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Cicero July 25 2009 04:34 PM

The Andorian sexes
 
We're told that the four Andorian sexes roughly correspond to two male sexes and two female sexes, but that they aren't literally male or female.

As I understand the Andorian reproductive process, the thaan and chan each contribute a gamete containing 1/4 of the eventual child's genetic material, the shen contributes the largest gamete, and egg, containing 1/2 of the eventual child's genetic material, and the zhen contributes no genetic material, but carries the zygote/embryo/fetus to term.

I find this slightly confusing. Biologically speaking, "female" is defined as an organism (or a part of an organism, where an organism is hermaphroditic) that produces ova (eggs), which are in turn defined as the largest gametes produced by the species. By this definition, a shen would be unequivocally female.

Further, "male", biologically speaking, is defined as an organism (or a part of an organism, where an organism is hermaphroditic) that produces smaller gametes than the ova of its species. By this definition, the thaan and chan would be unequivocally male.

The poor zhen is unaccounted for.

What I find confusing is the contention that a shen is only roughly female, and that thaans and chans are only roughly male. It doesn't seem to add up, unless something radically different is going on with Andorian reproduction than we've been led to believe.

Deranged Nasat July 25 2009 05:33 PM

Re: The Andorian sexes
 
Quote:

Cicero wrote: (Post 3228319)
We're told that the four Andorian sexes roughly correspond to two male sexes and two female sexes, but that they aren't literally male or female.

As I understand the Andorian reproductive process, the thaan and chan each contribute a gamete containing 1/4 of the eventual child's genetic material, the shen contributes the largest gamete, and egg, containing 1/2 of the eventual child's genetic material, and the zhen contributes no genetic material, but carries the zygote/embryo/fetus to term.

I find this slightly confusing. Biologically speaking, "female" is defined as an organism (or a part of an organism, where an organism is hermaphroditic) that produces ova (eggs), which are in turn defined as the largest gametes produced by the species. By this definition, a shen would be unequivocally female.

Further, "male", biologically speaking, is defined as an organism (or a part of an organism, where an organism is hermaphroditic) that produces smaller gametes than the ova of its species. By this definition, the thaan and chan would be unequivocally male.

The poor zhen is unaccounted for.

What I find confusing is the contention that a shen is only roughly female, and that thaans and chans are only roughly male. It doesn't seem to add up, unless something radically different is going on with Andorian reproduction than we've been led to believe.

I do not know how "male" and "female" are described, so I can't be much help there. However, I'm pretty sure all four sexes contribute genetic material. The shen produces an "egg", if I remember correctly, and then the chan and thaan both add their genetic material (I assume they both have a penis or similar organ), then the shen transfers the "egg" somehow to the zhen, who adds her material and carries the child to term. She also produces zhiassa- milk- to nourish it after birth. I'm guessing mammalian standards are being applied, not necesarilly scientific definitions?. I assume shens do not produce milk (hence the zh beginning their word for milk-equivalent, it's a zhen thing), and so may not have breasts. Zhens don't produce ova, so no problem there, but as for shens also not being female, maybe its just layman-human refusal to see a non-breasted furry-and-warm-blooded-looks-mammalian being as female, technical stuff aside? You know, mammalian biases? Or is it chromosomes? For the two "males", I'm guessing its chromosomes that prevent them being labelled male? Do "male" and "female" only apply to organisms with paired chromosomes? Biology is not my strongest subject...:) Any help from someone who does know?

captcalhoun July 25 2009 05:43 PM

Re: The Andorian sexes
 
this is why i think four sexes is so stupid. it's just needlessly complex. nature prefers simplicity, not complexity like this.

Deranged Nasat July 25 2009 05:47 PM

Re: The Andorian sexes
 
Quote:

captcalhoun wrote: (Post 3228500)
this is why i think four sexes is so stupid. it's just needlessly complex. nature prefers simplicity, not complexity like this.

Hmmm, I remember "Paradigm" established that Andorian fauna is two-sexed, leaving the Andorian genome a mystery. There was a plant that matched them, but it was suggested Andorians didn't evolve naturally on Andor- or at all perhaps? Were they the result of some engineering? Given that their genome is falling apart, it seems nature is in agreement that they're not a good idea....:lol:. Again, though, I'd like to point out my utter ignorance on the subject of genetics.

Christopher July 25 2009 06:34 PM

Re: The Andorian sexes
 
Quote:

captcalhoun wrote: (Post 3228500)
this is why i think four sexes is so stupid. it's just needlessly complex. nature prefers simplicity, not complexity like this.

Nature has no preference because it has no sentience. Evolution is a random process that produces lots of traits that are far from the most efficient or ideal approach to a problem; as long as they work well enough to do the job and don't impair survival, there's no selective pressure to replace them.

Besides, in an alien biosphere there could be a reason why multiple sexes provide an advantage. For instance, if a planet has stronger background radiation than Earth, it would have a higher rate of mutation, in which case it might be advantageous for the planet's organisms to have a more robust error-checking mechanism. One such method might be to have three or four sexes, meaning three or four copies of each gene, with "majority rule" deciding which genes are expressed; a mutation would thereby be neutralized unless it occurred in the genes of at least two or three of the parents, something which is more likely to be true of a beneficial trait than a harmful one.

Deranged Nasat July 25 2009 06:38 PM

Re: The Andorian sexes
 
Quote:

Christopher wrote: (Post 3228676)
Quote:

captcalhoun wrote: (Post 3228500)
this is why i think four sexes is so stupid. it's just needlessly complex. nature prefers simplicity, not complexity like this.

Besides, in an alien biosphere there could be a reason why multiple sexes provide an advantage. For instance, if a planet has stronger background radiation than Earth, it would have a higher rate of mutation, in which case it might be advantageous for the planet's organisms to have a more robust error-checking mechanism. One such method might be to have three or four sexes, meaning three or four copies of each gene, with "majority rule" deciding which genes are expressed; a mutation would thereby be neutralized unless it occurred in the genes of at least two or three of the parents, something which is more likely to be true of a beneficial trait than a harmful one.

Ah yes, your own Squales were like that, weren't they? :)

Cicero July 25 2009 07:03 PM

Re: The Andorian sexes
 
Quote:

Deranged Nasat wrote: (Post 3228478)
I do not know how "male" and "female" are described, so I can't be much help there. However, I'm pretty sure all four sexes contribute genetic material. The shen produces an "egg", if I remember correctly, and then the chan and thaan both add their genetic material (I assume they both have a penis or similar organ), then the shen transfers the "egg" somehow to the zhen, who adds her material and carries the child to term.

I'd thought the zhen contributed genetically, but Memory Beta says she doesn't. It doesn't name its source, though. Do you remember which boko discussed Andorian reproduction most thoroughly?

Quote:

She also produces zhiassa- milk- to nourish it after birth. I'm guessing mammalian standards are being applied, not necesarilly scientific definitions?.
Ironically, the development of mammary glands in the female organism of a species is the defining characteristic of mammals. (I'm not sure whether that makes Andorians mammals. The shen, like Pava, appear to have breasts, but their function - and functionality - aren't known, while the zhen don't appear to be scientifically female.)

Quote:

I assume shens do not produce milk (hence the zh beginning their word for milk-equivalent, it's a zhen thing), and so may not have breasts. Zhens don't produce ova, so no problem there, but as for shens also not being female, maybe its just layman-human refusal to see a non-breasted furry-and-warm-blooded-looks-mammalian being as female, technical stuff aside? You know, mammalian biases?
That could be, but it wouldn't account for narrative instances.

Quote:

Or is it chromosomes? For the two "males", I'm guessing its chromosomes that prevent them being labelled male? Do "male" and "female" only apply to organisms with paired chromosomes? Biology is not my strongest subject...:) Any help from someone who does know?
They don't apply only to such organisms. The definitions of male and female are intended to function across all possible domains of life.

Cicero July 25 2009 07:05 PM

Re: The Andorian sexes
 
Quote:

Christopher wrote: (Post 3228676)
Quote:

captcalhoun wrote: (Post 3228500)
this is why i think four sexes is so stupid. it's just needlessly complex. nature prefers simplicity, not complexity like this.

Nature has no preference because it has no sentience. Evolution is a random process that produces lots of traits that are far from the most efficient or ideal approach to a problem; as long as they work well enough to do the job and don't impair survival, there's no selective pressure to replace them.

Besides, in an alien biosphere there could be a reason why multiple sexes provide an advantage. For instance, if a planet has stronger background radiation than Earth, it would have a higher rate of mutation, in which case it might be advantageous for the planet's organisms to have a more robust error-checking mechanism. One such method might be to have three or four sexes, meaning three or four copies of each gene, with "majority rule" deciding which genes are expressed; a mutation would thereby be neutralized unless it occurred in the genes of at least two or three of the parents, something which is more likely to be true of a beneficial trait than a harmful one.

Excellent points. Andorian physiology is fascinating for the evolutionary possibilities it suggests.

Deranged Nasat July 25 2009 07:11 PM

Re: The Andorian sexes
 
Quote:

Cicero wrote: (Post 3228749)
Quote:

Deranged Nasat wrote: (Post 3228478)
I do not know how "male" and "female" are described, so I can't be much help there. However, I'm pretty sure all four sexes contribute genetic material. The shen produces an "egg", if I remember correctly, and then the chan and thaan both add their genetic material (I assume they both have a penis or similar organ), then the shen transfers the "egg" somehow to the zhen, who adds her material and carries the child to term.

I'd thought the zhen contributed genetically, but Memory Beta says she doesn't. It doesn't name its source, though. Do you remember which boko discussed Andorian reproduction most thoroughly?


Quote:

I assume shens do not produce milk (hence the zh beginning their word for milk-equivalent, it's a zhen thing), and so may not have breasts. Zhens don't produce ova, so no problem there, but as for shens also not being female, maybe its just layman-human refusal to see a non-breasted furry-and-warm-blooded-looks-mammalian being as female, technical stuff aside? You know, mammalian biases?
That could be, but it wouldn't account for narrative instances.

Quote:

Or is it chromosomes? For the two "males", I'm guessing its chromosomes that prevent them being labelled male? Do "male" and "female" only apply to organisms with paired chromosomes? Biology is not my strongest subject...:) Any help from someone who does know?
They don't apply only to such organisms. The definitions of male and female are intended to function across all possible domains of life.

Thank you for more insight. As I said, genetics and reproduction is an area in which my knowledge is rather shamefully poor.

I'm afraid I don't recall a book- I'm not 100% sure I got it right anyway. As for Pava, later labelled a shen, having breasts...good catch. The Deranged Nasat may be forced to turn his axe on himself because of his prior comments ;)

Christopher July 25 2009 08:40 PM

Re: The Andorian sexes
 
Quote:

Deranged Nasat wrote: (Post 3228687)
Quote:

Christopher wrote: (Post 3228676)
Besides, in an alien biosphere there could be a reason why multiple sexes provide an advantage. For instance, if a planet has stronger background radiation than Earth, it would have a higher rate of mutation, in which case it might be advantageous for the planet's organisms to have a more robust error-checking mechanism. One such method might be to have three or four sexes, meaning three or four copies of each gene, with "majority rule" deciding which genes are expressed; a mutation would thereby be neutralized unless it occurred in the genes of at least two or three of the parents, something which is more likely to be true of a beneficial trait than a harmful one.

Ah yes, your own Squales were like that, weren't they? :)

Oh, so that's where I used that idea.

Therin of Andor July 26 2009 12:04 AM

Re: The Andorian sexes
 
Quote:

Cicero wrote: (Post 3228319)
We're told that the four Andorian sexes roughly correspond to two male sexes and two female sexes, but that they aren't literally male or female.

That description also covers their outward appearance. To an outsider, two Andorian sexes appear male and two female. However Shar is a more androgynous male than his bondmate, Anichent. In Shar's first cover appearance, the dreadlocked (Asian?) model is quite androgynous.

Quote:

Deranged Nasat wrote: (Post 3228774)
I'd thought the zhen contributed genetically, but Memory Beta says she doesn't. It doesn't name its source, though. Do you remember which boko discussed Andorian reproduction most thoroughly?

From my site:
"During the conception of an Andorian child, the chan adds his gametes to those of the shen, which have already been fertilized by the thaan. The zygote is then implanted into the zhen's pouch." [Unity (Pocket, 2003) by SD Perry.]

"Only the Evaste Elders can give permission to release bondmates from their bethrothal. Tezha, or sexual union outside the shelthreth, is frowned upon. Shar and Thriss engaged in this many years ago and kept the secret from their bondmates." [Andor: Paradigm by Heather Jarman in Worlds of Deep Space Nine, Book 1 (Pocket, 2004).]

Also, re the plant:
"Shanchen's Mantle is a native Andorian plant with small, furry, moss-like flowers in yellow and white. When Phillipa Mathias becomes a victim of the Andorian shax, a poisonous, parasitic insect that nests under the skin of its host, a previously unknown strain of Shanchen's Mantle was discovered by Shar's group in their search for a natural antidote while within The Reserve. Doctor sh'Veileth realises that this primitive variety of the plant has a four-gamete fertilization process, similar to Andorians themselves. This is the evidence that Andorians had always sought to prove that they were native their home planet." [Andor: Paradigm by Heather Jarman in Worlds of Deep Space Nine, Book 1 (Pocket, 2004).]

Quote:

Deranged Nasat wrote: (Post 3228774)
As for Pava, later labelled a shen, having breasts...good catch.

Both "female" Andorian sexes have breasts. To an outsider, two Andorian sexes appear female. (And most human males have nipples that we never use for suckling young.)

I assume that Theskians, with their blue skin, antennae and yellow fur-like hair, and a race said to be "related" to Andorians, but "more gregarious" [Metamorphosis (Pocket, 1990) by Jean Lorrah] suffer the same genetic problems as Andorians (or TrekLit just forgot about them), since no one mentions studying them during the search for the plant.

(Lorrah had intended that Thralen the Theskian actually be an Andorian, but was requested by the then-Star Trek Office at Paramount to make the change, since there were "no Andorians among the
Enterprise-D crew". Jean Lorrah was seemingly paying homage to some Andorian speculations from the old zine article, A Summary of the Physiological Roots of Andorian Culture (1976) by Leslie Fish, a friend from her fanfic days, eg. references to Thralen's "the Great Mother" deity.)

King Daniel Into Darkness July 27 2009 02:20 PM

Re: The Andorian sexes
 
I always thought it weird that the Ent-relaunch books tried to portray the Andorians as 4-gendered (based on a thowaway line by Data iirc) when that clearly wasn't the case in the Ent TV series. The novels even implied Shran was a 'deviant' for only having one mate. It didn't ring true for me.

Christopher July 27 2009 02:24 PM

Re: The Andorian sexes
 
Quote:

KingDaniel wrote: (Post 3234471)
I always thought it weird that the Ent-relaunch books tried to portray the Andorians as 4-gendered (based on a thowaway line by Data iirc) when that clearly wasn't the case in the Ent TV series.

How was it "clearly" not the case in ENT? Nobody ever actually said "Andorians have only two sexes," it was just implied.

King Daniel Into Darkness July 27 2009 02:28 PM

Re: The Andorian sexes
 
^It would have come up. Especially since Archer and Shran were so tight near the end

William Leisner July 27 2009 02:37 PM

Re: The Andorian sexes
 
Quote:

KingDaniel wrote: (Post 3234497)
^It would have come up. Especially since Archer and Shran were so tight near the end

Really? So you discuss your bedroom habits with your casual acquaintances? :vulcan:

And I suppose, by the same token, Archer informed Shran about the freaky thing Erika Hernandez liked to do with her tongue...?


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