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Old February 8 2014, 01:48 AM   #1
USS Triumphant
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Idea for the Mechanics of a Four-Sex Species (Andorians)

Early in the history of life on Andor, there were two species. One was a small, very primitive plant species that used a reproductive strategy similar to some plants here on Earth, in that they relied on a carrier species to spread their reproductive cells. We'll call this carrier species proto-bees, since I'm seeing them in this scenario to be a less evolved species than our own bees (we're talking barely multi-cellular life for both them and the plant species at this point). Anyway, the way it would work is that a proto-bee would pick up some of the plant cells, and then carry them to another plant, where a proto-bee mate would be waiting. The mate would excrete a sex cell and "excitement" (chemical response) from that would cause the first proto-bee to eject material from its body - which would include the cells from the first plant as well as a few proto-bee sex cells. The plant is now fertilized, the proto-bee sex cells are joined so there are now going to be baby proto-bees which will grow in the leftover material in the plant.

Eventually, this symbiotic relationship combined with regular proximity of their sex cells and possibly some other force (lightning? a miracle? ) caused intermingling of genetic material (sort of like a modified version of the way animal cells co-opted mitochondria) and eventually the two sexes of the two species effectively became four sexes of one species:

Sex 1 (chan, closest to original plant male) releases a sex cell into Sex 2.
Sex 2 (thaan, closest to original proto-bee male) collects the cell to carry, adds an additional sex cell.
Sex 3 (shen, closest to original proto-bee female) releases a sex cell and a chemical into Sex 4, and this provokes Sex 2 to release its sex cells (including those from Sex 1) into Sex 4, as well. (without this chemical, Sex 2 can't release).
Sex 4 (zhen, closest to original plant female) accepts all of this material, becomes pregnant.

Any thoughts or suggestions?
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Last edited by USS Triumphant; February 8 2014 at 09:09 PM.
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Old February 8 2014, 06:37 PM   #2
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Re: Idea for the Mechanics of a Four-Sex Species (Andorians)

Really? No takers? I don't even mind if someone more learned in evolutionary biology or genetics than myself tells me why this is completely stupid.
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Old February 8 2014, 07:59 PM   #3
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Re: Idea for the Mechanics of a Four-Sex Species (Andorians)

USS Triumphant wrote: View Post
Really? No takers?
Jezz buddy it's a Saturday. Personally I just woke up with a hang over.

Just give it some time.

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Old February 8 2014, 08:07 PM   #4
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Re: Idea for the Mechanics of a Four-Sex Species (Andorians)

I posted it yesterday at 7:48pm. There has been a ton of conversatin' goin' on in here since then. Your inability to stand to your liquor is your own problem.

I really wasn't being impatient - the primary point of my second post was to make it clear that I wouldn't be offended by having my first one torn to ribbons by someone capable of doing so knowledgably, in case the reason for the silence was that people were being too polite to comment on my possibly stupid post.
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Old February 8 2014, 09:02 PM   #5
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Re: Idea for the Mechanics of a Four-Sex Species (Andorians)

Okay this is what I worked out a while ago.

First off all Andorians, regardless of gender, are biped mammals. The thaan, and the chan both have penises (or it's analogy). The shen has a penis, a vagina, ovaries and fallopian tubes (but no uterus), and the zhen has a vagina and the uterus (but no ovaries or fallopian tubes). The thaan and the chan separately have sex with the shen, this creates the zygotes, then the shen has sex with the zhen, to impregnate the "mother."

The zhen contributes no chromosomes.
The shen's egg has a double XX chromosomes.
The thaan's sperm has a single X chromosomes.

The chan's sperm (like the thaan's), has a single chromosomes, however the chan's sperm possesses one of four different chromosomes (not just a X or a Y), and it is the chan alone that determine the gender of the future child. I have no idea how the four different chromosomes would be shaped.

Forming into a four member family group is a psychological/sexual compulsion for Andorians after a certain age.

What Andorian biology has done is separate the ovaries from the uterus. With Human Beings towards the end of the pregnancy, while not exactly helpless, the ovaries/uterus have a certain amount of problem getting around and protecting itself. With Andorians, while the uterus is pregnant, the separate ovaries can move around more freely to care for and protect the uterus. With a Human family group the ovaries/uterus have the direct aid of a single pair of testicles, with Andorians the uterus has the aid (in the family group) of three others, not just one.

While the fertilization procedure may seem complex, separating the ovaries from the uterus into two individuals would seem to be a enhancement to survival, not a determent.

Statistically each Andorian gender is 25% of all births. Multiple births are the norm. It is possible for two thaan to fertilize a shen's eggs, but it is quite rare. With two chan (with the likely odd mix of chomosomes) miscarries, stillborns, and birth defects are a high probability and double chan sex is a strong societal taboo.

The shen and the zhen have mammary glands and take care of of nursing the young. The shen's glands become activate several month after having possessed a fertile zygote.

Adult shen tend to be physically larger than the other three genders, chan and thaan are approximately the same size, zhen are the smallest of the four.

On Enterprise, Talas was a shen.



P.S. I stand to my liquor quite well, I'll have you know that I very rarely leave it on the floor after drinking it.


Last edited by T'Girl; February 8 2014 at 09:27 PM.
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Old February 8 2014, 09:44 PM   #6
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Re: Idea for the Mechanics of a Four-Sex Species (Andorians)

I like what you've done there, and it isn't wholly incompatible with mine, since you're focusing more on the current biology, and I'm focused more on how such a reproductive scenario would have gotten a start early in the evolutionary processes of their planet. I agree about the zhen having three protectors/caregivers being a good survival strategy. There's only two things that bother me about it, just a little:

1. We seem to know from TrekLit that Andorians are born singly (and that it is difficult to even get that to happen). Which is disappointing, because it doesn't fit your scenario, nor does it fit mine particularly well, since while not completely necessary, I think mine would have probably resulted in births in multiples of two, with one of each pair being either a chan or a zhen, and the other being either a thaan or a shen. Of course, maybe the fact that that doesn't seem to be the case for modern Andorians is part of why they are having a problem maintaining their population....

2. Not sure about the "mammal" bit, but certainly close enough to be whatever their planet's evolutionary analog would be to mammalian. That said, I don't think all of their genitals would match up quite so well to ours in description. I don't see the shen having a penis and a vagina, but something more like an ovipositor. Chans would have an almost vagina-like stamen organ whose purpose would be to powder or otherwise coat the outside of the thaan's penis with sex cells, and then just as their two-sexed ancestors (in my scenario) did to reproduce, both shen and thaan would place their sex cells inside the zhen's vagina-like pistil organ - always shen first, and then thaan, because the thaan needs the chemicals that the shen leaves behind in order to release - or at least, they make it easier.

One of the scientific attempts to promote faster and more successful reproduction for them in TrekLit - something that many Andorians found unnatural and distasteful - involved offspring that resulted from the mating of only two Andorians. My guess would be that this was from combining cells from either shen and thaan together, or from chan and zhen together, and then trying to fill in what was missing in either case with genetic engineering. It would work, somewhat, because it is basically taking them back to their two antecedent species, but there's little wonder that it was ultimately shown to cause birth defects, since the two species DID become genetically interdependent, and some of that would be missing.
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Old February 9 2014, 12:58 AM   #7
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Re: Idea for the Mechanics of a Four-Sex Species (Andorians)

USS Triumphant wrote: View Post
I don't see the shen having a penis and a vagina
Ever see those videos of how octopus have sex? Maybe the shen do something like that, a little Japanese hentai tentacle sex.



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Old February 9 2014, 03:03 AM   #8
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Re: Idea for the Mechanics of a Four-Sex Species (Andorians)

USS Triumphant wrote: View Post
Really? No takers? I don't even mind if someone more learned in evolutionary biology or genetics than myself tells me why this is completely stupid.
Hey, give 'em time -- they're probably trying it out!
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Old February 9 2014, 04:03 AM   #9
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Re: Idea for the Mechanics of a Four-Sex Species (Andorians)

Given that explanation my question is, if the zhen contributes no genetic material what is the zhen's evolutionary incentive to mate?

It then follows that given no evolutionary benefit the zhen likely does not enjoy sex, and it is the zhen who must be courted. The other three must provide resources and stability to the zhen's brothers, sisters and bristers in order to entice him to mate.

And it's also probably the case that in early Andor society, zhen were given away in marriage to secure family alliances.

Also Andorian porn probably features the zhen most prominently, with a shen in the background focusing attention on the zhen.
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Old February 9 2014, 04:20 AM   #10
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Re: Idea for the Mechanics of a Four-Sex Species (Andorians)

Come to think of it, to approximate how zhen must have been treated in Andorian society, try taking what human women go through and multiply it by ten. Parents have no evolutionary incentive to support a zhen child. Maybe one reason for the population problems is parents genetically selecting their children not to be zhen. I imagine zhen children are often conscripted into marriage at birth and raised by the shen's parents, because the shen's parents need a zhen to pass on their own genes but the zhen's parents don't.
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Old February 9 2014, 06:53 AM   #11
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Re: Idea for the Mechanics of a Four-Sex Species (Andorians)

Well, actually, I meant to say that the zhen contributes a sex cell internally toward the pregnancy, but I didn't spell that out, did I?
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Old February 9 2014, 08:51 AM   #12
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Re: Idea for the Mechanics of a Four-Sex Species (Andorians)

Interesting theories, but honestly I have trouble imagining that four separate sexes would be an extreme evolutionary disadvantage. Just think about how hard it is to find emotionally compatible mates with only two people involved. And the majority of those possible combinations don't even produce offspring.

Now try to imagine needing to find at least three people that not only are you compatible with, but are all compatible with each other. Such a society would need to have far different ideas about relationships, and chances are at least one of those genders would be forced in to some sort of "sex slave" or "baby maker" role in society. The only other way I would think it might work is with a species like the Vulcans, where emotional fulfillment isn't really an issue. Even then, it still feels overly complicated and evolution would eventually whittle down the number of genders.
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Old February 9 2014, 02:59 PM   #13
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Re: Idea for the Mechanics of a Four-Sex Species (Andorians)

T'Girl wrote: View Post
USS Triumphant wrote: View Post
I don't see the shen having a penis and a vagina
Ever see those videos of how octopus have sex? Maybe the shen do something like that, a little Japanese hentai tentacle sex.

I wouldn't call what the shen has a 'penis' so much as an 'ovipositor,' perhaps (which also kinda fits with the mostly debunked 'insectoid' theory from a long time ago).


JirinPanthosa wrote: View Post
Given that explanation my question is, if the zhen contributes no genetic material what is the zhen's evolutionary incentive to mate?

This has always been something that has confused me as well.

First of all, I don't know where this idea came from, because I can't for the life of me remember it ever being established in the books. So why did people suddenly start taking it as gospel?

And second, granted I'm no geneticist and I could have a total misunderstanding of some stuff, but as JirinPathosa states, if the zhen does not contribute genetic material, does it even really count as a 'sex' ? Is not one of the definitions of a 'sex' that it contributes something different to the genetic material of offspring from the other sex(es) ? The zhen is not really a 'sex' in that case, more of just a walking incubator.

T'Girl's breakdown of chromosomes sounds well-thought-out and plausible, but again it's only presumption from the evidence at hand and not established 'fact.'

As an added complication, also discussed in the 'homosexuals' thread ( btw), there is a world of complication between sex, gender and sexuality. The basic standard sexual orientation for Andorians would have to be tri-sexuality - one individual has to be sexually attracted the three other types for the whole thing to work at all.

There's a massive cultural imperative towards the standard quadri-sexuality of all four sexes at once, to the point that even heterosexuality (only two sexes) is culturally frowned upon if it takes place before the obligation to create offspring has been fulfilled. But it has been my impression that once that obligation has been fulfilled and the window of fertility has closed, anyone can do what they want.

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Old February 9 2014, 05:29 PM   #14
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Re: Idea for the Mechanics of a Four-Sex Species (Andorians)

lvsxy808 wrote: View Post
I wouldn't call what the shen has a 'penis' so much as an 'ovipositor,' perhaps (which also kinda fits with the mostly debunked 'insectoid' theory from a long time ago).
I mentioned that very word - ovipositor - almost immediately after the part you quoted. And what is debunked about it?

lvsxy808 wrote: View Post
JirinPanthosa wrote: View Post
Given that explanation my question is, if the zhen contributes no genetic material what is the zhen's evolutionary incentive to mate?
This has always been something that has confused me as well.
Let me reiterate that I in no way at any point meant to imply that the zhen was not contributing a sex cell to the process.
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Old February 9 2014, 06:05 PM   #15
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Re: Idea for the Mechanics of a Four-Sex Species (Andorians)

USS Triumphant wrote: View Post
lvsxy808 wrote: View Post
I wouldn't call what the shen has a 'penis' so much as an 'ovipositor,' perhaps (which also kinda fits with the mostly debunked 'insectoid' theory from a long time ago).
I mentioned that very word - ovipositor - almost immediately after the part you quoted. And what is debunked about it?
I only mean that many people seemed to assume that antennae = insectoid in the past, and it seems like that theory no longer holds sway. Someone upthread said "bipedal mammals" which is the very opposite of insectoid.

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