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In my world, there are sixteen human species (mammalian species from the Homo genus):

  1. Common humans (no explanation is necessary);
  2. Marine humans/Merfolk (they have a seal-like blubber, they have a pangolin-like skin, they have webbed digits, they are as massive as belugas, they are obligate omnivores like brown rats, they are as solitary as blue whales, females are larger than males with a basking shark sexual dimorphism, they have indeterminate growth, they tend to be blood type AB, and they are negligibly senescent like Greenland sharks) (the place on Earth that can be called their cradle is New York Harbor, United States of America);
  3. Winged humans/Angels (they have hands that look like bat-like wings, they are omnivores with herbivorous tendencies like gorillas, they are as large as wandering albatrosses, they are as social as cheetahs, females are larger than males with a tarantula-like sexual dimorphism, they are venomous, they tend to be blood type A, and they are negligibly senescent like giant tortoises);
  4. Horned humans/Demons (they have goat-like horns, they are omnivores with carnivorous tendencies like raccoons, they are venomous, they are as eusocial as termites, weighting a metric tonne, the queen is always the largest individual in a given colony, and at the opposite, workers are the smallest, they only weigh a kilogram, most are intersexes, except naturally the queen, the king, the princes, and the princesses, they tend to be blood type B, and they are negligibly senescent like naked mole-rats);
  5. Magic humans/Wizards (males, females, and intersexes all have facial hair, they are obligate omnivores, they have epicanthic folds, females are larger than males with a housefly-sexual dimorphism, and they tend to be blood type AB) (the place of Earth that can be called their cradle is Cameroon);
  6. Arboreal humans/Elves (they cannot grow facial hair, they are omnivores with herbivorous tendencies, males are larger than females with an Asian elephant-like sexual dimorphism, they have pointy ears and epicanthic folds, they tend to be blood type A, and they are negligibly senescent) (the place on Earth that can be called their cradle is the United Kingdom, Scotland to be exact);
  7. Trolls (they are obligate omnivores, they are as social as goldfish, they are as large as the heaviest dog breed, they have pointy ears and epicanthic folds, males are larger than females with a lion-like sexual dimorphism, and they tend to be blood type B) (the place on Earth that can be called their cradle is Scandinavia, Mainland Denmark to be exact);
  8. Gnomes (they are as small as domestic cats, they are omnivores with herbivorous tendencies, they have pointy ears and epicanthic folds, males are larger than females with a pigeon-like sexual dimorphism, and they tend to be blood type O) (the place on Earth that can be called their cradle is Jersey, United Kingdom);
  9. Ogres (they have a seal-like blubber, they are as tall as the average real life NBA player, and as heavy as adult male gorillas, they are obligate omnivores, they have epicanthic folds, they are as solitary as orangutans, and females are larger than males with a great white shark-like sexual dimorphism, they have indeterminate growth, they tend to be blood type B, and the place on Earth that can be called their cradle is French Antilles, Fifth French Republic);
  10. Giants (they have a seal-like blubber, they are as massive as polar bears, they are omnivores with herbivorous tendencies, they are as solitary as orangutans, and females are larger than males with an American bullfrog-like sexual dimorphism, they have indeterminate growth, they tend to be blood type A, and the place on Earth that can be called their cradle is Northern Quebec, Canada);
  11. Halflings (they are obligate omnivores, they are as large as the largest domestic rabbit breed, they are as social as pygmy chimpanzees/bonobos, they have pointy ears and epicanthic folds, they tend to be blood type AB, males are larger than females with a pheasant-like sexual dimorphism) (the place on Earth that can be called their cradle is England, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland);
  12. Dwarfs (they are omnivores with carnivorous tendencies, they are as social as house mice, they have epicanthic folds, they tend to be blood type B, and males are larger than females with a dog-like dimorphism) (the place on Earth that can be called their cradle is Zürich, Switzerland);
  13. Hematophagous humans/Vampires (they are as small as common chimpanzees, they are omnivores with carnivorous tendencies, females are larger than males with a peregrine falcon-like dimorphism, they have pointy ears, they are venomous hematophagous parasites, they tend to be blood type AB, and they are negligibly senescent) (the place on Earth that can be called their cradle is Ukraine);
  14. Furry humans/Therianthropes (they are as small as orangutans and as heavy as common chimpanzees, they have a gorilla-like fur, they are omnivores with carnivorous tendencies, they are as solitary as bears, they have pointy ears, they tend to be blood type O, they are venomous parasites that steal other mammals' milk, females are larger than males with a spotted hyena-like dimorphism, and they are negligibly senescent) (the place on Earth that can be called their cradle is Russia, Siberia to be exact);
  15. Goblins (they are omnivores with herbivorous tendencies like squirrels, they have pointy ears, they tend to be blood type A, and males are larger than females with a horse-like dimorphism) (the place on Earth that can be called their cradle is Germany, Westphalia to be exact);
  16. Orcs (they are as large as American black bears, they are omnivores with carnivorous tendencies like ravens, they have pointy ears and epicanthic folds, they tend to be blood type O, and males are larger than females with a mandrill-like dimorphism) (the place on Earth that can be called their cradle is Mongolia).

Also, all these species can reproduce with each other, and the resulting offspring is sub-fertile (meaning that they can reproduce themselves, but they have a lower fertility than their parent species: females are more likely to have endometriosis, and polycystic ovary syndrome, and males are more likely to get oligospermia, and teratospermia). That said, hybrids between anatomically modern humans and wizards are extremely common (the same can be said to hybrids between ogres and giants, and to hybrids between dwarfs and halflings), but hybrids between vampires and giants are relatively rare (the same thing can be said to hybrids between demons and halflings).

Given these characteristics, what would their common phylogenetic tree look like, and what non-magical factors would drive the evolution of such varying human species?

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    $\begingroup$ Oh! Time for phylogenetic bingo. I need "molecular clock", "convergent evolution", and "it depends." $\endgroup$
    – PipperChip
    Commented Mar 29, 2022 at 22:55
  • $\begingroup$ I would also be ok with "island dwarfism", "island gigantism", and "jury is still out". $\endgroup$
    – PipperChip
    Commented Mar 29, 2022 at 22:57
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    $\begingroup$ You will be happy to know my answer does not change, even if the Society Islands are renamed the French Antilles. Phew! $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 13:37
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    $\begingroup$ you need to flesh out their anatomy, you basically want a cladogram with almost no listed features. behavior and superfical features are all but useless. Cladograms for fictional creatures exist, you can find the more dragons for instance. here is a link for help on how to construct a phylogenetic matrix bu.edu/gk12/eric/cladogram.pdf Consider things like do they have the same number of teeth, limbs, or fingers, do they share adaptations,. there are some good stuff in your list but not enough. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Jul 23, 2023 at 21:58

4 Answers 4

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Make trees for individual genes.

With so many opportunities for cross-breeding, an overall branching tree of the species seems like a very poor approximation. However, for any given gene of interest (or at least a part of a gene, if there are interesting recombinants in the population), you ought to be able to plot out (at least conceptually) a valid adaptive radiation that looks like something Linnaeus might have drawn. (At least, provided the wizards haven't hexed most of the people so they transcribe somebody else's genetic code, and the vampires don't transmit their unique package of genetic assets like a virus, etc. Modern genetics is contingent on the facts and circumstances that made it possible to research it.)

It's your story and the odds of you using a taxonomy I might draw are low, but to give an example, one of your "magic" genes might encode a tiny pentagram of alpha helices that resonates with the extraterrestrial signal coded in the dark matter aura of the Inner Betelgeuse Dyson Construct. Perhaps sequence from a cholera formate channel transposed to the genome of a prototype elf-wizard ancestor, and you can track them through your demons and angels and such.

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Edit: You will be happy to know my answer does not change, even if the Society Islands are renamed the French Antilles. Phew!

Stuff like "social as cheetahs", "housefly-like sexual dimorphism" or the difference between Greenland shark or giant tortoise senescence is bewildering to me. So I will ignore that part.

Here is your phylogenetic tree my dude.

enter image description here

Some notes:

You might suspect Wizards are an offshoot of modern humans. This is untrue. Wizards are a super early offshoot of the common ancestor. They are shapeshifters and this is part of the confusion.

Angels, Demons, Vampires and Furry Guys were magically created as a joke by the Wizards. We know Demons were made out of dwarfs, due to their shared burrowing habits. But they are not telling about the other three.

Mermaids, Ogres, and Giants have a common aquatic ancestor. The so called Wet Guys. That is why Ogres and Giants have seal-like blubber. The Land Wet Guy is a Wet Guy that crawled back onto land and eventually split into Ogres and Giants.

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  • $\begingroup$ Maybe Therianthropes/Furry humans were made out of Halflings, Vampires were made out of Goblins, and Angels were made out of Gnomes? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 13, 2022 at 21:32
  • $\begingroup$ I presume dwarfs are small and demons are also small, at least the drones are. But aren't the Furry Humans much bigger than Halflings and Vampires much bigger than goblins? $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Commented Mar 13, 2022 at 23:48
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Well, I would advise you to look for modern tree of life gene maps, by themselves, these look like a giant infodump of possibilities. If these can all reproduce successfully, then I don't think these would be as distant from each other as you may think.

Illustration of a tree of life

The best example I can find would be dogs, and some are so different from each other that (if I'm not mistaken) some can't even reproduce.

Illustration of a tree of life only containing dogs

This is a tree of life only containing dogs, maybe you could define the tendencies for reproduction difficulty, anatomical characteristics and psychological/social aspects based on the position of said human species based on its distance from some point of the circle.

Maybe angel/winged humans are at the black line there and red could be the dwarfs or giants.


But if it is only an semi-illustrative tree of life, maybe a more simplified one like this could be beneficial for you:

Simplified tree of life of dogs


I hope I was of any help :)

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You can do whatever you want, because the magic made it happen!

Okay I usually don't like frame challenges or a wizard did it answers, but I'm afraid I have to do it here. Please hear me out, I'm not just attacking your idea I promise.

To be frank, your species do not make evolutionary sense to exist. Evolution alone wouldn't create some of these species, and they wouldn't work as you likely envision if they did exist! this means you need more then just evolution to justify their existence. Lets look at just your first few non-human variants to see what I mean:

  • Merfolk: solitary species are far less likely to evolve, or maintain, sapience since social interaction was a large driver for it. Their size would obligate them to staying in water since without the buoyancy of water they would be crushed by their own weight; however, the human body isn't built well for water even with blubber, and they would likely be carnivores not omnivores since you need a more compact energy source like meet to get enough calories to support your size (or they feed entirely off of plankton, which may technically count as omnivores but probably isn't what you intended)
  • Angels: Wings can't lift anything as large as humans and we are not aerodynamic to fly well in the air if we did. Plus your angels would need hallow bones and other adaptations to keep them light that would make them frail on land.
  • Demons: Eusocial species are unlikely to have reason to achieve sapience, don't really scale to the size of humans, and they would likely would have a haplodiploidy mating system very unlike humans or any mammals.

Now if you asked about any one of these species I may be able to come up with tricks and associated handwaves to help justify them evolving in our world, in fact I'd find it a fun challenge. However, the sheer number of them, and how different they are makes it very hard to handwave all of these.

So in short I don't think I can give you a pure science justification here, but luckily we aren't limited to science. You already said there were magical humans, so magic is a thing in your world. I suggest running with it. Your angles can fly despite science saying their wings shouldn't provide enough lift because magic helps to support their flight. Your merfolk manage to maintain their body height without excessive heavy blubber (and/or can leave water despite the square cube law limiting what they could do due to their size) because magic makes it possible.

In short all your non-human humanoids are magical in some way. Your wizards may be the only ones that can cast a wide variety of magic, but all the rest have some degree of magic supporting their forms and justifying how they exist. I'd probably also give them some weak and more structured magic, not as powerful as wizards but enough to further hint at the fact that they are innately magical and that's how they manage to exist at all despite the obvious scientific issues.

Of course once you have magic involved you get to bend the rules of evolution all you want. You can pretty much justify your creatures evolution and interconnection however you want and just shape your worlds magic to fit that. For instance the shadowrun game had a number of demi-humans, many of the types you already listed, all appearing at once when magic re-entered the world.

Just one example of magical evolution

If I was writing this I'd likely say magic entered the world around when humanoids were evolving and it had a mutagenic effect. I'd also likely say certain areas tended towards having certain types of magic/mana/whatever at that time, so your protohumans were mutated based off of the type of magic that was strongest where they were evolving. So merfolk's were exposed to water magic and angles to air etc (not that magic needs to be specifically element focused if you don't want it to be, this is just an example). The point being they did evolve, but their evolution was further driven by magic that pushed them to larger more drastic mutations.

In fact I'd be tempted to say magic showed up because of humans. It's the human mind, or perhaps sapience, that started to create magic-or alternatively magic always existed but proto-human mind unlocked a close connection to it which made us more susceptible to it's affects. The point is humanity developed a close connection to magic early on as we first started to develop our sapience. This explains why proto-humans were so changed by magic despite most other animals in your world presumable looking like normal earth animals and not being so innately magical. Magic only drives the evolution of sapience beings like humans.

Of course that can be in the past, if you don't want to say that New York has more water magic and Scottland more earth magic in your modern day just say that magic dispersed and became more integrated over time, but only after it had already started to mutate and modify your various proto-humans down their various evolutionary paths.

Though this is just one of many potential paths you can go once you open up magic as a driving factor in humanoid evolution since you get free reign to define how your magic works. I prefer magic to be defined, so I'm not quite suggesting you give up and say 'a wizard did it'. I'm more suggesting you decide how you want your present day to look and how it's magic should behave and then work backwards from that to build up a magical system that fits mutating your early humanoids how you want.

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