a strange species
maybe the strangest thing about these creatures who do not even have a common name is the fact that they only just have been discovered. how could a species, and a whole planet inhabited by them, be kept hidden from the eyes of science for so long? did they elude from the visible world on purpose or were they victims of a human ignorance that disesteems everything it does not understand? that tends to deny beauty if it is not of earthly or, still worse, of human origin.
now that we know they exist we have to admit that they call into question nearly everything we thought we knew about the laws of reproduction and evolution. when we said that the strangest thing about them were the millenniums of secret existence they lead this does not mean that it was their only peculiarity. on the contrary.
what was there first? berta or ono? our strange species adds a completely new dimension to this question which recalls the mother of all questions. berta is a female, permanently in search of food, together with her offspring. a strenuous undertaking in the barren landscape of terra which at the most knows how to satisfy the needs of the eye, but not those of the body. needless to expect help from the male who is only useful for copulation and hardly able to care for himself. he prefers to gang up with other males, to roam about haphazardly and to wait for another female to send out her attractants which is the only stimulus that serves as an incentive in his dull existence. after having done his duties he lapses back into apathy and would not recognize his own offspring even if it stood in front of him.
so the self-sacrificing berta is the epitome of the maternal principle. she takes loving care of her offspring and often undertakes long walks to find them something to eat. she does not have any natural enemies. no creature would dare to approach this gigantic figure and to submit to her hatred that hits anyone who might be a threat to her offspring.
the young itself is all the more helpless. without its mother’s protection it would be inevitably doomed to die. so the predominant picture in terra – apart from the dreary gatherings of the males – is this: an ono, of a still uncertain walk and blind for its surroundings that are as impressive as menacing, followed by the giant shadow of its mother. and yet this helpless creature is of enormous importance for the future of its species. yes, of course its existence is the basis for the survival of the species. but there is a very special responsibility that rests on its, well, shoulders – if you excuse this rather inappropriate term.
the reason is that the ono, which is born sexless, has to decide for itself whether it wants to become a male or a female, whether it wants to succeed its undutiful father or its provident mother. what a decision! once the decision is made, the ono’s childhood ends and a phase of two years of gradual withdrawal from the mother begins. but how does this innocent creature come to terms with the incredible burden of its decision? how is it that not all onos succeed the mighty mother but that nearly half of them submit to the obviously dreary fate of their fathers? and would not the whole species be doomed to extinction if this was not the case?
a strange planet, this bleak terra, but not lacking beauty. at any rate it raises more questions than it answers. you could almost get the impression that the nameless males know more about what is going on than you would credit them with. but only almost.