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Worldbuilding Ecology:

 26 kassyopeia, Wed, 22nd Aug '12 11:16:13 AM from terrae nullius

Intro

Due to convergent evolution (read "laziness on the part of the author"), my planet's ecology is by and large identical to Earth's, even though the solar system dynamics and geology are not. The only fundamental difference, at least so far, is an extra quirk in mammalian reproduction - which does have far-reaching consequences, though.

Every six years (18 Earth-months, give or take, and collectively called a lustre), The Eye, one of the planet's two suns, brightens considerably. During the day, the increased insolation results in wildfires on land and above-average evaporation at sea. Sometime during the night, the temperatures drop far enough for the water in the clouds to precipitate and put out the fires. Then, the animals (those which haven't been roasted or suffocated, that is) come out of their burrows, and slake their thirst on the rainwater.

Ah, but this is not just normal water. Due to some pseudo-scientific process involving solar wind and aurorae and planet's electric field, this water is somehow Different. For plants, it acts like fertilizer (as in, it makes them grow faster). For non-mammalian species, it acts like an intoxicant. And for the mammals, it acts as both a fertilizer (as in, males produce viable sperm and females viable eggs when this water is in their system, and at no other time during the lustre) and as an aphrodisiac. Consequently, this entire period is simply known as The Rut.

The natural consequence of this reproductive mode is that mammals can give birth at most once per lustre, and that all members of a given mammalian species give birth at about the same time during the lustre. This has the effect of changing the dynamics of any ecosystem which involves mammals from year to year. My humanoid protagonists have even named each of the six years based on this phenomenon: Depending on the context, either directly for the, to them, most important animal giving birth during that year, or indirectly for the colouring of that animal. Like so:

- Year of the Badger, or Golden Year
- Year of the Panther, or Yellow Year
- Year of the Bear, or Brown Year
- Year of the Deer, or Red Year
- Year of the Giraffe, or White Year
- Year of the Mammoth, or Grey Year

The mammoths are the ones already mentioned in the very first reply to this thread. I'll describe what makes these animals special and important in subsequent posts.

Every once in a while, the brightening of The Eye is delayed for an extra year - because of predictable or unpredictable astronomical processes, from our point of view, and because Altar Allfather, the God to whom The Eye supposedly belongs, wants it that way, from the characters' point of view. Many natural processes, in addition to the the one described above, are calibrated to the usual length of the lustre, so this extra year is always characterized by lots of withering and death. It is known as the "Barren Year" or "Black Year".

edited 30th Aug '12 11:00:20 AM by kassyopeia

Soon the Cold One took flight, yielded Goddess and field to the victor: The Lord of the Light.
3 months to orbit a binary star? That's faster than mercury, and I'm surprised anything could possibly stand the heat.

 28 Noaqiyeum, Wed, 22nd Aug '12 11:47:12 AM from across the gulf of space Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
the it-thingy
Oh hey - this thread lives! :D

Matt: Neat! Have you read about the traits of wild dogs and oxen that allowed them to become domesticated?

Taira: That's a lot of thought you've put into the terraforming process. :D

Thylakoids and fontiles are creatures from a world swept by sandstorms, where most water is buried in aquifers and other subterranean deposits. These two kingdoms of organisms combine traits of both Animalia and Plantae; thylakoids obtain nutrients from the air and photosynthesise to get energy, while fontiles are largely sessile and obtain nutrients and water from underground. Both have to hunt each other for the elements they lack.
  • Ferngulls are a class of thylakoid resembling birds - especially the albatross - who avoid the storms by remaining adrift in the upper atmosphere, constantly photosynthesising through their leafy wings. They aren't manoeuvrable enough to hunt fontiles themselves, and instead are ambush predators of other creatures that are.
  • Like rapters. (That's 'ra' (sun) + 'pter' (wing), not 'raptor' (plunderer), but the similarity to the group of birds of prey is intentional.) Their wings are smaller and less suitable for photosynthesis, but they have the dexterity and sensory equipment to see prey through clouds and swoop down and drain them of fluids with their thorny... claw... beak... thing appendages. Many have inflatable bladders for storing liquids, gaining a longer wait between hunts in exchange for becoming an easier target for other species. Acrorapters, or acros, highly manoeuvrable predators with a single long narwhal-like thorn, are definitely not inspired by Wayne Barlowe's skewers.

edited 22nd Aug '12 1:02:05 PM by Noaqiyeum

DRYH
OEOE
NSUA
TTRD
 29 kassyopeia, Wed, 22nd Aug '12 12:02:50 PM from terrae nullius

[up][up] The binary consists of a cool orange dwarf (colloquially known as The Ear) and a middle-aged (blue-ish) white dwarf (The Eye). Together, they have more mass than our Sun but only a tenth of its luminosity. Thus, really short years in the habitable zone.

edited 22nd Aug '12 12:04:05 PM by kassyopeia

Soon the Cold One took flight, yielded Goddess and field to the victor: The Lord of the Light.
 30 kassyopeia, Wed, 22nd Aug '12 12:13:23 PM from terrae nullius

[up][up] cool Ah, I was hoping you were still around somewhere, so I could ever-so-slightly belatedly respond to your suggestion of "Mimmoth" in post #3:

The little mammoth breed is formally called "Ellephants" (because they're about an ell (tip of the longest finger to elbow) high at the shoulder), and informally called "Woollies", since they pretty much fill the sheep-niche. Minus milk and plus ivory, that is.

The medium-sized breed is called "mammochs" (singular and plural, as in "Aurochs"), because their role is much like that of oxen.

The big ones are simply called "dreadnoughts", because, you guessed it, they need dread nought - or so it was believed, until one day... [queue ominous music]

But I'm getting ahead of myself, that's for year six, and I was going to go in order.

Soon the Cold One took flight, yielded Goddess and field to the victor: The Lord of the Light.
 31 Noaqiyeum, Wed, 22nd Aug '12 1:05:26 PM from across the gulf of space Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
the it-thingy
Aha! :D (The name 'mimmoths' is actually from Girl Genius - same concept of miniature mammoths, only in this case mouse-sized, which is why I was reminded of them. I think I like your names better, though.)
DRYH
OEOE
NSUA
TTRD
 32 kassyopeia, Wed, 22nd Aug '12 2:24:40 PM from terrae nullius

"Mammoths" are impressively resistant to being turned into telescope words. "Mammochs" was really the only decent one I came up with. For most of the interim, I was stuck with "littlephant", "cattlephant" and "battlephant", which despite (or probably because) of crossing the line from clever into cloying corny somehow made it even harder to come up with alternatives... *rolls eyes at self*

4[up] Are the rapters pronounced with or without the "p"?

Soon the Cold One took flight, yielded Goddess and field to the victor: The Lord of the Light.
Has anyone ever tried to design a plausible evolution for Andalites? While using the exact same biology as humans, they're dramatically different anatomically: their mouths are on their feet, they have six limbs, two (three?) hearts, four eyes (two of which are stalks and can see non-visible spectrum), and because it's a children's series we don't know how they use the restroom or have sex.

Hazarding a guess, I think their aquatic ancestors developed the mouths on the ends of their limbs so that they could feed while hidden underneath the ocean sand, and excrete waste from their limbs for the same reason. Since Andalites would choose to die rather than lose their tail, I'm guessing their tail contains their genitals, at least for males, and the blade originally developed as a protective sheath, while females have a birth canal near the base of the tail, which makes them not unlike reverse dragonflies. Furthermore, this is probably the standard body plan for all Andal's hexapods, in the same way that Earth's tetrapods share the same body plan.
 
 34 Noaqiyeum, Wed, 22nd Aug '12 4:53:33 PM from across the gulf of space Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
the it-thingy
[up][up] XD Okay, now you have me tossing root words around in my head trying to match something up with the other prominent members of order Proboscidea... but the first thing that comes to mind is 'vastodon'. That probably doesn't help. :P

With the 'p'. Rhymes with 'helicopter'. :)

EDIT: Bootheres (all-purpose 'cow beast')? Hastadons ('spear tooth')? Balants ('bleaters/sheep')? Hispids ('hairy')? Hirts (also 'hairy')?

edited 22nd Aug '12 5:30:40 PM by Noaqiyeum

DRYH
OEOE
NSUA
TTRD
 35 kassyopeia, Wed, 22nd Aug '12 7:12:46 PM from terrae nullius

Badgers (gestation period ~3 Earth-months -> Year One)

Various species, only one of which is of concern: The myrrhatel.

This is one of the rare examples of a eusocial mammal. "Eusocial", for those unfamiliar with the term, describes primarily insect species which live in colonies, rather than as individuals, like ants and bees and termites.

Furthermore, they live in symbiosis with the inglewood tree. These rare trees are the only source of myrrh, a honeydew-like substance which is a minor but essential component of the myrrhatel's diet. The process that yields the myrrh is complicated, and I won't go into it here, but the upshot is that inglewoods can only grow in clearings. However, they also grow slower than any other kind of tree, so left to their own devices, they wouldn't be doing too well for themselves. Which is where the myrrhatels come in of course: Each tree sits on top of a cete cete of badgers and provides them with their myrrh, and in return the badgers make sure that the clearing remains a clearing.

Instead of the simple sexual dimorphism often found in other animals, eusocial species are characterized by caste systems. Here there are four: Queens (the breeding females, one per cete), Nymphs (immature females), (non-breeding) Females, and Males. Queens have an enlarged abdomen to enable them to produce large litters, often to the extent of making it impossible for them to leave the cete. Females and Males show very little sexual dimorphism, but as females tend to be docile and males aggressive (see below), they mirror the split into workers and soldiers familiar from communal insects to some extent behaviorally.

The Queen gives birth to a litter of Nymphs and immature Males toward the end of Year One. The Nymphs are an important part of the social structure since they are the only ones able to climb the cete's tree, which is necessary to harvest the myrrh. The young Males have no comparable function and spend most of their time play-fighting with each other. At the end of Year Six, all of the young Males are expelled from the cete.

Some of the Nymphs leave around the same time of their own accord, while others remain behind. The migrating Nymphs have a single purpose, to find a young cete-less inglewood tree. If they succeed, they immediately enter the final stage of sexual maturation, which attracts some of the recently-expelled Males from other neighbouring cetes. Together, they begin to excavate a cete at the new location and mate for the first time during the upcoming Rut. By the time the new Queen births the first generation of Nymphs, the tree has "noticed" the badgers' presence and begun to produce myrrh, and the cycle begins anew. Most migrating Nymphs, of course, don't make it and die in the course of the next lustre, from lack of access to myrrh or simply from natural adversity.

Most of the expelled Males are less fortunate than those few who become founding fathers of new cetes. Instead, their only option is to attempt to join an established cete, which means bloody battles with the Males already attached to that cete. Most of the youngsters thus die just before reaching sexual maturity; the strongest establish a place for themselves by killing one or subduing several of their opponents - that's where all the play-fighting pays off.

Finally, the Nymphs who have remained behind are prevented from reaching sexual maturity by the dominating presence of the old Queen, and at some point during the next lustre, when the new generation of Nymphs is ready to assume their duties, they quietly turn into essentially asexual workers.

It is not known what causes the split in Nymph-behavior at the time of migration. Some believe it is simply a question of character (some turn out bold, some docile), others that the cumulative consumption of myrrh since birth may play a decisive role (those who cross some threshold value automatically turn into migrators, those who don't, into workers-to-be).

As a final twist, the symbiosis between tree and badger has recently (in evolutionary terms) come to incorporate a third species - my humanoid protagonists. Inglewood trees play an important role for them, both practically and religiously, and so each village has a tree in its central square and a cete underneath it. These myrrhatels are semi-domesticated and quite a bit bigger and more numerous than their wild relatives. They get most of their food from the villagers, and in return keep the rodents out of the larders and the ellephant herds (see Year Six downthread, eventually) safe from nocturnal predators.

Generally, myrrhatels are built more or less like ratels (honey badgers, thus the name), i.e. half-way between a badger or wolverine and a ferret or weasel. Their fur is golden, with black and white markings on face and legs.

Soon the Cold One took flight, yielded Goddess and field to the victor: The Lord of the Light.
 36 kassyopeia, Wed, 22nd Aug '12 7:24:34 PM from terrae nullius

[up][up] Sorry, I should have mentioned that Latinate and (whatever the Greek equivalent of that term is - Grecinate?) terms aren't admissible. I'm using English to represent a language which derives from two distinct roots, sort of like Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman, so all of the "low-brow" terminology (e.g. agriculture), which comes from the one root, has to trace to a Germanic stem or at least be fully assimilated into everyday English, while all of the "high-brow" terminology (e.g. science), which comes from the other root, has to come from Latin or Ancient Greek or at least a Romance intermediary.

With the 'p'. Rhymes with 'helicopter'. :)

Ah, yes. I was going to argue for "no p" on the basis of "(p)teranodon", "(p)sychology", "para(p)sychology", but your example is clearly more pertinent. smile

Soon the Cold One took flight, yielded Goddess and field to the victor: The Lord of the Light.
 37 Noaqiyeum, Wed, 22nd Aug '12 8:43:57 PM from across the gulf of space Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
the it-thingy
Ooh. That's tricky. Time to go review Anglish.

I'm pretty sure the p is typically pronounced whenever it's in the middle of the word, or at least at the end of a syllable; parapsychology being an exception because it was came from para- + psychology rather than para- + psyche + -ology... :P

Generally, myrrhatels are built more or less like ratels (honey badgers, thus the name), i.e. half-way between a badger or wolverine and a ferret or weasel. Their fur is golden, with black and white markings on face and legs.
I was starting to wonder exactly how much they still had in common with conventional mustelids. XD

edited 22nd Aug '12 8:45:38 PM by Noaqiyeum

DRYH
OEOE
NSUA
TTRD
 38 kassyopeia, Wed, 22nd Aug '12 9:32:01 PM from terrae nullius

I'm pretty sure the p is typically pronounced whenever it's in the middle of the word, or at least at the end of a syllable; parapsychology being an exception because it was came from para- + psychology rather than para- + psyche + -ology... :P

Indeed, that's just the sort of muddled reasoning that actually works for language issues. tongue

Seriously, though, I think you called it. "If it can be hyphenated, pronounce the word as if it were on its own; if it can't, reassign the silent letter to the preceding syllable, which makes it non-silent", might make a reasonable rule. At any rate, I certainly never (before) considered pronouncing the famous ur-bird as "archaeo-(p)teryx".

The exception may be "x-", which I'd pronounce without a "-k-" sound even when it's been fully incorporated: "euxanthic", for example, would sound like "yous-", not "youks-" (whatever the word means, I have no idea). But that makes sense too, since here we have the two phonemes represented by a single grapheme, so redistributing between syllables is far less natural.

The payoff of this little quest was the following gem of a word:

Pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism!

I was starting to wonder exactly how much they still had in common with conventional mustelids. XD

Mainly, my inspiration were Naked mole rats, minus the cave-dwelling Squickyness.

edited 22nd Aug '12 9:34:54 PM by kassyopeia

Soon the Cold One took flight, yielded Goddess and field to the victor: The Lord of the Light.
 39 Demetrios, Thu, 23rd Aug '12 5:17:29 PM from Northbrook, Illinois
A while ago I had some ideas for wildlife that would make Mu truly bizarre in comparison to the more familiar Atlantis and Lemuria. Here's what I have so far.

Ancient Piranha: A living fossil.

Black-and-white Racer: A skunk that looks and acts like a cheetah.

Dra'omo: A combination of a crocodile and a freshwater seal.

Kaluthur: A carnivorous bat that has given up flying to assume a more tiger-like lifestyle.

Masked Bear: A raccoon with the size and strength of a grizzly bear.

Metallic Spider: Spiders with metal-colored exoskeletons that live in castes, inspired by The Future Is Wild.

Rhinoxus: A giant iguana resembling a rhinoceros.

Shadow Raven: A large eagle-like raven.

Thunder Howler: A howler monkey that looks and acts like a gorilla.
 40 kassyopeia, Sun, 26th Aug '12 4:10:10 PM from terrae nullius

Panthers (feloids, gestation period ~3-4 Earth-months -> Year Two)

Four relevant species, one of which is generally held to be extinct, or to have been legendary in the first place. The sizes are given in in-universe units, namely in ells * and fants *. For reference, Altlings, my humanoid protagonists, typically measure somewhat under 3 feet and weigh somewhat over 1 fant.

I notice that I didn't give any size range for the myrrhatels. I'd better remedy that now, since the "nocturnal predators" mentioned in the post describing them are mainly the very panthers described below, so these two groups come into frequent conflict and a comparison seems indicated: A typical wild adult measures about a third of an ell at the shoulder and weighs about a sixth of a fant ("two hands" and "one brick", using the next lower units in my six-based system). Females are a bit below that, Males a bit above, but the difference is, as mentioned, not very noticeable. However, Males reach their adult size quickly and Females do so slowly. When Males have to fight at the end of their first cycle, they're almost fully grown. Nymphs remain quite small during their first cycle, which is in part what allows them to climb the inglewood tree and harvest the myrrh. At the end of their first cycle, they will have only reached about a third of their adult weight. The ones which become Females then keep growing asymptotically to a size similar to that of the Males. The ones which become Queens, on the other hand, simply keep growing. They typically overtake the Males at the end of their second cycle and will often have reached three times their weight by the time they die of old age. The semi-domesticated version is two or three times heavier and correspondingly somewhat taller. For that reason, it is believed that their Queens can actually grow to be bigger than a person. However, Altlings only rarely get the chance to observe the Queen of their village, as the myrrhatels would have a distinctly unfavourable reaction to their cete being dug up, and are in the habit of cannibalizing the Queen's corpse after her death.

Now, to get back to the panthers: The Lynx is pretty much a clouded leopard, except that it has a lynxish ruff. They measure up to 1.5 ells at the shoulder and weigh around 2 fants. To an Altling, they are about what a leopard or jaguar is to a human.

Lynxes are solitary and secretive. They mainly stay in the wilderness and have never been known to attack Altlings travelling in groups, though occasional attacks on those who travel alone likely do happen. Every once in a while, they may try to take an ellefant by stealth - that is, by sneaking into cultivated lands, taking down a juvenile which has strayed from the herd, and then carrying off the carcass as quickly as may be. If the myrrhatels spot the intrusion and challenge the Lynx, it invariably flees immediately. Generally, they are very injury-conscious and have only been observed to fight all-out in defence of their young. (Note.)

The Lyon is closely related to the Lynx and looks like a miniature lion with a less stocky build and longer canines. They, too, average about 1.5 ells and 2 fants, but as there is a fair amount of sexual dimorphism, this would actually be unusually small for a male lyon and usually big for a lyoness. The ruff is exaggerated in the males, resulting in something similar to but not quite equalling a lion's mane, and almost absent in the females. To an Altling, they are about what a lion is to a human, unsurprisingly.

Lyons come in prides. They are ubiquitous, especially in the border regions between wilderness and cultivated lands, withdrawing into the former to sleep during the day and then quite frequently encroaching on the latter to hunt lifestock during the night. Groups of travellers are mostly safe during the day, unless a pride is in the grips of starvation, but will almost certainly be attacked at night if a pride notices them and an opportunity presents itself. When hunting lifestock, they will exclusively target the small ellefant breed and use their numbers to try and draw off the relatively few members of larger breeds which browse or sleep alongside these. Myrrhatels need at least a two-to-one numerical superiority to hold their own against a determined pride, and if at all possible assemble the entire cete to further increase their odds. Thus, whenever more than one pride targets a village's herds during the same night, whichever one attacks first tends to draw most of the badgers and whichever one attacks last tends to be unusually successful. For this reason, lyons mainly attack during "uhtwatch" (the time just before dawn), and consequently myrrhatels are most alert during that time. Fortunately, lyon prides are quite territorial and haven't worked out that cooperating with other prides would significantly increase their chances, so these multiple attacks materialize only rarely.

The Leopard is something like a cross between a jaguar and a sabre-toothed tigre. The closest (extinct) taxon to it on Earth, that I know of, would be Machairodus. They measure more than 2 ells at the shoulder and can weigh up 12 fants. To an Altling, they are about what a tiger is to a human child.

Like lynxes, leopards are mostly solitary, though small family groups aren't uncommon either. Unlike lynxes, leopards are not secretive - they have no need to be, generally speaking. They mainly inhabit the deeper wilderness and so come far less into contact with Altlings than lyons do. Since they are not part of a pack, they have to be more injury-conscious than lyons, and so will often not attack travellers even when there is contact. Occasionally, individuals or small groups will enter cultivated lands, due to hunger or inexperience or overcrowding or whatever. When this happens, they usually remain there rather than attempt to re-cross the lyon-infested border regions. They'll wreak havoc for a while, become more and more bold, and eventually be killed in the onslaught of a sufficiently big group of myrrhatels or a single giant domesticated mammoth.

Lastly, the Leomount is to the Leopard what the Lyon is to the Lynx. If the ancient tales can be trusted, large groups of Leopard-sized panthers used to hunt the wild mammoths from which the domesticated breeds are derived. However, as Altlings became more numerous, the mammoths disappeared and so did their dedicated predators. One will hear the occasional tale of having seen wild mammoths or leomounts or both in this or that hard-to-reach place, but as the wilderness of my world is generally too hostile for anyone to reach those places and return alive, those are not widely believed.

edited 26th Aug '12 4:10:45 PM by kassyopeia

Soon the Cold One took flight, yielded Goddess and field to the victor: The Lord of the Light.
 41 kassyopeia, Sun, 26th Aug '12 4:31:04 PM from terrae nullius

Bears (gestation period ~6-8 Earth-months -> Year Three)

Bears are the other main group of mammalian predators. So far, none occur in the plot, so I haven't given them much thought other than figure out that the size difference between a big (half-ton plus) bear and an Altling is comparable to that between a T-Rex and a human. cool

Soon the Cold One took flight, yielded Goddess and field to the victor: The Lord of the Light.
 42 kassyopeia, Tue, 28th Aug '12 8:36:05 AM from terrae nullius

Deer (gestation period ~9-10 Earth-months -> Year Four)

Deer were the Altling's main source of meat during their hunter-gatherer days, and continue to be the main target of hunters now-a-days. They cover a similar range of sizes as terrestrial deer: At the lower end of the curve (something like this), they measure about 1.5 ells at the shoulder and weight about 1 fant (i.e. like an ellefant with a less compact build); at the upper end (something like this, except with antlers more like this), they measure about 6 ells at the shoulder and weigh up to 100 ("four score") fants. To an Altling, this range would be like that from a sheep to an elephant for a human.

At least as important as its meat are a deer's antlers, because Altlings use these as their currency base: They are cut into disks of standard thickness ("1 finger", which is a sixth of a "hand", which is a sixth of an ell), and those disks are used as coins. The bigger the disk, the higher its value; thus, there is an extra incentive to hunt prime specimens. Fortunately for everyone, the wilderness is too vast and dangerous for the Altlings to hunt on a larger scale than they do, otherwise there'd first be an inflation event and then an extinction event. tongue

Naturally, deer are also the main prey of the solitary panthers and bears, with each preferentially taking prey below their own size. Lyons will take deer if the opportunity presents itself, too, but can't subsist on the smaller ones and are more suited to hunting herds of small animals than taking on the larger ones - which usually means livestock, see above.

Soon the Cold One took flight, yielded Goddess and field to the victor: The Lord of the Light.
 43 kassyopeia, Wed, 29th Aug '12 8:09:14 AM from terrae nullius

Giraffe (gestation period ~13-14 Earth-months -> Year Five)

Giraffes are in my world more or less what unicorns are in fairy-tales. I may lampshade that by actually giving them one rather than two horns and incorporating the word "unicorn" into their name - if and only if I can come up with something a lot better than "unicoraffe". What they'll definitely have is a snowy-white coat, without the darker markings of terrestrial giraffes. They're a little bigger than those, too, measuring up to 12 ells at the shoulder and up to 20 ells at the (fully raised) head, and weighing in at 300 to 400 ("two-and-a-half cross") fants. There's a genus of dinosaur called Giraffatitan, whose total size relative to a human coincidentally works out similar to that of this giraffe to an Altling (diagram), even though the relative proportions (especially legs and neck) are of course quite different.

These are, by quite some margin, the tallest land creatures in my world. They are the only species other than myrrhatel which consumes myrrh. Rather than having to climb the tree, they can reach it from the ground. They are very rare and very sacred to the Altlings (analogous to unicorns, as I said), and they have no natural predators except for leomounts - which haven't been seen in so long that they are generally considered extinct or legendary in the first place, if you'll recall.

Due to their rarity, not much else is known about them.

ETA: "Monoceraffe", perhaps...

edited 30th Aug '12 8:11:53 AM by kassyopeia

Soon the Cold One took flight, yielded Goddess and field to the victor: The Lord of the Light.
 44 kassyopeia, Thu, 30th Aug '12 10:52:29 AM from terrae nullius

Mammoths (gestation period ~16-17 Earth-months* -> Year Six)

Mammoths were domesticated long ago and have since disappeared from the wilderness, as far as the Altlings can tell. There are occasional reports of having seen wild specimens far away from civilization, and, unlike the reports of leomounts, these are generally believed - doesn't make much sense, considering that it's usually the same people making both claims, but there you are. Since the domestication process began so long ago, and since this is the only properly domesticated animal available to the Altlings, breeding has progressed quite far, resulting in the three principal breeds of very different sizes listed below. The size range may seem extreme, but it is only about half again as large as that found in human-domesticated dogs, or indeed as that spanned by extinct relatives of today's elephants - so there!

The small breed, known as ellefants or simply "Woollies", are primarily meat and wool and ivory on the hoof foot. They measure, as repeatedly mentioned, 1 ell at the shoulder (thus the name of the animal) and weigh 1 fant (thus the name of the unit). This breed produces copious amounts of fine wool during the winter and molts in spring. The wool is then harvested by combing it out of the coat of longer, coarser hair. In the villages, a short religious service is held twice a day, at sunrise and sunset, and an ellefant is slaughtered as part of this ceremony. A symbolic portion of the body is sacrificed to the Gods, the remainder of the meat is prepared for a common meal to be held several hours later, and the ivory and other inedible parts go to the craftsmen. Each village herds several thousand of these.

The medium-sized breed, known as mammochs, are primarily beast of burden. They measure about 2.5 ells at the shoulder and weigh 36 fants, aka 1 "ochs" (formally "ochsweight"), for the obvious reason. This breed is very sturdily built, with a broader and deeper chest and thicker legs than the other two. Think halfway between an elephant and a rhino, perhaps. Their function is much like that of terrestrial oxen, meaning mainly fieldwork and pulling carts. They can be ridden, but are too ponderous for that to be worthwhile, generally speaking. Each village has a few dozen of these, or about two per farmer.

The large breed, known as dreadnoughts, are used in various capacities which call for their prodigious size and strength, and just as importantly are the revered mascots of any self-respecting village. They measure about 12 ells at the shoulder and weigh more than 1, 000 fants, aka 36 ochses, aka 1 "dread" (formally "dreadweight"), again for the obvious reason. They sleep for most of the day; tasks for which they are needed, such as heavy construction, is therefore scheduled for early morning or late afternoon. During the night, they are awake and alert and do their best to protect the ellefant herds from nocturnal prowlers, in concert with the myrrhatels. The two smaller versions have been bred to be as docile as possible, which is obviously not possible for these if they are to fulfill their purpose. Thus, it is rare but not entirely unknown for them to display aggression towards Altlings, too, which occasionally results in injuries and even fatalities among the humanoids. Dreadnought tusks are relatively straight and an average of 6 ells, aka 1 "tusk" (formally "tusk's length"), long. Upon the animal's death, it is buried intact and with all honours, except for the tusks which are kept, decorated with carvings, and employed as central pillars of major dwellings. Each village has one breeding pair and, usually, one calf (sometime none, sometimes two or three), which is all that their grazing lands can support.

The wild parent species, known simply as mammoths, are a little smaller than dreadnoughts - think wolf and large dog. And that's all that's known about them, too. smile

Soon the Cold One took flight, yielded Goddess and field to the victor: The Lord of the Light.
 45 kassyopeia, Fri, 31st Aug '12 10:23:40 AM from terrae nullius

Rodents (gestation period 1/2/3 years -> each year)

Rodents are a special case, in my world, a bit like marsupials or monotremes (platypuses et al). This is necessitated by the simple fact that some of the smaller species don't usually live long enough to see even one Rut, which would obviously be a problem in the ordinary course of affairs. Their solution is to birth their young already pregnant, which is known as "telescoping generations". Or as "Tribbles", in certain circles. wink

I haven't quite decided on how that works, but there are several options. It could simply be akin to parthenogenesis as seen in quite a few non-mammalian species, meaning that unfertilized eggs have the ability to develop into embryos. That way, children only have a single genetic parent. Or, it could be based on the way in which some eusocial insects reproduce - the queen mates with many males before founding a colony and stores their genetic material to fertilize all the eggs she will lay for the rest of her life. In my case, the rodent females who do get the chance to Rut would similarly store the resulting genetic material and then pass on portions of it to each of her daughters, which can use it to fertilize their own eggs, and so on down to the generation which does live to see the next Rut. Or, taking this one step further, the original female could fertilize many eggs, but let only a few of those develop into offspring and pass on the remainder to that offspring to develop in their wombs rather than in hers.

In the first case, females between Ruts would give birth to clones or half-clones of themselves. In the second case, they'd give birth to successively more inbred offspring, as the fathers would be the same for each generation. In the third case, they'd give birth to their own siblings, weird as that sounds.

Usually, rodent life-cycles are timed such that births occur only in whichever season is most advantageous, as well as such that there is an integral number of generations between ruts. Consequently, the gestation period (from being born to giving birth) is usually 1 or 2 or 3 years. For that reason, the population of the smaller rodent species tends to be fairly stable over the course of a lustre, since young are born each year. The populations of the larger species, though, tend to peak during the middle of the lustre, as the biennials give birth in years 2 and 4 and the triennials give birth in year 3.

The Rutting generation may or may not look and behave differently from the bridging generations, I haven't decided that part yet either.

... and with that, I've pretty much covered the mammalian ecology of my world (whew). The other classes of animals haven't any such quirks, so there's, at least so far, nothing much to tell about those. smile

Soon the Cold One took flight, yielded Goddess and field to the victor: The Lord of the Light.
 46 Noaqiyeum, Mon, 24th Sep '12 7:08:35 PM from across the gulf of space Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
the it-thingy
For some reason this thread dropped off my watchlist. Even though it's still on my watchlist. o_O

The exception may be "x-", which I'd pronounce without a "-k-" sound even when it's been fully incorporated: "euxanthic", for example, would sound like "yous-", not "youks-" (whatever the word means, I have no idea). But that makes sense too, since here we have the two phonemes represented by a single grapheme, so redistributing between syllables is far less natural.

The payoff of this little quest was the following gem of a word:

Pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism!

...:D

(It's a pigment.)

I may lampshade that by actually giving them one rather than two horns and incorporating the word "unicorn" into their name - if and only if I can come up with something a lot better than "unicoraffe"
I would suggest 'karkaraffe' but it probably falls outside your linguistic strictures... the naraffe, perhaps? :P

I haven't quite decided on how that works, but there are several options. It could simply be akin to parthenogenesis as seen in quite a few non-mammalian species, meaning that unfertilized eggs have the ability to develop into embryos. That way, children only have a single genetic parent. Or, it could be based on the way in which some eusocial insects reproduce - the queen mates with many males before founding a colony and stores their genetic material to fertilize all the eggs she will lay for the rest of her life. In my case, the rodent females who do get the chance to Rut would similarly store the resulting genetic material and then pass on portions of it to each of her daughters, which can use it to fertilize their own eggs, and so on down to the generation which does live to see the next Rut. Or, taking this one step further, the original female could fertilize many eggs, but let only a few of those develop into offspring and pass on the remainder to that offspring to develop in their wombs rather than in hers.

In the first case, females between Ruts would give birth to clones or half-clones of themselves. In the second case, they'd give birth to successively more inbred offspring, as the fathers would be the same for each generation. In the third case, they'd give birth to their own siblings, weird as that sounds.

Usually, rodent life-cycles are timed such that births occur only in whichever season is most advantageous, as well as such that there is an integral number of generations between ruts. Consequently, the gestation period (from being born to giving birth) is usually 1 or 2 or 3 years. For that reason, the population of the smaller rodent species tends to be fairly stable over the course of a lustre, since young are born each year. The populations of the larger species, though, tend to peak during the middle of the lustre, as the biennials give birth in years 2 and 4 and the triennials give birth in year 3.

The Rutting generation may or may not look and behave differently from the bridging generations, I haven't decided that part yet either.

The parthenogenic method seems to make the most sense to me. (It occurs to me that if the individual males generally don't survive until the next Rut, you will very quickly end up with a species that reproduces by parthenogenesis exclusively, unless environmental sex determination or sequential hermaphroditism is at work!)

I came up with an even weirder alternative, though. :D The chief problem is determining how to deliver sperm to the generations of rodents in between Ruts. Typical sperm cells don't live very long, so they'd need to be protected or maintained in some way, in which case it's probably easier just to continue making them somehow. Soooooooo... suppose when the male and female reproduce, the female physically absorbs the male gonads? They could detach themselves from the male and parasitise subsequent generations of females in exchange for sperm, like a particularly bizarre combination of argonaut hectocotylus and ceratioid anglerfish...

edited 24th Sep '12 7:08:57 PM by Noaqiyeum

DRYH
OEOE
NSUA
TTRD
 47 kassyopeia, Thu, 27th Sep '12 10:24:51 AM from terrae nullius

I would suggest 'karkaraffe' but it probably falls outside your linguistic strictures... the naraffe, perhaps? :P

Yes to the former, though my strictures aren't so strict that I wouldn't make an exception for a particularly appealing suggestion. This one is a bit too obscure to be that. I'd already seriously considered using nar-, but as the 'pedia article mentions, the etymology of the word is "'corpse', in reference to the animal's greyish, mottled pigmentation, like that of a drowned sailor" - which doesn't really go with the general air of unicornishness that I'm trying to create here. There's nothing much wrong with "monoceraffe" except that it's a bit plain for my taste, so I don't mind being stuck with that one for the time being. smile

It occurs to me that if the individual males generally don't survive until the next Rut, you will very quickly end up with a species that reproduces by parthenogenesis exclusively, unless environmental sex determination or sequential hermaphroditism is at work!

Now that is an excellent observation. I'd already considered having some or all of the generations lay eggs, just to establish the parallelisms between these rodents and Earth's monotremes (i.e. they're mammals, but they're not like other mammals) and aphids (which have a similarly complicated sub-annual life-cycle). But that seemed a somewhat flimsy motivation for such a drastic step. If, however, laying eggs is what allows an environmental (temperature-dependent, specifically) sex determination mechanism to take effect, which is perfectly suited because the years get progressively colder over the course of a lustre, then this all ties together very neatly. Thanks! [awesome]

The chief problem is determining how to deliver sperm to the generations of rodents in between Ruts. Typical sperm cells don't live very long, so they'd need to be protected or maintained in some way, in which case it's probably easier just to continue making them somehow. Soooooooo... suppose when the male and female reproduce, the female physically absorbs the male gonads? They could detach themselves from the male and parasitise subsequent generations of females in exchange for sperm, like a particularly bizarre combination of argonaut hectocotylus and ceratioid anglerfish...

Not quite, the chief "problem" is that I want all mammals to be "as infertile as possible" except during the three nights of the Rut, even the shortest-lived ones.

That's why I'm leaning towards the versions which have the Rutting pair produce a batch of fertilized eggs large enough to give rise to all of the individuals which will be born over the course of the following lustre, and then incubate these in generational stages, passing along the diminishing remainder in an inert condition between those. That way, the bridging generations' females don't even have to produce eggs, which makes them infertile in all ways except in not actually not giving birth (which is true for the normal mammals as well, of course).

However, your suggestion has a delightfully alien and off-putting quality about it, which is something I generally can't get enough of - my stated goal is to, in one way or the other, remind the reader at least once on every page that This Is Not Actually Earth and/or that These Are Not Actually Humans, despite the many superficial similarities. So, I'm going to have to think about this for a bit! cool

Soon the Cold One took flight, yielded Goddess and field to the victor: The Lord of the Light.
This is a thing about dragons in my setting that I wrote a while ago. For some reason it is written from a modern, scientific viewpoint, which makes no sense since the story is a medieval fantasy.

Dragon is not used to refer to a specific species, instead it is a colloquial term for any large, carnivorous, fire breathing, or otherwise fire producing animal. There are three genera of acknowledged, but largely unrelated, dragons.

Perhaps the best known are the wyverns, the large flying monotremes, mostly native to the isolated southern continent of Sunda. The somewhat inaccurately named Common Wyvern, so called because its cosmopolitan range meant it was known to science long before its relatives, is the classic example of this form of dragon. They are capable of producing flame, which they use primarily to defend themselves and their young when they are vulnerable on the ground. They are magnificent creatures, with wingspans of up to fifty feet (16m), and weighing up to 500 lbs (225kg). Mature males rely more on their venomous heel spurs, both for defense and battles for dominance with other wyverns. This venom is famed for its extreme pain inducing capabilities. They are highly intelligent and can easily kill humans, though in recent times examples of attacks are rare.

A wide variety of related species are found on Sunda, most of them much smaller, only a few of which have the fire 'breathing' adaptation. Diversity is especially high along the Bornfjord coast, home to some of the richest marine environments on the planet and is thought to be the location where the large, predatory wyverns evolved from smaller, bat-like forms, commonly found on elsewhere on Sunda. The group originally evolved from cat sized arboreal ambush predator that used skin flaps to control its trajectory while pouncing, on a continental fragment island that would eventually become part of modern day Sunda.

Their bodies are covered in a dense coat of soft fur, providing warmth at high altitudes and in winter, usually dark brown or black in color, except the throat. Their membranous wings are quite sensitive and can be minutely adjusted to enhance soaring efficiency or maneuverability, this ability makes wyverns the most efficient gliding machines in history, but it does come at a serious cost. Such a wide expanse of thin skin rich in blood vessels has formidable potential as a radiator, one might expect wyverns to freeze quickly if they attempted to fly in cold climates, but this is not the case. A fine coat of down on the wing membrane helps to insulate them, in addition they can restrict blood flow to the wings to reduce the heat loss. The wings can also serve as solar heat absorbers, this can help offset the cooling affect. In warmer climates, wyverns are careful to regulate their heat exchange to maintain optimal body temperature, the wings again function both as heat absorbers and radiators, modifying blood flow to different sections of the wing is used to keep temperatures stable. Analogous to birds, though clearly a case of convergent evolution rather than homology, as clearly demonstrated by both phylogenetic and anatomical evidence, wyverns have air sacs that create one way air flow, increasing respiratory efficiency, an essential adaptation for such a large flying creature.

Some of these air sacs have been commandeered to function as fire breathing mechanism. Air sacs in the throat have been separated from the respiratory system, and merged with modified salivary glands that originally to produce a noxious spit that nestlings used to defend themselves. This organ houses the flammable phosphorus compounds. When needed, violent contractions expel the inflammable mixture with enough force to push the cloud of burning gas and particles out and away from the mouth of the wyvern. This cloud will spread out and extend up to 15 meters, though most of the gas will have burned off by that point, only the white, smoking, phosphorus particles are likely to hit at that distance. But being hit with white phosphorus particles alone is still a horrific experience, they burn hot, easily penetrate skin, and are difficult to extinguish. In addition to the terrible burns that can be inflicted, the smoke produced by burning phosphorus is an irritating desiccant, and the overdose of phosphorus in the blood stream of a victim can lead to liver and kidney failure even if they survive the burns. This proved to be a more effective defense mechanism and came to be retained into adulthood. Wyverns absorb extra phosphates from their food, especially bones as the mineral component of bone is hydroxyapatite, a calcium phosphate compound, as well as sometimes eating phosphorus rich minerals, or bird guano. The excess phosphates, those not required for cellular metabolism or bone growth, are channeled to the throat sacs where a complex series of reactions, partially performed by symbiotic bacteria, where elemental phosphorus (aka white phosphorus) and phosphine are generated, and stored in a anaerobic, sealed chamber. The two flame ducts are clearly visible on the neck of the wyvern, as ridges extending about halfway down. The neck of wyvern has red and black warning coloration, typically the vertical red stripes follow the path of the flame ducts. The ducts merge under the jaw and the opening, which is typically closed and unobtrusive, is beneath the tongue, at the very tip of the jaw, allowing the gas and particles to be expelled without striking the mouth. The ducts are well reinforced, lined with a protective coating, and kept free of oxygen that could ignite the deadly fumes.

Wide ranging, effectively cosmopolitan, all the world's Common Wyvern populations form a single, interbreeding gene pool. Wyverns hunt essentially anything, but due to their size they prefer medium to large prey items, above 10 kg. They avoid dense forests, for the obvious reason of their enormous wings are unwieldy in such cramped quarters. Wyverns prefer plains or sea coasts, where they can soar and locate prey easily. They are also fond of mountains, which provide inaccessible roosting and nesting areas, as well as open meadows where hunting is possible.

The hunting strategy of wyverns is fairly straightforward, they soar at high altitude, scanning the ground for prey, then they stoop on it, striking with their three major talons, the impact of nine inch long claws at fifty to sixty miles per hour is suitably devastating to kill even large animals. If the prey is small enough it will simply be snatched from the ground and carried to a roost, or even eaten on the wing. If it is too large to carry, which a large proportion of the typical Common Wyvern's diet is, they will eat their fill at the kill site, if possible tearing off chunks to carry back. Male wyverns are able to take even the those few creatures that are too large to be incapacitated by a high speed strike, with their venomous spurs. Wyvern venom will incapacitate many tonned creatures like elephants or even whales, and the impaired animals killed by talon or fang. Right or bowhead whales are sometimes taken as their bodies float and can be easily consumed, though killing a creature a hundred times its size is an enormous challenge. Other large whales, rorquals or gray whales for example, would sink and the hungry wyvern lose a hard fought meal.

When on the ground they are vulnerable to attack, wyverns are quite large and strong, but lightly built, and could be badly injured or killed by a number of potential attackers. This is where they pyrotechnic capabilities shine, a burst of flame, mixed with burning flecks of phosphorus wards off even the fiercest assault. Fire is rarely used for hunting because the flames can consume delicious flesh and it may become tainted with reactive phosphorus compounds. While wyverns are more resistant to forms of phosphorus poisoning, and can absorb large amounts of phosphates and transport it to the fire glands, it is still possible for them to suffer ill effects.

Wyvern legs and feet are well adapted to the needs of the animal, they are very powerful, and make wyverns both rather adept on the ground and able to rapidly get into the air with a leap. They have five toes, the largest two point forward and have only small, blunt claws. These two toes are very robust and bear the animal's weight when on the ground. The other three oppose each other, two connected together pointing backwards, held above ground when walking and used as main striking weapon when diving. The third is next to the two walking toes but held upwards, opposing the main two talons. All three bear large sharp claws, for gripping and tearing. Unlike some of its smaller relatives, the wyverns wing membranes do not extend over its legs, instead the legs are positioned beneath the body, with the wing membranes extending over the hips to the end of the, rather short (less than a third the body length, or roughly 1.5 meters long) tail.

The neck is long, and flexible enough to allow to reach prey held in its claws and slightly longer than the tail, but to its length most be added the large, though airy, and fearsome head of the beast, the anterior section of its muzzle consists of sharp, serrated, keratinous 'teeth' in parallel rows, culminating in the two large fangs at the tip. Behind the 'teeth' are similarly keratinous pads, used for crushing bone. This is an extensive modification of the ancestral bill structure, found in a different forms in the other extant monotremes, the duck bill of the platypuses, the long snout of the echidnas and the broad grazing beak of the hekgris(a group of large, spiny herbivorous relatives of the echidna). Fossil evidence suggests that the common ancestor of modern monotremes had replaced its canines and incisors with a horny beak. In the platypuses and echidnas all other teeth were eventually lost, but wyverns retain shearing carnassial teeth in the back to slice up their meals.

Wyvern social groups are very both highly variable and quite complex. As all wyverns belong to a single interbreeding population, it seems that individuals are able to adapt to different circumstances and alter their behavior when dispersing to areas with quite different group dynamics. The core unit of wyvern interaction is the family group. Wyverns do not always mate for life, but pair bonds are generally very strong. There are many instances of a wyvern who's mate or young have been killed launching apparent revenge attacks, usually resulting in many casualties and the death of the wyvern. Some advocates have gone so far as to state the wyverns never attack humans except in these revenge attacks, though this viewpoint is quite clearly contradicted by a number of reputable sources. Less well recorded in official documents, but attested to in the folklore of completely unrelated cultures on separate continents, is the tale of a widowed wyvern pining away to death over its lost mate. No instances of this behavior have been observed by reliable witnesses. These wyvern family groups can either consist of parents, the most recently hatched young and adolescents that have not yet dispersed, or larger collections, that, although they spread out over their large territories to hunt most of the time, nonetheless collect together again at night, and usually nest nearby. These larger groups, called clans, often, but not always consist of related individuals, with their mates generally coming from other populations. Unlike many other social species, both sexes disperse after adolescence, sometimes only to the neighboring clan, sometimes to the other side of the world. Radio tracking has shown that some wyverns return to their natal clans after bonding with a mate, sometimes after a journey spanning the globe multiple times.

Whether a wyvern belongs to a clan, and return to their natal family following dispersal, or a smaller family group where post adolescents rarely return to their parents, is not completely understood but appears to be, at least in part, connected to the natural resources of their territories. Rich hunting grounds, for example the Bornfjord mountains, where territories can extend over both the rich kelp forests to the north(providing large fish, like salmon, seals, sea cows, and dolphins and porpoises) and the steppes (providing herds of reindeer, mammoth, horse, saiga antelope) generally have a clan structure, while less favorable areas have a single family structure. It would seem that clans only develop where a threshold density of wyverns can be supported. Unlike other cosmopolitan fliers, like albatrosses, wyverns do not have a single, or small number, of breeding colonies that they return to again and again. Instead nesting occurs throughout their range, wherever a somewhat isolated and inaccessible location can be found, mountain caves are particularly suitable, and inadequate ones expanded by the strong claws of the wyverns, though in some circumstances even that is necessary, one clan of wyverns was known to nest communally out in the open, the twenty to forty wyvern adults and adolescents providing sufficient protection. Unfortunately, or not depending on your perspective, this group was forced to abandon its territory by human disturbance. Indeed, human disturbance has proved so antithetical to wyvern nests that in most of the Eastern continent, many wyverns nest elsewhere, in large colonies, approaching the scale of seabird colonies, on distant islands or crossing the seas, migrating temporarily to one of the other continents. This later tactic can lead to intense confrontations as they encroach on the indigenous populations, and the first to considerable stress with the vastly different social arrangements such a nesting colony requires. Those few that still nest in the Eastern Continent have moved to the most rugged and forbidding mountains to escape persecution.

As monotremes, wyverns lay eggs, large, oval, leathery eggs, generally two, roughly a meter long, that hatch after roughly two months, following two months of internal development. The mother incubates the eggs, being fed during this period by her mate and their immature young. They have mammary glands, but lack teats, instead they have two patches of skin with pores, where the nestlings can suckle. Their mother can now leave the nest to hunt, but typically one wyvern stays near the nest to protect the nestlings until their flame glands develop and they can be supplied with the required components. They nurse for up to a year, growing rapidly in size. They will stay with their parents for another four years or so, until the next set of nestlings fledge. Dispersing subadults are generally near their adult size, but will continue to grow and mature as they travel. This is one of the most dangerous periods of a wyvern's life. They must cross unknown territories, dealing with challenges from the owners of those territories, and if they travel far enough and many do, new prey animals. One popular destination for these young wyverns is the edge of the northern ice pack. This is a rich environment, in the summer at least, with abundant marine resources. It does not sustain a breeding population of wyverns because the small, icy rocks that are the only land in the north of 60 degrees north, provide no suitable nesting sites and the summer is too short for a wyvern nestling to mature before the bitter winter would freeze or starve it. It is a near perfect place for immature wyverns gorge under the midnight sun however.

The other Old World dragons, are large pythons that produce a flammable, sticky substance that they can spit with considerable range and accuracy. This spit is ignited as it is expelled through a 'flintlock' mechanism, where a special iron coated organ strikes a mineralized section of the snakes palate and can be used to kill prey, defend against predators or battle for dominance with other members of its kind. Most prey however is taken by constriction, sometimes the methods are combined; other times the flame is used to force a large prey animal into the water, in an attempt to douse it, and thus the waiting jaws of the wyrm. The largest examples , over 10 meters, are exceedingly dangerous, heavily armored, scarred and charred from countless battles, motionless, invisible in the jungle, they can launch up to a liter of burning sputum nearly 40 meters. The mechanism behind this liquid hydrocarbons, thickened with latex.

The final, least well known, and generally least dangerous, dragons are mekosuchine land' crocodiles found on the savannas of the western continent, the fire breathing actually producing a flammable gas in nasal glands, used for defensive purposes. This dragon is relatively small by comparison to the monsters also known by the name dragon, rarely reaching 3 m in length, including tail, and 150 kg, providing the basis for their common name, the pocket dragon. The glands produce aniline and hydrogen peroxide, in separate chambers , these mix when snorted out, producing a burst of flame.

 
 49 Noaqiyeum, Mon, 8th Oct '12 2:01:34 PM from across the gulf of space Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
the it-thingy
I'd already seriously considered using nar-, but as the 'pedia article mentions, the etymology of the word is "'corpse', in reference to the animal's greyish, mottled pigmentation, like that of a drowned sailor" - which doesn't really go with the general air of unicornishness that I'm trying to create here.
...funny how the Norse and the Medieval Europeans both decided that the most prominent feature to name the narwhal and giraffe (cameleopard) after, respectively, were the colouration... rather than the enormous horn and neck. o_O

I was going to reply to this earlier and wrote down some other name ideas, but then I forgot and misplaced the sheet. >_<

If, however, laying eggs is what allows an environmental (temperature-dependent, specifically) sex determination mechanism to take effect, which is perfectly suited because the years get progressively colder over the course of a lustre, then this all ties together very neatly. Thanks! [awesome]
Oh, that ties together even better. :D Success!

Not quite, the chief "problem" is that I want all mammals to be "as infertile as possible" except during the three nights of the Rut, even the shortest-lived ones.

That's why I'm leaning towards the versions which have the Rutting pair produce a batch of fertilized eggs large enough to give rise to all of the individuals which will be born over the course of the following lustre, and then incubate these in generational stages, passing along the diminishing remainder in an inert condition between those. That way, the bridging generations' females don't even have to produce eggs, which makes them infertile in all ways except in not actually not giving birth (which is true for the normal mammals as well, of course).
Mmm, okay. I think hibernating eggs are quite weird, so you you have nothing to worry about there. The egg caches are going to have to be truly enormous - Earthly rodents have quite large litters due simply to the number that will be devoured before they mature and reproduce, and the... err... rodentremes (bad Latin, bear with me here) will be producing multiple generations worth at once, each subsequent generation remaining in their eggs for increasing periods of time, which in turn means more eggs for those generations will be consumed before hatching. 0_0 The energy cost on the genetic parents will be absolutely massive - they will most likely have to quite literally do nothing but eat and mate in order to produce enough eggs to last to the next lustre. That will drastically reduce the amount of food that will be available for the generation immediately after the lustre, which means fewer eggs will be hatched until the food source replenishes itself... This makes for a rather complicated predator/prey system (four equations in four variables, for the populations of eggs, rodentremes, predators, and food) that I'm not going to try to work out but I think the rodentreme graph would basically increase after every lustre until it reaches a peak, then slowly decrease overall as the eggs start to run out (oscillating about the 'average' due to predator and food populations). Then the cycle repeats in the following lustre.

You could also have sort-of mayfly-squirrel species that only hatch during the lustre, multiply rapidly and bury their eggs, and promptly become basically extinct until the next lustre incubates and hatches the next generation. :P

However, your suggestion has a delightfully alien and off-putting quality about it, which is something I generally can't get enough of - my stated goal is to, in one way or the other, remind the reader at least once on every page that This Is Not Actually Earth and/or that These Are Not Actually Humans, despite the many superficial similarities. So, I'm going to have to think about this for a bit!
You could use it for some other species with a long-enough lifespan for one generation to last a complete lustre cycle. :)

(I have one clade that does not yet belong to a particular world, with a similar but less extensive idea at work, called peat squids - they're basically a form of amorphous marsh-dwelling cephalopod that disguise themselves as part of the mud, and drown and eat land-dwelling species that blunder into them by mistake. Larger species can grow continuously as long as they keep feeding, and can end up displacing and occupying entire ponds, so dragging themselves over land to find a mate is out of the question; instead, they use certain wide-ranging species of boar-analogues as pollinators, baiting them with food caches in exchange for infecting them with free-swimming hectocotyli. The hectocotylus burrows inside and feeds on its host's meals for nutrients, secreting pheromones to mark it so that other peat squid recognise what it contains.)

A wide variety of related species are found on Sunda, most of them much smaller, only a few of which have the fire 'breathing' adaptation. Diversity is especially high along the Bornfjord coast, home to some of the richest marine environments on the planet and is thought to be the location where the large, predatory wyverns evolved from smaller, bat-like forms, commonly found on elsewhere on Sunda. The group originally evolved from cat sized arboreal ambush predator that used skin flaps to control its trajectory while pouncing, on a continental fragment island that would eventually become part of modern day Sunda.
Dragons are bats now I love it :D

Wide ranging, effectively cosmopolitan, all the world's Common Wyvern populations form a single, interbreeding gene pool.
Does this have any impact on their genetic diversity? I know real-world cheetahs have problems with being so genetically similar to each other that they are almost or more inbred than some artificially-cultivated breeds of dog... I don't know if it derives from same behaviour, but it seems plausible enough that I thought I'd ask.

The core unit of wyvern interaction is the family group. Wyverns do not always mate for life, but pair bonds are generally very strong. There are many instances of a wyvern who's mate or young have been killed launching apparent revenge attacks, usually resulting in many casualties and the death of the wyvern. Some advocates have gone so far as to state the wyverns never attack humans except in these revenge attacks, though this viewpoint is quite clearly contradicted by a number of reputable sources. Less well recorded in official documents, but attested to in the folklore of completely unrelated cultures on separate continents, is the tale of a widowed wyvern pining away to death over its lost mate.
FIRE-BREATHING ELEPHANT BATS.

The other Old World dragons, are large pythons that produce a flammable, sticky substance that they can spit with considerable range and accuracy. This spit is ignited as it is expelled through a 'flintlock' mechanism, where a special iron coated organ strikes a mineralized section of the snakes palate and can be used to kill prey, defend against predators or battle for dominance with other members of its kind.
...so these are in fact reptiles, rather than the mammalian wyverns? :D

The final, least well known, and generally least dangerous, dragons are mekosuchine land' crocodiles found on the savannas of the western continent, the fire breathing actually producing a flammable gas in nasal glands, used for defensive purposes. This dragon is relatively small by comparison to the monsters also known by the name dragon, rarely reaching 3 m in length, including tail, and 150 kg, providing the basis for their common name, the pocket dragon. The glands produce aniline and hydrogen peroxide, in separate chambers , these mix when snorted out, producing a burst of flame.
...Mekosuchine? o_O I want to hear more about these. :D Is the overall ecosystem for these groups basically Earth-like but with dragons, or are there other 'additions' to the biosphere as well?

edited 8th Oct '12 2:17:41 PM by Noaqiyeum

DRYH
OEOE
NSUA
TTRD
Does this have any impact on their genetic diversity? I know real-world cheetahs have problems with being so genetically similar to each other that they are almost or more inbred than some artificially-cultivated breeds of dog... I don't know if it derives from same behaviour, but it seems plausible enough that I thought I'd ask.

My understanding is that low genetic diversity is a consequence of having a small founder population, so as long as the wyvern population is large enough they shouldn't have problems

...Mekosuchine? o_O I want to hear more about these. :D Is the overall ecosystem for these groups basically Earth-like but with dragons, or are there other 'additions' to the biosphere as well?

It's mainly Earth-like, mostly out of laziness, with the potential to throw in other things if I can think of something neat enough. There is one continent, the western continent, that has fauna based on prehistoric South America, when it was an island continent, so giant ground sloths, terror birds, glypodonts, and many other now extinct critters, which is Earth-like but not familiar. I also threw in a bunch of extra sentient races, as is standard for fantasy settings.

Mekosuchine crocodiles were a group of cros from Australia, I haven't actually put that much extra thought into them, because they don't actually live in the setting of my main story and I spent most of my time developing wyvern ecology.
 
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