Scholars observing Tau 21 Theta 3 remotely have long noted that the locals rarely use vehicles, instead preferring to ride air-breathing aquatic life forms. Colloquially, this is called “Dolphin Riding”.
Recent visits to the surface have revealed the details of this practice, although all such studies are preliminary until the locals meet the Egoathropological Limit and can contribute meaningful first-appendage analysis.
Tau 21 Theta 3 is a stormy, volcanic water world, with no large landmasses but an endless series of short-lived island chains. The locals (an offshoot of the surprisingly widely-dispersed M-Ph species) maintain their sapience in a gestalt form, each sharing a small part of the ‘mind’. In this case, each island can be thought of as a single intelligence.
Due to their small size and limited intelligence away from the group, travel between islands is quite a physical challenge. However, they must travel: each island must communicate with the other islands, constantly sending individual M-Phs with news and updates and general chatter.
Fortunately, the local aquatic wildlife is quite intelligent. The M-Ph began to train them and ride them rapidly between islands.
What originally began as just a few trained “dolphins” has grown into millions, with the wild species nearly completely replaced by the trained, racer-breed variant. There are so many dolphins that entire island populations can be ferried to new islands when the weather wears their current island down to the waterline.
In the past few generations, something akin to an industrial revolution has unfolded. Boats have almost entirely replaced dolphins for ordinary island communications.
Rather than leave the dolphin riding to fade into history, the locals have adopted dolphin racing.
Dolphin racing involves rapidly ferrying individuals between several islands in a combination of a relay race, poetry contest, and biochemical manufacturing competition.
To put it in terms another species might understand, arriving at each island is like reading an entire library all at once, while each race leg is like writing a new book containing what you learned from the new library. Rinse and repeat.
Although this change happened before scholars visited the surface of the planet, it is highly probable that this relay race has been the driving force behind their industrial revolution – a high-speed, massively-parallel analytical information exchange between up to a dozen islands.
It is possible that further advances will leave this relay race obsolete in the near future, but for now, this planet’s industrial revolution is happening on the back of some fish.
This marks only the second known instance of two individually-nonsapient species teaming up to create an advanced civilization in this region. The other is, of course, the Owgawan Diplocrats. We shall see if the M-Ph of Tau 21 Theta 3 will turn out the same way.