In TNG Season 7's episode Genesis why did Lt. Barclay devolve into a spider?

He sure looks human and I pulled up a page on him to verify, which also lists him as being human. So why didn't he devolve into a primate like the other humans?

I would have expected that if he were even part arachnid he would look radically different...

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    His direct ancestor is Spider-man. – Tim Mar 23 '17 at 22:15
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    Evolution is fictional, so it fits well in the fictional Star Trek universe. (Evolution is "fact" in the Star Trek universe, and that's fine. Warp speed and transporters are also facts.) Having Barclay devolve into a spider shouldn't be a cause for concern. It's the writers' prerogative. – Ham Sandwich Mar 23 '17 at 22:53
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    It could also be a funny in-joke reference to his fear of spiders shown in an earlier episode (Realm of Fear) – NKCampbell Mar 23 '17 at 23:05
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    @T-1000'sSon - Evolution is fictional? – Adamant Mar 24 '17 at 0:59
  • My best guess: at some point an innocent spider was on the transporter pad and accidentally got "fused" into Barclay's DNA when he used the transporter. :-) – RobertF Mar 24 '17 at 3:54

The devolution virus didn't do something as simple as "make everyone into primates."

DATA: I have analyzed Commander Riker's DNA structure. A synthetic T-cell has invaded his genetic code. This T-cell has begun to activate his latent introns.

PICARD: Introns?

DATA: They are genetic codes which are normally dormant. They are evolutionary holdovers -- sequences of DNA that provided key physical and behavioral characteristics millions of years ago, but are no longer necessary. (beat) For instance, Counselor Troi's gill slits and other amphibious characteristics were derived from introns which still contain amphibious codes.

PICARD: So these... introns are causing her DNA to re-combine in an earlier configuration?

DATA: That is correct. In her case, the DNA is creating an amphibious lifeform which became extinct over fifty million years ago.

They weren't implying that the primate version of Betazoids (or half-betazoids) were themselves amphibious, although you could perhaps interpret it that way, but that a life form fifty million years old was being recapitulated. They go on to make it more clear:

Data: Each of these stages is another link in the evolutionary chain, stretching back to the origins of all lifeforms on Earth. (beat) Because introns can include genetic material from many different species over millions of years of evolution, it is possible that a wide variety of transformations is occurring among the crew.

PICARD: What about crewmembers who are not from Earth?

The last line I include because it makes it clear, they're not just saying "Hey, because we've got a lot of aliens, we can get some pretty weird things", they're saying even among Earthlings, a wide variety of transformations were possible, as long as humanity had some introns from species like them. In Barclay's case, it made him something Spider-like.

Whether humanity actually has a spider-like creature in their evolutionary history (or whether introns can pass laterally between species) is a question in itself, but it seems like it may be somewhat arbitrary to be watching a story about a virus that makes people devolve into random creatures by activating introns to then to stop and complain your disbelief just because spiders themselves aren't in our evolutionary line.

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    While this is probably the correct in-universe answer, I have to say as a bioinformatics student/researcher that is a very, very incorrect description of what introns are and what they do, and there is nothing at all spider-like in humans' evolutionary history. – ApproachingDarknessFish Mar 23 '17 at 22:37
  • @ApproachingDarknessFish it's a valid observation given the lengths to which Star Trek says they go to get the science right (if you watch the behind the scenes specials). – Hack-R Mar 23 '17 at 22:59
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    I kinda felt like some days they wanted to get science more or less right (albeit with loads of technobabble), some days they just want to churn another episode out and the latter type of days got more frequent as the years went on. – starpilotsix Mar 23 '17 at 23:03
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    If Star Trek writers let science get in the way of a good story, there probably wouldn't have been a show... – HorusKol Mar 24 '17 at 0:56
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    It's probably worth noting, given there seems to be procreative compatibility between several humanoid species in the series, that it might be possible Barclay has some alien DNA (for instance, from a grandparent or great grandparent) whose evolutionary chain did contain some spider-like ancestor. – delinear Mar 24 '17 at 10:01

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