December 6, 2023

It’s Aquamorphin’ Time

Image credit: 
Blandford Press 1990
Man After Man by Dougal Dixon

The lights of the submarine cut through the darkness, illuminating a half circle of the depths just ahead of you. Occasionally, a fish or squid swims lazily into the soft glow. For a second, you think you catch a glimpse of something bigger, and wonder how safe you really are in this little rust bucket. And then a pair of eyes emerge from the darkness, locked on yours, as a large and unnervingly human-like creature swims toward the glass, its unreasonably large mouth open. 

It’s time to meet the Aquamorph. 

The Aquamorph is part of Dougal Dixon’s pantheon of speculative anthropology, the first link in a nightmarish chain of genetic modification and evolutionary tinkering. 

According to Dixon, in about 200 years, man will genetically engineer a version of human that is adapted to marine life, where it will live and work to support the land-dwelling humans who are preparing to fling themselves into the far reaches of space. The Aquamorph will not go to space. He and his fellow homo aquaticus will stay in the sea, and future generations will continue to evolve into stranger and stranger versions of aquatic humanoids. 

The Aquamorph is first generation genetic manipulation–their parents were good ‘ole homo sapiens. By adjusting genes, this marine human was born with a rounded head, short neck, and flippered feet for streamlined swimming. Their skin is smooth and rubbery, with a layer of insulating blubber like fellow marine mammals, but being able to pick and choose genes means that this sucker has gills to avoid inconveniences like surfacing to breathe. They can also breathe air, but are content to get their oxygen from the water and avoid the surface all together. 

And the mouth. Dixon doesn’t say why his future geneticists would give Aquamorphs frog mouths, but they sure did make this choice. Can’t say I agree with their aesthetic sensibilities, but who knows what will be hot in a few hundred years. 

The most important characteristic of the Aquamorph to consider is that, despite their amphibious lifestyle and looks, they are human. They have human intelligence, they speak, they live in social groups, and they use technology. They’re aware of humans, but aren’t particularly interested in mingling with their land dwelling cousins / creators. And they aren’t likely to be super excited about an intrusion into their domain. Dixon’s vision of future humanity sees our underwater offspring as the most peaceful of our modified descendants, but they definitely prefer to keep to the depths and avoid whatever may be happening on land. Should you stumble across an Aquamorph, they’re likely to be somewhere between indifferent and distrustful. If you need their help, you’ll probably need to earn some trust first. If you’re looking for a fight, remember that they were literally created to live underwater, so they have home field advantage. They’ll be faster than you underwater, they’ll be able to see and navigate easily, and they can breathe underwater. Choose your battles wisely. 

Dex Dylan is the founder and acting president of the International Society of Astrocryptozoology. For decades, Dex has scoured the skies and seas (and sometimes the land, but honestly it’s so crowded) for hints of unusual life forms, and has done extensive research into the possible existence of chupacabras on Mars.