Above: a Mervolvian, an inhabitant of the planet Uvoniras. Note the four eye stalks. The Mervolvians
are a curious race with a number of unusual features. Their cells are triploid, containing three
copies of each chromosome, one maternal and two paternal, from different fathers. Such a complex
situation evolves rarely. During courtship a Mervolvian female will initially pair with a single male. The
male will hand her a gamete package, containing immotile haploid gametes (haploid meaning they
contain only one set of genes, as in human gemetes) which she will carefully place into one of two
pouches in her tail, where the gametes are nourished and kept alive for many years. The male will
then help the female select a second male. Clearly it is in both their interests to select a genetically
suitable mate. Whilst the second mate is found, which may take days or years, the first male will help
provide the necessary resources for the yet to be born offspring. Once a second male is found he
too hands over a gamete package which the female carefully places in a second nutritive pouch.
She will then fertilise one of the two male's gametes with her own gametes, forming the first fusion
product, which is motile and swims through the female tract to the second pouch to fuse with a third
gamete, forming the second fusion product, a triploid cell, which will begin to develop into an egg.
The female may withhold fertilisation until she has tested the loyalty of both males sufficiently,
though the first male frequently has the greater investment and is more committed. One to six eggs
are deposited, most are fertilised, but not all develop, and occasionally a non-fertilised haploid egg
is produced, which develops into a haploid individual. Parental care is intensive, with all three
parents providing for the hatchlings. This method of reproduction is slow, but Mervolvians are
long-lived and over time each family generates sufficient young to continue the species.
This triploidy has consequences for Mervolvian society as siblings normally share only
one-third of their genes, rather than one-half as in humans, so sibling rivalry can be more
Uvoniras is a twin planet. The primary planet, Uvoniras Prime or Uvoniras Alpha (left) is the
original homeworld of the Merovians, though they have inhabited both worlds subsequently.
Uvoniras Alpha is a volcanic world, though the surface is cold and the atmosphere thin, there
is a subsurface ocean and episodes of high volcanism (mostly geysers) periodically replaces
the atmosphere from the subsurface. The Mervolvians live primarily beneath the surface,
where it is warmer, but do venture onto the surface. During the intense volcanic episodes,
which peak every 204 Uvoniran years (with major peaks every five cycles) surface lakes
temporarily cover much of the planet, but these gradually dry into swamps and then dry sand.
Uvoniras Beta happened too be suitable for habitability by the Mervolvians, as these planets
exchange much of their atmospheres and have similar masses and surface temperatures, but