Monday, September 20, 2021

Microstory 1716: Sea Goat

I’ve done it, I’ve cracked it! I have finally figured out how to genetically engineer the sea goat. No, this is not like the mythological Capricornus creature thing that’s half-goat, half-fish. This is an aquatic goat, which still looks mostly like a goat, but which has features that allow it to swim below the surface. Most goats can already swim, but they don’t really like it, and they certainly can’t breathe underwater. The sea goat is different. I designed fin flaps on his legs, so when he’s in the water, he’ll curl his hooves inward, and let the fins do the paddling. His hair is more like otter or beaver fur, capable of keeping him warm in frigid waters. The gills on his neck can process both saltwater and freshwater equally well, allowing him to stay under indefinitely. He has a set of transparent eyelids underneath the opaque ones, which allow him to see through the water. You may be asking why I would do this. Why create an amphibious goat? The truth is that not once during the process did I ask myself that question. It seemed like such a natural objective that I never considered there needed to be any sort of reason. Now, you’ll notice that I keep referring to the animal as a he, but the truth is that its genderless. I just use the term for the sake of ease, but he is no more male than he is female. When he’s ready to reproduce, he will do so asexually. That doesn’t mean he carries both reproductive organs, but that he doesn’t need different organs. When it’s time to propagate the species, he’ll develop the eggs. He won’t have to fertilize them, but he also won’t be making an exact copy. Enzymes in his reproductive system will attach themselves to the eggs randomly. Once enough of these enzymes are attached, they’ll operate uniquely, and in concert, altering each egg’s DNA in unpredictable ways. This allows for the offspring to be born genetically diverse, whilst still only requiring the one parent. The species will evolve as normal, but will have no need to find suitable mates.

The only thing I’m having trouble with now is figuring out how to prompt the reproductive process in the first place. If I were to engineer a sexual species, two members of that species would undoubtedly experience the instinct to mate with each other, which would continue the bloodline. Without such environmental factors, I’m not sure why the sea goat would do this. Most species evolve the biological imperative to pass on their genetic information, by whatever means they have available to them. This is because any individual who doesn’t have this drive, won’t pass on their genetic information, and will die out long before we ever have a chance to study them. They just don’t exist—in random defective organisms, yes, but not in an entire species, because it wouldn’t make any sense. But evolution didn’t take too much part in what I have created. It’s impossible to tell whether the fundamental biological imperative is strong enough in the sea goat, or is even there at all. If all goes according to plan, he’ll lay about a dozen eggs, and maybe half of them will survive through the early developmental process. That is if anything happens at all. I don’t really want to try to trigger the propagation myself, because I want to see if he will do it on his own. That day may never come, but I have no choice but to be patient. The sea goat’s life span is presently about as long as a human’s, which is a gift I deliberately added to his genes. I may die before seeing the second generation come to fruition, so that is why you’re here. If you accept the position, you’ll be responsible for carrying on my legacy. You won’t be my assistant, you’ll be more like my heir. Now that you know a little bit about what we do here, how about you tell me more about yourself? Why do you want to study and raise sea goats?

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