Aemets: a blend of mammal and insect

Aemets (pronounced EM-etts) are a sentient race in my Aligare world. Referred to as “betweenkind”, they have aspects of both mammals and insects. When I developed this worldbuilding facet, I was thinking of the way birds are sort of a meeting point between reptiles and mammals.

Left and center: early concept art. Right: More recent art.

How does a mammal-insect work? Haha, well, you wouldn’t find it walking around on our modern Earth, I’ll tell you that. Earth insects have circulatory and respiratory systems that don’t work very well over large areas, which means that an insect larger than a birdwing butterfly will have a hard time functioning (in our atmosphere, anyway). Aemets are quite a bit larger than butterflies, and they developed two-legged running to escape threats as quickly as possible. They’d need a mammal-like circulatory system and internal organ structure to meet their needs. I figure their soft tissues would be similar to a human’s, at least in the loose sense of oxygenated blood pumped through structures and tubes.

Aemet’s insect-like features are mostly skeletal. There are some some almost mammal-like bones, and some chitinous shell plates substituting for the spine. A newborn aemet has most of the shell plating he/she will ever have: the shell plates wrap around the child’s torso like a layered vest, and slowly reshape to form the adult aemet’s shell back. The most reliable indicator of adulthood is when an aemet’s shell has settled into its smooth final shape, usually at 12 or 13 years of age.

Aemets’ backs look sort of like this. But greener.

I imagine that aemet precursors were insects that developed new infrastructure to support their growing bodies. Seems more likely to me that they became mammal-like because of convergent evolution, not because actual mammals were thrown into the mix. But if you don’t like science in your fantasy, then hey, maybe ants formed a partnership with some furkind people, and they were blessed by the goddess Verdana and, uh. Their lives grew together like twining vines of the Greatbloom itself. And magic. And stuff. Until I write an actual Aligare book involving aemet origins, I’m all for throwing theories around and seeing what sticks.

The combination of traits isn’t perfect. Aemets have a cooler body temperature than a typical mammal — so they’d feel lukewarm to the touch. They are capable of generating a fever when ill, but they aren’t able to sweat much. Without sweat as a counterbalance, an aemet with an untreated fever often dies or becomes brain damaged.

Rose showed the ferrin how to soak cloths in salt water and keep their neighbours’ heads wet: sweating was good, mage teachings said. This was a beneficial form of dampness, too full of healing salt to bring any mold or harm. Betweenkind bodies simply needed help to sweat, because their insect-shelled insides didn’t understand their warm flesh.

Remedy, a story of Aligare — Chapter 8

There are some other traits that combine mammals and insects as we know them. Aemets grow hair on their heads, which sweeps backward to match their antennae. That hair is thicker and more waxy-textured than a mammal’s — it’s usually kept tightly braided or cut short, because the hair is a less useful tactile organ than the antennae. Aemet skin would also feel a bit waxy or leathery to our perception. Their fingers and feet have multiple curved nails on top of each other, vaguely resembling an insect’s spiny leg. Babies are born live with a thin egg sac around them, and the mother has mammary(-like) glands to provide the first few meals.

As far as the people of Aligare can see, aemets function like insectkind and like furkind. It’s usually as simple as that.

One Comment on “Aemets: a blend of mammal and insect”

  1. […] aemets need to comb their hair (which is thicker and waxier-textured than a mammal’s hair would be), they often use combs made from branches. Bramble vines and rose branches can be used as […]

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