Scavengers Reign | A deep dive into the unimaginable ecosystems

Scavengers Reign
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Scavengers Reign | A deep dive into the unimaginable ecosystems

If you clicked on this video , I assume that you  are a nerd or at least scientifically inclined. Which is great because if you haven’t watched the animation we are talking about today you are in for a treat. Scavengers Reign is an american animated tv drama that follows the story of a downed cargo vessel the Demeter 227 and its constituent crew who become stranded on the planet Vesta. This animation is an ecologist’s wet dream.

The environment of Vesta is flora dominated with the majority of the plant life displaying zoophytic properties. Darwin proposed that the capacity of organisms to produce more offspring than can be supported by the environment would lead to a struggle for existence, and individuals that are most fit for survival and reproduction would be selected through natural selection.  Basically survival of the fittest, Vesta takes that concept and cranks it up to 11. Hey everyone, welcome to Aniprop. Today we become extraplanetary ecologists and study the honestly quite ridiculous flora and fauna that have evolved on the planet Vesta.�

What Eon is Scavengers Reign in?

During the intro of the animation, we see a shot of Vesta from space. In this screen we see lots of red on the landmasses indicating high but not extreme levels of volcanic activity. This allows me to kinda date where this planet is in comparison with earth. I estimate that the planet is in its Phanerozoic eon. Which is two eons after the formation of the planet’s crust and it begins  to cool. This eon is characterized by the diversity of life which we can see play out in every episode of this animation. 

Organic Life in Scavengers Reign

The opening sequence shows us an organic conducting material that is  able to conduct high voltage and remain alive. This is one of the few harmless plants in the environment. Everything is significantly more harmful to organic life. The food chain on vesta exhibits a high percentage of carnivorous plants but even worse than the food chain is their methods of reproduction.

Scavengers Reign

Reproduction Strategies in Scavengers Reign

Sam and Ursula, the ship’s pilot and botanist respectively, are exposed to the reproduction methods of 2 unnamed species on Vesta. The first being a plant which samples animal DNA through blood capture. Once it captures the DNA of its victim it rapidly produces an adult clone from the sampled DNA. This cloned creature is able to locate its original, eliminate them and take its place in the animal’s herd. At some point the seed spontaneously explodes killing  the whole herd and spreading the DNA of the plant allowing it to reproduce among the nutrient rich corpses of the newly killed herd. This feels so alien and far fetched but on earth we have plants that exhibit similar behaviour.Plants such as the sandbox tree. Inorder to ensure that its offspring does not compete for the local resources the fruit of the sandbox tree explodes propelling the seeds within as far as it can into new soil. The seeds explode with a high velocity and loud bang which sometimes harms the surrounding fauna.

Sam and Ursula overcome this sandbox plant but Sam falls severely ill as a long term effect of the plant’s injection. A strange woman offers Ursula assistance to treat Sam, This woman infects SAM with a heart parasite. The parasite has an even more interesting reproduction strategy. It produces a seed which has to be ingested by its host. Once inside the body it compels the host to develop a habitat for it, even more horrifyingly is that it produces further seeds and compels the host to infect its peers. Sam as a result attempts to orally infect Ursula during the episode. This even though strange seeming is also not unusual in ecology, my favourite example of this is  zombie ant fungus; this fungus compels infected ants to leave their colony, climb to a specific height, and attach themselves to a leaf or plant. The fungus then consumes the ant from within, eventually bursting out of its body to release spores and infect other ants. That’s maybe even more messed up than the heart parasyte. Sam is able to kill the parasyte by ripping it from his body. He also dies during this separation. 

Scaavengers Reign ursula-and-sam

Mutualism in Scavengers Reign

In ecology we sometimes have rare cases where a parasyte improves its host like some bacteria inadvertently giving immunity to viruses or gut bacteria assisting fauna with their digestion process. We see this with Levi, a robot who becomes infected with one of Vesta’s many fungus. The fungus spreads across his mechanical body creating a nervous system which goes back to his processor. This fungal spread grants him a sense of touch and sensation all across his body. He begins to develop curiosity, art and ideas. The fungus elevates his entire existence and makes him a sentient being. This fungus may have otherwise killed and taken over a human body but for Levi it becomes an act of mutualism. The fungus and Levi merge fully such that its offspring appear as mini organic versions of the robot.  

Embodied Cognition

This is arguably the most interesting idea I have ever seen put into an animation because there is a relatively mature idea in the field of psychology stating that true consciousness requires embodiment. It is called embodied cognition and basically solves the mystery of life and provides an idea of how consciousness arose As Levi had AI but never became a true conscious individual until he merged with the flora granting him senses and therefore true embodiment `

Ecosystem perturbation on Vesta

The last thing I want to talk about in Scavengers Reign is the concept of ecosystem disturbance. Adding a new variable such as flora and fauna to an existing ecosystem can have adverse effects such as ecological imbalance, food chain disruption, habitat alteration and in extreme cases extinction. Kamen crash landed very close to the habitat of the hollows. These small telepathic and telekinetic fauna. They grow to the size of a medium sized dog. They procure food by mind controlling other smaller species around them , turning them into servants which fetch small quantities of food to sustain the hollow. They are then able to produce a fluid which when ingested by the target produces intense hallucinations and maintains the mind control.

Kamen encountered the Hollow and racked with guilt he willingly succumbed to the mind control of the hollow. The problem here is Kamen is much larger than the typical gatherers the hollows use therefore more of the black fluid is required to maintain his hallucinogenic state. Kamen started killing other fauna to feed the hollow, turning it into a carnivore. It even eventually starts eating humans and other hollows then even much larger animals. The hollow grew to the size of a large SUV and its powers expanded to match this. By entering the ecosystem, Kamen completely destroyed the food chain and gave rise to this massive hollow which caused further ecological perturbation. This is my favourite story arc becAuse it shows how the insertion of just one non-native species into an environment can completely send things off the rails.�

Scavengers Reign

The personnel of the crashed ship demeter 227 in the end were unable to escape Vesta. They instead attempted to integrate with the ecosystem. Not sure how well this strategy will work but i look forward to seeing more of Vesta and the crew in Season two of this wonderful animation.

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