The World Today

The World Today
Earth in 2013

Friday, September 27, 2013

Paroc-a-what? The fabled beast of burden.

Origins: Parocophants are sextapods, animals with six limbs instead of four. The most famous of the sextapods are the dragons. Parocophants obviously came from the Dragon Homeworld. Dragons brought them, along with griffons to all the new worlds they colonize. Parocophants are weary when dragons are nearby, but dragons never preyed upon parocophants. Dragons are just fond of the beasts, and brought them along as quasi-pets.
Size: The parocophant reaches ten meters in length, stand two meters tall at the shoulder, and have a mass of one tonne. Males and females are the same size. They have somewhat stout, wide bodies, much like an elephant, though not quite as fat since they do not eat vegetation.
Head: The parocophant skull is an almost solid muscle mass. Muscles attaching the jaws to the skull give the animal a powerful bite, capable of killing prey by crushing it.  Parocophants have frills behind their heads made of thick bone and protected them from some predators in eons past. Ear holes exist on the sides of their head. The internal structure of the ear allows them to hear above and below water. Their eyes are placed on the side of their heads, facing forward, giving them some binocular vision. Their brains are not overly large, but in structure are more parrot-like than crocodile-like.
Body: Not only do they have a head similar to a crocodile but their other end as well. The parocophant’s tail is built like a croc’s and is used in the same way; propelling them through water. However, the bulk of their body is more like an elephant, or in the aquatic sense a hippo. Like both mammals, parocophants tend to just plod along through the water, in no hurry. Their tails give them burst of speed when chasing prey.
Limbs: The first two pairs of limbs of the parocophant, legs and feet, are similar to an elephant, and almost as large. They are not intended for speed, but to keep the animal standing. Parocophants are very efficient walkers, which is one of the reasons they have been domesticate by humanity. Only their diet limits their range and where they can be used. Parocophants do not have claws, but rather hoof-like nails sticking from each of their toe bones. The most distinguishing feature of the parocophant is the third pair of limbs. They are not limbs in the tradition sense, but have fused into giant crests protruding from their upper shoulder some three meters into the air. Like the crest, it was once used for defense. Now both tend to be used more for display.
Plumage: Parocophants are covered in bright feathers like a parrot.  The biggest difference between the two is that the females (riki) are covered with green feathers, whereas the males (peri) are covered with red and orange feathers.
Internal Structure: Parocophants have a tough hide of interlaced tissue, making it difficult for an adult to suffer puncture damage. Between their skin and muscle is a lay of subcutaneous fat, which serves both as an energy reserve and as buoyancy. To lower their overall mass, the bones of parocophants are hollow. The most impressive structure inside a parocophant is on the cellular level. They have TNA, tri-ribo nucleic acid, which packs in considerably more genes than DNA. TNA, despite being more complex, can replicate itself more efficiently than DNA and far longer before error have a chance of occurring. Their genetic material is so sturdy that sextapods never suffer from the decay of old age.
 Diet: Fish. Parocophants will only eat fish, and only live ones. Attempts by humans to feed them salted, dried or even freshly thawed fish have failed. When a parocophant grows hungry, they charge straight for the nearest watering hole. Once submerged, they will gorge themselves on up to, and over, fifty kilograms of fish, enough to last them at least two days.
Lifecycle: Parocophants, like all sextapods, have extremely long lifespans. They will always outlive their humans, even if they happen to be pygmaeus. Parocophants will ultimately die due to injury or disease. Barring either, they could easily live for over one thousand years. Parocophants hatch ready to face to world. As soon as they dig their way free, they bolt for the closest source of water and feed on minnows. Even at hatching, they display the characteristic shoulder protrusions, making it difficult that prey on the likes of turtles and such to feed upon newly-hatched parocophants. Even so, it is not uncommon for half the clutch to parish before reaching the water. The hatchlings grow fast, reaching adult size within a decade. However, within a year of hatching, there are few predators that will bother them. If they can survive the first year, a parocophant is almost guaranteed a long life.
Reproduction: Parocophant are not a violent animal, not even when it comes to mating. Males tend to size each other up and force the other to back down by displays of plumage and shoulder crests. If this fails, they will line up against each other and proceed to swing their heads into each other. Their heads are solid enough that no damage is sustained, and the fight ends when one male grows tired. Longevity means that sextapods reproduce infrequently. On average, a riki will mate once a century and lay a clutch of eight to twelve eggs. After burying the eggs, the mother walks off to never see her offspring again.
Sociability: Parocophants have a very agreeable temperament, making them easily tamed. This is believed to be a lingering side-effect of domestication and selective breeding done by dragons millions of years ago. Humanity uses parocophants on the world where they exist, as beast of burden. They are as strong as elephants and much easier to work with. They also eat less often. Parocophants are limited in range due to their diet; fish. Every other day, parocophants return to the water to gorge on fish. Handlers must always unhook the drawn cart before feeding. Parocophants have been known to drag cart loads of goods into the water in their search for food.
Habitat: Parocophants live in wet environments, never a day’s walk away from a body of water. This is to satisfy their diet. They live in marshes, swamps, jungles and any place that has adequate year-round water sources. Just like hippos and crocodiles, the parocophant spends most of their time in the water. There is a certain average temperature, 290K, which they will tolerate. Areas colder than this will not find parocophants.
Communications: Parocophants are rather quiet animals, considering their size. They can produce both growls and surprisingly high-pitched chirps, but rely more upon subtle visual cues, such as posture and eye contact.
Competition/Enemies: They have no enemies as adults, but are wary of dragons. As hatchlings, anything that can swallow them will eat them. Parocophants do not thrive as well in regions that have crocodiles or hippos, mainly because of competition for space. The parocophant’s docile nature means they tend to move out of the way.

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