The World Today

The World Today
Earth in 2013

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Desert Sloths

Pseudosloth (Pseudosloth family)

Description: The name is derived from the knuckle-walking feature of the animal, which protects long claws. The arms of the creature are parallel to the fossilized remains of Terran ground sloths. They are one of the large animals that can be found in the Sunspot Desert, nearly the size of a bison.

Head: They have a powerful beak that can slice through tubers and roots, and jaws that can grind them. Their teeth are lined with a thick enamel that prevents degradation by sand. Their long nostrils allow them to smell food through several meters of soil, as well as springs from kilometers away.

Body: Their short tail serves as a fat reserve, with it swelling up large enough to simply look like an extension of the torso. The rest of the torso is rotund, with thick skin to protect them against dust storms and predation.

Limbs: Their rear limbs are unremarkable, but their forward ones make up for this deficiency. Their forward limbs are longer than their rear limbs, as their fingers are twice as long as their toes. At the tip of each finger is a claw that can measure up to thirty millimeters in length. These powerful claws can be used for digging, as well as grasping at cliff faces and even trees in the Galapagos Mountains. To protect these claws, the animals walk on their knuckles. They shuffle along at a surprising speed for such an ungainly animal, with short bursts of 30 KPH.

Color: Various from species to species, though types of brown tend to dominate.

Internal Structure: Their stomachs are complex and multi-chambered. Given their size and the rarity of plants in the open desert, pseudosloths must utilize every scrap of food they can find.

Diet: Plants of all types. They eat leaves, roots, tubers, and anything their jaws can grind. They even feed upon hunting pods, whose spears can not penetrate the hides of adults. In return, hunting pods can feed on any young that stray too close.

Lifecycle: Pseudosloth of the desert live nomadic lives, constantly on the move. As such, they can not stay behind to protect their young. Eggs are laid in mass, and hatch around the same time. Thousands of hatchlings can emerge within an hour, overwhelming the stomachs of any predators in the area. Once free of their nests, the animals begin a lifetime of wandering. They reach full size in five years, and can continue grazing the desert and highlands for upwards to forty years.

Reproduction: Each female can produce up to fifty eggs. Their reproduction strategy is much like a sea turtle, in that they lay many eggs so that a handful can reach maturity. Females will lay all their eggs in a large, communal nest. The nest is surrounded by round rocks, that look very much like the round eggs. Large rocks in the ground make reaching the eggs more difficult for burrowing animals.

Sociability: Depending on the species, the size of the herd can range from twenty all the way to one hundred. Their size and sparseness of food limits the size. Given their friendly and docile nature, pseudosloth could form herds as large as those that roam East Africa. The instinct to herd is strong, and formed as hatchlings. Since the eggs are abandoned, the young must band together to increase their odds of surviving.

Habitat: Pseudosloths range across the desert, and have climbed into the Galapagos Mountains. Given the steep terrain leading to these mild plateaus, the pseudosloth is the dominate large animal in the region. The species evolved into a dozens of new species and genera to fill the vacant niches in these high mountains. Their development parallel the finches in Earth’s Galapagos Islands, and thus is why the mountains share the name.

Communication: Pouches in their noses inflate to produce a loud, honking noise. The noise is surprisingly high-pitched for an animal of their size. The calls are used more for locating each other than any form of information transfer.

Enemies: As adults, they have only a few; that being the largest predators. As young, all the predators feed upon them. If a pseudosloth can survive hatching and run the gauntlet of predators on the first day, their odds of long-term survival increase greatly. They grow larger every day, which means that many fewer predators can threaten them.

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