Thursday, July 29, 2021

The official student newspaper of Methodist Ladies' College, est. 2020

The ultimate sci-fi tier list: Felucia, Star Wars

You know a planet is inconducive to continuing human survival when it was created to evoke the claustrophobic horror of combat in the Vietnam War. Such is the story behind the design of Felucia, a planet of relatively minor importance in the vast Star Wars universe. Despite its lack of box office limelight, Felucia is a perfect planet to explore in this tier list as it features an incredibly unique ecosystem– namely, vast forests of gigantic fungi and bluish undergrowth.

While official information about Felucia is scarce, a devoted fan with too much time to waste can, surprisingly, piece together enough to write an article about it. So, without further ado, to begin understanding life on Felucia, we must start with its star.

According to what might be the shortest entry on Wookiepedia, Felucia occupies the fourth orbital position around the star Felix. This in itself does not reveal anything, but when you take into account that Felucia’s surface is “irradiated by ultraviolet light”, we can make an educated guess about the Felix’s spectral type. Ultraviolet is a form of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths shorter than those of visible light, and thus carries more energy. Therefore, we can extrapolate that Felix is hotter than our sun, broadly placing it into Class F. As these stars emit much blue and ultraviolet light, plants that utilise photosynthesis may find themselves receiving too much energy-rich light. Thus, the plants reflect much of it away to prevent themselves from burning up. This could also explain why the Felucian undergrowth appears blue.

Moving on, we are now faced with the question of why and how fungi dominates the Felucian landscape. For all my digging, I could not find a definitive explanation for why Felucia is covered in massive mushrooms, but I do have some speculations.

On Earth, fungi plays an integral role in paving the way for more complex and larger plants. This is due to fungi’s ability to break down waste and release nutrients into the soil they grow from. In fact, around 470 to 360 million years ago, 8-metre-tall fungi (although this has been subject to debate) called prototaxites could be found on Earth. From this, an argument could be made that Felucia may be undergoing a similar period of evolutionary development as Earth did millions of years ago.

The size of these fungi could also be related to the fact that Felucia’s gravity is stated to be “75% standard”, with “standard” being the same as the gravity we experience on Earth. As such, there would be less energy needed to transport nutrients upwards and less force exerted on the mycelium, which would allow the fungi to grow much taller. Additionally, there may also be a reproductive incentive to increased height, since taller mushrooms would be able to spread its spores wider.

One last hypothesis comes from studying an illustration of the Felucian landscape– if you look closely, the mushroom stalks seem to be covered in a blue growth. Although I cannot confirm what exactly it is, a possibility arises that this growth might be lichen, a composite organism formed when algae or cyanobacteria lives amongst the hyphae of fungi in a mutualistic relationship. The algae/cyanobacteria use photosynthesis to provide the fungi with carbohydrates while the fungi protect the algae/cyanobacteria from the environment. Lichen on Earth can grow on plants by using them as substrates, so it may not be such a stretch to propose that since Felucia lacks trees, lichen would grow instead on the stalks of high reaching mushrooms, thus allowing for fungi to grow taller.

As for a rank, those paying attention to the tier list may have realised that the grading letter usually corresponds with some aspect of the planet. So you probably already know what Felucia, fungi, and Class F stars might receive …

Or do you? I mean, if only science was played by the rules and exceptions weren’t a thing.

Felucia = C


Bibliography:

Felucia/Legends. Retrieved 18 January 2021, from https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Felucia/Legends

How could mushroom/fungi forests be possible?. (2018). Retrieved 18 January 2021, from https://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/94993/how-could-mushroom-fungi-forests-be-possible

Kasting, J., Whittet, D., & Sheldon, W. (1996). The Effect of Ultraviolet Radiation on Planetary Habitability. Lunar And Planetary Science, 27, 655. Retrieved from http://adsabs.harvard.edu/full/1996LPI….27..655K

Kiang, N. (2008, April). The Colour of Plants on Other Worlds. Retrieved 18 January 2021, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-color-of-plants-on-other-worlds/

Lichen. (2021). Retrieved 18 January 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lichen

Main, D. (2020, January 22). World’s oldest fungi, found in fossils, may rewrite Earth’s early history. Retrieved 18 January 2021, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/01/oldest-fungus-fossils-found-earth-history/#close

melodysheep. (2020, October 08). LIFE BEYOND II: The Museum of Alien Life (4K) [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThDYazipjSI

National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Science Mission Directorate. (2010). Ultraviolet Waves.], from NASA Science website: http://science.nasa.gov/ems/10_ultravioletwaves

PBS Eons. (2017, December 18). When Giant Fungi Ruled [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-G64DagHuOg

Plants under Alien Suns. Retrieved 18 January 2021, from http://www.solstation.com/life/a-plants.htm

StarWars.com | Felucia. Retrieved 18 January 2021, from https://web.archive.org/web/20101129154524/http://starwars.com/databank/location/felucia/index.html

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