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In a world for an RPG setting I’m working on, there’s a species of humanoids known as the Auri. Auri are directly evolved from humans, but have a completely different society.

Over the thousands of generations between the catastrophe that cut them off from other humans and the time they re-emerged, the Auri began to practice polyamory and polygamy, mating in groups of seven (a holy number). All parents contribute genes to any baby, and one parent (of any of the ‘female’ sexes) carries it to term. There are seven distinct sexes (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, with A, B, and C being ‘female’, D being nearly neutral, and E, F, and G being ‘male’), and one individual of each sex is required to reproduce. Auri have 7 copies of each chromosome except the sex chromosomes, which they only have one of (this determines biological sex).

A player is playing an Auri married to six other (mostly NPCs but the player has final say over them) Auri, and has expressed a desire for their character to have a child. I had originally put in all this as a world building detail, but now I realized I don’t know how this could develop over time.

I’m not asking about the specific anatomy, just about the process of evolution.

TL;DR

How can humans evolve from diploid creatures with two sexes to heptaploid creatures with seven sexes? If it helps, the technology went from early Industrial Revolution to about 2010 equivalent from the time they were cut off until their reemergence. I’d appreciate answers that don’t use magic to explain things; this is for a fantasy world, but I want scientific answers. I’d also appreciate it if answerers would keep in mind that the youngest player is only 10 and I might need to show the players this as a group (please, I really don’t want their mom mad at me).

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    $\begingroup$ Simple answer: they can't. Your proposed genetic mechanism would require re-wiring everything. There would be no evolutionary pressure to evolve such a system, and considerable pressure against, since a creature that has to find 6 other partners is very unlikely to reproduce successfully. Hard enough to just find one :-( $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Sep 25 '20 at 6:20
  • $\begingroup$ How do the ABC members contribute genetic material, and which one actually holds the baby? $\endgroup$ – Ash Sep 25 '20 at 6:24
  • $\begingroup$ Lot of useful stuff is on the secondary sex chromosome in males. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X_chromosome. There's about 200 important genes listed, Each with their own wikipedia page. $\endgroup$ – Ash Sep 25 '20 at 6:26
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    $\begingroup$ We have no idea, because as far as we know it is not possible. No living species on this Earth does this, or anything like this. As far as I know, the only remotely similar reproductive mechanism is described in Isaac Asimov's The Gods Themselves (1972), and even there there are only three sexes. (Ah, and the title is misleading. Reproducing in groups of seven and having seven different sexes, all being necessary for reproduction, are two extremely different things.) $\endgroup$ – AlexP Sep 25 '20 at 6:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Ash I probably should have mentioned that stuff first; individuals with the D chromosome carry the baby, and the actual process of exchanging genetic material by all partners is basically a Petri dish and IVF. (In endeavoring to keep it appropriate, that’ll all be glossed over.) $\endgroup$ – Bardic Wizard Sep 25 '20 at 13:17
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Only non-sexually:

  1. Humans start using designer babies
    • Mum and dad start designing their baby in a computer, the genetisist picks the correct genes and builds the embryo from the specs.
  2. A religion based on the power of 7 starts.
    • Hopefully their planet has 7 heavenly bodies to inspire such a religion. 7 being godly comes from [Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn] being visible in the sky. 7 Gods.
  3. Followers of the region decide to start reproducing in tuples of 7. They sample 7 parents DNA in order to extract the optimal genetics, using the existing designer baby process.
  4. There are 3 classes of females, 3 classes of males, and D is a female who can carry a baby to term.
    • The classes are an arbitrary construct and not genetic. They have status within the religion (An A can only work in these professions, and F can only work in these professions, etc).
  5. After a few generations, the religious devout start sabotaging the created embryos so they're no longer capable of normal sexual reproduction.
  6. Sexual urges still exist, and one-on-one sexual activity still happens, but it is frowned upon socially (it's basically masturbation in this context), but reproduction can only occur within the religiously approved group of 7, done via IVF.

But if it must be biological?

The reasons for this are in the comments to your question.

But what if it did, what would it look like?
This is a slightly realistic process. It's still flawed, but has a decent chance of suspending disbelief in those who aren't biologists:

  1. Mutations occur that aren't noticed and play no role. These create your 7 genders. 3 different types of X Chromosone (XA, XB, XC). 3 different types of Y chromosome (YE, YF, YG). And an intersex gender.
  2. Many generations go past, allowing the genes to distribute. No-one notices anything because the changes are subtle and non-dominant. You have Xa-X females, you have Ye-Xb males, etc.
  3. Eventually you start getting pairs, eg Xa-Xa females. You need the X chromosome so you'll never get males without X chromosomes. You'll have eg a Yf-Xb male, a Yf-Xa male, a Ye-Xc male, etc. These "pair matched" children have an advantage over normal children. Minor superpower sort of thing.
  4. Something happens to delay the internal travel of genetic material post sex. You're keeping this family friendly so not worth going into the survivability of spermoza in different environments. Basically sperm merge together: Yd and Ye combine to give the genetic advantages of each.
  5. You need to define a way for females to exchange genetic material that isn't lesbian porn. I have no ideas.
  6. When this occurs, the child has the advantages of both females X chromosomes.
  7. You need a way for someone with neither sex organ to contribute genetic material that isn't intersex porn. I'm even more a loss for words on how this can occur.
  8. A child takes the benefits of all 7 parents, one chromosome becomes dominant, giving their gender.

Yeah this process is flawed, and anyone good at biology would rip it to shreds. But it sort of loosely follows the path that would be needed, and may be suitable.

Interesting maths observation:

Each family (polycle?) needs to have 7 children to replace themselves - obviously. How many children do you need to have to get a child of all 7 genders?

If they're random then this becomes the coupon collector problem. You'll need to have 18 children on average per family to get a 50% chance of having 1 child of each gender.

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Superfecundation?

So female dogs can become pregnant with semen from multiple fathers in a single litter (info). It doesn't seem like a huge stretch that a human population would develop this same ability (first a tendency to release multiple eggs rather than our current singleton-bias, then some amount of sperm selectiveness from each father).

From there, the step towards needing multiple fathers seems a little closer and more plausible.

Not sure how the multiple mothers would come into play though, other than through a Oankali-like biological manipulation on the part of the "neutral" sex (see Octavia Butler's "Lilith's Brood" series).

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  • $\begingroup$ Plausible answer here. And I agree having multiple mother doesn't really make sense. If you have only one offspring at the end, it means you had only one egg at the start. So only one female, even if D were to carry the baby. All the others are just throwing in genetic material (through sperm ?) so they are indeed male, whatever they look like. And D wouldn't be called "neutral", it would probably have a real name. But the most plausible explanation would still be that D is female and all the others are male, even if different kind of males. $\endgroup$ – Echox Sep 29 '20 at 8:40

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