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Baby Shape Shifter Genetics

  1. Jul 30, 2014 #1
    I am currently working on a story, and would like to pose a Theoretical Genetics Question. If a non-human shape shifter takes human form, then meets and falls in love with a human being… Would their offspring be shape shifters as well? For the sake of this question we will make four basic assumptions.
    A) Both are normal healthy specimens of their respective races.
    B) They successfully have children without any complications.
    C) The specific DNA sequence that allows the shape shifter to function is dormant in human beings. But, remains active when the shape shifter is in their human form… Potentially allowing it to be passed on to their offspring.
    D) The gene that allows shape shifting is a normal ( Non-recessive ) characteristic of the shape shifter’s race.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 30, 2014 #2
    Since the concept is completely made-up, you can choose whatever you want to make your story work.
  4. Jul 31, 2014 #3
    That depends on what kind of shape-shifting you're talking about. The Culture sequence of novels by Iain M Banks has a race called the Changers, who are born with the ability to gradually alter details like body length, body constitution, skin and hair color, something the use to impersonate other humanoids.

    If a race of "shape shifters" are created from human stock in our future, they might be made to be compatible with the original humans as well as other transhuman species. A species of changers would almost certainly not evolve naturally from humans, the changes needed are too complex for that. Again they'd be something close to "culture Changers" rather than Star Treks "shape shifters", creatures made out of "homogeneous jelly", the basic physiology in the latter case is too far removed from the human base-line. With advanced enough biotech, it might be possible to design a species like that, but it wouldn't have much to do with humanity, they might as well be more closely related to black mold.

    Seen from a scientific POV, the degree of convergent evolution seen in the Culture universe with half of all intelligent species being relatively similar-looking humanoids is extreme and rather unlikely. That genetics and biochemistry would operate the same way (DNA, codons, RNA, 20-amino acids) in species that have evolved on different worlds, is in my opinion extremely unlikely.

    Another thing: Simplifying it a bit, genes are sequences of nucleotides that code for amino-acid sequences, which in turn make up a protein to be used in the body. An ability that requires every single organ in the body to be able to alter its form in adulthood will be not be governed by one gene, rather it will hundreds of genes, and the rest of the genome will still have to be tweaked to allow for the change to happen. The ability of such a species to interbreed with a base-line human ("us") will not occur "naturally," there will have to be some rather advanced biotechnology involved to make that happen.

    DISCLAIMER: The above post involves speculation in possible (as in "not known to be impossible") future technology. Even so, it might prove to be impossible due to reasons we've yet to discover, but according to my imperfect knowledge in biology, chemistry, genetics... Well, you get the point.
  5. Jul 31, 2014 #4
    Thank you for response. Although your answer does not utilize the parameters provided for this question, it’s obvious you used a clear and logical approach to your thinking. I say this because your answer makes perfect sense to a prerequisite question I deliberately bypassed. ( Should these two be able to have children in the first place ) The fact is, I happen to agree with your conclusion. However, the story line requires our hero & heroine to have kids their Arch Enemy can take hostage, Therefore, I moved on to… Ok, if the kids already exist; Will any of them turn out to be shape shifters when they reach puberty ? I would be interested in hearing your conclusion, if you can work with the premise these kids exist. ( and are perfectly healthy )
  6. Jul 31, 2014 #5
    Special Note to Micromass: Thank you for accepting my use of artistic license. This is truly appreciated. I am creating a world for my characters where things are a little different from our own world. But would like to keep from violating the laws of physics & nature more than I need to make things work. That is why I value the opinion of yourself and others in this effort.
  7. Aug 1, 2014 #6
    OK, the geneticists who designed the race (or races) wanted the two species to be able to interbreed and the rest depends upon what they've designed. Perhaps due to shoddy design/genetic drift the normal human-shape shifter hybrids can alter their appearance, but it doesn't happen as quickly or as easy as it does for full "changers". Perhaps the ability only shows up in girls/boys or is carried on from a mother but not a father, or the other way around?

    Parameters such as? A single gene or gene-sequence doing that much, well, like I said it brings my suspension-of-disbelief into Transformers territory. But some people like it there (like my roomies) so don't let that stop you! Good luck :)
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