Goliaths (Bufopugnator goliatus sapiens, Lat."wise goliath fighting toad") are a species of robust, pseudodiapsid reptilian bipeds with an erect stance and an appearance described as reminiscent of Earth toads and reptiles. Originating from the planet Vectna in the Kas system, located in the coreward root of the Scutum arm, goliaths evolved to survive as hunters on an arid world, emerging around half a million years into their anatomically modern form. They developed agriculture around 15,000 BCE, exploiting regular flooding in river valleys to grow cereal crops and pulses, and gradually spread across Vectna. Hydraulic agricultural civilizations evolved along these river valleys, aided by access to trade via sea lanes, and came to dominate the planet's savannahs over a several-thousand year process of conquest and colonization. There is evidence that other tool-using bipeds evolved from common ancestors, but they went extinct prior to the goliaths reaching anatomical modernity. Goliaths stand upright and are considerably taller and heavier than humans. Much of their mass is made up of dense muscle but also includes layers of fat to retain water and nutrients. They had thick necks and broad shoulders, giving the appearance of hunch-backed ambulatory toads. However, their morphology is much closer to reptilian, with diapsid skull formation, leathery and scaly skin, and a certain resistance of heat and arid conditions. Their hides range in color from tans and mottled browns to burnt-oranges and deep reds, with some individuals displaying stripes or splotches of contrasting color. Males tend to have brightly-colored bony ridges running the length of their dorsal side, from head to tail, which evolved as a component of mating rituals.
With the development of industrialism in the 1420s CE, the goliaths formed large nation-states that fought over valuable metal, coal, petroleum, and water resources. The development of missile technology and nuclear weapons led to space development, orbital habitats, and lunar colonies by the mid-19th century. Tensions between the industrialized nations led to global thermonuclear war in 1881 CE. The extensive space infrastructure allowed for a greater degree of survivability for their species; their space colonies banded together into a union and reoriented towards colonizing their home system and expanded outwards to other star systems by the year 2000. They built an interstellar empire before making first contact with the shrikes in the 2300s, and later were introduced to the wider galactic political world when the shrikes made contact with the Galactic Community in the late 2600s.
The goliaths imposed a quarantine on their homeworld, settling on many planets but awaiting Vectna's ecological recovery before attempting a restoration of civil order. Meanwhile, society on their homeworld had reverted to a feudal existence rife with violence and scarcity. Around 3059, the Scutum Union launched the Reclamation War to recapture Vectna, which continues to this day. The goliaths remained a highly stratified society even after their defeat in the Great War in 3275. Many were enslaved or resettled to reservations, but many goliath artisans, knights, industrialists, and businessmen were granted free alien status and allowed to operate in a position to keep the goliath species in order. Today, goliath mercenaries are a hot commodity in the rough-and-tumble frontier colonies.
Biology and appearance
The goliaths are classified as pseudo-diapsid reptilians, in the context of modern Terran xenobiology. They exhibit physiological traits similar to Earth reptiles, particularly in the evolution of diapsid skull formation, meaning their ancestors evolved two temporal fenestrae. Parallel evolution has led goliaths to display an essentially humanoid planform, though they retain many unique physical characteristics. Their necks and head appear to meld seamlessly into their shoulders, due to the accumulation of body fat and muscle around the shoulders during growth.
Goliaths are tall, robust creatures with thick, leathery skin protected in certain areas by hardened bone-like scales or scutes, similar to those of Earth crocodiles. Goliaths typically stand between 2.2 and 2.7 meters tall; those on Vectna are slightly shorter than those that adapted to life in space or on other, lower-gravity worlds. When fully grown, they tend to weigh between 181 and 250 kilograms, though particularly tall or robust individuals might weigh up to 410 kilograms. Evolution for the arid conditions on their homeworld accounts for their tough skin and heavy weight. The need to retain water and nutrients for long periods of drought mean that they readily accumulate body fat at select parts of their bodies, most especially the shoulders, back, and abdomen. They also build muscle very easily and tend to have highly dense musculature, a result of a heavily carnivorous diet and evolution for predation.
Goliaths display minimal sexual dimorphism, as males and females both are robust, muscular creatures. Both have internal genitalia protected by an outer labial skin at the groin. There are some noticeable differences, however. Goliath males tend to possess brightly-colored dorsal ridges, as signalling or display in mating rituals. Goliath females tend to develop wider hips and build fat more readily than males.
Goliaths, like some other sapient spacefaring races, reproduce by internal fertilization during sexual intercourse. Goliath females give live birth, gestating their embryos for around 400 days. Goliaths tend to be polygynous, though the development of pair-bonding behavior during their early evolution limits this to a small number of female partners for males. A typical brood consists of two to six children. A goliath infant goes through youth and adolescence, reaching sexual maturity within one Vectnan year, roughly equivalent to 15 to 16 Earth years. Infant goliaths have to be cared for constantly, as they are helpless at birth, but they grow steadily as they proceed through their early life cycle. By late adolescence, they have reached around 75% of their fully-grown size. Their growth slows after around 30 Earth years, by which point they are usually considered to have reached full physical development.
Goliaths evolved on Vectna from preceding reptilian humanoids, representing a gradual evolutionary shift from semi-bipedal to bipedal stance, and the development of tool use. Their nearest relative species, Batracheremus vectnae, are a species of bipedal reptilians that dwell naturally in the planet's vast deserts and scrubland. The two evolutionary lineages diverged some 15 million years ago. The first widespread tool-using species and the first of its genus, Bufopugnator habilis, evolved around 2 million years ago. Their evolutionary direction and timeline has been remarked upon as being very similar to that of humans; it is now known through archaeological evidence that Vectna at one time had undergone a mild cooling period and had higher levels of precipitation and fauna growth in its tropics. B. habilis was semi-quadrupedal, but evolved certain patterns of camouflage to take advantage of the explosion in leafy fauna. The first archaic goliath, Bufopugnator goliatus, evolved an erect stance after the downfall of such plant life compelled an evolutionary advantage, namely standing erect in the vast savannahs and deserts that developed. Archaic goliaths gave way to their anatomically modern forms around half a million years ago. Over the course of their evolution, archaic goliaths developing high encephalization and flexible postnatal brain growth, allowing the development of increasingly complex societies. Equally as important was the reduction in sexual dimorphism and the development of hidden estrus among female goliaths, allowing for year-round mating. The ability to rapidly expand their population enabled archaic goliaths to become the dominant social animals on Vectna.
Behavioral modernity arose around 50,000 BCE, with the rise of abstract language, artistic expression, religious behavior, and basic stoneworking. Behavioral modernity, as in most civilized races, was a precursor to developing civilization and agriculture. Around 15,000 BCE, the goliaths shifted from hunter-gatherer societies to agricultural societies as they settled along coasts and river valleys, exploiting nutrient-rich fauna such as pulses and cereals.