Planet Eater
Planet Eater
Graha khanara
Other Names Khanara
World Eater
Shiva
Intelligence Sentient
Homeworld Interstellar, origin unknown
Composition Carbon-based
Taxonomy
Realm Nahigraha
Empire Selyulara
Kingdom Prania
Phylum Prsthavansiya
Class Bahyahada
Order Hypercarnivora
Family Bhatakata
Genus Graha
Subspecies None known
Languages None
Size 100-200 thousand kilometres in length
Ancestors None known
Descendants None known
Civilizations None
Notable Individuals Sol Planet Eater
Tau Ceti Planet Eater

A planet eater, or khanara, is a member of a species of truly immense, mega-predatory creatures that prey mainly on inhabited terrestrial planets. They wander from star system to star system in search of suitable food. Planet Eaters are among the few surviving species of the Realm Nahigraha. The origins of Nahigraha are mysterious, but it has certainly undergone much of its evolution in interstellar space.

Physiology

The most striking characteristic of a Planet Eater is its size. Specimens can grow up to two hundred thousand kilometres in length, and perhaps further. This size puts them on the scale of a terrestrial planet, which, as indicated by the name, is the species' primary prey. The Planet Eater has a long, leech-like body, with a round head that joins a tail. The tail tapers off to a point. The head plays host to the Planet Eater's primary eyes and chemosensitive organs, not to mention its impressive mouth. The mouth is surrounded by a set of four mandibles, used to grasp the target planet. The tongue of a khanara has many long, sensitive papillae, which can be individually controlled to probe potential food.
The rest of the body is covered in EM-sensitive organs, specifically adapted for seeking radio waves and other signs of intelligent life. The Planet Eater's main eyes, located on its head, are extremely sensitive and are capable of resolving relatively minuscule objects. As the Planet Eater is able to see a wide range of the electromagnetic spectrum, it can also analyse the composition of a star or a planet's atmosphere using spectroscopy. In addition, specialised organs used for the measurement of gravitational fields line their exoskeletons. These are used to plot their trajectories and calculate the mass of their food.
A khanara has both an endo- and an exoskeleton, consisting of hard minerals taken from consumed planets. The Eaters' teeth are similarly composed Although as thick as a planet's crust, the exoskeleton is segmented to allow mobility. Ferromagnetic minerals in the exoskeleton are specifically arranged to generate a strong magnetic field, which repels cosmic rays and the solar wind. The endoskeleton is cunningly engineered to support the khanara against gravitational collapse.
Planet eater cells are adapted to survive on very little oxygen, and the khanara has no dedicated respiratory system. Instead, oxygen from consumed planets is circulated through the Planet Eater's body from the digestive system. As it frequently deals with the exceedingly hot interior of geologically active planets, the interior of a Planet Eater is adapted for dealing with very high temperatures. They are also highly resistant to radioactivity, including nuclear explosions.
Thermoregulation in such a vast creature is a monumental task, and it has both endo- and ectothermic mechanisms with which to achieve this. Much of a khanara's body heat is drawn from the geothermal energy of the planets it has eaten, while some is also absorbed from incident stellar radiation.
Planet eaters propel themselves with bursts of helium gas fired from specialised organs called jet bladders - helium because it is an inert gas with no other function. The gas is scooped from the atmospheres of gas giant planets, which are too large for the planet eater to simply eat. Using these, which can generate very high pressures in the bladder and hence fire the gas at high velocities, a planet eater can eventually attain speeds up to one-tenth of the speed of light. They also take advantage of the momentum (and angular momentum) of the planets they consume, using it to accelerate. They do so by grasping the planet with their mandibles so that some momentum is transferred.
Planet eaters have a number of parasites. Many of them have evolved from species that were on planets consumed by them and somehow clung to life. The enormous mass of an Eater is capable of capturing its own atmosphere and supporting an ecosystem of its own on its surface, quite unbeknownst to the individual.
A planet eater's body is highly efficient and produces little waste. All products are recycled for some purpose within the individual. The khanara also has a myriad of internal organs that undertake chemical synthesis, both splitting and combining molecules into the desired materials.

Diet

The appetite of a planet eater is unmatched in all the known universe. Although it is biased toward planets with an intelligent species, due to the relative ease of locating such planets, it will eat any planet with life. It will often gorge itself on multiple planets in a star system, depending on its current dietary needs. When approaching a suitable planet, a planet eater will stretch its jaws and close its mouth around the planet. If a khanara comes across a planet too large to fit in its mouth, it will attempt to break it into smaller pieces by thrashing with its tail or merely lap up the biosphere. It will then suck the planet's atmosphere, biosphere and hydrosphere (including all life) into its primary digestive system using its tongue. This digestive system sorts the materials by their respective uses and circulates them around the individual's body.
The khanara then proceeds to masticate the remaining bulk of the planet until it has been chewed into much smaller pieces. These pieces are taken to the secondary digestive system, which is adapted for processing solid, inorganic materials over the course of decades or centuries. The core of a planet will be swallowed whole and used as a gizzard stone, helping to crush the digesting rock, while the khanara also continues to absorb heat from it. These minerals are then incorporated into the individual's skeletal structure.
Planet eaters will also occasionally resort to cannibalism, especially when individuals of the same sex and of very different size encounter one another. This is unusual, however, as Planet Eaters find it very difficult to pierce their own thick armour, and young individuals are the most cannibalised.
Part of a khanara's energy intake comes from photosynthesis of solar energy, and another part comes from chemosynthesis in which energy is derived from the hot inner layers of consumed planets.

Life Cycle

Planet eaters reproduce sexually, giving off pan-spectrum electromagnetic emissions as a mating call when in the vicinity of a khanara of the opposite sex. Gestation takes a single migratory period, with birth taking place at the next star system. The mated pair stay together until the litter is born, and then go their separate ways, dividing the litter between them. They give birth to live young, usually one to three at a time, which follow in the wake of their parent. The parent feeds its children using an external organ through which predigested food is passed. Only one of these organs exists per individual, so in cases of multiple young, they will often fight over who gets to eat. Sometimes, the dominant offspring will eat the smaller, when it has grown sufficiently.
When large enough to digest planets for itself, young planet eaters will leave their parents to hunt for themselves.
A planet eater's armour is divided into segments, which allows it to grow without having to shed its exoskeleton. As the khanara grows, the exoskeleton grows with it, each segment spreading to cover the growing creature.
Once it has reached maturity, a Planet Eater will probably endure for hundreds of thousands of years - although the maximum lifespan has yet to be determined, and may number in the millions. During this time it will generally mate several times.

Behaviour

After a khanara has eaten its fill in a star system, it will scan the surrounding stars for potential food. It will complete several orbits of its current system as it does so, measuring the parallax of nearby stars and hence their distance. Using its sensory organs, which afford it a spectacular spatial resolution due to its size, it will look for radio signals from intelligent species, which is the surest way of locating a living world. It is able to detect and interpret such signals with a much greater accuracy than 21st century Earth technology. It will focus on stable, main sequence stars; if it fails to find any artificial signals, it will then seek planets with higher probabilities of being inhabited, using spectroscopy to determine the atmospheric composition and so on. If spectroscopic detection does not succeed, it will pick a system with the highest likelihood of hosting life, which it calculates from the star's projected habitable band and the number of planets around it (which it is able to detect using the same methods that Earth astronomers use to detect exoplanets).
When the Planet Eater has selected an appropriate destination, it will enter a hyberbolic or parabolic orbit, using its current star's gravity to slingshot it towards the next. After reaching escape velocity, using further gas if need be, it will then enter hibernation, during which it digests its food. During hibernation, the Eater's sensory organs remain on alert, waking the Planet Eater at any sufficiently large change in its surroundings. This can either mean that it has arrived at its next star system or that it is in danger. It also locks its exoskeleton, protecting itself from sudden impacts.
Planet Eaters will avoid comets and other fast-moving planetoids, which are among the few objects that pose a threat.
Same-sex individuals will usually keep their distance from each other, engaging in threat displays that take advantage of their impressive spectral emission abilities.

Communication

Planet eaters communicate with each other via electromagnetic radiation, especially radio waves, which they are adept at detecting. Each receptor organ on an Eater's body is capable of emitting at multiple frequencies, meaning that they are both sensory and communicative. However, as Planet Eaters very rarely encounter one another in the vastness of space, these communications are generally reserved for threat displays and mating rituals. Body language also plays a role; females flick their tails to indicate their receptiveness to a potential mate.

Intelligence

Planet Eaters demonstrate a high degree of intelligence, particularly mathematical intelligence. Their vast brains are easily able to compute astronomical trajectories and sort through a huge amount of data in the search for potential prey. Much of this is instinctive, but they also appear to have some degree of self-awareness, and in some individuals an understanding of other species. A theory of mind has been demonstrated in some individuals.

Habitat

Planet Eaters are native to the Milky Way Galaxy, and keep mainly to the central bulge where distances between systems are not so great. Larger individuals have been known to venture to the middle and outer arms on occasion.

Relationships

Planet eaters have no natural predators aside from other Planet eaters. However, due to the extreme threat posed to inhabited worlds, planet eaters are usually killed on sight by sufficiently advanced species. There are some very few who attempt to conserve them, while others merely repel them and leave them be.
Planet Eaters are natural instigators of panspermia, unwittingly carrying life in the form of microorganisms or parasites from one system to another, and as such may be responsible for seeding uneaten worlds with life. Therefore they may play a vital role in the galactic ecosystem. Further study in this area is needed.

Etymology

The Planet Eater's scientific name (Graha khanara) is derived from Marathi, literally meaning Planet Eater. Other members of the genus Graha are of a similar, planet-like scale, earning the name.

Documentation

Short Stories

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 License