• Published 23rd Oct 2012
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The Xenophile's Guide to Equestria - archonix

A chronicle of Twilight Sparkle's life with the human Lero and his herd. Based on Xenophilia.

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Taxonomic Moments

Human May Force Reclassification Of Species

Originally printed in Harmony and Nature (1217, Issue 902, p.4)

The discovery of an extinct species of great ape resembling the recently-arrived ‘human’ has forced a radical rethink of the way the great apes are classified, and may prompt the creation of a completely new sub-family.

Recently uncovered at an archaeological dig in southern Impalawi, the new ape species appears morphologically distinct from the extant Panini, except for Pan pediobates, the Zebrican Gracile Plains Ape, with which it shares a number of common features, including a lack of sagittal crest, reduced occipital ridge, pronouncedly neotenous facial features and a relative shortening of the forelimbs.

The presence of items that may be primitive stone tools has also been noted, but archaeologists in the field are not willing to confirm the possibility.

A reclassification of Pan pediobates as Heme pediobates, along with the creation of the genus Heme to encompass both H. pediobates and the new discovery, tentatively named Heme habilis, is currently under consideration. The inclusion and classification of the human as Heme sapiens advena is also a distinct possibility.

Classification of the Pony and Related Species

sub-order Hippomorpha
└Genus Equus

├ Wild Horse Equus ferus

│ ├ Equestrian Wild Horse Equus ferus facies horrida

│ ├ Southern Wild Horse Equus ferus huwinima

│ └ Modern Horse Equus sapiens indeprensa

├ Modern Pony Equus nobilis

│ ├ Pegasus Pony Equus nobilis pegasus

│ ├ Earth Pony Equus nobilis lutus

│ ├ Unicorn Equus nobilis optima

│ ┆

│ └ Pseudo-pegacorn Equus nobilis pansimila

├ Zebra Equus zebra

│ └ Tribal Zebra Equus zebra sapiens

├ Donkey Equus asinus sordida

├ True Pegacorn (Alicorn) Equus panoptica

├ Northern Pony Equus brevis adipemus

└ Sea Pony (postulated) Equus bipes

Descent of the Pony

Whilst fossil evidence is sparse, the modern Pony is thought to have emerged in the Old World some 150,000 to 200,000 years ago. Other sapient equines are thought to have emerged at around the same time; given their close relation to similar non-sapient species, a common sapient ancestor for all sapient equines has been ruled out.

The earliest known ancestor of both E. nobilis and E. panoptica appears to be Equus magus crestatus. Several specimens of E. magus were discovered in the Bittish Isles, in caves near the town of Buckston. In many ways E. magus resembles a modern Earth Pony, with a similarly dense bone structure and robust body, though it has a number of archaisms such as an enlarged muzzle, smaller orbits, and a much smaller cranial capacity.

Close examination of surviving fossils has revealed several structures that appear to be analogous to magic-focussing structures found in modern ponies. The limbs and spine are threaded with numerous magum fossae, as is the dorsal skull and upper forehead, where a primitive horn-like structure can be found on several examples. A number of similar structures are found on the dorsal, forming a dual crest that is dense with fossae, accompanied by a rudimentary limb girdle, (fig a.) which appear to be analogous to vestigial structures found in the midlimbs of E. nobilis pegasus and E. panoptica. Similar vestigial structures occasionally appear in other modern ponies[1], indicating that this is either an ancestor of modern ponies or a very closely related sister of that ancestor.

fig. a: Reconstruction of E. magus crestatus

Following E. magus we find the appearance of Equus munda, the first pony to make use of primitive tools, as attested by the discovery of flint axe-heads in close proximity. E. munda appears to have had some rudimentary magical ability and was apparently able to “hold” small objects in its forehooves, which are riddled with magum fossae, likely indicating the presence of rudimentary structures analogous to those found in all modern ponies, whilst other structures found in E. magus appear to have receded or become entirely vestigial.

E. munda appears to be followed by several related species, all of which are now extinct, and Equus matercula robustus, the so-called Mother of Ponies, who once again bore close resemblance to the modern Earth Pony. E. matercula is taxonomically almost identical to modern ponies, though archaic and larger, with a similar cranial capacity, but still displaying slightly divergent orbits as a final remnant of her prey-species ancestry. A similar divergence occasionallymanifests in modern ponies as Buttermilk’s Divergent Orbital Regression Syndrome.

From E. matercula we find Equus nobilis, all three subspecies of which diverged from E. matercula approximately 0.2 Ma ago, though no intermediate forms of either E. nobilis optima, or E. nobilis pegasus have been found.

Meanwhile, the evolution of the True Pegacorn took place in parallel to the Archaic Earth Pony in a nearly linear descent from E. magus crestatus.

The fossil data available indicates that the crest for which E. magus crestatus is named was soon adapted from its original purpose to serve first as a rudimentary gliding surface and then transformed, through a remarkable process of convergent evolution, into a fully functional analogue of an avian wing.

The limb girdle and wing both appear in a more defined form in Equus magus protopega (fig. b), though the wing is obviously non-functional and seems to act as a manipulatory limb of some sort. The primary spindle has elongated and jointed and a rudimentary grasping claw has appeared on the tip, whilst the other spindles have reduced to almost vestigial spines arrayed around the protoform "shoulder", where a few have extended to form protofeathers. The entire limb is strung with extremely fine magum fossae that appear similar to those found in the Pegasus wing, indicating at least limited ability to manipulate air and electrical phenomena.

fig. b: E. magus protopega with speculative use of midlimbs.

The fully-formed wing appears in Equus pegasus optiforma. At this point the wing seems to be adapted to gliding rather than flying and probably served as a way for E. pegasus optiforma to leap long distances or escape from predators. The claw remains in a reduced form, as it will do in every subsequent species to descend from this one.

As evidenced by the discovery of several intact, if brittle primary feathers at one optiforma site, the near-indestructible nature of the primary feathers is already apparent, a clear sign of the increasingly refined and complex magical use of the limb.

There has been some study on the possibility that E. pegasus optiforma was advanced enough to form a civilisation. Whilst some intriguing evidence has been found, there is little solid proof of the possibility.

Approximately 0.4 to 0.3 Ma B.P. sees the arrival of Equus aliparvus. Apart from its size, E. aliparvus was essentially identical to the modern True Pegacorn, E. panoptica, and presumably capable of very powerful magical manipulation. Studies of modern E. panoptica are, for obvious reasons, extremely limited so only rudimentary comparisons are possible.

Approximate comparison of E. nobilis pegasus, E. aliparvus and E. panoptica in profile.

Genetic studies indicate that the speciation of the modern pony into the three closely related sub-species of E. nobilis was a result of interbreeding between E. matercula and the now extinct E. aliparvus. This late hybridisation and subsequent speciation explains both the relatively sudden appearance of fully-developed wings in E. nobilis pegasus and the horn of E. nobilis optima, the generally more gracile appearance of the species, as well as a number of inter-related syndromes that occur in all sub-species of E. nobilis, most notably Snugglepuff-Alondro syndrome[2].

This syndrome in particular encourages further study of the genetic history of our species. Current studies indicate several possible avenues for further investigation that might reveal a potential cure for the syndrome, and further, more in-depth research will be required.

fig. c The descent of E. nobilis and E. panoptica

[1] Spiniform Wingroot and The Unicorn’s Curse (more accurately known as an Inverse coniformic magum teratoma) are just two possible congenital defects thought to be caused by partial expression of vestigial magical organs. The former usually manifests as harmless nubs or spines behind the scapula, which can be removed with relatively simple surgery, though they can be dangerous to a pegasus in their more extreme form. The Unicorn’s Curse, the growth of a vestigial corniform structure in the forebrain and an associated build-up of magical potential, is invariably fatal.

[2] “The study revealed that around 70% of male fœtuses either miscarry within a few days of fertilisation, or develop into a peculiar form of triploid that first divides into two structures, each containing a stable diploid, one containing the male sex chromosome and one the female, before ejecting the cells containing the male sex chromosome in the second week of the pregnancy.” Snugglepuff, Alondro - High incidences of spontaneous abortion and sterility in male offspring and their likely causes - Harmony and Nature (1176, issue 787, p 21).

The Unicorns Curse is blatantly stolen from The All American Girl side stories.