The World Today

The World Today
Earth in 2013

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Desert Crawlers

Crawler (rutil-capitis repsi)

Size: One of the few predators in the Sunspot Desert, the crawler is a three meter long predator with an abnormally large head for their body size. They are light weight for their length, with a mass of only about one hundred kilograms.

Head: The head of the crawler is shaped like a shovel and is as wide as the body and comprises 30% of the total length. Most of the head is jaws, lined with serrated teeth. These teeth grown back constantly as the crawlers lose many in securing prey. Securing prey is the reason why they have so large heads. In the Sunspot Desert, prey animals are few and far between, meaning crawlers can not afford many failed hunts. Their eyes are small, and covered by a membrane that keeps out dirt and reduces glare.

Body: The name crawler comes from the fact that they crawl along the sands of Hypnale’s deserts. Because of this, their bellies have thick skin that insulates the rest of the body. Their bodies are water tight, not permitting any lose of water, not even through the mouths. Their scales are a parched brown, blending in with the eternally baked rocks of the desert.

Internal Structure: The digestive system of the crawlers is incredibly efficient. Not only do they not lose any water through it, excreting only dry, solid waste, but they are also buoyant. Their bones are hollow and filled with a hydraulic-like flood that supports their skeletons. It also serves as a fat reserve.

Diet: Their diet comes from whatever they can catch, and crawlers will band together to take down larger prey should the opportunity arise. Crawlers will on average eat only a few large meals per Earth year.

Lifecycle: Crawlers have short lives, only about twenty years. Their bodies are bombarded by the red sun above, and their rugged terrain wears down the animals in a hurry. Crawlers start life in clutches, the hatchlings banding together for the first half-year of life. They have little to fear from larger crawlers, since each animal has a strong instinct to not eat their own. This is largely due to the fact that the Sunspot Desert is a harsh enough place to survive without a species fighting amongst itself. When they grow large enough to take their own small prey, the clutch breaks up and scatters across the desert.

Reproduction: With no seasons and living on a tidally locked world, reproduction among crawlers is a sporadic affair. When a female is ready to mate, nearby males pick up the scent and investigate. They attempt to impress her by doing push-ups, and showing off their large heads. This is also used to intimidate rivals. After successfully mating, the female will lay a clutch of between eight and eighteen eggs. The eggs not only resemble rocks, but are as hard as them. With little shelter, and no peace around oases, crawlers lay their eggs out in the open. The thick shells are covered with a highly reflective mineral, keeping the developing hatchling from overheating. When ready to hatch, the crawler releases an enzyme a day before that begins to dissolve the egg from the inside.

Sociability: Crawlers are known to hunt in groups on a regular basis. Not as a pack, but only as a temporary cooperative hunt. This about covers their social grace; not ripping each other to shreds while feeding on a larger carcass.

Habitat: Despite their adaptation to living in the sun-baked desert, crawlers routinely ambush prey from oases. They hide beneath the water and wait, in the same manner as crocodilians. Crawlers have no set territories, as almost all animals in the desert are nomadic. The search for food drives individuals on long treks. At the end of their lives, it is not uncommon for a crawler to have crawled some ten thousand kilometers.

Communication: Crawlers communicate intentions through a series of jerking motions. The most obvious is nodding their head, which is meant as a threat.

Enemies: These are one of the few species on the planet where their own kind are not their own worst enemy. They seldom compete for food, and will share large kills. Their biggest enemy is the environment itself.

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