Just a little thing I wrote up to describe the issues I foresaw with native biology.
A GUIDE FOR THE TAXONOMIC ANALYSIS OF LIFE ON THE PLANET MEDINA
Maxine Roarke, Professor of Biology
Singapore Scientific Institute
The issue of constructing a complete taxonomic analysis of a new planet is a daunting one, further complicated by the addition of terrestrial biological materials and the necessities of establishing a colony. This report contains a guide for the analysis of astrobiologics in a field setting.
1.) BIOLOGICAL COMPATIBILITY
Medina has been analyzed as having a terrestrial-comparable environment, allowing humans to live there without major terraforming. There remains the simple question of the compatibility of the biome with terrestrial biochemistry. Aside from possible poisons it is probable that the chirality of the native flora and fauna will not be equivalent. To put it simply, the sugars and enzymes used by life on the planet Medina may not be the same, meaning there will be little to no nutritional value. As a simple test of this, due to the lack of advanced scientific equipment scheduled for the initial landing, it is my recommendation that either synthetics or prisoners be fed solely local bio-matter to determine the effect.
2.) TOP-DOWN, BOTTOM-UP ANALYSIS
Once the compatibility or lack thereof of the local biology is established procedures for documenting the local flora and fauna can begin. It is recommended that the immediate concern for the colonists be a top-down approach. Identifying and analyzing the apex predators and largest animals will assist survival in the earliest days. As soon as possible though, a bottom-up approach should be initiated. Determining the nature of the micro-organisms in the local environment and ensuring that they pose no threat is a matter to be undertaken as soon as possible.
3.) ANALYSING THE FOOD WEB
In terrestrial biology all flora and fauna interact in a complex web of food sources and those that consume those same sources. While the botanical astrobiologists analyze the flora, the zoological astrobiologists should begin analyzing this food web. Identifying pure herbivores, omnivores, pure carnivores, and coming to understand how these animals interact and balance each other. The top-down analysis previously done will provide an excellent starting point.
4.) NICHE FILLING
Once a general analysis of the food web on Medina is complete it can be compared to that of terrestrial biology. Given the earth-like environment it most likely will have some similarities. From this point the astrobiologists can begin to analyze the ecosystem as a whole, determining what niches have been filled by documented species and which have not. This will provide a guide to determining if any important flora or fauna has been missed.
5.) ADVANCED CHEMICAL, PHYSICAL ANALYSIS
Physical comparison of both large-scale and micro-scale physical structures of documented species will enable a rough categorization of local species. However, analyzing the evolutionary relationships of Medina’s biology can truly begin only when sufficient species are documented and the equipment for analysis down to the cellular level has been placed on the surface. Given the currently limited data it is impossible to tell if life on Medina uses DNA as terrestrial life does, or if there is some other analogous chemical compound at work. Regardless, analyzing the mutations of that DNA or DNA-analogue will allow for accurate classification of all species as well as establishing potential evolutionary links.