The Andorian sexes

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Cicero, Jul 25, 2009.

  1. Cicero

    Cicero Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2009
  2. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    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?
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2009
  3. captcalhoun

    captcalhoun Admiral Admiral

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    this is why i think four sexes is so stupid. it's just needlessly complex. nature prefers simplicity, not complexity like this.
     
  4. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    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.
     
  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    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.
     
  6. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    Ah yes, your own Squales were like that, weren't they? :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2009
  7. Cicero

    Cicero Admiral Admiral

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    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?

    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.)

    That could be, but it wouldn't account for narrative instances.

    They don't apply only to such organisms. The definitions of male and female are intended to function across all possible domains of life.
     
  8. Cicero

    Cicero Admiral Admiral

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

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    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 ;)
     
  10. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Oh, so that's where I used that idea.
     
  11. Therin of Andor

    Therin of Andor Admiral Admiral

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    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.

    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).]

    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.)
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2009
  12. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

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    ^It would have come up. Especially since Archer and Shran were so tight near the end
     
  15. William Leisner

    William Leisner Scribbler Rear Admiral

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    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...?
     
  16. Cicero

    Cicero Admiral Admiral

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    I think the broad structure of his marriage (for instance, how many persons he was married/bonded to) would be likely to have come up, excepting extreme cultural reticence to reveal anything about Andorian bonding to outsiders. Given Archer's curiosity, he would've been likely to learn at least a little about the fundamental differences between Andorians and Humans.

    That said, I don't think there's any indication that he wasn't aware of four-person Andorian bonding (or of Andorians having four sexes) by the end of the series.
     
  17. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Not necessarily. It's entirely possible for two cultures to have such profound biases towards a particular system or state of being that it never occurs to them not to assume that another culture shares their bias.

    For example, I've met many conservative Christians who simply never think about the possibility that somebody they meet is gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, or transsexual. They have such a profound bias towards heteronominativity that the possibility that someone belongs to the LGBT community never occurs to them and they never think to ask. I have seen more than a few of them openly insult LGBTs when someone else brought the topic up while in the presence of uncloseted LGBT individuals whom they had just assumed to be straight.

    In my own life, I happen to have a profound bias towards the idea of sexual equality. I do not believe in male dominance and the idea that a woman might believe in male dominance and female submission as legitimate ways of organizing a relationship (even in a non-sexual, non-fetishistic context) never occurred to me, so I was quite taken aback when a young lady that I had gone on several dates with, and even spent an evening with, told me that she felt that I was insufficiently dominant and wished to have a more dominant man she could feel submissive to. I simply took it for granted that she believed in sexual equality; it never occurred to me to ask.

    So I find it entirely plausible to think that Archer just assumed that Andorians have two sexes and never thought to ask Shran about it -- just as I find it entirely plausible to think that Shran might have just assumed that Humans have four sexes and never thought to ask about it.
     
  18. rahullak

    rahullak Commodore Commodore

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    ^
    Is that the lady you were courting instead of responding to my post in the Romulan States thread? :D
     
  19. Turtletrekker

    Turtletrekker Vice Admiral Admiral

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    When the DS9-R first introduced the idea of the four-gendered Andorians, it was treated as something that Andorians don't really discuss with off-worlders, much like Vulcans with Ponn Farr, the Trill with their Symbiotes. It's hardly an unprecedented occurance that a species will keep certain aspects of themselves under wraps from others. Kirk and Spock were tight, but neither Kirk nor McCoy knew about Ponn Farr until it was Spock's time.

    And I thought that The Good That Men Do integrated the four-gender thing perfectly into the ENT lit. Remember that Shran's "daughter" from TATV may have only existed in the work of fiction that Section 31 created.
     
  20. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Negatory, sir. The woman I described who believes in female submission was quite a while back.