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Since diverging from a shared ancestor known as the "Proto-Skrell" approximately ten million years ago, the Skrell are divided mainly into two ethnic groups: Axiori (Aquatics) and Xiialt (Coastals). The variations between the two are due to adaptations to better fit their environment, while interbreeding maintained genetic diversity in both groups.
The average Axiori tends to be much taller than their drier cousins, with evolutionary biologists suggesting that this is due to ancient Axiori possessing more cartilage in order to have enough flexibility to evade predators in the highly-pressurised oceans of Homeworld; in modern Axiori, this means their growth plates take longer to fuse, resulting in more growth overall. Likewise, the ancient Xiialt instead relied on a rigid build with a lower centre of mass to easily traverse the surface in a bipedal manner. Axiori tend to retain fat easier as well, due to their decreased metabolic rate.
Their eyes are also significantly larger than those of the Xiialt. This is due to the Axiori adapting to Homeworld's dark seas, with larger eyes maximising vision in very-low-light conditions; however, the increased size of their occipital sockets resulted in a reduced reliance on their sense of smell, instead using a combination of sight and psionics to interact with their surroundings. The Xiialt, however, achieved a happy medium where smell and vision were relied on in equal measure, with psionics supplementing these senses.
Owing to their developmental circumstances both the Axiori and Xiialt have a variety of skin tones, with Axiori typically carrying much darker ones whilst the Xiialt commonly have a much lighter complexion. The dark shade of the Axiori assisted them for thousands of years - camouflaging into the environment, and preventing themselves from being hunted.
The last key physical distinction between the two groups is their webbings: highly prominent in the Axiori, they increased underwater maneuverability to escape lurking predators and harvest aquatic flora. The Xiialt, however, relied more on walking and climbing in coastal and tropical regions, where webbings were unnecessary or even detrimental.
While both have a similar range of intellectual ability, the Axiori tend to have a higher number of psionic prodigies than their counterparts. It is theorised that this occurs due to genes passed down from the Proto-Skrell, which are significantly more common in the Axiori (recorded to have interbred with the Proto-Skrell until their eventual extinction) than the Xiialt. The discovery, pioneered by Psionic Analysis professor Yleshir Zrose, was titled the Zrose Graph. They conducted numerous inquiries into the psionic inclinations of both ethnicities during the modernisation of Skrell culture in the early 2300s BCE.
The Zrose Graph is typically used as a visual representation of a Skrell's psionic ability - usually displayed after a Skrell has undergone a Psionic Capability Test where Skrell are tested on their psionic receptiveness by highly trained Skrell known as Nlom'Qalq, roughly translated into Tau Ceti Basic as Wake Examiner. High-scoring individuals are pursued, oftentimes rather doggedly, by Federation officials and pressured into taking opportunities relating to either the Starkeepers or Sromkala. Those who refuse and fail to find an alternate path fast enough may soon find other doors to be closed to them—and the Federation is more than happy to extend a hand to such individuals, placing them in a role where their talent would not go unappreciated.
Volvuunt Qixqalau, essentially translating to "inverted gills". Skrell gills are commonly internal and protected by mucous membranes; those with the disorder have their gills inverted, resulting in their exposure to the air, whilst they limply hand below their jawline. This disorder is congenital, and cannot be developed over time. Many of those affected by Volvuunt Qixqalau suffer relatively little with the disorder, with external gills even being more effective underwater; however, due to the very delicate nature of the gills, they are prone to injury and infection, and can make it difficult to wear certain articles of clothing. Some afflicted with the disorder are so aggrieved that they prefer to get the disorder corrected via surgery (a lengthy and risky procedure due to the rarity of the disorder and delicate nature of the area), but technological advances and skilled surgeons over the millennia have made surgical correction a much safer procedure than it was previously. Others choose to use an adaptive apparatus, a water-filled collar that keeps their gills both hydrated and safe. Research as to how the mutation occurs has been mostly inconclusive, but it is proven that it is only inherited, with de novo mutations extremely unlikely.
Xibus - loosely translated to beakmouth - is a genetic disorder and birth defect that is somewhat uncommonly found in Skrell. Manifesting at birth; it is the formation of interlocking chitinous plates in the mouth, similar to a squid's beak. These plates are sharp enough to cut, and those afflicted with untreated Xibus often find themselves accidentally biting and wounding the insides of their mouths. The plates are solid pieces which interlock, unlike human teeth which are separate structures. Xibus causes a strong speech impediment in those afflicted with it, leading the articulation of all sounds to have a "mouthful" quality, resulting in those affected to be hard to understand; with communication in Tau Ceti Basic being nigh impossible. Those with Xibus tend to prefer psionic communication, usually prompting outsiders to believe it is a relatively rare condition; on the contrary it is somewhat prevalent in the Axiori ethnicity, however, most sufferers of this genetic condition have it corrected in infancy, or else rarely leave their home system. The treatment for Xibus is simply the surgical removal of these chitinous plates; safely removed from the jaw without permanent debilitation, the procedure, typically done in infancy, grow to bear little evidence of the affliction. When performed in adulthood, this procedure is much more invasive with risks of complication, and so those without it corrected tend to refrain from surgical intervention later in life. It is also possible for Xibus to be grounded to manageable levels.
While most Skrell originally mated within their own ethnicities, as society evolved it became increasingly common to interbreed. This resulted in the designation of a new group known as the Xiiori (Amphibious), a combination of its parent ethnicities. Due to the genophage, however, a growing portion of newborn Skrell are Xiiori, which has all but ensured the slow decline of the other ethnicities as their DNA becomes more blurred in the face of the genophage crisis. There are no commonly shared attributes of the Xiiori, and any individual traits are usually dependent on their respective parents.