The Dotsk (Araira Araira veritus) are an intelligent species native to the moon of Eithlinn within the Via Aylathiya galaxy. A communal species, it is rare for a Dotsk to leave their home system, a system dominated by one nearly fantastically large megastructures known as Mili, a structure known as a Recurrent Supernova Engine. The Dotsk have no subspecies, unusual for a Kardashev III species, due to their general lack of emigration. Based on Heteropoly acids rather than the more conventional carbon, the Dotsk are part of the Noirae domain of life, a domain of life native to space across Via Aylathiya. The Dotsk are unique among sapient species to be descended from space-based life.
A phylum-spanning adaptation of the Dotsk is a body plan called "Kolonae." This body plan represents a large number of zooids, smaller genetically-identical organisms, that work together to create an exoskeleton and larger organs that they themselves cannot emulate (such as the nervous system and lungs). The Kolonae body plan is common in Noirae life forms. The zooids exist within a four-legged body with one prehensile pseudopod created by the zooids themselves with flexible collagen-like skin. Dotsk have two large eyes with several secondary eyes arranged around the head. Behind the head is an abdomen where the legs are attached containing most of the zooids.
The Dotsk have only a handful of distinct internal organs, with all other bodily functions handled by the genetically identical zooids contained within them. Organs include the nervous system, exoskeleton, and central stomach and fermentation chambers. Circulation is handled by a decentralized pumping system in which many muscles across the body pump blood.
The Zooids that compose a Dotsk are technically separate organisms, with separate life cycles and metabolisms from the whole organism. The zooids are mostly located within the abdomen and are responsible for the final stages of digestion, reflexes, muscle movement, bodily repair, reproduction, the circulation of blood, and most of the maintenance of homeostasis across the body.
While the Zooids are all genetically identical, they have many different forms dictated by various chemicals and signals. For instance, some zooids develop to become almost entirely composed of muscle while others take on the roll of livers and still others secrete hormones. They range in size from 3 millimeters across to over 100 mm and each comes complete with its own nervous and digestive systems, capable of movement, and are capable of self-replication. As a Dotsk matures, the zooids become more and more specialized until they become essentially regular tissue. In order to repair tissue damage, zooids reproduce by budding much like larger versions of cells.
An interesting advantage of the zooid system is that cancer will only affect one zooid at a time. While it can spread to other zooids, the body can effectively terminate any cancerous zooids before this. As a result, the entire phylum is practically immune to cancer.
The brain of a Dotsk, as an independent organ, is assembled by zooids before the Dotsk hatches. Several zooids will initiate apoptosis, killing most of their cells while leaving neural stem cells in their place. Using the nutrients from the destroyed zooids, the brain begins growing, shielded from the other zooids in a sort of skull to prevent them from using up its resources. This development will pause after a Dotsk hatches for several years. At this time the body focuses on development with the goal of bringing the Dotsk to nearly full maturity physically (albeit small in size).
The Dotsk will begin metamorphosis at about 4 years of age. While the physical body will not change much externally, the nervous system undergoes extreme changes during this three-month period. After the months of development wrapped within a cocoon, the Dotsk will transition to, while immature, a sapient being. With total control over the body, the brain will continue growing for another ten years before reaching full development.
The nervous system of the Dotsk is very complex. Working something like an analog computer, long and short pulses across the nerves convey different information. Each zooid receives signals from the brain while also signalling each other directly. As a Dotsk matures, the brain takes on an increasing role in the management of the zooids' nervous systems until creating a single fully unified nervous system.
The exoskeleton is formed before the Dotsk is born and maintained by millions of zooids near the surface. The tough iron-oxide-based exoskeleton has a grey and red hue. It offers significant protection as well as structure for the Dotsk. Beneath the tough exoskeleton is a network of muscular zooids and beneath those lies the stomach. The stomach is one contiguous organ not divided into zooids and has no central nervous structure. The stomach is divided into numerous chambers to ferment vegetation; however, the bulk of the stomach is used for processing meat and soft plants.
The web-producing glands are also true organs located above the mouth. This gland is capable of producing about five milliliters of webbing per day, which translates to over a meter of material. While the webbing was originally for spinning prey-catching webs, when the Dotsk were much smaller, they gradually became repurposed as a tool. As sophisticated tool-use came to the Dotsk, natural selection began favoring rope-like webs used for the creation of tools and shelter. While the webs have been largely phased out due to advances in material science, great cultural importance is placed on the quality and time put into one's web-based creations.
The eyes of the Dotsk are each composed of one specialized zooid, technically just making it an independent organ. The eyes of the Dotsk, of which they have two primary and four secondary, create a wide range of view. The large central eyes operate quite like a telescope, with the eye itself lengthening or shortening to focus light. The secondary eyes have no such feature, instead reflecting light from a large area into a central receptor bed where it is then collected. These eyes are capable of warping the "dish" that gathers light art to change focus. Both sets of eyes are remarkably like telescopes in this way, owing to the ancient heritage of the noirae species as space-based organisms. In space, telescope-like vision would prove highly advantageous over other forms of eye sight.
The Dotsk, despite being an interstellar species possessing space-travel for millennia, over 95.97% of Dotsk still live within one light year of the home world. This general refusal to leave their home is due to psychological reasons as much as it is due to cultural ones. A communal species, the Dotsk have no concept of "in groups" or "out groups" among their own kind, creating an open society in which there is little distinction between strangers and loved ones as all are treated the same.
A peculiar trait is the Dotsk's tendency to self-segregate based on sex. Females and males, while living in the same cities and space habitats, will divide it roughly equally between themselves. Once every Eithlinn cycle (an orbit of this moon around its gas giant) these borders will suddenly disappear and the communities will behave as though they never existed. For the next Eithlinn cycle, they will cohabitate, mate, and share resources. After this nearly month-long period, they will return to their segregated state.
Male and female Dotsk do not have gametes. Instead, they have clusters of identical cells sourced from the majority of zooids in their bodies. This composite cluster, called a Gamoid, is stored in the reproductive organs until mating. Since the production of these Gamoids are a highly time-consuming process, requiring donor cells from across the body, Dotsk can only properly mate once per 20 cycles (with other occasions existing for mostly social reasons).
Upon mating, the Gamoids will coalesce within the female before a random assortment of the cells will rapidly harden and migrate to the surface of the new structure. This produces a durable egg containing the genetic material of both parents scattered throughout it. Each of the present cells will mature into a zooid as they compete for resources within the egg. After four months of this tumultuous competition within the egg, it releases certain hormones causing it to be ejected from the female.
After another four months, the egg will hatch, from which the larva will emerge. Lacking in almost all intelligence, the larva needs to be shepherded by those around them. The more mature larvae historically helped with hunting as their lack of inhibition made taking down prey easier. After nearly 100 cycles, the larva will wrap itself in a cocoon and begin the process of maturity described above. The metamorphosis is almost entirely spent on the brain, with minimal changes taking place in other parts of the body. For a brief period after emergence, the Dotsk will build up strength lost to muscle atrophy and then finally be mature.