Dustwisps are atmospheric phenomena comprised of one or more closely interrelated subspecies of harmless airborne microbes. These microbes are microscopic multicellular entities similar in composition to terrestrial lichens and tend to cluster together as a result of their wooly structures, creating airborne 'flotsam' that may resemble wispy clouds, dust, or smoke against the Manifold Sky.
Individual dustwisp microbes consist of a porous outer layer of fungus cells which support and contain an inner layer of cyanobacteria. The outer layer grows long, extremely thin hairs that tend to catch the air, causing the microbe to be carried skyward by breezes and updrafts. The fungus cells themselves can come in any color of the visible spectrum and may even flouresce under the right conditions, depending on subspecies; when large numbers of individual microbes become entangled, they can create colorful, translucent amalgamations that may emit, refract, or reflect light in such a way that the aggregation becomes visible to the naked eye. The inner layer captures moisture from the air and photosynthesizes to produce sugars for the microbe as a whole.
Genetics and Reproduction
Dustwisp microbes reproduce by budding. The long hairs on the outside of the structure allow for horizontal gene transfer between the microbes in an aggregation.
Ecology and Habitats
Though little understood, dustwisps are important contributors to the color of a given cube layer's sky and haze as well as the spectra of light which can reach the surface. The microbes are found throughout the air column of every tesseract, up to and including the inflection layerss. Dustwisps are most densely concentrated between 10 and 15 miles above the surface of a given cube layer, depending on temperature, humidity, and terrain features, due to the uplifting effects of circumvection. Differences in dustwisp occlusion and emission spectra contribute to the strong difference in ambient illumination spectra between Medial- and Distal-associated cubes. In the Distal Tesseract, dense concentrations of dustwisp microbes may provide safe haven for billowing hate spores, perhaps even contributing to the occurence of black sun events. For this reason, Verdial biologists in particular seek to study the dustwisp microbes in the hopes of understanding their role in these environmental conditions and, potentially, develop an early warning system.
Civilization and Culture
Interspecies Relations and Assumptions
Large dustwisp concentrations are beautiful, but may present maintenance problems for aircraft of all sorts. Airships and skymoths are less effected because they can often shut down their engines when passing through dustwisp banks and coast through, but keeping air intake screens and radiator louvers clean is important for preventing flameouts and engine overheating respectively. The relatively anhydrous and diffuse nature of dustwisp microbes means they burn up almost completely, meaning that they cause minimal damage if actually sucked into combustion chambers; a 'wisp fart' is the vernacular term for when an engine spits dark smoke after inhaling a cloud of dustwisps.