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Sagan 4 is a collaborative Speculative Biology World Building project originally created by Hydromancerx in 2006, which was rebooted in August 2019. In both the original and the reboot, all life on the planet is "evolved" by its contributing artists from a single cell. It was originally hosted on its own website, but lacking funds led to the website being taken down in 2017 and the project being transferred to the Speculative Evolution Forum. Although a backup was made, a series of unfortunate events led to the data being apparently unrecoverable; after 2 years of failed attempts to recover the lost data, the project rebooted, reverting to the state it was in just 7 days after it began.

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Sagan 4 demonstrates the following tropes:

  • Alien Animals: Pretty much the whole point of the project.
  • All Flyers Are Birds: In the original, both the Skysnappers and the Flying Plents, despite not being much like birds originally, both inexplicably evolved to become increasingly bird-like.
  • Alternate Timeline: The reboot is an alternate timeline in which the results of the first extinction event were different. In the original, the founding members each got to choose a species they wanted to spare; in the reboot, although more species actually survived the event (15 instead of only 10), most of the additional survivors were microbes and, more notably, the ancestors of the iconic purple flora and plents of the original were among the casualties this time around. Although purple plants evolved again in the reboot, it wasn't until millions of years later, by which point evolution had already taken an unrecognizable turn compared to the original.
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  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: Many species are of vivid, "unnatural" colors such as purple, pink, blue, and red. This is more prevalent in the original, but present in the reboot as well. Possibly justified, as the flora are also quite colorful and being just as colorful can serve as camouflage.
  • Armless Biped: Several examples in the original, none so far in the reboot. A handful actually walked with their arms and instead lost their legs.
    • Tasertongues and their closest relatives are bipedal and lack arms—instead manipulating objects with their long prehensile tongues.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Several examples in the original, a few in the reboot as well.
    • The Orbit Voltflora from the original, which is a 2-km long plant made of iron which is powered by lightning, lives in volcanoes, and uses biological rocket fuel to fire its seeds into orbit to reproduce.
    • Radiodurans Maximae, a microbe in the original which somehow performs nuclear fusion.
    • "Fatty lumps", a recurring integumentary feature in the original for coping with the cold in place of fur which would actually have the exact opposite effect in real life.
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    • Animals evolved from cells at least 7 times in the original, and at least 4 times in the reboot. For reference, on Earth animals only evolved from cells once.
    • Similarly, vertebrates also evolved several times across multiple kingdoms in the original, including in sessile plants. Multiple arthropod-like lineages even lost their exoskeletons to replace them with backbones.
    • The Devorator from the reboot is described as needing to swim constantly to survive, yet it has lumpy spiky armor, a stiff body, and a C-shaped tail fin which together would make it nearly incapable of swimming at all. When this error was noticed by other contributors later, it was quickly replaced with far more streamlined descendants.
  • Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism: The Prickle Gill of the reboot, which has 49 genders—21 of which are brightly colored and venomous.
  • Bizarre Alien Limbs
    • In the original, many of the terrestrial carpozoan species are tripods or pentapeds. One lineage modified its fingers into five pairs of limbs.
    • In the reboot, Lagnodactyls have four limbs—left and right in a pair, a single front limb, and a single hind limb. Despite usually resembling a tail, the single hind limb also contains the anus is further called an "anal arm", and the digits at the end are called "anal fingers".
      • Astergnathids, the "vertebrate" lagnodactyls, further have multiple "backbones" inside their limbs and digits in place of conventional limb bones.
  • Bizarre Alien Locomotion: A number of species in the original were bipeds which walked with their forelimbs. In the reboot, a handful of species such as the Goblati and the Hedgestar are "quadrupeds" which have left and right legs and a single front and single hind leg.
  • Bizarre Alien Sexes: The Twilight Gill in the reboot has a grand total of 77 mating types.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": A common theme in the original, and generally obvious from name alone ("planda", "nodent", and "plantoceratops" being a few examples). Subverted by the Shrews, which were called exactly what they are. There is a single case in the reboot, the "cish" — which, as their name suggests, are just fish.
  • Crystal Landscape: The crystal flora commonly resemble crystals, as their name would suggest, though they usually coexist with other flora. Crystal-only landscapes were occasionally seen in the original, but became far more common in the reboot as a result of all plants except for the crystal flora going extinct.
  • Depending on the Writer: Early on, the original had a lot of consistency issues caused by the large number of creators involved and the fact that they only had a single day to finish each species. As a result, strange things happened such as Plents seemingly gaining and losing full-body skeletons depending on who made a particular species, and in some cases the intention of one creator was completely ignored—for example, Segmentocauda primus was intended to be a unique animal-like organism made up of a small number of large specialized cells, but when Yokto took over the lineage in week 2, he interpreted it as a normal arthropod-like organism, and so the unique cellular nature was ignored and permanently lost.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: In the original (and, to a more limited extent, the reboot), the world and rules were not fully established yet and some of the team members had false impressions of how the project worked; in particular, although all species were supposed to have been evolved individually, there were early assumptions that submitted species were part of unseen larger clades and that microbial niches had already been filled in. Descriptions were also not required to be detailed early on, resulting in rampant misinterpretations. As a result, strange things happened such as backbones evolving several times and herbivores using gut microbes that did not actually exist.
    • In the reboot, due to the existing knowledge and experience of the team members from 10 years of trial and error, this issue is mostly restricted to the earliest parts of the project that are canon to both timelines. However, a few early reboot species also fall under this:
      • Early into the reboot, a number of species (particularly, descendants of Carpotesta Devoratori) moved directly from the coasts to the abyss and vice-versa in a single generation—something which was later disallowed.
      • At least partially due to the rules for the genus system being lost with the original website, early genus submissions such as the Globanitros and the Flying Melter Detritis have lacking or even useless information in their descriptions.
      • One species shared between the original and the reboot, the Binucleus Stellarcrystal, was misinterpreted as a free-floating microbe instead of a rooted bush- or moss-like plant, and the error went unnoticed and uncorrected until after it had already produced the Caltrops—which essentially evolved features to solve problems that did not exist.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: The original had a myriad of dinosaur-like animals from unrelated lineages—some of which, such as the Saucebacks, even evolved feathers. Other examples include the Tasertongues, which resembled pachycephalosaurus, and Plantoceratops, which was essentially a protoceratops.
  • Exposed Extraterrestrials: Out of the 3 sapient species to evolve in the original, not a single one wore clothes.
  • Fantastic Flora: The crystal flora, which are fully-functional analogs to plants and fungi which happen to look like crystals, certainly give Sagan 4's environments a fantastical flair.
  • Flying Seafood Special: In the original, a branch of flying plents became flying whales, known as Plentwhales, which were also somehow capable of filter-feeding in the sky.
  • Goal-Oriented Evolution: Present early on in the original, but fairly rare in the reboot.
    • In the original, nearly everything living on land inexplicably evolved mammalian ears under the justification that they were the most "advanced".
    • Also in the original, the shrews were a very explicit attempt to evolve mammals, and the unrelated Nodents were an explicit attempt to evolve rodents specifically.
    • In the reboot, Cish may have also been an example of this, as their evolution directly mirrored that of Earth vertebrates—even including an understandably rejected, non-canon submission which evolved directly from a fish-like creature into a salamander. This is hinted at further by descriptions of early species, such as the Algae Cish, which state that their "future looks very bright indeed"—which never came to be, as that particular species went extinct without leaving any descendants.
  • Headbutting Pachy: While not technically real pachycephalosaurs, the Tasertongues of the original are clear pachycephalosaur expies and fall under this trope.
  • Living Polyhedron: Many crystal flora are examples of this. More prevalent in the original, and restricted mostly to microscopic species in the reboot.
  • Mechanical Lifeforms: The iron fauna of the original often resembled robots.
  • More Predators Than Prey: A prevalent issue in the original, to the point that there was even an extinction event specifically to wipe out an excessive number of large predators in an environment with comparatively few herbivores.
  • Multiple-Tailed Beast: The two-tailed saucebacks.
  • No Sense of Time: Especially prevalent in the original, where plate tectonics didn't match the actual timescale and new kingdoms of animals would evolve from scratch in just a few million years. The latter is also seen in the reboot, but was quickly snuffed out by the addition of a specific rule against doing so.
    • In both the original and the reboot, it can take tens of millions of years for a lineage to spread across an entire continent due to the timescale system being disconnected from the per-species habitat rules. However, this is somewhat mitigated in the reboot with the addition of wildcard species, which can be in as many habitats as can be justified.
    • Not all lacking senses of time are equal, however. In the original, the rules about size increases were so restrictive that plants would take too long to grow large and only reach the size of large shrubs before the next extinction event, sometimes as much as 100 million years later, would kill them off—resulting in there never being any realistically large flora. In the reboot, this is addressed and averted with new rules allowing flora to grow large much faster than fauna.
  • Panda-ing to the Audience: The Planda of the original, which, as its name suggests, was just a panda.
  • Panspermia: Life first arrived on the planet because it was seeded there by the Nauceans (another creature concept by Hydromancerx, made in anticipation of Spore). In the original, panspermia occurred again later as microbes hitched a ride on the seeds of the orbit voltflora and were shot directly to Mason, Sagan 4's moon.
  • Plant Aliens: The Plents of the original and the Leafstars of the reboot. Both are animal-like organisms with plant-like biology and characteristics, with several even becoming sessile like actual plants.
  • Ptero Soarer: The Skysnappers of the original are pterosaur expies, which better resemble inaccurate movie monster pterosaurs than actual pterosaurs.
  • Reset Button: The reboot literally reverted the project to an earlier state.
  • Retcon: A few times in the original, massive changes were made to older species and lineages retroactively as a result of them being widely misinterpreted by later contributors.
    • The most notable case of this is the skeletal anatomy of Plents. They were originally intended as soft-bodied organisms which walked on powerful muscles alone, but some later contributors assumed they had full vertebrate skeletons because they resembled Earth tetrapods; as a result, there was a mixture of species that clearly had bones and ones that clearly did not later on, sometimes seemingly gaining and losing them several times in a single evolutionary line. Eventually, they were retconned to have had complete vertebrate skeletons made of wood all along, despite this not only not being biologically feasible but also never being the artistic intent of Oviraptor, who created the ancestors of the Plent lineage.
  • Revision: A number of times in both the original and the reboot, species or events were modified to correct errors or to clarify when features that just seemed to phase into existence first appeared.
    • In the original, a missing link was eventually created between the Binucleusdetritivorus Worm and the Binucleusphotoedo dodecaedrum, as they were both the result of symbiosis of the same two microbial ancestors. This missing link is absent in the reboot, as information on it was lost with the original website.
    • In the reboot, Ceratoastermorphsnote  were eventually revised to have evolved abdominal cavities despite this never being mentioned previously in order to explain their complexity—which far exceeded that of any organism on Earth without one.
  • Rubber-Forehead Aliens: Not present in any of the sapient races, but in many of the animals in the original. Most infamous are the shrews and the nodents, which respectively look like mammals with 6 eyes and rodents made of plant material. Members of the kingdom Carpozoa make up the majority of examples, also including clones of many different types of reptile and amphibian with extra eyes as their only "alien" trait.
  • Solar Flare Disaster: The first mass extinction event of the project, which is also the point of divergence between the original and the reboot, was caused by a solar flare.
  • Starfish Aliens: Inconsistently present in both, more common in the reboot. Although all species have recognizable features, even some that are directly lifted from Earth fauna, comparatively few are recognizable as any one kind of creature from Earth and their internal anatomy can sometimes be completely alien.
    • The Astergnathids, which are the "vertebrates" of the reboot, only bear a passing resemblance to terran fish. They evolved from radially symmetric ancestors and gained bilateral symmetry secondarily, but retain radial symmetry as larvae. Their tails are modified arms, and nearly all of their bones—including their limbs, skull, and digits—are derived from their "vertebrae". Their tail fins move up and down instead of side to side, and they only have one pair of fins, more like a cetacean. Their radial ancestry has resulted in many of their body parts, such as gills and jaws, being in sets of four.
  • The Plague: In the original, it was not uncommon for there to be extinction events targeting specific species or lineages with a plague. This was generally done to eliminate implausible or extremely earth-like species (Shrew Plague, Nodent Plague, Sky Sickness), though one, the Sauceback Plague, was done to solve the problem of there being More Predators Than Prey. The first extinction event of the reboot was also a plague, which similarly wiped out extremely earth-like species—the cish.
  • Too Many Cooks Spoil the Soup: On the production side, rather than anything in-universe. With the sheer number of contributors and each "Generation" only lasting one real-world day early on in the original, implausible submissions were easily approved just for the sake of finishing quickly even if the ancestor species were being wildly and obviously misinterpreted, resulting in a general decay of the project's quality and scientific accuracy. While the reboot has just as many contributors, this problem is avoided by better planning and moderation, as well as there being much more time to create submissions and for other members to critique them.
  • Use Your Head: In the original, many of the Gulpers, especially the Tasertongues, battle one another through headbutting.
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