User:Eighty5cacao/misc/Eloi physiology (fanon)

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WMG This article contains wild mass guessing, or original research about the settings, characters, or events in a work of fiction.
See also Damian Yerrick's hypothesis on psychoactive drugs in Eloi–Morlock society.

Active topics

Nervous system and behavior

Social structure

In a nutshell: Allomothering becomes inevitable once it has broken kin recognition.

Eloi society [generally] lacks any kind of hierarchy, nor does it have other patterns recognizable in the society of modern-day humans. [Reword this; some more verbiage will go here] In particular, a mother is a prime candidate to be eaten by the Morlocks as soon as her child is able to eat solid food. (There's a reason I didn't say "weaned.") [...] This implies that a child has no need to recognize his or her biological parents once s/he is able to survive alone.

In other words, allomothering and kin recognition failure form a vicious cycle. Any adult is expected to care for any infant, since the biological parents won't stick around for long. Since this eliminates the need for the biological parents to stick around, the brain pathways for kin recognition could weaken over evolutionary time.

Even if Eloi children could reliably recognize their biological parents, they would probably not spend enough time with them to trigger the Westermarck effect [explain here what it is]

Metabolism

Thermoregulation

It is likely that the Eloi would not remain fully active during the coldest part of the winter season.

Upon his arrival in 802,701 AD, the Time Traveller observed that the climate was quite a bit warmer than that to which he was accustomed. (TODO: quote) He does not give the date shown on the time machine's chronometer, but it is unlikely that he arrived during the winter. Consider why the climate would be warmer: although H. G. Wells assumed that the Earth would move closer to the Sun, we now know that anthropogenic global warming is more likely. Thus it's reasonable that England in 802,701 AD would have a climate similar to the southwestern United States today. (TODO: Or even hotter? Perhaps some other location close to the equator would be a better comparison? Where in Africa or South America...)

With that in mind, there would still be non-negligible precipitation during the coldest part of the year, possibly both rain and snow – more so in other regions whose climates may be still colder. Typical Eloi clothing as observed by the Time Traveller consists of a limited number (1?) of loose fabric layers, which would be acceptable in warm conditions but not protect well against cold and precipitation. (TODO: quotes/wording) There is no evidence that any Eloi regularly changes clothing and/or owns multiple garments for different seasons. (Script drafts for the 1960 film do mention removal of clothing by bathing Eloi[1]. However, that is irrelevant to this discussion, which focuses on the original book.)

Furthermore, since the Eloi have smaller bodies than present-day humans, they would have proportionally greater surface area relative to their volume. Small bodies make sense in the warmer seasons,[2][3] but the energy demands for keeping warm may be too much in the winter. Also, as the novel makes clear, the Eloi do not know fire.

The Eloi may thus undergo hibernation or torpor to avoid the winter energy costs.

To ensure an adequate food supply, the Morlocks would need to similarly undergo hibernation or torpor, keep some live Eloi underground in heated rooms, and/or keep some Eloi corpses in refrigerated rooms. TODO: But would the Morlocks ever go after hibernating Eloi? Why or why not? (The less active an Eloi is, the easier of a target it is for the Morlocks. However, the Eloi may choose their hibernation spots to be well-hidden, and the Morlocks may not have adequate hair/clothing to hunt in worst-case cold conditions.)

Comparison of Weena with an average Eloi

This information has its own subpage.

TODOs

This stuff will eventually end up in the above sections

Swimming ability

Why didn't any other Eloi attempt to rescue Weena while she was drowning? It's not just because they were apathetic. (Nevertheless, the cultural norm of apathy to death would certainly discourage them from planning for emergencies.) Other reasons include:

  • They would not have been able to reliably recognize a drowning in progress. Even present-day humans often have difficulty with this.
  • They would have lacked the strength and motor coordination to make a safe rescue.

If the Eloi had respiratory systems like those of present-day humans, then they should be at high risk of drowning given the amount of time they spend in the water. The fact that drowning is not more common [than it already is] implies a difference of respiratory physiology.

TODO: Interpret the Time Traveller's description "seized with cramp." Some searching suggests that this was a common description of drowning victims in news sources of the mid/late 19th century. Is this a true muscular cramp? (The water was probably not cold enough to trigger a cramp on its own. However, consider that "Causes of cramping include ... hypoxia ... or low blood salt" and "a Charley horse ... is associated with strenuous activity.")

LiveScience gives an example of swimming behavior in chimpanzees. However, this might not be relevant here; presumably, human children are more buoyant than chimpanzees due to a higher proportion of body fat and larger lungs relative to total body size.

Body fat

Relevant both to aquatic behavior and thermoregulation: What could we say about the body fat composition of the Eloi? Specifically, I suspect that they retain brown adipose tissue throughout life in larger quantities than in present-day humans. The brown fat would be enough to compensate for heat loss while swimming, but not enough to allow normal activity levels during an extreme winter; that much brown fat would waste energy in the warmer seasons. This is consistent with neoteny (and small body size?).

Diet

It's possible that the Traveller did not observe all Eloi feeding behaviors.

Deviations from fruitarianism

Plants that are good sources of protein include rice, beans, and nuts such as almonds and peanuts. TODO: Explain the processes for procurement, preparation, and serving of these; the Morlocks would have to handle most of that, but I have doubt about their ability to sanitize their hands and work surfaces in between the butchering of meat and another food-preparation task. Given the limited range of chemicals available (mainly minerals containing metals such as copper), the Morlocks would wash their hands just enough to remove the most urgent microbiological threats to themselves; they couldn't entirely remove the smell of blood nor reach present-day standards of sanitation.

To be reexamined: The Eloi may eat insects, especially those that happen to be sitting on an edible plant. (Not all insect species declined equally since the Traveller's initial departure. In chapter 4 he observes, "The air was free from gnats ... brilliant butterflies flew hither and thither.") Also, my hypotheses about aquatic behavior suggest (to a lesser extent) the possibility of eating fish that are small enough to swallow whole.

Breastfeeding

Eloi children probably breastfeed longer than present-day human children of developed countries. (TODO: Does "longer" apply to absolute calendar time, or is it relative to the typical Eloi life cycle? How would one define "typical Eloi life cycle" anyway, given that an Eloi might live far longer if raised in an ideal environment free of Morlocks? But I digress.)

This is possible because of allomothering: Although any one mother would not provide breast milk for long before being eaten by the Morlocks, there are others available. This is justified because the Eloi are not well adapted to walking long distances; rather than a child walking together with a mother to procure solid food, it saves energy for the child to stay put or be carried until it is breastfeeding time. Among present-day humans, weaning happens later in traditional, partly hunting-gathering societies than in developed (urbanized) societies[5]. The weaning instinct in the Eloi may thus have weakened, since there isn't much need for it anyway. (TODO: Replace "mothers" with "parents" to allow that adults of both sexes might lactate? In chapter 4 paragraph 20, the Traveller mentions that "the specialization of the sexes with reference to their children’s needs disappears" in the context of sexual dimorphism. Although he has physical appearance and behavior in mind, might the decrease of sexual dimorphism hold some other physiological justification for bi-parental lactation? The feasibility of this might depend on the phytoestrogen content of the food crops.)

Contra: Why isn't breastfeeding mentioned in the novel? Were there any infants in the dining hall where (ostensibly-)adults were eating fruits? (If the answer to the latter is no, then there isn't really a contradiction, but that raises the question of where the infants were at the time... Then again, the Traveller never mentioned any parents carrying/holding children either(cn), which could point to his unreliability as a narrator.)

Morlock rules of honor, health and sanitation

See xkcd what-if #105: Cannibalism for some potentially relevant info.

  1. Never leave an Eloi alive and wounded.
    At best, not finishing the job of killing an Eloi would be a waste of time, as the wound would eventually heal. At worst, the wound would become infected, and the victim may no longer be safe to eat.
    The Eloi may have wound-healing abilities superior to those of present-day human adults. This results directly from selective pressure caused by early Morlocks (prior to the institution of said rule) and indirectly from neoteny; compare differences in healing of fingertip injuries between adults and children[1][2] (TODO: better ref?).
  2. Never eat an Eloi that you find already dead.
    In other words, "Meat must be fresh." The Morlocks are (insert adj. here) predators, not scavengers. This rule prevents certain infectious diseases.
    It could exert a selective pressure in favor of thanatosis behavior in the Eloi (that is, "playing possum"); however, the behavior would later fade into obscurity for other reasons. TODO: Is it a reasonable guess that about 1% of Eloi die from causes other than predation?
  3. Restrictions on when, if ever, it is appropriate to eat the brain of an Eloi (exact rule to be written later). This protects against most prion diseases. (TODO: But how would the offending prions get into an Eloi in the first place, given that the Eloi don't eat animal products? The alternative is that most prion diseases are hereditary, but that would have exerted a negative selective pressure. Perhaps this rule is largely an artifact?)
  4. Something similar to rule 2, but covering live Eloi showing signs of communicable diseases, including but not limited to prion diseases and other neurological infections (exact rule to be written later)

Footnotes

  1. David Duncan
  2. Parry, Wynne. Animals Shrink as Earth Warms. LiveScience. 16 October 2011. Accessed 16 October 2011.
    This generalization may apply to mammals but not to birds: http://junkscience.com/2011/10/31/debunked-already-global-warming-makes-animals-shrink/ (TODO: format). (Digression: Tie this in with the Traveller's observations on avian biodiversity or lack thereof.)
  3. Pappas, Stephanie. Ancient Warming Shrunk Horses to Housecat Size. LiveScience. 23 February 2012. Accessed 24 February 2012.
  4. See Social structure section above. In summary: The Eloi are weak in social cognition in that they don't care whom the Morlocks have eaten. They wouldn't be able to maintain complex breeding patterns, and they might not recognize family relations reliably. Also, because Eloi children spend little time with other family members, the Westermarck effect might not have a chance to operate. Thus, migration between communities may be the only reliable way to maintain genetic diversity.
  5. Johnson, Michael Eric. Out of the Mouth of Babes. Scientific American. 15 May 2012. Accessed 16 May 2012.