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WOODOGS

by Chris Wayan, 2004

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These cat-sized, warmblooded, hairy, quadrupedal creatures look and act like mammals, but their ancestors were crustaceans, like their relatives the Serranian "mammoths." They use their snout-claw to drill into the largest trees in the equatorial rainforest and pseudo-baobabs in savanna country, and form large colonies inside the trunks. They have large and efficient brains for their body size, and both brain and body have grown steadily for the last five million years. The Green Shore subspecies (SE Narek Sea) builds treehouses in the branches, out of wood cut from other trees--thus they avoid weakening their own. And since they're not entirely confined to the trunk, these dogs really do approach dog-size; they're at least as intelligent as chimps.

Primary habitats: the Niirg and Ngirps Shores on the Niirg Sea, the Tutisni Rainforest, and especially the Green Shore of the Narek Sea.

Woodogs: arboreal, colonial, highly intelligent creatures verging on personhood. A species found on Serrana, a world-building experiment.
Woodogs may not quite be people yet, but they're bright--and still climbing the evolutionary ladder. Our nearest analogs to their social structure are rabbit warrens and prairie dog towns. Within a woodog colony, individuals of both sexes compete for status and mates by singing, dancing, drumming, and body decoration. They have a dance-language which, unlike bees', is not instinctive but learned; the Green Shore dance-dialect has terms for emotions, abstractions, even time, so it's arguable they've already crossed the admittedly arbitrary threshold of personhood. Or perhaps, rather than enter the House of Brains, they'll just burrow into the wall--neither in nor out.

An example of woodogs' half-in-half-outness: individuals in Green Shore colonies have names, but their language has no word for I. A woodog refers to itself by name, in the third person (or non-person: their verbs have time-indicators but no cases). Yet is this true unawareness of self, or mere modesty in a highly social culture? After all, chimps seem to have the concept of a self, even without language--or are we reading too much into mirror tests?

Are woodogs not yet people for lack of a single word?

Map of Serrana, a world-building experiment. Click a feature to go there.
TOUR SERRANA! Click a region for a detailed ground-level tour: Aburros Sea - Woble Range - Yanneba Basin and Plano - Mosnoll and Eronit Basins - The Tsud Desert - Eamet Ocean and South Pole - Leas, Niirg, and Narek: The Lesser Seas - The Rakach Plateau and the Northlands

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