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Tropical Forest-Dweller

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Archaic apelike arms and long fingers allow the forest-dweller to swing in the canopy of the trees; while its strong prehensile toes can grip the branches tightly. A heavy jaw is adapted to cracking nuts.

The tropical forest-dweller, Homo silvis fabricatus, (also known simply as forest-dwellers or tropical tree-dwellers) is an arboreal, orangutan-like human in 500 years (the 25th Century), engineered from Andlas, that lives in scrubby tropical forests, from Man After Man: An Anthropology of the Future.

There is plenty to eat in tropical habitats. The climate is stable and seasons do not regulate the food supply. Like earlier animals that lived there, a human being engineered to live in the abundant rainforest needs only the ability to climb to feed itself. Cunning and intelligence are not necessary (though an instinct for survival is). A level of intelligence will redevelop in the tropical forest-dweller over the coming millions of years, as evolution takes place, but not as much as in species faced with more challenging environments.

Kule Taaran the Hitek looks down at the huge oval shadow of the flyer falling on the top of the tropical rainclouds, surrounded by a rainbow ring of spectral colors. As the vessel descends, the clouds clear away below it and the vast stretch of green forest reaches out as an unbroken carpet with dark rivers winding across it. The flyer's shadow on the treetops is now fuzzy and unclear, but soon it comes into focus and the edges become sharper as it descends. Now individual trees can be seen, and with an uneven crunch the vast vessel settles amongst the broken branches and boughs.

Kule Taaran looks around him at the rainforest. It is not as it once was. A few centuries ago the first rainforest was all destroyed, as a burgeoning population of humans spread into it and removed it, clearing it away to make room for them to grow food. It was a disaster, not only removing the entire forest and its animal life from the face of the world but also prod
Tropical forest-dweller butterfly

Although intelligence has been suppressed in the engineering, natural curiosity still comes to the surface.

ucing subtle changes to the climate the world over. Such problems are all past now that there are more efficient ways of producing food. The forests have returned, but not in their old state. The forest soil which had taken millions of years to build up was nearly all washed away in the bad times, so the trees that have repopulated the area are not the magnificent trees of old. They are scrubby and hardy, adapted to find a roothold in what soil there is left; but the hot climate and the constant rain has made them grow prolifically.

No big nonhuman animals exist, though. With the great trees of old went the monkeys, nonhuman apes, jaguars, parrots, toucans, tapirs, squirrels, opossums, okapis and bongos. There are plenty of small things - insects, spiders, millipedes, lizards, snakes and many of the smaller birds - but the bigger mammals and birds have gone forever.

Now, however, they are to be replaced. In the module behind Kule Taaran is the prototype of the new forest creature. Mankind has civilized himself into a synthetic corner: he cannot survive without the full power of engineering science and medical technology. He has turned his back on the natural systems of evolution and ecology that brought him into being in the first place. Now, as the technological systems are beginning to fail more and more frequently, it is time to look back to the natural environments.

The Andlas were overlooked for so long. Once despised because of their unsophistication, but tolerated because of their versatility and ability to keep the machines working, they are now recognized as the gene pool for the future of mankind. It is so obvious. Mankind was in a shambles because it had turned its back on the natural process of evolution. The Andlas, however, after the great schism of humanity brought about by the overpopulation and famine disasters of a few centuries ago, had fallen off the hurtling escalator of technological complexity. They represented the part of humanity that had been thrown to the wild and denied the advantages of the constantly-improving technology and culture. These unfortunate creatures lived as best they could, and suffered terribly from diseases and accidents. It was these that reinstated the process of natural selection, and as an ironic result the surviving members became fitter and healthier, generation by generation. It eventually became obvious to the mainstream of technological man, however much his soul rebelled against it, however much his ego denied it, that here lay the purest essence of humanity now surviving.

This is the basis for the humanity of the future. From now on man should not use his science to change the environment to suit himself; rather he should use it to change himself to suit his environment. By his own technological application he can catch up with the thousands of years of evolutionary change that he has forfeited. It is now possible to breed and genetically manipulate new creatures that do not need a technological civilization. Out there, in the tropical jungle, the grasslands, the deciduous woodlands, the coniferous forests and the tundra, are supplies of food growing wild. All the necessities for life are there. If the human body can be regarded as a machine, like a life-support cradle, then the carbohydrates produced in the leaves and tubers can be used as the body's fuel. The proteins in the growing shoots and in the insects can be used as building materials. The vitamins in all living things can be used for lubrication, and the water that is found everywhere can be used for cooling and cleaning. All this goodness was once harvested by a vast range of big nonhuman animals. There are none left now, and all the food is there for the taking.

Kule Taaran looks at the creature in the transportation module. Strange that this should represent mankind of the future - it looks so much like mankind of the past. The prehensile feet are there, with the big toe modified as a thumb, for climbing and grasping branches. The long traditionally apelike arms with the long fingers will also help it to move about in the treetop canopy. The head seems to be very heavy about the jaw, to accommodate the huge nut-cracking teeth.

The genetically-engineered beings that have been developed for the other vacant habitats seem to be working well, according to the reports. Now they must see how the tropical forest version performs.

The naked form of Pann, sitting amongst the bars and perches of his module, seems ready for his great adventure. He exchanges a few words with Kule Taaran, who then opens the access of the module. Pann leaps from the vessel and into the swaying wispy branches of the nearest bush. He hangs there for a moment while he looks around at the infinite vistas of his new home. Then, with a final wave to those who had nurtured and developed him, he jumps to the nearest tree, shins up the trunk and is lost to sight amongst the branches.

Kule Taaran turns away from the window and back to his console. Physically the new creatures seem to work well; the next stage is to see if they breed true.

By 5,000 years (the 70th Century)

Plenty of fruit is available in the tropical treetops, so there is nothing to worry about here. Like the extinct monkeys and nonhuman apes, the tropical tree-dweller (he has not the wit to consider himself as an individual let alone as a being with a name) climbs the vertical trunk through the luminous green of the leafy canopy, and scampers four-footed along a broad bough, forking onto a thinner branch and finally along slender waving twigs to reach the point where the bunches of fruit dangle invitingly. Hanging upside-down now, he reaches outwards with his narrow prehensile fingers and delicately pries the bunch free from its stalk. Some fruits drop off, falling with a fading plop, plop through the layers of leaves and twigs below, away to the forest depths. These are immediately forgotten, as he has secured enough for his needs.

This is his whole life. It is of no relevance to him that the equatorial tropical forest belt of Earth is narrower now than it has been at any time within the last million years, that the cooler climates have been encroaching from the north and the south, bringing their windy grasslands and barren deserts with them. The only significance to him is the fact that when he is in the gloom of the lower branches he often sees, on the forest floor, bands of strange creatures moving purposefully in a particular direction. Since he rarely ventures down onto the floor anyway, he just ignores them.

The lost fruits, dented and bruised by their fall through the branches, at last thump softly down into the decaying plant matter of the forest soil. A group of gaunt long-legged plains-dwellers, uneasy and out of place in this strange environment, but driven from their grasslands by increasing cold and ravening packs of wild creatures, starts at the sudden noise. Then, when they see the fruit that has fallen, all four of them pounce upon it, scratching and tearing at one another in their attempts to reach it first.

This drama is completely irrelevant to the tropical tree-dweller. There is always plenty to eat up in the sunny heights and he can leave the lower shades to those strange beings.

It is in the far north and the far south that the ice age is causing its havoc. Fluctuating ice sheets and glaciers, together with unstable weather patterns, are forcing highland middle-latitude inhabitants to resort to drastic measures and changes in lifestyle just in order to continue living, and encouraging genetic changes in body and mind that could not have endured if the environment had remained constant and unchanging. Here, in the tropical forest, however, things have not altered for thousands of years. The tropical tree-dwellers have a constant supply of fruit and insects in their leafy canopies, so there is no need for them to move to new areas or to change in any way.

By 1 million years (the 10020th Century)

These dwellers of the trees do not understand the harvesting aquatics.

The aquatics know little about the tropical tree-dwellers. They keep themselves in the branches away above the sea-goers. Aquatics rarely look upwards (it is difficult for them to do so), and so these beings are rarely seen by them.

By 3 million years (the 30020th Century)

They become the tree-dwellers.

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