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In an old story of mine, there happened to be a species of humanoid who could produce a variety of mutants and hybrids from stolen and harvested DNA, sperm, and biological tissues. They would produce organic embryo-holding pillars, or eggs, or sacks to contain their countless highly differentiated young until they were fully developed, and hatched into whatever bizarre spawnling their given "scrunch" of DNA allowed. I found this grody form of mass spawning very fascinating and alien, and wondered if a body of perfectly sustained cultures really could reproduce anything from its dumpster of stolen DNA and tissues from foreign species.

In hindsight, it was not a very realistic concept for a relatively-small-for-the-scenario humanoid to mass-spawn infantile creatures from thin air, sometimes in the dozens or hundreds. This had me thinking about the plausibility of a creature specifically built for "creature building" as a reproductive concept. Hypothetically, I am wondering what baseline type of creature(Be it a plant, insect, or jelly, or mammal, or some alien thing with the ability to do "X" with samples of organic tissue, and so on) would be best suited for this task instead of an over-sized humanoid.

Currently, the guidelines for what such a creature would have at their disposal would be this:

  • The creature can incubate and preserve all forms of tissue, organic matter, DNA, cells, and so forth within itself- and its body can naturally 'feed' its samples no matter their complexity in order to keep them alive and of use without breaking them down into components that rob them of being from a different creature entirely.

  • It is thought that once this creature has a decently sized or reproductively geared sample, it can always replicate this sample and use it for spawning purposes.(Possibly, this could mean growing the creature from scratch, and harvesting its ...cough...fluids. Although that's yet to be a system I can currently imagine.)

  • The internals of this creature are directly capable of manipulating the growth and creation of cells, and can begin production of whatever is necessary to make certain fusions or growths of things to occur.
  • Its method of incubation for most creatures is universal, not only in method, but in compatibility with what it can grow. (Example: It will always grow a fetus in a sack on a pillar, but all fetuses will be able to safely grow under the given circumstances)
  • This creature cannot reproduce anything, even akin to itself, without use of its 'belly' of samples from other species. That means all children it has most similar to itself will be hybrids... or it will only have offspring that are of another genus. (To add to this point, we can safely assume this creauture can regenerate itself, or just simply does not completely die at all- preventing it from hitting extinction)

TLDR; What is the best type of creature to act as a mass mutation-causing, clone-making baby machine?

(I did not add 'reality-check' to this question due to how implausible or strange it seems. I do not know enough about this subject to understand how ludicrous the concept may be. I also would like to leave it open to scientifically impossible, but still somewhat more compatible concepts.)

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  • $\begingroup$ Does the creature have to store actual sample in itself, or can it just store the genetic blueprints from the samples? I only wonder because having to have an internal life support structure to preserve things that might not have a long shelf life, like cells, is going to take up a lot more room then just breaking them down to a pattern, and combining amino acids from that pattern to remake the DNA. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Jul 25 '16 at 18:00
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    $\begingroup$ I never thought of breaking them down and storing 'blueprints', and that would be a much better way of compartmentalizing samples- However, for this question it is more likely that the creature does indeed have a life support structure for the samples it collects(It could perhaps partially break them down, so it is only storing a quarter sized 'bit' of everything its harvested, but it still will be holding onto the physical tissues/cells in pockets or something similar.) $\endgroup$ – M. Froman Jul 25 '16 at 18:16
  • $\begingroup$ OK, next question; If I'm reading this right, the creature can't reproduce. If it tries to make something like itself, it'll end up being like some of the things its absorbed? If I'm right, since it can't reproduce, it can't evolve, and so most likely it's an artificially created creature instead of a natural creature? $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Jul 25 '16 at 18:45
  • $\begingroup$ Also, is the pillar used to provide nutrients while the fetus in the sack gestates (like a womb)? Or does the sack need to hold all the nutrients (like an egg)? $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Jul 25 '16 at 18:51
  • $\begingroup$ Firstly- Potentially it could be artificially created, and that may support the concept of a creature designed for such a specific purpose-but why it is artificial, or who made it would be irrelevant. It would be incapable of producing its own offspring without using donor samples to 'complete the puzzle', say similarly to a sperm, or requirement of a type of organism. Secondly, the pillar or the egg can provide nutrients. There are no restrictions that would prevent either from working. $\endgroup$ – M. Froman Jul 25 '16 at 19:53
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So after some consideration, this is what I've come up with.

anemone

Sort of a half plant half animal hybrid similar to a sea anemone. Maybe slightly more mobile like a sea slug.
It would have a wide trunk, be 30 feet tall, and have a flaring top with tendrils that hang down.

The tips of the tendrils would have stingers that would be used as defense and to immobilize prey for absorption of nutrients, but at the same time would sample anything they touched, taking cells to be cultured.

Its trunk would be honeycombed with many small incubation chambers, where sampled cells would be placed so they can be cultured and grown.

It lures creatures to itself using pheromones. When a creature comes to check it out, it stings them, taking a sample and delivering a powerful paralyzing agent, so it can then dissolve them down to their component chemicals.
As it slowly moves across the landscape it absorbs all biological material it touches, using the nutrients to grow new things.

Inside it has biological factories to break down and recombine the samples it takes into new forms. Once it finds a form that it deems to be viable, it creates a long arrow like spike in its cone snail like radula sac, injects the cultured cells into a bulb on the back, and spits it up, where air resistance takes over so the spike lands point first, and with the incubation bulb up high out of reach from predators.

The spike puts down roots for water, and leaf like panels to turn sunlight into energy to feed the growing fetus. It also extends small hair like needles with the paralyzing agent inside as another layer of defense.

The offspring matures in the sack until it is ready, and then the sack splits open to release it. The spike begins to liquefy, becoming a nutrient paste that the offspring can consume. The paste contains the same paralyzing agent, which the offspring is immune to. It eats the paste and any wild creatures that were paralyzed until it is able to survive on its own.

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  • $\begingroup$ I wish I could give you another +1 for actually fleshing out the process of laying and incubation until maturity. An anemone never crossed my mind! $\endgroup$ – M. Froman Jul 25 '16 at 21:10
  • $\begingroup$ @M.Froman Cool :) glad this helped you! $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Jul 25 '16 at 21:14
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As a general rule of thumb, more complicated organisms change more gradually. Several previous Science Fiction authors like to use fungi for the role you are describing, particularly because of their ability to spread spores, adapt to new environments, and their diversity in function.

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