|Lifespan||60 years (average)|
|Description||Self-evolving superorganism. Large, round, two-coloured eyes|
Olive-green-coloured skin of various shades
Accelerated, self-aware evolution
The Darsa are a species native to the planet Darya. They are commonly found in the mid-regions of the Far North Arm, mostly concentrated within the territory of their most powerful polity, the United Communes.
Darsa can be considered superorganisms, as their bodies are constructed by millions of small multicellular organisms working in concert and in a symbiotic relationship with the brain. Consequently, Darsi bodies are remarkably resilient, as they are capable of rapidly regenerating damaged organs and tissue. These "builder" organisms also allow for hyper-accelerated, self-aware evolution, which over millennia has resulted in the appearance of several markedly distinct subspecies of Darsa.
Etymology and definition
The word Darsa generally refers to the dominant species of the planet Darya. Found in modern Maviba, Darsa is ultimately derived from Monba Tōrsa as the adjective form of Tōr'ya, meaning "life-ground" — a word used to describe the Darsi homeworld. The word's use as a noun dates to the 2nd century AK.
Darsi physiology can vary widely from subspecies to subspecies. However, all varieties have a similar body plan. They possess four limbs: two arms and two legs. In all subspecies, a Darsa's arms are each composed of three sections — the upper arm, forearm, and hand — which are joined together by joints at each end. The joints at the wrist and shoulder are ball joints, allowing for free, 360-degree movement of each section; the elbow has a hinge joint. Each hand features four fingers, including an opposable thumb, allowing Darsa to utilise tools and grasp objects. Legs are structured similarly, with a thigh, calf and foot making up each leg. Unlike the hands, the feet of a Darsa are webbed. The characteristics of Darsi limbs allow for a distinctive adeptness at swimming. Darsa are bipedal; they only use their legs to walk. They also have a long tail, assisting stability, as well as helping them to swim.
Darsa possess craniums which are proportionately larger compared to other animals on Darya, which compensates for proportionately larger brain mass. Darsi brains have a relatively well-developed neocortex, prefrontal cortex and temporal lobes, which allow for abstract reasoning, language, and other forms of higher intelligence which grant the Darsa sapience.
Darsi eyes are large and round, and colours can vary from dark brown to light blue. The eyes are positioned so as to enable binocular vision. They are also covered with a thin, red-coloured translucent film which serves dual functions of protecting the eyes underwater, allowing for clear sight while submerged; and of protecting the eyes from the red light of the sun, which results in its red colour. It is because of this film that another distinctive feature in Darsa are the two-coloured eyes of individuals.
When Darsa first evolved, tympanums developed as part of their auditory mechanisms. The tympanum is a thin membrane located on the side of a Darsa's head to protect the middle and inner ears, but does not actually process any sound. It instead simply transmits sound waves to the inner parts of the ear. Some terrestrial subspecies have since developed outer ears to replace the tympanum.
The skin of Darsa is smooth and olive-coloured. Millions of microscopic pores on the skin of various types exist. Darsa possess both eccrine and apocrine sweat glands which serve to thermoregulate the body, as well as sebaceous glands to help lubricate and waterproof the skin.
Darsi reproduction takes place through external fertilisation. During this process, an individual releases a large egg sac which contains millions of ova, one of which is larger than the others. Their mate then releases sperm into the sac to fertilise the eggs. All the fertilised small zygotes divide into builder organisms. Meanwhile, the larger zygote divides to become the central nervous system. Over a period of eighteen months, the builder organisms construct the rest of the body, including the skeletal, cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive and integumentary systems. After this span of time, the fully grown fetus hatches, breaking through the sac's outer membrane and emerging. The infant breathes independently for the first time, and it is at this point that the baby is recognised by Darsi culture as a person under the full protection of the law.
Darsi infants typically weigh about 3–4 kg in weight and 50–60 cm in height at hatching. Helpless at hatching, Darsa continue to grow for several years, typically reaching sexual maturity at nine to thirteen years of age. They continue to develop physically until around the age of fifteen. The lifespan of Darsa can be divided into a number of stages: infancy, childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, adulthood and old age. The lengths of these stages, however, have varied across cultures and time periods. Darsa experience rapid growth spurts during adolescence, where the body grows 25% in size. In old age, Darsa become infertile, preventing them from bearing children. It has been hypothesised that this characteristic evolved to increase a Darsa's overall reproductive success by allowing them to invest more time and resources in their existing offspring, and in turn their children, rather than by continuing to bear children into old age.
As Darsa grow older, their builders become less and less efficient at rebuilding the body, resulting in aging. The degradation of the builders depends on two major factors: genetics and lifestyle. At hatching, the average life expectancy of a Darsa is estimated at 60.4 standard years. However, there is wide variation in life expectancy. The oldest recorded age for a Darsa is 86.8 years. There has been an upward trend in life expectancy from generation to generation since Darsa entered space, as developments in medical technology have allowed for the reparation and even replacement of builders.
- Main article: History of the Darsa