 4 hard invertebrates, 3 soft invertebrates)
Fish are aquatic, egg-laying vertebrates which come both jawless and jawed, which comes both cartilaginous and bony, which comes both ray-finned and lobe-finned. By default, all fish will be fully aquatic water-breathers, so any adaptation otherwise will be specified. Fish have multiple possible halotolerances (range of water salinity) which will be mentioned in the species type (see General Descriptors below). The default shape for this type is ichthyomorphic (fish-shaped), so only a different shape would need specified. Colo claw fish on Naboo are eels (a type of ray-finned bony fish). Although I classify Pykes as amphibians (see below), they also have characteristics of catfish (also a ray-finned bony fish). Piscine is the adjectival word that means relating to fish.
Amphibians are vertebrates that lay eggs in fresh water so start their lives aquatic but eventually develop the ability to breathe air and live out of water. Star Wars tends to use the term "amphibian" too generally, applying it to any species that can breathe both air and water regardless of actual species type. I use amphibian to refer to the actual biological species type, but I do concede to the premise that Star Wars species categorized as "amphibians" by default never lose their ability to breathe fresh water when they gain the ability to breathe air, thus making them dual-breathers as adults. A Star Wars amphibian that loses their ability to breathe water while growing up (like most Earth amphibians) will be specified. The little creatures Jabba ate in his palace were ranine amphibians. In my SWU, Pykes are standard amphibians while Gungans are air-breathing amphibians. Amphibian is also the adjectival word that means relating to the amphibian species type (not to be confused with amphibious–see General Descriptors below).
Mammals are vertebrates that have live births and produce milk for their young. Many (but not all) mammals have hair on their bodies. Banthas are non-sentient mammals. Humans, Sullustans, Abednedo, Bothans, and the furred species of Bimms are all sentient mammals. Mammalian is the adjectival word that means relating to mammals. See Mammalian Descriptors below for several types of mammals.
Reptiles are vertebrates that lay eggs and are covered with scales or protected by bony plates. The lizards on Dagobah are non-sentient reptiles. Trandoshan and Duros are sentient reptiles. Reptilian is the adjectival word that means relating to reptiles. (In 1998 WEG categorized Duros as mammals in an index, but after TPM, Duros were firmly established in EU fluff as reptiles when Neimoidian biology was detailed.)
Avians, also called birds, are beak-jawed vertebrates that lay eggs and have feathers, whether they can fly or not. The ducks on Naboo are non-sentient avians. Mrlssti are sentient avians. Avian is also the adjectival word that means relating to avians.
Crustaceans are a diverse group of mostly aquatic (mostly saltwater) arthropods, which are hard invertebrates with exoskeletons and paired, jointed limbs. Opee sea killers on Naboo are non-sentient piscine crustaceans. The Acklay which Obi-Wan fought in the Geonosis arena is an amphibious crustacean. The Nephran are sentient humanoid amphibious crustaceans (one was playing cards with Lando on Vandor). Mon Calamari have crustacean qualities.
Insects are a very diverse group of arthropods. Many have segmented bodies, but some sentient insects have evolved into humanoid or semi-humanoid form. Many have multifaceted eyes and antennae. Some have wings. Lava fleas are non-sentient insects on Mustafar. Vratix and Yam'rii are sentient species of insects. Verpine and Geonosians are humanoid (or semi-humanoid) insects. Insectile is the adjectival word that means relating to insects.
Myriapods are arthropods with long bodies and many pairs of legs, such as centipedes. Some have antennae. Kouhuns, the creepy venomous creatures that almost killed Padme on Coruscant, are non-sentient myriapods. Lady Proxima in Solo is a Grindalid, which has been described in part as a sentient "aquatic centipede." Myriapodan is the adjectival word that means relating to myriapods.
Arachnids are multi-limbed chelicerate arthropods such as spiders. Ginnthos are a species of giant non-sentient spiders on Utapau. The Harch are a semi-humanoid sentient species of Arachnids. Arachnidan is the adjectival word that means relating to arachnids.
Annelids are soft, invertebrate, sometimes-segmented worms which can be terrestrial or aquatic (which can be freshwater or saltwater). Non-sentient annelids include the worms that Han told Jabba he was ridden with. Grindalids are sentient amphibious annelids. Hutts have characteristics of terrestrial annelids. Annelidan is the adjectival word that means relating to annelids.
Gastropods, a type of soft invertebrate mollusks, are slow-moving slugs and snails which can be terrestrial or aquatic (which can be freshwater or saltwater). Hutts are a sentient species of gastropods (with other animal type characteristics). Gastropodan is the adjectival word that means relating to gastropods.
Cephalopods are a type of aquatic saltwater mollusks that often have a number of tentacles. Dianogas are non-sentient cephalopods. Quarren and Nautolans are sentient humanoid mammalian cephalopods. Cephalopodan is the adjectival word that means relating to cephalopods.
EXOTIC ORGANIC SPECIES TYPES
Craniopods are a rare type of sentient-only vertebrate animal species with highly evolved brains and senses. Craniopods require less sleep than most animal species. Craniopods only possess vestigial reproductive organs so require technological assistance to reproduce. Bith are craniopods.
Hybrid Species Types are a category of species types resulting from atypical evolution. These species have two or more species types. Hybrid species type names are usually a base species type preceded by one or more species type adjectivals. Mon Calamari are crustacean mammalian cephalopods. Grindalids are myriapodan annelids. (The previous two species are amphibious as a result of the combinations–see General Descriptors below.) Hutts are marsupial reptilian annelidan gastropods. The next five types below are vertebrate animal hybrid types which have single-word combo-names.
Mamphibians are species that have characteristics of mammals and amphibians. Binogs on the planet Bogano (from Jedi: Fallen Order) are a canon mamphibian creature. The WEG species Akwin are a sentient mamphibian species that retain the ability to breathe water into adulthood. (Canon calls this type "amphi-mammalian" and but I feel mammalian should only be used as an adjective. Legends refers to Akwin as both amphibious mammals and mammalian amphibians, the latter of which follows my hybrid species nomenclature system I laid down above. I feel they should have their own combo-word identification like the other vertebrate hybrid types, so I came up with one better than Canon's.) I use the mamphibian designation for Ithorians as I honor the original amphibian concept by having two related species, a standard Star Wars amphibian as originally conceived and the more mammalian Ithorians as established by WEG. Both species lay eggs in water and hatchlings are able to breathe fresh water before they eventually develop lungs, but like many Earth amphibians, Ithorians lose their gills and transition to air-breathing land dwellers. When Ithorians hit puberty they begin to grow short body hair. Ithorian mothers produce milk and nurse their young like mammals.
Ampherptiles are species that have characteristics of amphibians and reptiles. They lay their eggs in water and hatchlings are able to breathe fresh water, but ampherptiles eventually develop lungs while their skin hardens into scales. Generally, they lose their gills when they develop lungs. Fambaas on Naboo are ampherptile creatures. Ureallians are sentient ampherptiles that do not lose their gills. (This hybrid type was never formally established by any canon, but Fambaas were described as amphibians with reptilian characteristics, and the single Ureallian character (Rough Draft Han Solo) has been described as a reptile while having amphibian characteristics. So this vertebrate hybrid combo-named type seems appropo. The base of the name I gave them is herptile which means reptile or amphibian, from the couple thousand years on Earth they were erroneously lumped together as a single class of animal. Herptology is still the general study of reptiles and amphibians. But since the root of herptile is a word for reptile, I thought amphibian should be more represented in my combo-name by combining the beginning of amphibian up to the 'h' with herptile. "Ampherptile" is not either/or–it specifically is a hybrid species type of the two types.)
Reptomammals are species that have characteristics of reptiles and mammals. Reptomammals may have scales, hair, or both. Most give birth to live offspring and some nurse their young. Tauntauns, wampas, and rancors are non-sentient reptomammals. Rodians are sentient reptomammals.
Reptavians are species that have characteristics of reptiles and avians. They may have scales, feathers, or both. Some are flyers and others are flightless. Dactillions and Varactyls on Utapau, and Kaadu on Naboo, are reptavian creatures.
Mammavians are species that have characteristics of mammals and avians. Earth monotremes could fall under this category. In Star Wars, mammavians may have hair or feathers. Some are flyers and others are flightless. Rawwks on Bespin are mammavian creatures, while the Quor'sav are sentient mammavians.
Changelings are exotic animal species that possess the ability to shapeshift, a process by which their bodies transform so that they look like different species. Clawdites are sentient reptomammalian changelings.
Other exotic organic life forms can possibly evolve to sentience, such as species that breathe non-oxygen gases, polycephalous species, fungi, flatworms, jellyfish, amorphous gelatinous blobs, "composite" species (hive-minded persons being comprised of an entire hive of insects), and unique species that defy all classification.
Alternative biochemistries are rare, but silicon-based life does exist in the galaxy. These life forms generally reproduce asexually and do not breathe at all. Mynocks, exogorths, and space mites are vacuum creatures. Shards are a sentient crystalline species.
Marsupial mammals tend to give birth sooner before transitioning newborns to the mother's pouch for an additional developmental period. Hutts have marsupial qualities. The mammalian types below are placental mammals, meaning those without marsupial qualities have no pouch for newborns so gestation tends to be longer.
Primate mammals have dexterous hands and usually evolved from arboreal species. Wampas have marsupial and primate attributes. Simians are a kind of primates (see below). Devaronians, Gigorans, and Kluuzot are sentient non-simian primates.
Simian mammals are ape and monkey-like species. Hominids are a kind of simian (see below). Taungs, Ardennians, Iakaru, and Symeong are sentient general simians.
Hominid mammals are great apes. Humans and near-humans are hominids (see below). Wookiees are sentient non-human hominids.
The Human species is the most common and dominant sentient species in the galaxy. Star Wars Humans are very similar to the Homo sapiens of Earth. "Human" followed by a colon and a sub-designation are specific populations of mainline humans (genetically the same species). Non-human is an exclusionary term that means neither Human nor Near-human (see below).
Near-human species are genetic offshoots of mainline humans (Near-humans are of the Homo genus but a different species). Human/near-human hybrid individuals may be possible in some cases. Near-humans include Wroonians, Fondorians, and the near-human Bimms. Zabrak are a genetically engineered near-human species.
Murine means rodent-like. Womp rats are non-sentient murines mammals. Jawas are flat-faced sentient murine mammals.
Leporine means hare/rabbit-like. Lepi are sentient leporine mammals. Squibs are sentient leporine canine mammals (see Canine below).
Porcine means pig-like. Robas are non-sentient porcine mammals. Ugnaughts and Gamorreans are sentient porcine mammals.
Bovid mammals evolved from pecoran even-toed ungulates. They may described as caprine (goat-like), or bovine (like cattle, bison, or buffalos). Gran are sentient humanoid bovids.
Cetacean species on Earth are marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, and porpoises. Aiwha are non-sentient flying cetaceans in Star Wars. Herglics and Kallidahin are sentient humanoid cetacean mammals.
Equine means horse-like. Orbaks are non-sentient equine mammals. Svivreni are sentient equine mammals.
Feline means cat-like. The four Horansi species are feline species.
Hyenine means hyena-like. Shistavanens are hyenine lupine mammals (see below).
Canine means dog-like (which on Earth include dogs, wolves, jackals, coyotes, and foxes). Klantooinians are sentient canine mammals. Lupines are a specific subset of canines. Lupine means wolf-like.
Ursine means bear-like. Ewoks are sentient ursine mammals.
OTHER SPECIES DESCRIPTORS
Siluriform means catfish-like. Catfish are non-sentient siluriform fish on Batuu. Pykes are sentient siluriform amphibians.
Ophidian means snake-like. The snakes seen on Dagobah are non-sentient ophidian reptiles. Sluissi are sentient ophidian reptiles.
Draconic means dragon-like.
Near-Duros species are genetic offshoots of mainline Duros. Neimoidians are near-duros reptiles.
Crystalline species are silicon-based life in the form of crystals. Shards are a crystalline species.
GENERAL DESCRIPTORS (breathing, halotolerance, shape, pseudohumanity)
Air-breathing refers to species being able breathe air and not water. "Air" is defined as any breathing gas mixture that is composed of mostly inert gases and approximately 21% oxygen, a standard atmosphere. Most species types can breathe air, and unless specified otherwise in the species type, they can by default (species that require a different breathing gas will be specified.) Air-breathing is used describe amphibians that lose the ability to breathe water as they develop. It is also used for species types that have both aquatic and terrestrial variations, to indicate the species can't breathe water.
Amphibious means the species can breathe both air and oxygenated water as adults. This is default for amphibians, so it only has to be specified for any other species types. Semi-amphibious may be used for aquatic species that have limited air-breathing capabilities (see below).
Aquatic being used in species descriptions does not refer to general aquatic attributes (like saying sea lions are aquatic mammals or penguins are aquatic birds). As a species type qualifier, aquatic specifically refers to the ability to breathe oxygenated water but not air. This description will rarely be used because species types that are usually only water-breathers (fish, crustaceans, and cephalopods) include this quality by default. Sentient species of any type usually won't only breathe water, but there definitely are some.
Euryhaline is used to describe water-breathing species that can tolerate water salinity levels of 0-5%. This is usually only available to fish, crustaceans, and gastropods; and even among them, this halotolerance is rare.
Stenohaline is used to describe water-breathing species that have a more limited range of water salinity tolerance, which will be specified in parentheses. The two most common descriptors are stenohaline (fresh water) [salinity 0-0.5%] and stenohaline (salt water) [salinity 3-5%]. (The water salinity level filling the gap between these two is called brackish water.) Stenohaline (fresh water) is default for water-breathing amphibians and stenohaline (salt water) is default for cephalopods and aquatic crustaceans, so halotolerance also does not need specified for these species types unless a species has something other than the default for its type.
Humanoid species of any species type are basically human shaped species. They have one head, a torso/abdomen, two arms, and two legs (usually bipedal). Humanoids with mammalian characteristics tend to have sexual dimorphism similar to humans. Humanoids may still have wholly non-human attributes, such as oddly shaped heads, other than two eyes, hands with different numbers of digits, something other than hands, or digitigrade legs. Humanoidism is extremely common in the evolution of species in the galaxy, especially for sentient species. Humanoidism is the default sentient species shape for all species types except fish, so humanoidism doesn't normally need specified with species type, but may be specified to differentiate in comparisons or whenever a different form might be expected.
Semi-humanoid species are partially humanoid, and ways that they aren't humanoid may be specified with additional description. A four-armed species that is otherwise humanoid is semi-humanoid.
Centauriform species are semi-humanoids with an equinoid body and a humanoid torso/arms/head in place of the equinoid head. Chironians are a centauriform species.
Pseudohuman describes non-human species who have evolved characteristics in response to interactions with humans over the millennia, à la Curtis Saxton's Technical Commentaries. Twi'leks (mammals) and Falleen (reptomammals) are pseudohumans.
HOW TO USE THIS
In some game groups, whether a species is a mammal or reptile may not be much more than character/creature physical description. Species type could influence a character's background fluff or personality. It could also be considered for alien species or other skill roll modifiers (reptiles may have a lower difficulty when attempting to understand something about another reptilian species, but they may have a higher difficulty understanding some aspects of being a mammal).
Species type could also be a consideration in species stats. Species aquatic qualities may help a GM to determine the range of a character/creature's aquatic abilities. I haven't statted out Clawdites yet, but I was thinking of species type being a consideration in the difficulty to shapeshift.
Questions? Comments? Thoughts?
Alien Encounters ~ See p.7-8 ("Species Origins") and p.181-183 ("Species Index") +
The New Essential Guide to Alien Species ~ See p. xii ("Glossary Of Descriptive Terms") +
Biological classifications category page of Wookieepedia.
Sentient species by biology category page of Wookieepedia.
Many other Wookieepedia pages
Galaxy Guide 4: Alien Races 2e
Galaxy Guide 12: Aliens — Enemies and Allies
The Essential Guide to Alien Species
The Wildlife of Star Wars: A Field Guide
The Visual Encyclopedia
The Moviemaking Magic of Star Wars: Creatures & Aliens
The Rancor Pit Library
Star Wars D6 Damage