Distal Polyp Species in Manifold Sky | World Anvil

Distal Polyp

Distal polyps are a species of terrestrial, colony-forming, bioluminescent, tunicate-like creatures native to the Distal Tesseract, with satellite infestations occurring throughout cube layers adjacent to that tesseract. Distal polyps are famed for their parasitic qualities, their nature as the product of a different evolutionary process from terrestrial life, reliance on the Distal environment to thrive (with bright sunlight be actively poisonous), and their unique appearance.

Basic Information


The main body of a Distal polyp is 2" to 3" wide, 4" to 6" long tube of self-supporting, gelatinous, transparent or translucent flesh roughly 1/2" thick and crisscrossed with a lose network of neurons. The neurons embedded in the tube are occasionally seen to flash violet in response to stimuli or when the polyp launches itself at a potential host. At the open, dorsal end of the tube, a ring of tissue that glows with violet light contains a dense patch of sensory spots which provide a primitive sense of smell and sight to the polyp. At the closed, ventral "base" of the polyp, the tissue thickens such that the flesh is only translucent, and a series of long, motile root tendrils grows outward from this base to anchor the polyp to stable surface (or host). These tendrils connect with other polyps to exchange genetic information and chemical signals. The part of the base that abuts the bottom of the tube section produces a skunk-like musk which, while faint on an individual basis, becomes overwhelming and repellent to most natural predators when the polyps form colonies.

Genetics and Reproduction

Distal polyps can reproduce by budding, though their ability to exchange genetic information between individuals via their root tendrils is indicative of evolution towards sexual reproduction. The presence of a host or an otherwise warm body of organic tissue (such as carrion or decaying plant matter) prompts tendril growth and associative reproductive activity.

Ecology and Habitats

Distal Polyps are endemic to the Distal Tesseract, with population densities declining as they spread outward from that tesseract. It is unknown what precisely in the environment of the Distal Tesseract is the largest contributing factor to their presence there, but it is known that the full daytime light of cubes with no connection to the Distal Tesseract (especially the Medial Tesseract) is lethal to Distal polyps. It is believed that colonies prevent themselves from overpopulating by measuring the light pollution generated by a large number of other Distal polyps in a given region. In general, once the light from polyp's dorsal rings becomes bright enough in a region for a human to read by it, the polyps stop reproducing, and any new individuals begin to bounce away to form new colonies.

Dietary Needs and Habits

Distal polyps are capable of limited mobility, whether using the growth and movement of their root tendrils to push themselves along the ground or, when an infrared source or the scent of decay is detected, bouncing rapidly towards the source through muscular action in the tubular section of the creature. Distal polyps will move away from bright visible light, towards regions of shadow or where indigo and higher frequency light predominate (but see Ecology & Habitat for exceptions), and towards sources of infrared light or various chemical signs of decay (such as methane). This combination of mobility and sensitivity allows individual polyps to hunt after a fashion, though Distal polyps lack the complex neurological development required to employ tactics or avoid dangers.   Once attached to what the polyp detects as a source of nutrition, a polyp spreads it's root tendrils into the material and begins to digest it. The root tendrils of Distal polyps are strong and chemically aggressive enough to infiltrate still-living tissues, leading to Distal polyp parasitosis when they embed themselves in another creature.

Biological Cycle

Distal polyps are exotherms, meaning that their locomotion and propagation is slowed by cold temperatures and hastened by warm temperatures. Distal polyps are unharmed by freezing temperatures (though they do enter a state of suspended animation), though temperatures above 120 degrees Fahrenheit can injure them.

Additional Information

Average Intelligence

While Distal polyps do possess a neural network culminating in a dorsal nerve cord and notochord, features which would place the creature in the tunicata subphylum if it were part of the same evolutionary line as animals, this neural network is sparse in nature and does not appear to lend itself to true intelligence in the manner of vertebrates. Distal polyps do exhibit more nuanced behaviors when they are able to join root tendrils with one another, such as when "puppeting" a victim of Distal polyp parasitosis, indicating that some degree of low, ensemble intelligence is gained when the creatures gather in large numbers.

Perception and Sensory Capabilities

Distal polyps have a primitive sense of sight, smell, and touch. Distal polyps have a spectrum of vision that extends from the infrared to the hard ultraviolet; their spatial resolution is quite low, however, and it is believed that this is used largely to differentiate between possible prey (infrared), dangerous regions (most visible light), and safe areas to propagate (visible indigo to hard ultraviolet). While Distal polyps do have a surprisingly robust sense of smell for such a simple creature, this sense is not capable of distinguishing between differing chiralities of amino acids, meaning that the polyps will sometimes attempt to grow and feed on hosts or other prey which they cannot actually digest. A polyp cannot distinguish it's own physical orientation, relying on the relatively high weight of it's base to keep the polyp upright.
Distal polyps are not known to die of old age. Almost all mortality amongst Distal polyps comes from disease, starvation, predation, or human population control operations.
Conservation Status
Distal polyps are considered an active invasive species, with their contagious nature and ability to survive in darkened corners of otherwise valuable cubes presenting a serious problem to human inhabitants of said cubes.
Average Height
6" to 8" (including base)
Average Weight
2 lbs

Articles under Distal Polyp

Cover image: by BCGR_Wurth


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