Worldbuilding: Reproduction (rated PG)

Project Tatterdemalion Reproduction: Male, Female, Tritiya

Yes, I lifted that last out of Hindu traditions. In this AU the kami and other species native to Shangri-La are also three-sexed, meaning the locals have that term in general use. (There are also plenty of imported non-native species on the planet besides humans who are binary gender.) So, as per Saiyuki canon, Kanzeon is not a she. Kanzeon’s a se.

(Poor, poor Gojyo.)

Meaning part of the reason Kanzeon and the sutras find the akuma virus interesting is that it goes after a binary-gendered species and makes it trinary.

Here’s how the bunnies say it works. Normal humans are XX and XY. (We’ll ignore other possibilities for the moment; they’re messy in RL, they’d be at least as messy in this setting.)

Let’s say the Arrancar took the easiest approach for dealing with sex in humans and mammals in general: mess with the X chromosome.

Going from a jumping genes (transposon) perspective, the same strand of DNA can produce very different results depending on which direction it’s “read”. So. One “control” strand of DNA inserts on an X chromosome. If it inserts “up”, everything goes normally, and you have a regular male or female. If “down”, the X becomes a W, and you have a tritiya. (W is dominant over X in a case of WX.)

Unlike kami, though, youkai and shinigami tritiya aren’t blatant hermaphrodites. There are some small visible differences, but most of what makes things work is “out of sight”. (And I’m not getting into the graphic details. There are tentacles. ‘Nuff said.) And outside of a bit of extra projective strength, it doesn’t show up until maturation. I wasn’t kidding about a sort of second puberty, and I imagine those affected are not happy at all.

(Those I know are affected on the shinigami side so far – Juushirou, Retsu, Kaien, and Yumichika. On the Saiyuki side, Kougaiji. Mwah-hah-ha….)

Note that since a lot of psychokinesis is involved in the infection itself, once one cell is infected, the rest key off that gene-strand orientation. So any one individual has X or W, not a mosaic of cells.

Also note, given psychokinesis, a youkai or shinigami may subconsciously – or even consciously, once they know more – pick “which way is up”, if they infect someone. If they’re looking for a good packleader or need that third sex, the hapless victim is, more than likely, going to end up tritiya.

As for reproductive details – without getting too graphic, it requires all three sexes to have a lot of fun, relatively close together in time. Once all the cells end up in the same womb, you have 3 combinations: sperm + egg, sperm + tritiya cell, egg + tritiya cell. These three combos then have to get together, merge – and then separate, leaving a viable zygote and disposing of anything that “won’t work”.

As you might imagine, there is a lot of psychokinesis involved, and not a high fertility rate. But if the three are a good combo, you have a chance for one, two, or even three offspring from any one mating.

(Tritiya can nurse, thankfully. That’s a lot of milk for one mother!)

(This probably does not make male-origin tritiya any happier.)

So the genetic results end up with these possibilities: XX, XY, WY, or WX. WW is unlikely because you only have one tritiya involved (it probably wouldn’t be viable, who knows). The kids look male or female at birth, you’d have to run a test to be sure.

And yes, the Arrancar know darn well this will screw with people’s self-identity. That’s part of the point.

…Did I mention that as a species, humans are stubborn bastards?

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36 thoughts on “Worldbuilding: Reproduction (rated PG)

  1. (Pictures Kaien and Yumichika nursing, and laughs, laughs, and laughs)
    Yes, humans are *absoultely* stubborn. The Arrancar home planet is going to get the Death Star treatment, isn’t it?
    Also, seems to me that that’s a huge energy requirement for whichever part of the triad is carrying the offspring. (And would that just be the female, or can tritiya also carry offspring to term?) Do they need a lot of extra food/sleep while attempting to procreate? Since psychokinesis is involved, are powerful psychics more likely to be able to reproduce? Does that mean the ‘normal response’ Tatterdmallion verse people are basically infertile, unless they develop/already had Quincy-style powers?

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    1. I’m not sure they’d leave enough behind to make an asteroid field. 😉

      It would be a lot of energy, yes; but we humans pull it off well enough. As for carrying offspring – I’m not sure first generation tritiya can, things might get more fluid as they work out the kinks over a generation or two.

      The psychokinesis involved is less raw power and more very fine-scale, so I’d say anyone has a reasonable shot. Kryal proposes “yuurei” for normal responses among shinigami, which sounds good to me….

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hmmm . . . .interesting . . .

    (This probably does not make male-origin tritiya any happier.)

    At least not in the first few generations or ones that were converted from human and thus have already pre-established gender roles in their heads.

    Later generations probably wouldn’t see it as a big deal because to them that’s normal. Or the infected person comes from a culture without the gender binary. (Some human cultures already have the idea of a third or more gender in their heads so they might have easier time adjusting to being a third sex easier).

    And yes, the Arrancar know darn well this will screw with people’s self-identity. That’s part of the point.

    Yes, least everyone forgets they are evil.

    As you might imagine, there is a lot of psychokinesis involved, and not a high fertility rate. But if the three are a good combo, you have a chance for one, two, or even three offspring from any one mating.

    That should be interesting. In the Murphy sense of the word.

    (Those I know are affected on the shinigami side so far – Juushirou, Retsu, Kaien, and Yumichika. On the Saiyuki side, Kougaiji. Mwah-hah-ha….)

    I bet they are just thrilled.

    And probably enjoy reminding the others that it could their turn to go through this any time now.

    Through I don’t think I’m alone in being glad that one of the first in the line for this is Juushirou and Retsu. Because both are pretty level-headed and that might be sorely needed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Later generations would definitely handle it better. And now I’m picturing Yamamoto’s face when he realizes there will be later generations. There’s not enough antacid in the world….

      Yep. The Arrancar are Evil. Which is going to make things sticky when Nell and others appear.

      “Interesting”, yes. Explains Karin and Yuzu, too!

      *Snrk* Lirin thinks her big brother is awesome.

      Being level-headed is one of the reasons they end up in this mess. *G*

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Which is going to make things sticky when Nell and others appear.

        Aye.

        Messy. Very messy.

        But if Nell gets herself on Ichigo’s must protect list, everyone is going to have to find a way to deal with it.

        Being level-headed is one of the reasons they end up in this mess.

        Yep. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Yeah, I grew up in a culture that has six, I’m sure after a while they’ll be fine. Wrapping my head around “most Americans think there’s two.” is still something I have occasionally stop and think about. Culturally constructed gender is a mess anyway, just like putting anything human in a little box. Though I’m sure that figuring out relationships is going to be a huge mess anyway, because again, humans.

    Also, Yumichika? *eyes that name with dread*

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So, rough translation would likely be: Woman Spirited female(body), Man Spirited male(male body), Woman Spirited male(body), Male Spirited female(body), No Spirited (either body), Dual/Tri spirited(either body).

      It gets a bit more complicated because the roles include a lot of stuff that doesn’t really translate out, including who can marry who and what pairings are valid to raise kids and religious duties/obligations. My mom was kind of worried when I was a late bloomer. See it as a bit more complicated now, but that’s kind of my way of looking at the world until I double check myself.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. It’s a tribal one, but you’re not going to find much information about it, unfortunately. Mainly because as much as I like Daniel, let’s just say most anthropologists are/were very determined to put people into their comfortable boxes. And the less said about what we think of Archeologists, the better. And the reporting…Let’s just say that you know those spat of “Gay Marriage legal on reservations.” articles a few years ago. Every Indian I knew freaking headdesked on that. (Or as I tend to joke about it. “Europeans decided there was two genders and a lot of different sexualities. Indians decided there was a lot of different genders and two sexualities.”) With of course the obvious, my tribe, my area, we’re a group scattered across an area bigger then Europe with a lot of different cultures in there.

        Liked by 3 people

    1. Totally realistically, that should have already happened back in the PT setting with most survivors. It doesn’t. The vast majority of them are not going to kill themselves… because, among other things, that’d be a waste as far as the Arrancar were concerned, so they took steps to make sure victims were mentally cushioned from the shock. As the shinigami themselves noticed!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, turning into a nonhuman creature is one thing. Involuntary sex change to a sex that does not exist is quite another. I mean, look at the suicide statistics for voluntary sex change, and that is just hormonal and mechanical.

        So you combine the two, and either people do a lot of jumping off cliffs and drowning themselves in the ocean (whether or not they die), or they just lose their minds in the traditional Lovecraftian response (which all the suicide attempts would help) and probably end up catatonic. Willing yourself dead usually works, one way or another.

        (Actually, that probably explains a lot of Lovecraftian zombies and sleeping critters. They are all catatonic from fear and horror.)

        The other option is that they stay alive purely for revenge, which is fine but a bit difficult to sustain for the long term. (And it would tend to turn into suicidal depression or catatonia, unless you kept very busy; but the busier you got, the more traumatic it would be.)

        And none of that is going to put people into a reproductive mood, if they can’t even be happy about existing. They are even less likely to be enthused about a threesome, if that wasn’t their thing. (Or even if it were their thing, the differences would be substantial and buzzkilling.)

        And being raped by some weird alien instinct to have threesomes with your brand new organs is going to make things even less survivable. I mean, how many new and different traumas can you load on someone before they just go blooey? We are survivors as a species, but we are pretty darned breakable as individuals. And lack of control of the basics is the quickest way to get breaking done.

        So you can put in all this genetic puppetry if you want, but it really does not seem like the sort of thing that is likely to spread beyond a single planet. (More like a plague that kills everyone, after wreaking psychosexual havoc on the slowly dying. Planet clearance for sadists.) The only way I can believe it getting to a second generation is something sprouting from all the dead bodies.

        Friendship and warm fuzziness are a strong force, but I think this concept you have thought up would create an intolerable breaking strain on even the most stubborn or kinky human psyche. You need to soften your concept somehow. (In my humble opinion.)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree on how mentally tough humans are, how much of gender is a social constraint, and how much neural rewiring is possible. For one thing, several Earth cultures have a “third sex”. Including Buddhist and Hindu – hence why it actually has a name on Shangri-La.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. All that said… I can more readily believe kids surviving and adapting to all this crap. Babies, to be exact. Even toddlers might be too old to deal with it, since a lot of toddler development is all about being emphatically a boy or a girl. (Remember the cycles of liking the opposite sex and then saying they had cooties and must be taboo?)

        But babies would not know anything different. And if they were genetically altered, they would develop that way, albeit with input from adult humans.

        But of course, if the adults were all dead or catatonic, then sure, the babies would develop as desired by the aliens. No language, of course. But the tentacle stuff would probably keep them alive.

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      4. As for the cushioning … Well, you can pump people full of happy drugs or happy hormones, but the effects get less and less useful. Cognitive dissonance is also an easy way to break people. So either people will convince themselves that they are really enthused about killing, cannibalizing, and living La Vida Alien, or they will really, really not be enthused at all.

        Obviously there is a lot of difference between weird things happening to you when you are relatively safe, in a group, and helping each other, versus being in a city full of ravening Things, of which you are one.

        But if the fundamental things that are happening to you keep getting worse, even a well-adjusted resilient person, who enjoys tentacle superpowers, is going to lose it at some point and maybe never get it back.

        I don’t think this is an artistic problem you cannot overcome. But you need to take it seriously.

        A lot of sf today does not, and it snaps my disbelief like a twig. If my brain is saying, “And then people start killing each other in a generations-long feud,” and the author says, “And then everyone hugged Mary Sue and thanked her for interfering in their lives and destroying their families and jobs,” there is a problem. Bad books that are bad like this drive me crazy. So just be careful, and convince me. 😉

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      5. According to the sad story of David Reimer, we know what sex we are by the time his circumcising doctor accidentally burned his penis off; an idiot named John Money told his parents he’d be fine with a sex change.

        He wasn’t and the family lied to Dr. Money and said he was. This went on until he was 13 and begged his parents to stop the visits to Money. He always regarded himself as male.

        To me, softening it means giving them hippocampi less easily destroyed by toxic stress while changing their mental sex; the literature saying that hippocampal damage plays a role in depression goes back to 1987 and involves MRIs.

        Given how much they’re not panicking, they must not be producing as much cortisol as a human should in their situation.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I’ve read about him and other cases as well; that was a definite mess.

        And no, they’re definitely not as stressed as they should be, given man-eating monsters.

        …Then again, “man-eating monsters after us” tends to flatten a lot of angst, IMHO.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. By the way, my place of work is a clinic with a disproportionately transgender patient base because the head of the practice had a soft spot for them, and I have never seen the hormone treatments drive anyone to suicide even if they were mentally ill. When they get suicidal, it’s always over something else or just because… who knows, but relapse of their mood disorder covers it.

        That said, we’re not equipped to provide more than hormonal and psychotherapy as far as care specific to them goes and they can’t always afford to get someone else to do one; this is a safety net clinic.

        If you want statistics most relevant to this discussion, enter “intersex” and “suicide” into Google. It was only 19% who had attempted it and these people had had to contend with ignorant surgeons removing tissue necessary for sexual function without replacing it with anything useful.

        BuzzFeed has an article that I will link to later. I don’t know how to paste from my clipboard on a phone.

        In any case, the article describes a 272-person survey done in Australia if you want to hunt it down.

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  4. I’m a biology nerd, so have a whole bunch of questions.

    How do tritiya gametes work? Given that they need to integrate with mammalian egg and sperm cells, they should be haploid (n). I assume they’d be motile, unless even the gamete pairings need psychokinetic help. Motility would suggest a smaller, spermlike gamete. But the fact that they can fuse with both eggs and sperm might suggest that they’re larger cells, unless the fusion of multiple zygotes means that the masses of the individual zygotes don’t matter. Or do tritiya produce different varieties of gametes? In such a case, would both (I assume) types of tritiya gametes be necessary for viable offspring? Also, if fertilization can occur in tritiya + egg and tritiya + sperm combinations, why don’t tritiya + tritiya combinations work?

    For that matter, are the initial zygotes (diploid, 2n) motile at all, or is getting them all in one place to fuse purely psychokinetic? If they are motile, psychokinesis would just greatly increase the odds of a proper combination. Can fusion of zygote combinations other than the one listed occur? I assume that if so, they wouldn’t be viable.

    How would the zygote fusion work? One pair first, and then the last, or all at once? Either way, I’m imagining something like reverse mitosis to form a superzygote (hexaploid, 6n). The nuclear envelope might not reform at the end if the next step takes place quickly.

    When the initial zygotes fuse, what happens so that nonviable genetic combinations are discarded? My brain is throwing out a possible variation on meiosis, with three poles to which microtubules attach. Chromosomes would be arranged in triplets instead of pairs, and crossing over might not be possible. The superzygote would ultimately split three ways to leave secondary zygotes, which would theoretically all be viable. (I’m sure there are other ways to work this out, but I’m tired and would have to diagram it all anyway.)

    Why is zygote fusion even necessary? It seems like a lot of energy expended to go from three haploid zygotes to hexaploid superzygote back to three haploid zygotes. Why would the inital zygotes not be viable? An alternate route might be requiring an egg to be doubly fertilized by both sperm and a tritiya gamete to form a triploid zygote, which then fuses with another triploid zygote to make a hexaploid superzygote, which then divides into diploid gametes. It’s still a headache even if the tritiya gametes are motile. (Again, fairly sure there are other possible solutions, but they’d require an awake brain and lots of diagramming.)

    Okay, that was long and a bit technical. I’ll be happy to explain further if that’s desired.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello fellow biology nerd.

      Since I am not Vathara, please note that any and all theories I toss out on how this might work are completely unsubstantiated in-universe.

      Why is Zygote fusion even necessary? Why are the initial zygotes not viable?

      I can see several possible reasons for this. If we are assuming that the egg is still like a human egg and both the sperm and triyata are small and sperm-like, then only the egg cell carries mitochondria. If a sperm and triyata cell fused without an egg the resulting gamete would have no means of cellular respiration.

      The triyata cell is entirely new and different from anything seen in mammals before. What if in addition to carrying the W chromosome, it also carries something else that is necessary for the survival of the fetus? All the chromosomes are originally human-based and there is only so much you can alter about them without creating a non-viable offspring. Extra-cellular DNA could be an entirely different matter. While the mitochondria carried by the egg are far too large to fit into the triyata cell, bacterial-style plasmids are an entirely different matter. These would also create the necessity for the third gender if they were not properly packaged by sperm or egg cells. Any sperm and egg that combined without the triyata would not have all the necessary extra-cellular DNA for reproduction.

      The entry of a sperm into an egg causes the membrane of the egg cell to change to exclude any additional sperm from entering. If this “new” membrane is what attracts the triyata cell, then lack of sperm in the equation means that the triyata cell would be incapable of merging with the egg, again creating no offspring.

      This theory also means that down the line someone could easily create IVF triyata-female offspring.

      I’ll probably post some ideas on what could happen post-zygote fusion later once I wrap my head around it a little more, unless Vathara beats me to the punch with what really does happen in-universe.

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  5. I’m back with ideas on post-zygote fusion, and amendments to my earlier posting idea. Once again I am not Vathara so all these ideas may be severely AU to her AU.

    My first idea is one for the form of the triyata cell. I see it being an ameboid-shaped sperm, like Ascaris sperm. Yes, ameboid-shaped sperm is a real thing, and I don’t see parasitic roundworms as being any more alien than, well, actual aliens, so I’m not sure why this couldn’t happen. The shape is important to the biology of how the three gametes come together.

    In regular humans when the two gametes meet the egg is still 2n and the sperm is 1n. After they meet the egg expels its second polar body, leaving it with only a single copy maternal DNA. If a single egg can create three viable fetuses in this AU than the two copies of maternal DNA are both needed. We also need an extra copy of paternal DNA and 2 copies of triyata DNA. I am assuming that all these copies are created outside the gamete.

    Since the egg must create three viable embryos instead of one it is also larger than a normal human egg. Since we commonly see much larger eggs that divide their cytoplasm evenly, such as frog eggs, I believe this would be a possibility.

    The (2n) triyata cell does have one egg-like function. Like an egg it can put out chemical signals to attract sperm, though these signals are much weaker than the ones put out by the egg. Far fewer numbers of triyata cells than sperm cells mean that even if every single triyata cell had a sperm cell fused to it there would still be plenty left to fertilize the egg. I see there being somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-10 million triyata cells released. The shinigami still release human-normal levels of sperm, which is over 15 million. When a sperm cell meets a triyata cell the amoeboid triyata spreads itself over the head of the sperm cell to help it catch a ride to the egg. It also uses the chemical signals put out by the egg to help the two conjoined cells find the egg. This does create a macrocephalic “sperm,” but real-life macrocephalic sperm are capable of swimming well enough to find and fertilize eggs. Macrocephalic sperm are not as efficient at finding and fertilizing eggs, by we already know that shinigami have reduced fertility.

    Let’s go back to the fertilization order of the previous post. Egg meets sperm, then egg/sperm meets triyata/sperm. This makes 2n maternal + 1n paternal, then add 2n triyata + 1n paternal. This combination creates all necessary chromosomes for the three possible embryos. Unlike human eggs the second copy of maternal DNA is never released as a polar body.

    Both sperm cells and the triyata cell have a centriole packed into them to create the three spindles needed to create three different genome pairs. The maternal DNA pairs are widely separated enough within the cell that they are unlikely to be packaged together. The two sperms are likely to be widely separated enough that they are unlikely to be packaged together. The two triyata DNA pairs are right next to each other, but they also have the specialized triyata centriole that will not allow two triyata sets of DNA to be packaged together.

    There will still be mistakes when packaging the DNA, and DNA imprinting will still come into play. There have been studies that prove that two copies of maternal-derived DNA or 2 copies of paternal-derived DNA cannot form a viable embryo because certain genes are only activated in paternal or maternal DNA. For an interesting look at how this can affect individuals that have non-lethal gene deletions of only paternal or maternal DNA, Google Angelman syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome. Non-lethal genomic imprinting mistakes would also explain far too much about the actions of the original universe Soul Society, if they had triyata as well.

    If all the necessary cells have met and merged and all centrioles have lined up well enough to form viable offspring, then we must next get through cellular division. The cell first divides in half, hopefully putting 2 DNA-sets on one side of the division and 1 DNA-set on the other, though 3 on one side and none on the other is a possibility. Both sides divide again, hopefully putting 3 DNA-sets in their own cell and leaving one empty ghost-cell. Any cells with more than 1 DNA set will not be viable. After this 4-cell division all 4 cells break apart via signalling from one of the triyata cell plasmids and become up to three viable embryos.

    Now take a moment to stop and pity the poor mother who would have given birth to fraternal triplets if she had stayed fully human.

    Yes, I am aware that I am stretching natural biology well past its breaking point, but this is the best idea I have.

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