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Designing a race of cave-dwelling people

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Jabrosky, Mar 25, 2014.

  1. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    This came about when I was brainstorming story ideas for one of my jungle huntress heroines. In the scenario I have imagined, she accidentally crashes into an underground cavern world with creatures specially adapted for a subterranean existence. Among these are a unique race of human beings who you might call literally cave-people, or troglodytes. They live as hunter-gatherers scavenging off any other life they can find in the caves, and they have developed a strong distrust of surface-dwelling black people such as my heroine (the sentiment is actually mutual). Nonetheless she might need their help in climbing back to the surface world, assuming they even know where the exit is.

    These cave-dwellers have physical adaptations such of these to survive in their cavern habitat:

    * Loss of melanin pigmentation (they look like albino Africans)

    * Larger noses for a better sense of smell

    * Smaller eyes with weaker vision (trade-off for better smell)

    * Lower metabolism so that they can go without food for longer periods of time

    Now comes the matter of their society. Despite their foraging economy, the troglodytes don't live in nomadic bands but in small territorial clans that stick close to subterranean pools or rivers. Each clan has one special totem, always an animal which they revere and abstain from eating except in desperate circumstances. For example, one of these clans venerates the giant cave-serpent, which is not really a snake but a legless abelisaur (i.e. a carnivorous dinosaur related to Carnotaurus). I think my heroine might end up slaying a cave-serpent, which offends the clan she visits in the story and thus complicates her efforts to escape the caves.

    Any thoughts or suggestions?
  2. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

    That you specify skin color sends up a great big red flag for me. Even if you don't mean to make any comment about race and even if albinism is logical in the face of a subterranean existence, the racial conflict between Caucasians and Africans is SO ingrained into the forefront of the modern American's mind that I can't help but think that people are going to read something into that which isn't there.
  3. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    Oh, come on. One of the amazing qualities of the human imagination is the power to read all manner of subtexts into the most innocuous material. That's the main reason anything ever written is going to offend someone out there. Besides, white people in most industrialized countries are hardly the most oppressed demographic in the world.

    Now, considering that albino people really are victims of discrimination and persecution in parts of Africa, it's possible that someone might see an anti-albino subtext in this idea. But then my troglodytes aren't proper albinos but their own race, and even if they do antagonize my heroine at times, they're not really a villainous race as such.
  4. nightbug08

    nightbug08 Dreamer

    My first thought was that someone with such slow metabolism might not be able to keep up with a surface dweller. Where would they get the energy from? Or is your heroine forced to slow down to match the trogs?
  5. Trick

    Trick Auror

    I would imagine that they would be small of stature and even someonewhat hunched from adapting to cave travel and poor diet. Of course, your caves could all be very large but that's just what came to mind. Poor nutrition causing folks to be small is a very real thing though. The average height in Ireland before the potato famine was like 5'7" and many Irish immigrants had children who grew well over six feet. With the dietary change, it only took one generation for the genome to show it's true potential. It is true in reverse. As long as they don't seem too much like Gollum, they could be a very interesting addition to your story.
  6. Aspasia

    Aspasia Sage

    Also very good hearing, I'd expect. They would be able to survive off of poorer nutrition -- their bodies would have to be very good at extracting nutrients from whatever source they can get. I'd also worry about vitamin D intake, which since they live in subterranean caves would be impossible to get by sunlight. Apparently there are species of lichen which can provide adequate amounts of vit D, which could easily grow in the caves. Wiki page on cave dwelling animals : Troglofauna - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia . They're very energy-efficient, which makes sense. Perhaps they only need to eat a large meal every few days and can get along burning up the energy from that meal, subsisting on smaller quantities of food until the next one.
    Jabrosky likes this.

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