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.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Killer plants.

Hunting Pod (Vesicafolium insidious)

Size: One of the more insidious species living in the Sun Spot Desert is a black, shrub-like plant known as the hunting pod. The plants stand about one meter tall.

Appearance: Their trunk is shaped like a pod, hence their name. Branches extend underground, as far as five meters from the pod. They rise to the surface, bearing leaves and a speartip at the very end. This spear is used to skewer any animal that passes in range. Hunting Pod’s leaves are ultraviolet, appearing black to human eyes.

Internal Structure: The Hunting Pod’s main “body” consists of a pit in the top of its trunk. Inside this pit are the toxins and digestive juices the Pods use to kill their prey and extract the nutrients. They detect prey by hundreds of root-like tendrils that extend from the branches and are sensitive to the slightest vibration. The skewering branches are also covered with leaves as well as the pod. The spears branch out to a radius of five meters, and its roots extend ten meters directly into the ground in a spike-like shape.

Diet: So poor in nutrients and water is the desert, that these plants have evolved a way of extracting both from animals that pass to near. The prey is lifted into the air and dropped into the pod, where they are quickly poisoned and begin to dissolve. These predatory plants rely upon at least one far size kill every fifty or so days, but will take smaller prey that stubbles upon them. The Hunting Pod does not “eat” its prey, instead uses the nutrients taken from it, as well as the water, to power the photosynthesis that makes a plant a plant.

Life cycle: The lifespan of a Hunting Pod is not clear. Though they die when they release their seeds, they could have dozens of clones that have propagated off from the main body, and grown to full size. Afterwards, the clones produce clones of their own, making the genetic code of an individual effectively immortal.

Reproduction: Hunting Pods’ main way of reproducing is a method of cloning called propagation. Only once in a few decades will the plants produce flowers to attract insects. After they are pollinated, the pods begin to bloat and develop seeds. When the seeds are ready to spread, the Hunting Pod will explode, casting the seeds into the air. The seeds are light and have a large surface area, appearing like propeller blades. This allows the air to carry them far from their parents. Seeds will remain dormant until enough water is available for them to germinate. Unless they land next to a spring, a Hunting Pod seed will remain dormant for decades or even centuries.

Range: The Pods are found only in the Sunspot Desert, and only close enough to the springs and oases. They seldom live more than five hundred meters from sources of water. They do not necessarily take the water through their roots, though they do in times of low traffic. Instead they rely upon the nutrient-rich animals that venture towards the spring to drink or take shelter.

Enemies: Hunting Pods, at least their branches and leaves, are vulnerable to the larger herbivores of the Sunspot Desert, such as the Grovers. They can try to spear, but Grovers’s hides are thick enough that the spear can not penetrate. On the rare occasion that they do, the branches tend to be torn off when the grazer runs away.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Hypnale: The Sunspot Desert

Directly beneath the sun on tidally locked Hypnale sits the most inhospitable piece of real estate on that planet, and most other biofaring worlds. The Sunspot Desert is constantly bombarded by Lalande 21185. In some part of the desert lowlands, temperatures hover around 350K, quite lethal to anything from Earth. As well as deadly for Hypnalaforms. Directly beneath the sun, virtually nothing lives. No free water flows anywhere on the surface of this desert. Underground rivers and lakes are a source of water. These sources have prompted the plants that grow in the less inhospitable regions of the desert to evolve deep roots, as well as vicious defense mechanisms to ward of herbivores.. The animals that make the desert home are all adapted to burrow to avoid the worst of the heat, as well as in search of food and water. Animals that can not go underground do not survive long. Where lakes are closest to the surface, natural springs offer their own form of shelter to the wildlife.
If not for the constant convection of air from the Starward Hemisphere, the desert might well exceed the boiling point. The desert helps regulate the planet’s overall climate. Heat from the desert rises, which forces air from other parts of the world to rush in and fill the void. The hot air flows on the atmospheric conveyer toward the darkness, where it sinks and cools. The heat it transfers prevents the Starward Hemisphere’s seas from freezing completely.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ecological overview of Hypnale

Life on Hypnale is some of strangest yet encountered. To start with, skeletons (in animals that have them) are based on cartilage instead of regular bone. This means fossils are virtually absent. The exact process of how the ‘bones’ form is not known, for cartilage alone would not support land animals. High pressure marrow also acts as a support. The hides of animals, especially in the terminator, are resistant to acid, as are leaves on the plant. They coat themselves with similar enzymes that are found within the stomach. Lack of iron in their blood does not stop them from taking oxygen from the air. Oxyginating yellow blood cells care oxygen from the lungs to the rest of their body. This gives their blood an oozing yellowish appearance, much like the innards of a crushed bug.
Vision on Hypnale, like any world, is dependent on the star. Hypnalaforms can see in the range of infrared to green. Blues and purples are not detected by their eyes, since the parent star emits so few of these frequencies. To their eyes, blue and purple would appear as black as ultraviolet light does to a humans’. Infrared plays a big role in plants. All the flowers are either infrared or red. These means they are slightly warm to the touch. Insects are attracted to heat sources since they are likely food sources. The plant eaters have evolved powerful jaw that are capable of making chewing motions. This allows them to digest the hardy plants easier. Another common trait in virtually all herbivores is that they have stubby feet that end with a thick, armored sole. Predators usually move about on all fours, and appear like a quadruped theropod.
Life on Hypnale are carbon based, with water as a medium and breath oxygen. They have adapted to make use of the chlorine in the atmosphere to generate chlorides within their bodies, such as producing their own salts. Plants on Hypnale have leaves that range from dark blue to ultraviolet. This is because they absorb infrared and red to use in photosynthesis, and reflect everything else.

A detailed map of the climate.

A useful, labelled map of climate.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Atmospheric Survey of Hypnale

Temperature maps
Rainfall Map

The atmosphere is far denser than on Earth, and problems with oxygen toxicity can come into play, with more than 600 millibars of oxygen. For a Terraform, over 500 mb can become toxic. However, any non hypnalaform breathing in the atmosphere will be killed by the chlorine and fluorine, long before oxygen levels build too high in their system. Because the air is denser, winds feel stronger. Hurricanes on the sunward side are seldom weaker than a class four. An additional10 mb of methane keeps the atmosphere toasty warm, with a global average of 300K, even after factoring in the chill of the darkside.

The atmosphere of Hypnale works similarly to the oceans. Warm air on the sunward side rises, creating a pressure difference, which draws in air from the starward side. The warm air is then pushed by more warm air over the terminator, where much of the moisture falls, and into the darkness of the starward side. Here, it cools, falls back towards the ground, and begins the cycle again. This current causes the planet to suffer from constant breezes. Seldom is their calmness in the air. Wind speeds at high altitudes are greater than what are found on most F3 worlds, sometimes flowing twice as fast as Earth’s jet stream.

In the upper atmosphere, water vapor is struck by the feeble ultraviolet radiation of Lalande 22185. This breaks it into hydrogen and oxygen. The oxygen atom combines with 02 to form ozone. The hydrogen interacts with chlorine to form hydrochloric acid. Chlorine is constantly being washed from the atmosphere, only to be replaced by the acid begin broken into hydrogen and chlorine on the sunward side. Rain mostly falls in the terminator, but snow does fall on the starward side. Because there is so little land in the starward side, the snow falls into the ocean and melts. Temperatures on the starward side of the planet can be 100K lower than the sunward side. Only constant movement of the atmosphere maintains a balance able to support life.

Weather on Hypnale seldom changes within its given climatic zone. The Terminator always sees rain, and the Sunward Zone is always baked dry. However, the heat from the sun that constantly cooks the Sunspot Desert also heats the ocean around the desert. This causes evaporation and the convection of the atmosphere forces the moisture starward. However, the differences in temperature between air and water causes great storms, shrouding the sunward coast of the Terminator in an almost perpetual cloud cover, with daily rain in some places.

The sky of Hypnale varies depending on which part of the planet one stands. On the sunward side, the sky is a pinkish-white, with the orb of Lalande 21185 always glowing above. The terminator suffers from pink and red skies. The darkside is a dark midnight blue. Directly below the sun, it appears to be red and white at the same time. At sharper angles, such as from the Terminator region, the sun is a pulsating, never-moving red orb, bathing the landscape in a reddish glow.

Hypnale suffered from a tidally locked climate. This means the climatic zones are not from the poles to the equator, but rather from the sun to the stars. The sunward side of Hypnale is under constant bombardment from the sun. Lands directly below the sun are baked dry, with rain never falling. The only source of surface water comes from springs that bubble up from underground rivers. The desert is also hotter than the hottest deserts on Earth, with temperatures averaging 340K or higher. Directly under the sun, no life lives. However, further away, where shadows are casts, life clings on to existence in the desert. The oceans beneath the sun are home to continuous storms.

The terminator is where most of the biomass congregates. It is a temperate area covered in vegetation. The closer sunward one travels, the more drought resistant the plants become, with scrubland ringing the Sunspot Desert. Since the terminator is bombarded with rainfall, it is also home to many swamps. The terminator offers a band of purple and ultraviolet that separates the sun and the stars.

The starward hemisphere is locked in perpetual night. Any creature living here must navigate by starlight. More often, they use infrared, echolocation, electric currents and even smell to navigate. The few landmasses on the starward side of the planet are locked in thick glaciers. The snow that falls here never melts. Glaciers build up and are forced into the ocean, where the icebergs are eventually absorbed by the ocean. The air temperature is well below freezing. Only the constant flow of water keeps the ocean from freezing.