I absolutely loved the idea of cross-species and hybrid plant creation ever since I read about it in a book from 1987 from Orson Scott Card called Wyrms. We all know about GMOs and how they are genetically enhanced plants, more resistant to bugs, weather changes and insecticides. Some plants even produce their own insecticide! In the book, they are talking about how humans, travelling to another planet, have taken local earth plants with them and then tried to cross them with the local indigenous species to get a plant more adapted to the local environment but still familiar to the humans.
“There is no such thing as a native life form left on this world, and no such thing as Earth life, either, except for human beings themselves,” she said.
Heffiji recited. “Comparing the genetic material of any plant or animal with the records concerning similar plants or animals preserved from the knowledge brought with mankind from Earth, we find that the original genetic code is still preserved, almost perfectly-but as only a tiny part of a single but vastly larger genetic molecule.”
Heffiji pointed to a diagram showing the positions of the Earth species’ protein patterns within the single chromosome of the present Imakulata version.
“Clearly, the species brought from earth have been taken over or, as is more likely, imitated perfectly by native species that incorporate the genetic material into their own. Since the resulting molecule can theoretically contain hundreds of times as much genetic information as the original Earth species needed, the rest of the genetic material is available for other purposes. Quite possibly, the Imakulata species retain the dormant possibility of adapting again and again to imitate and then replace any competing species. There is even a chance that the Imakulata genetic molecule is complex enough to purposefully control alterations in the genetic material of its own reproductive cells. But whether some rudimentary form of intelligence is present in the genetic molecule or not, our experiments have proven conclusively that in two generations any Imakulata species can perfectly imitate any Earth species. In fact, the Imakulata imitation invariably improves on the Earth original, giving it a competitive edge-shorter gestation or germination times, for example, or markedly faster sexual maturity, or vastly increased numbers of offspring per generation.”
“Well?” she asked. “Do you understand it?”
Patience remembered what Prince Prekeptor had once said to her. “The genetic molecule is the mirror of the will.”
Heffiji scowled. “That’s religion. I keep those in the cellar.”
“Our experiments involved separating the original Earth- species genetic material from common wheat, to see what was left when the currently dominant Earth-genes were gone. The experiments were delicate, and we failed many times, but at last we succeeded in separating the genetic material, and growing Earth wheat and the species that had absorbed and replaced it. The genetic structure of the Earth wheat was identical to the records passed down to us from the original colonists, and yet when it grew we could see no difference in the plant itself from the Imakulata wheat. However, the leftover genetic material from the Imakulata wheat did not produce a plant at all. Instead, it produced a small insect-like flier, with a wormlike body except for three wing-pairs.
It was completely unlike anything we could find in our catalogues from Earth, but possibly similar to what the earliest colony records refer to as ‘gnats,’ which seemed to disappear from the first colony of Heptam after a few years.”
Heffiji went on. “We introduced a single Imakulata gnat into a glass box containing a sample of pure Earth wheat that was ready for fertilization. Without a mate, the Imakulata gnat soon began laying thousands of eggs.
The wheat also ripened and dropped seed. But the Imakulata eggs hatched first. A few of them produced gnats, which began attacking each other savagely until only one was left. Most of the seeds, however, produced an incredible array of strange plants, many of them wheatlike, many of them gnatlike, and most of them hopelessly maladaptive. Only a few grew more than a few centimeters in height before they died. Those that thrived, while they were generally somewhat wheatlike, were still easily distinguishable from the Earth species.
By the time the next generation of Earth wheat germinated and grew, they had already gone to seed, and showed every sign of being new and vigorous species.
We immediately began several other experiments to see if the results were identical.”
On to the next drawing. “In the meantime, the sole surviving second-generation gnat mated, not with the new Imakulata species, but with the second generation Earth wheat. This time, most of the gnat’s offspring were similar to what we call wheat today-completely indistinguishable from Earth wheat, except for the presence of a single immense genetic molecule which contains all the genetic information from the original Earth wheat. We repeated these results at will. When the second-generation gnat was allowed to reproduce with second-generation-or even tenth- or twentieth-generation Earth wheat-the result was always outwardly identical Imakulata wheat, which reproduced faster and grew more vigorously than either the Earth wheat or the new Imakulata plant species.
In fact, the Imakulata wheat seemed particularly inimical to the new Imakulata nonwheat species. They were destroyed as if by poison within two generations.
The Earth wheat sometimes lingered as long as six generations before being utterly replaced. However, when the second-generation gnat was not allowed to reproduce with later Earth wheat, the Imakulata wheat never appeared.
Instead, the new Imakulata species and the Earth wheat continued to breed true to form, with no further cross-breeding between species. This process of complete replacement within two generations may have repeated itself many times with every Earth species brought with the colonists except, of course, humankind itself, which has shown no changes in its chromosomal patterns.”
To imitate us was part of your nature. Whatever your ancestors were before humans came to Imakulata, it was their nature to absorb and adapt. What you are today is the fulfillment of what your ancestors had to become, if they were to be true to themselves.”