Content of the article: "MIND-BLOWING THEORY? Spoilers"
This contains major spoilers for both Subnautica and Subnautica: Below Zero. Read at your own risk.
I'm about to blow your mind: The Sea Emperor Leviathan is the "bridges" part of the Twisty Bridges in Below Zero.
Firstly, the Crater of the first game will be hereafter called “Site A”, and Site Zero in Below Zero will be referred to as “Site B”.
Allow me to explain. At the end of the first game, you help the Sea Emperor's young to hatch, and it dies afterward. It says, "Perhaps next we meet, I will be an ocean current, carrying seas to a new land. Or a creature so small, it sees the gaps between the grains of sand." This tells us that the concept of reincarnation is not only canon in Subnautica, but it's something that the Sea Emperor seems to actually believe in. At the end of the game, it says, "Now you go among the stars, and I fall among the sand. We are different. But we go…together." Remember that, because it's going to come back in a moment.
THE SEA EMPEROR: OVERVIEW
Let's talk about the Sea Emperor itself. The incredible thing is that it possesses telepathy and can communicate with Ryley Robinson in his native tongue (All of the audio is in English with an British accent, and Robinson is a surname that originated in England, so we can assume he's probably from the UK). What’s more is that the Sea Emperor isn't just capable of communication — it can understand what is happening around it and what others' motivations are. The Sea Emperor possesses logic (knows it cannot logically break out of the Containment Facility), existential/spiritual thinking (it brings up reincarnation), and naturalist intelligence (it knows how nature works, how the ecosystem functions, and how it connects with nature). This is extreme intelligence, likely greater than that of a human.
According to the databank, the Sea Emperor Leviathan "moved in small herds around the planet's ocean trenches…family size would be strictly limited by available food supply." So, when food supply was scarce, family members would die off. This makes logical and biological sense.
Speaking of biology: According to the wiki, "most known fauna species on Planet 4546B are simultaneous hermaphrodites…two parents are still required to fertilize the eggs once laid, making it sexual reproduction…The only one of the complex fauna species on the planet known to be an exception to this rule is the Sea Emperor Leviathan." So, the Sea Emperor is asexual in terms of reproduction. But why is that important?
Let's talk about the Emperor's age, shall we? The Specimen in the Primary Containment Facility is roughly 2600 years old, which is, according to the PDA, significantly past its natural lifespan. But what exactly is the lifespan of a Sea Emperor Leviathan? Well, let's make some inferences from the game as well as from biology class.
An interesting thing about species that reproduce asexually is that some — such as sea urchins — can actually switch to sexual reproduction under stressful circumstances. This provides an advantage to the species in that it provides individuals with new combinations of rearranged chromosomes, which increases diversity. What this means is that if their species/colony/herd is in danger of dying out, they can switch to sexual reproduction in order to give a genetic shuffle and give your group a better chance at survival. And it's not just limited to invertebrates: Komodo dragons switch between sexual and asexual reproduction depending on the circumstances, making them the largest creature on Earth that does so. However, only female Komodo dragons can do it, and it only produces female offspring. In Subnautica: Below Zero — at least in an earlier version of the story — there was a Sea Emperor Leviathan with a male voice. A male Sea Emperor Leviathan. This means that the Sea Emperor from the first game reproduced sexually instead of asexually, likely caused by ecological stress from the Emperors' food sources dying out from the Kharaa outbreak.
THE SEA EMPEROR’S AGE
But what does this have to do with the Sea Emperor's age? Well, the Sea Emperor was brought into captivity by the Precursors roughly a thousand years before the events of Subnautica. So it would have been about 1600 years old at the time. The eggs that the Precursors managed to grab along with the specimen were the result of sexual reproduction, which means that the Sea Emperor was in danger of dying. The PDA hints that this may have been because food sources were becoming scarce due to the Kharaa outbreak, which would make sense — The Sea Emperor apparently feeds upon micro-organisms filtered from the water. Small organisms such as plankton and krill are indeed susceptible to bacterial infections, which can cause their numbers to decline. So, there we have it — the reason the Sea Emperor was dying was because its food source was dying out.
But that’s not true. If you go to the crater’s edge, your PDA will register a report saying that “the ecology of the trench surrounding the crater supports only two kinds of life: microscopic, and leviathan class.” Ghost leviathans exist in the crater’s edge, and they feed exclusively on microscopic organisms. If the crater edge has enough microscopic organisms to support three of these massive creatures, then there’s enough to support a population of Sea Emperors. So, this means that the microscopic food sources are not in danger of dying out.
This means that the Sea Emperor was near the end of its lifespan, and was not dying due to starvation. This puts the natural lifespan of the Sea Emperor leviathan at around 1600 years.
BACK TO THE THEORY
Remember the quote I told you to remember? “Now you go among the stars, and I fall among the sand.” Initially, this may just be referring to the fact that the Sea Emperor is dying — literally falling among the sand in her containment — but I want to take this a bit further.
Sand is created when seawater grinds up pieces of rock and coral into tiny little grains. The sand created this way is dark and rocky. But the finer sand that you see in tropical areas is actually created by a fish called the parrotfish. It’s a fish with a beak that grinds up pieces of coral — the main part of its diet. But get this: when the coral goes through its digestive tract, it’s excreted as fine, white sand. That’s right — the tropical sand you see in your vacation to Hawai’i is indeed Parrotfish droppings.
Notice what other places have that fine golden sands? Only BOTH ISLANDS in Subnautica’s Site A (where the first game takes place). Furthermore, that fine sand may not be at Site B (where Below Zero takes place), or at least on land — but look at the seafloor in almost every biome, and you’ll see that same fine sand. The fish that feed on coral in these areas excrete it as the sand you see in-game.
But why is that important? Be patient — I’m getting there.
We know that there’s a current that goes directly from Site A to Site B. This is made apparent by Marguerit Maida riding the corpse of a Reaper Leviathan from the Degasi base in the Grand Reef of Site A to the Lilypad Islands of Site B. Not only is that mentioned in the wiki, but she also has the Reaper’s skeleton inside her base. You see Reaper skeletons elsewhere as well; the Lost River, the Lava Lakes…you even see the skeletons of Sea Dragons and other massive leviathans, one of which dates back to 3 million years ago!
But notice how one skeleton is missing from all that — we never see a Sea Emperor Leviathan skeleton. Sure, we never see the skeleton of the Ghost Leviathan, but that’s because it possesses no skeletal structure — it’s just an outer membrane protecting the muscular innerbody. What about the Reefback? Well, it also seems to possess no skeletal structure. When Reefbacks die, they most likely sink to the ground and become one with the land, supporting an ecosystem with the reef that made its home on its back.
But the slightly humanoid shape of the Sea Emperor Leviathan would necessitate a skeleton, especially since the Precursors were studying vertebrae in their research facilities. We never see a Sea Emperor skeleton. This might be because they usually died out along the crater edge, but with what the Sea Emperor says at the end of the game, it’s more likely that there is a form of reincarnation at play here.
If you need any more convincing, look no further than the Imgur link here: https://imgur.com/a/fmA76dw
The design is so similar, almost too similar to be entirely coincidental. The banded parts of the coral bridges are so similar to the tentacles of the Sea Emperor Leviathan, and with the blue, barnacle-like growths on the bottom…there’s just no convincing me otherwise.
Why did I come up with this theory? Well, it may be possible that this is actually cannon, maybe coming up as some sort of plot twist in Below Zero. If that’s the case, I want credit for calling it!
All jokes aside, this is just something that I found interesting. Thoughts?
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