Biology in Avatar

I recently saw the film Avatar. Despite the rehashed plot (think Dances with Wolves), I enjoyed the film immensely for its visual impact, effects, action, and of course way-cool 3D. I also liked much of the biology in the film. I thougt the creatures and plant life of Pandora were very plausible and creative. The idea of an ecology based on interconnected neural networks is an interesting one, and is conceivable if electrochemical signalling evolved early in the evolution of life on Pandora.

But there is one thing that bugged me a little.

The designers put a lot of effort into the consistency of the biology. The animals seem to share the hexapedal body plan, paired neural appendage, and clavicular respiratory organs openings. Also, many have a smaller, second eye on each side. The Na’vi people, however, do not. The neural appendage clearly indicates they evolved on Pandora, which means they share common ancestry with the other animals. And yet they have only four limbs, no second pair of eyes, and they have a nose.

Okay, I get that from a concept standpoint the humanoid appearance makes them a) easier to relate to from an audience standpoint, and b) has that added “just ’cause they look human don’t mean they are human” kick. I may be quibbling, but to go through the degree of design that they did and not even give the Na’vi anatomical vestiges – a second bump on the shoulder, depressions beside the eye and beside the collar bone, something to indicate common ancestry, seems to me like a significant oversight in an otherwise stunning production.

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