- "Both the vent shafts and the vault itself are equipped with all kinds of traps and security measures. Todo can take them out, but we'll need help from someone inside the Jedi library, and that's where your talents as a changeling will come in."
- ―Cad Bane, to Cato Parasitti
Clawdites were a sentient reptilian species whose members could change shape to impersonate any humanoid close to their shape. Chromatophores allowed Clawdites to replicate the appearance of another person, but could not change their body size or mass. Adopting a new form, however required great concentration, and wearing heavy armor could interfere with the shape-shifting. Many Clawdites chose to transform into personas that they would use in public so as to not reveal themselves as Clawdites.
Biology and appearance
The Clawdites were a sentient reptilian species that possessed the innate ability to transform their appearance. In their default form, Clawdites had roughly textured skin that ranged in color from pale yellow to dark green. Their two large eyes had slitted pupils with irises ranging from yellow to deep blue. The species' shape-shifting ability was dependent on two inherent physiological traits: particularly sophisticated chromatophores found in their skin cells and precise, conscious control over aspects of their lymphatic system.
The chromatophores allowed Clawdites to change the color of their skin, and with enough practice an individual could match nearly any color that their eyes could perceive. The species' control of their lymphatic system allowed trained individuals to grow or shrink parts of their body at will, stretching their skin to take on different shapes. Replicating a specific appearance with these two abilities required practice and due to their humanoid anatomy they could only ever superficially replicate organs. Due to the reliance on their internal abilities, a Clawdite could make minor changes to the density of their body, but not its mass, and they were unable to substantially grow or shrink in overall size. To offset this limitation, some Clawdites wore automated saline pumps that allowed them to adjust the amount of fluid in their body, allowing them to change their body size more freely within a limited range. Upon death, Clawdites reverted to their true form. Their changeling abilities were effected by wearing heavy armor, which could interfere with the process.
Society and culture
A society of mistrust
Clawdites were native to the warm and arid planet Zolan in the Mid Rim and possessed strong predatory instincts and an inclination toward individualism, the latter of which meant that many had difficulty forming close bonds, even, or especially, with other Clawdites. This was partly caused by their shape-shifting ability, as the mutability of the species' appearance meant that a trusted Clawdite acquaintance could easily vanish with a shared resource or their appearance could be assumed by a deceitful individual.
This inherent mistrust meant that Clawdite society developed various methods of identity verification. Even when greeting familiar individuals, Clawdites were generally guarded and depended upon conversational cues and personality traits rather than physical appearance in order to verify identity. Records were maintained in the open so that others could freely validate an individual's work and social or political organizations depended upon a high level of redundancy. Despite these efforts, personal responsibility and accountability remained challenging concepts to enforce throughout the species' history. The species' culture and the way in which they viewed their shape-shifting ability was hugely impacted by their entrance on to the galactic stage.
The choices of a changeling
Some Clawdites created a single preferred guise that they would transform into for all of their public dealings, never revealing their true form. The advantages of this included catching an enemy off-guard when the Clawdite did finally reveal themselves and avoiding suspicion that they might be an infiltrator.
Conversely, some Clawdites openly displayed their true form in public in order to take advantage of this caution and remind everyone of their unique ability, especially if transforming was an asset to their current role or task. In order to reassure others that they were acting in good faith, those Clawdites that did not rely on their shape-shifting abilities generally remained in their default state around others, although this expectation varied from individual to individual and depended on the expectations of the company they kept.
Although their native tongue was Zolanese, it was used as a primary language only in rural areas of Zolan, and rarely heard off planet. Virtually all Clawdites were fluent in Galactic Basic Standard and generally refused to teach offworlders Zolanese, although during the rare offworld encounters between Clawdites they would sometimes use Zolanese as a secret language to identify each other without breaking cover.
The development of the Clawdites on Zolan was shaped by a spike in solar radiation caused a massive change in Zolan's climate. The spike resulted in a prolonged period of ongoing radiation bombardment, during which the Clawdites developed various adaptations to help them survive, including the traits that allowed them to shape-shift. Many other organisms on Zolan developed similar traits, but different means of survival; however, most organisms on the planet were unable to cope with the heightened radiation and died off precipitously. The planet itself was also altered, with vast portions becoming desolate wasteland where all plants and animals perished.
Zolan's star eventually completed its extreme radiation emission cycle, allowing the planet to return to more survivable levels of radiation. Those native species that had survived the event, including the Clawdites and the predatoy monzu, were radically shaped by it. Traits that had developed to protect the various species from radiation were instead turned to other uses, with various organisms that could change their physiology or had thick boney plates. The new life forms only slowly encroached back into the most devastated areas of the planet, and the changes to the environment had serious repercussions for Zolan's ability to provide for the Clawdites. The scarcity of resources after the spike likely contributed to the cautious and self-reliant nature of Clawdite society as it continued to develop.
During the Clone Wars, the bounty hunter Cad Bane hired a Clawdite called Cato Parasitti to assist him on a mission to steal a Jedi Holocron from the Jedi Temple by disguising as dead Jedi Ord Enisence, the mission was ultimately a success however Cato was captured and imprisoned for her crimes.
Clawdites in the galaxy
Clawdites were primarily known across the galaxy for their shapeshifting abilities, which granted the species a value to the wider galaxy that was higher then any other export from their homeworld. After Clawdites entered galactic society, many were hired by offworld governments, criminal syndicates, or military organizations, who saw them as the perfect spies. This resulted in the species quickly spreading across the entire Outer Rim Territories, where their ability kept them in high demand for careers based on deception such as espionage or other less savory pursuits including smuggling. They held legendary status as spies and informants due to their shape-shifting and scarcity and any crime lord who brought one onto their payroll would gain prestige from the hire.
Some Clawdites chose to live in secret, preferring their acquaintances never know their true species in case they mistrust them for it, or worse, try to exploit it. Many galactic citizens who interacted with a Clawdite never saw the individual's true form or even knew that they were indeed a changeling. The known presence of a Clawdite tended to make people more cautious and the mere rumor of one alerted guilty parties and caused them to increase their vigilance.
Though many Clawdites relied upon more nefarious aspects of their shape-shifting ability, others worked as technicians, explorers, or colonial roles. Many Clawdites were distressed by the fact that they were primarily known as changelings, with some feeling that their species' cultural and technological contributions to the galaxy were ignored due to the fixation on their peculiar genetic ability. Besides deception based roles, Clawdite's predatory instincts made them inherently capable of success as bounty hunters and they excelled in careers that required individual competency. Clawdites originating from Zolan especially preferred self-reliant professions in which they had a high degree of control and did not have to rely on trusting others to act in their best interests.