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Realistic Lizard Folk
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Realistic Lizard Folk:

 1 Tera Chimera, Mon, 6th May '13 8:30:00 AM from somewhere out there
Cool Celtic Composition
So my alternate history series significantly involves a race of Lizard Folk. However, I've decided that I want to have the series be as realistic as reasonably possible. People hurt their fists in brawls, guns require hearing protection, jumping through a glass window will get you sliced up with glass shards (assuming you get through the window in the first place), and so on. As part of that, I want to have them be reasonably plausible as lizards from a scientific viewpoint, if possible.

The major issues I can think of are as follows. I know that it's unlikely that all of this will be answered, but every bit helps. Any other suggestions of things that I missed or got wrong are welcome.
  • Like most lizards, they can see in near-ultraviolet light.
    • Would they see color differently than humans, or would they just see another color that we can't, with everything else appearing the same?
    • The sky is blue because of Rayleigh scattering and human retinas being more sensitive to blue light than violet light. Since they can see in UV, would their retinas be sensitive to different wavelengths and therefore see the sky as a different color, possibly regular violet? Or would they still see the sky as blue, due to the sun producing less violet light overall and a greater percentage of violet light being absorbed by the atmosphere?
  • Their hearing is significantly less sensitive than a human's; about 30 Hz to 8 kHz, compared to a human's 20 Hz to 20 kHz.
    • Would sounds sound significantly different to them?
    • To a human, pure tones of about 4 to 6 kHz can be piercing, almost painful. You can check here to see for yourself Would the "painful" tones be different for them, given their different hearing range?
  • What would their sense of smell be like? How could a vomeronasal/Jacobson organ affect it beyond pheromones?
  • As they're cold-blooded, they don't need to take in energy to maintain body temperature, and so need to eat about a third as much as a human. However, they also need to live in warmer environments or have special equipment to keep their body temperature up.
    • How would this affect their sense of temperature? Would a hot environment seem to cool off as their temperature stabilized?
  • How would scales affect their sense of touch? I'm thinking it would be limited compared to a human's touch.
    • The scales do not provide any significant protection that human skin doesn't. The closest it comes is turning away small thorns and such.
  • What kind of diseases could they get that humans can't, because of biochemical barriers? What about vice versa?
    • How about food?
  • How would a tail affect their balance and center of gravity?
  • What kind of accent would they get with a snoutish mouth? Would there be certain sounds that they can't pronounce? Would they be able to make sounds that we can't?
    • I currently think that they would have trouble pronouncing the following sounds: oo (as in cool, not book), w, other sounds that require a puckering of the lips, ch, sh, j.

edited 6th May '13 8:32:55 AM by TeraChimera

"The Uncertainty Principle isn't about uncertainty and it isn't a principle; other than that, it's perfectly named." — David Van Baak
 2 ryuhza, Mon, 6th May '13 2:32:12 PM from San Diego, California Relationship Status: I know
M.T. (Saftey In Shadows)
Actually, I might need to learn some of this stuff too, if to a lesser extent.

Unfortunately I can't help you with answers myself. sad

 3 Demetrios, Mon, 6th May '13 2:37:20 PM from Northbrook, Illinois
[up][up]For the food, most reptiles are carnivorous, a few are herbivorous, and some mix up the two. I hope it helps.
 4 Tera Chimera, Mon, 6th May '13 4:04:17 PM from somewhere out there
Cool Celtic Composition
[up] I figured that. What I meant by "what about food?" is basically, "What kinds of food can they eat and we can't, and vice versa, because of biochemical barriers?"

Although I kind of doubt barriers like that exist for food in this case.
"The Uncertainty Principle isn't about uncertainty and it isn't a principle; other than that, it's perfectly named." — David Van Baak
For food, the only difference that should matter is when it comes to potential toxicity factors. Food that is toxic to species X but not to species Y is because species Y has a counter measure (usually an enzyme) to food toxin Z.

The thing about scales is that they tend to get tougher the more massive the reptile is. The dorsal side and the head tend to have the toughest scales. For example, there are true accounts of very large African crocodiles being shot IN THE FACE several times with a submachine gun and coming out relatively okay from it (IIRC, it did suffer minor injuries). I would expect a man sized lizard to have tougher scales than a typical garden variety lizard. Recall that hunters had to invent specialist rifles to kill adult bull elephants (hence the term "elephant gun") due to their tough hides.

For movement, I doubt a realistic lizard man would be fully upright (as in completely vertical spine), but rather at a mostly upright spine (slanted vertical angle). Due to mass of the animal, the tail could be a deceptively effective defensive weapon (think opprutunistic attack to trip or otherwise stun a foe).

edited 7th May '13 7:13:50 PM by magnum12

 
 6 Matues, Wed, 8th May '13 4:39:58 AM Relationship Status: Reincarnated romance
This is a beautiful thread.

If I come across anything useful, I'll be sure to mention it.
 7 Loni Jay, Wed, 8th May '13 5:16:40 AM from Australia Relationship Status: Pining for the fjords
I'm not sure if this is useful, but when I was learning about locomotion, they said that reptiles tend to suspend their bodies between their limbs, compared to mammals that sort of balance their bodies on top of their limbs.
Be not afraid...
 8 Tera Chimera, Wed, 8th May '13 7:03:57 AM from somewhere out there
Cool Celtic Composition
[up][up][up] This is probably going to sound overly semantic, but crocodiles aren't lizards. They're crocodilians, part of the order Crocodylia, whereas lizards are part of order Squamata. A better comparison would be with a Komodo dragon or other monitor lizard.
"The Uncertainty Principle isn't about uncertainty and it isn't a principle; other than that, it's perfectly named." — David Van Baak
 9 Ars Thaumaturgis, Wed, 8th May '13 9:30:13 AM Relationship Status: I've been dreaming of True Love's Kiss
[up][up] Although we have a counter-example in the dinosaurs, I believe. Additionally, I'm not sure that a splayed stance would work wonderfully for a bipedal animal, so I think that I'd be inclined to have them walk with their legs beneath their bodies.

 10 Wolf 1066, Wed, 8th May '13 12:51:42 PM from New Zealand Relationship Status: In my bunk
Wolf1066
Human hips, spine etc differ from those of other primates and our common ancestors as we adapted to a more upright posture so some difference between the bipedal lizard folk and their quadrupedal cousins would be expected after adapting to an upright posture over millions of years.

For a lizard that can not only walk on its hind legs but do so at a fast enough speed to run on water, look at the basilisk lizard.

That should give you the gait of the primitive ancestors, anyway.
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 11 Tuckerscreator, Wed, 8th May '13 2:21:57 PM from The Death Star Relationship Status: The Skitty to my Wailord
Every film should end with a Deus T. rex Machina
You might also want to address whether they still have claws. Large claws could get in the way of handling delicate objects with their fingers. They might file them down, perhaps, to avoid this, but one interesting adaptation could be that the fingers are now clawless but the knuckles have the claw protrusions instead, kinda like Wolverine.
I hear it's amazing when the famous purple stuffed worm in flap-jaw space with a tuning fork does a raw blink on Hari-Kiri rock.
Like most lizards, they can see in near-ultraviolet light. Would they see color differently than humans, or would they just see another color that we can't, with everything else appearing the same? The sky is blue because of Rayleigh scattering and human retinas being more sensitive to blue light than violet light. Since they can see in UV, would their retinas be sensitive to different wavelengths and therefore see the sky as a different color, possibly regular violet? Or would they still see the sky as blue, due to the sun producing less violet light overall and a greater percentage of violet light being absorbed by the atmosphere?

Dogs are dichromatic, meaning they can only see 2 primary colors other than black and white. Those 2 colors are yellow and blue. They see things that are red as green. Human skin is a lime to olive green. Humans can see more, with the added red cone. If the lizard people have an extra cone, it would be another primary color that would affect the way the world looks. But it's likely that the sky would stay the same color.

Their hearing is significantly less sensitive than a human's; about 30 Hz to 8 kHz, compared to a human's 20 Hz to 20 kHz. Would sounds sound significantly different to them?

Probably.

To a human, pure tones of about 4 to 6 kHz can be piercing, almost painful. You can check here to see for yourself. Would the "painful" tones be different for them, given their different hearing range?

Probably.

What would their sense of smell be like? How could a vomeronasal/Jacobson organ affect it beyond pheromones?

I have no idea, but I imagine smell in their society would be on par with sight.

As they're cold-blooded, they don't need to take in energy to maintain body temperature, and so need to eat about a third as much as a human. However, they also need to live in warmer environments or have special equipment to keep their body temperature up. How would this affect their sense of temperature? Would a hot environment seem to cool off as their temperature stabilized?

It would make them feel a lot more vulnerable in a cold climate.

How would scales affect their sense of touch?

It wouldn't have an effect. Remember, reptilian scales are just bloated versions of human skin. And if the sensory nerves are in the same place, then there's no big change.

What kind of diseases could they get that humans can't, because of biochemical barriers? What about vice versa?

They can't get rabies or AIDS, but they can get dermatological diseases that pertain to scales.

How about food? I assume this society's omnivorous. If so, they'd probably have learned about agriculture and have utilized it.

How would a tail affect their balance and center of gravity?

It would have an extremely large effect. The tail would probably evolve to be much smaller. If not, the people might walk around crouched.

What kind of accent would they get with a snoutish mouth? Would there be certain sounds that they can't pronounce? Would they be able to make sounds that we can't?

They'd likely have an accent similar to that of a native to Mexico or the Southeast USA. If they have no lips, they can't make the /m/, /b/, or /p/ sounds.

edited 8th May '13 2:44:34 PM by Golbolco

 
 13 Wolf 1066, Wed, 8th May '13 2:54:53 PM from New Zealand Relationship Status: In my bunk
Wolf1066
Their larynx would also affect how they sound and what vowels they can produce. I recall reading that H. Neanderthalensis would not be able to make as many vowel sounds as H. Sapiens, resulting in a simpler spoken language (though there is always the possibility that tonal range or visual cues could expand the complexity of the language beyond what is possible with mere phonemes).
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 14 Muramasan 13, Wed, 8th May '13 4:26:15 PM Relationship Status: Not war
Since they would need to eat so infrequently, feeding could become a culturally significant occasion.
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 15 Tuckerscreator, Wed, 8th May '13 4:41:09 PM from The Death Star Relationship Status: The Skitty to my Wailord
Every film should end with a Deus T. rex Machina
And their teeth. Big teeth would affect their mouth's dexterity, and thus their speech, but could potentially allow for new sounds.

As for tails, maybe they could compensate for their lowered speaking ability with using their tail as a signal for expressions, similarly to how dog tails show whether they're happy or sad.

edited 8th May '13 4:43:35 PM by Tuckerscreator

I hear it's amazing when the famous purple stuffed worm in flap-jaw space with a tuning fork does a raw blink on Hari-Kiri rock.
 16 Wolf 1066, Wed, 8th May '13 4:49:55 PM from New Zealand Relationship Status: In my bunk
Wolf1066
There's the potential for them to have a number of highly complex languages amongst themselves but be completely unable to speak any human language (and no human able to speak any of theirs).

Or if they can manage some of our sounds, they may be able to speak some of our words and completely mangle others.

Depending on larynx and the effect of their teeth, along with the lack of supple lips, them speaking, say, English may well sound like a foreign language to someone who has not heard it before. Especially if they cannot make some of our vowel sounds and have others we cannot make.
Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
 17 Tera Chimera, Wed, 8th May '13 6:44:37 PM from somewhere out there
Cool Celtic Composition
You might also want to address whether they still have claws. Large claws could get in the way of handling delicate objects with their fingers. They might file them down, perhaps, to avoid this, but one interesting adaptation could be that the fingers are now clawless but the knuckles have the claw protrusions instead, kinda like Wolverine.

I already have, to a certain extent. The claws aren't much longer than the average human nail; they're fine for most activities, although something like typing can be finicky. A lot of them do file their claws down, both for finer control and to look less threatening.

However, because of their claws, they've never developed the handshake. For humans, it started out as a way of saying, "I'm unarmed." For a species with claws, on the other hand, extending your hand like that is kind of like saying, "I'm going to personally gut you."

Re: languages. I should've mentioned this before, but lizards frequently communicate through body language. As an extension of that, this species often replaces parts of speech in their native languages with gestures; instead of saying, "I'll go to the store", they might say, "I go to the store" and wave their hand forward a bit for the future tense.

I've decided that, for sake of simplification, they can speak English relatively well, although they have trouble with certain sounds, especially /ch/, /j/, and /u/. I've also developed a language for them that avoids some of our sounds, but uses some we don't. In particular, they have several different ways of saying /r/, depending on whether it's trilled, tapped, guttural, or an approximant.
"The Uncertainty Principle isn't about uncertainty and it isn't a principle; other than that, it's perfectly named." — David Van Baak
Perhaps a "fist bump" (making contact with each other's closed fists) could be used as a handshake analogue without the risk of mutually slicing each other's hands or to imply a lack of threat.

edited 8th May '13 10:32:32 PM by magnum12

 
 19 Tuckerscreator, Thu, 9th May '13 2:10:09 PM from The Death Star Relationship Status: The Skitty to my Wailord
Every film should end with a Deus T. rex Machina
Maybe even "tail bumps"?
I hear it's amazing when the famous purple stuffed worm in flap-jaw space with a tuning fork does a raw blink on Hari-Kiri rock.
 20 JHM, Sat, 11th May '13 6:24:39 AM from Neither Here Nor There Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
On the optics thing: Given what I have read about dichromatic vision and how colours appear under those circumstances, it seems to me that the presence of a high-end violet receptor in the eye would not only effect blues and violets (say, making the sky more purplish), but also reds, pinks and magentas as they transition into violet, with a stronger differentiation between gradations of such colours and how they complement one another. Additionally, certain reflective or luminescent materials might appear a different shade, perhaps brightening or coming out more in black-light rather than merely fluorescing.

Strictly speaking, this added dimension of palette would apply to the entire spectrum, but given the overlap with the "space" between red and violet, the nuances of those would be most strongly effected, much as the absence of a red receptor drains the ability to conveniently separate reds from yellows—or, perhaps, how some individual humans are believed to possess the genetic fluke of an additional yellow receptor, leading to any number of fine distinctions that might bypass less gifted individuals.

I love colour theory.
 21 Gemsparky, Sat, 9th Nov '13 1:12:28 PM from North America
Gemsparky
As for diet, most lizards are insectivores (although larger lizards tend to eat fish as well). Also, lizards "smell" with their tongues. They lick things to get their scent. Just some random facts.
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 22 Demetrios, Sat, 9th Nov '13 1:30:16 PM from Northbrook, Illinois
And some like the flesh of mammals and birds.
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Total posts: 22
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