I thought I would share some info I learned about cetaceans when I was first doing research for ‘Song of Betrayal’. When I was converting it from a cheerleader/show choir novel to the siren novel it is now I discovered why whales and other ocean mammals can remain underwater for extended periods of time.

These mammals are able to stay submerged because their muscles contain many-fold higher concentrations of myoglobin (Mb) than humans. Myoglobin is a single-chain protein of 153 amino acids, containing a heme (iron containing porphyrin) group in the center. With a molecular weight of 16,700 Daltons, it is the primary oxygen-carrying pigment of muscle tissues. Unlike the blood-borne hemoglobin, to which it is structurally related, this protein does not exhibit cooperative binding of oxygen. Instead, the binding of oxygen by myoglobin is unaffected by the oxygen pressure in the surrounding tissue.

Now I could go into a boring science lecture involving graphs and formulas. I won’t. I learned that using bicarbonate [HCO3] as well as two newly discovered proteins called neuroglobin and cytoglobin, (ie brain globins) allows them to remain under for hours. Also explained was that the agile swimmers need to shuttle oxygen quickly to the brain and so they rely on the brain globins rather than the hemoglobin. The more hemoglobin in the blood, the more viscous the blood becomes, making transport to the brain slower.

So why gills then? To breathe enough oxygen with gills alone, an average diver with a fully closed-circuit re-breather needs 1 liter (roughly 1 quart) of oxygen per minute. As a result, at least 192 liters (51 US gal) of sea water per minute would have to be passed through the system, and this system would not work in anoxic water. (source Wikipedia). That’s a full size barrel a minutes. That’s simply impossible realistically. (explains it you really want details) So this is why the assembly members have gills. (and another core reason why aquatic ape doesn’t work)

The gills work in tangent with the brain globins to allow a person to function underwater as well as they do at sea level. While there is no animal in existence that possesses both. It is theoretically possible. So what does all this have to do with ‘Smoke and Ash’ story? Easy. Myoglobin and the brain globins darken the muscle. Myoglobin is a richly pigmented protein. The more myoglobin there is in the cells, the redder, or darker, the meat. Which leads to darker skin. Which leads to a race of people who are predominately dark skinned. See where I am going?

One of the core things is that the bulk of the Assembly (90%) is what we could call African, Indian or Middle eastern in pigment. This holds true for the whale species. Different species of whale have different skin pigmentation. ( ) If you want more on that.

So apart of this series will be dealing with ‘black’ privilege amongst the Assembly. This is why I chose to write the story the way I did. It fit. As Caucasians haven’t had to deal which issues of slavery, deep distrust and constant profiling since the Roman era, they have no clue what it means to be not that. For Gwen the same is true. When she goes down to be princess, we will meet a lot of mistrustful people who won’t follow her because she looks like the surface depiction of a mermaid. She looks to pale to lead. How can she remain beneath the tide like that and thrive?

So yes, Dagon looked blacker than the darkest night. As did his father Poseidon (who is represented by the black angus steer [Watch Atlantis on BBC if you don’t get that reference]) and the light, peachy skinned House Cetus burned his corpse.

Thanks for reading. Taiji will be out in February. I am in Chapter 3 of ‘Song of Betrayal’ final edit. The book will be published in 2015, even if I have to do it myself. Until the morrow.


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