The Hunt for the Missing Link
The Haunted Woods is a Petpet Researcher’s paradise. It is literally teeming with hundreds of specimens indigenous to this lonesome corner of Neopia, and many experts speculate that due to the density of the area and the amount of land unexplored, there could be thousands of life forms unknown to us, living in the shadows of the woods.
Many of the creatures of the woods have become very popular Pets amongst Neopians. The Meepit has even become something of a fashion icon in Neopia, with a host of furniture fashioned in its likeness, and t-shirts and hats to boot. However, it is not the Meepit that I wish to scrutinize – remarkable a beast as it is.
Abundantus Mulchus, or the Common Slorg, has also become a popular domestic pet, though a high caliber of patience is required from the keeper because as the scientific name of this creature suggests, it can leave quite a mess wherever it ventures. Yet it is not the Slorg I wish to describe either, but its not so famous cousin, the Slymook.
These peculiar molluscs can also be found in the Haunted Woods, though they are not quite as common. They can be rather difficult to find in their natural habitat, as they tend to make small, oval nests in the branches of the mangroves of the Esophagor’s Swamp, which is a difficult region of the Woods to traverse. The difficult one can find in reaching the natural habitat of the Slymook is part of the reason that they were only discovered a couple of years ago when Neopian herpetologists were able to cross the treacherous swamp with the help of some of the locals. But even though the Slymook can now be readily observed in captivity, and we have a very crude knowledge of their behaviour in the wild, we can still only speculate as to a lot of the behaviours of these wonderful creatures.
Slymooks appear throughout the lore of the Haunted Woods from a very early stage, though it appears that even the denizens know little of them. Several theories which link the Slymook and the Slorg are now in circulation throughout Neopian Science. One of these theorems states that the Slymook, being peculiar to the isle in the middle of the Esophagor’s Swamp, actually evolved from the Slorg. The Slorg is a ground-dwelling creature which would not survive long in the Swamp due to predation. This theory states that the Swamp was once a valley, and that the isle now separated from the Haunted Woods became so due to very heavy flooding. The isle, which would have once been a hill, contained a colony of Slorgs now stranded by an accident of nature. Over time aquatic predators migrated to the area and the Slorgs were forced to adapt to their new environment, and thus became a new, more agile species altogether.
Although this theory is very sensible, Haunted Woods historians indicate that although the area is susceptible to heavy rainfall, there has never been any record of catastrophic flooding or a valley. This leads us to consider another suggestion as to the origin of the Slymook.
Professor Mewben Wate of the University of Neovia suggests that a Slorg may undergo a metamorphosis and change into an entirely different species altogether. He explains his bold hypothesis at length in his recently published book The Lock and Key Theory.
“It was recently discovered that the Krawk of Tyrannia was but an elementary form of a far more complex lifeform,” writes Professor Wate in his newest title. “If a primitive reptile can undergo metamorphosis into a sentient being with the ingestion of a fungus, why, then, could a mollusc not undergo metamorphic change into a slightly more complex mollusc?”
Wate believes that there may be a chemical property, or some other variable, that when brought into the equation, stimulates a shift in the structure of a creature. The name of his book comes from his belief that there may be innumerable life forms throughout Neopia who have a segment in their genetic makeup that lies dormant (a lock) until a foreign substance (a key) is introduced to the bloodstream of the subject.
“There is a property within Krawk Island Cave Fungus that is not attacked by a Krawk’s immune system. Nor is this chemical digested,” says Wate. “Field researchers have introduced some Slorgs to the area the Slymook is indigenous to and are constantly watching them for any slight change. It’s still early days for the program, so we need to be patient.”
The Professor has been lambasted with a generous helping of cynicism since his theory was first introduced, but he retains a confident gait. “Even if there is no immediate metamorphic link between the Slorg and the Slymook, the Krawk still stands as a steadfast testament to my theories. And as diverse as Neopia is, we cannot doubt that there will be other “lock-and-key” creatures out there. While there remains no strong evidence to disprove my beliefs regarding the Slymook, I will continue my research.”
The ingestion of a chemical is not necessarily the only “key” to metamorphosis. Environmental changes such as humidity and temperature are also suitable for consideration. “There is a blatant connection between the respective environment and the development of a creature,” says Dr. Sawfur of the Neopian Academics Society Biology Department. “The temperature in the nest is proven to determine the gender of a Draik before it hatches. I would not be at all surprised if environmental influences could cause a Slorg to develop into a very different Petpet altogether.”
The Slugawoo from Maraqua would also suggest that Professor Wate might be right after all. Unlike the Slymook, however, these creatures can be found in abundance all over the coral reefs and crags that cover the bottom of the Neopian Sea. How exactly Slorgs could have ended up in the sea, forced to develop new characteristics to protect them from the hardships of life at sea, however, is something to speculate about. It cannot be denied that there is still an uncanny likeness between these three Neopian molluscs.
“Once the missing link between the Slorg and the Slymook is found, and cynicism is diluted, I intend to move onto solving other mysteries of a similar nature,” the ambitious Professor shares. “Mysteries like the relation between the Snowager and the Snowickle, and the Slugawoo and the Slorg Beast. Whether or not we want to accept it, there is a link between these creatures. For all we know, there could be a colony of Snowagers.”
Whilst many agree that Professor Wate is a lunatic, more and more evidence is appearing to suggest that he may in fact be ahead of the rest of us. Granted, a lot of such studies have involved drawing physical comparisons without some answer as to what causes these metamorphic changes Wate speaks of, but we come closer every day. Some of the candidates of Wate’s research may simply have a coincidental physical likeness, but, like the Krawk, there will be other lock-and-key specimens out there.