Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Here is Qianosuchus' skeleton, there were numerous skeletons found.

Qianosuchus is much like my marine-monitor concept for the neocene.


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Spec blog location -

For access to my spec-blog, go here:


Enjoy, and by all means contibute!

Spec is a place where all can make their mark!


Friday, March 10, 2006

Writing-Up-species-(Hopefully for bestiary entry)

Forest giant false-mihirung (Neodromornis titan)
Order: Cassowaries (Casuariformes)
Family: Cassowaries (Casuaridae)
Habitat: Lowland rainforest of Northern Meganesia.
The Thick impenetrable rainforests of holocene New Guinea, covering miles of vast mountains and vallies, proved to be the saving grace for some species endangered by man. The remote surviving areas left after man's extinction spread and survived even the early Neocene's ice ages, and as a result, animals like cuscus and cassowary survived and prospered in the neocene. One such descendant is the Forest giant false-mihirung (Neodromornis titan), a descendant of the Mountain cassowary.
This is a beastly bird, with powerfull, long legs, shaggy auburn feathers, and standing three and a half metres tall. It is descended from the equally impressive cassowaries, but looks more like the near-mythical prehistoric dromomornithids, these neocene giant-birds are called false-mihirungs. It has a powerfull, deep beak, that runs into the casque on the head, it destroys both soft and hard vegetation of Australia's tropical forests, as it feeds. A single bird will leave a visible path of destruction in the rainforest and floodplain scrub. The bill and casque are bright red in males and yellow-orange in females, the wattles around it's face and neck are blue and yellow, with red blotches. When startled or angry, they charge headlong through the forest, at speeds of up to sixty kilometres per hour, leaving undergrowth trampled. As well as vegetation, mainly leaves, bark and branches, they greedily eat fruit and tubers, and will scavenge or tear apart small animals. The males weigh seven hundred kilograms, five hundred with females, with rounded calloused bellies. The once lethal toe claws are now blunt hooves, though they can still kick fiercely. It also feeds readily on fallen fruits, much like it's ancestor. False Mihirung courtship is brief and violent, but happens all year round, males will call to attract females with a deep, fearfull bellow. A female will enter an area cleared by the male in the forest undergrowth, here they will tussle, the male attempting to mount the female, the female throwing her off, the most persistent and strong males mate sucessfully. Male and female care for the nest, the nest is a mound of rotting vegetation up to 2 metres high, covering 20-30 ostritch-egg-sized blue-green eggs. The male and female have no need to sit on the nest, and hence lose their belly-feathers as they mature, which are replaced by a thick patch of calloused hide, which helps protect against injury from predators and from kicking one another, which they commonly do in confrontation. The young are tan-brown with black spots, and they follow their parents feeding on small animals and fruit. They mature at 4 years of age.

Emu-like false Moa (Neodromauis velocipes)
Order: Cassowaries (Casuariformes)
Family: False moas (Pseudodinornitidae)
Habitat: Open and swamp savannah, scrub, and forest periphery throughout Meganesia.
The sucess of some species during the holocene has resulted in very similar descendants in the neocene. The neocene's sucessor to the emu in almost every sense, and descended from the emu also, it is found on savannah, both dry and swampy, and also on the forest periphery in most open areas of Meganesia. It can run at seventy kilometres per hour at it's fastest, is naturally alert and has keen vision and hearing, at 150 centimetres tall and 50 kilograms in weight it can't defend itself as well as the massive false moas (Pseudodinornis) can, but can still give a painfull kick. It's feathers are shaggy and grey-brown, and the belly is extensively covered in soft, white feathers, it's face has blue and yellow wattles, and it's legs are long and powerfull for fast running, the lower leg has thick brown scales. They are gregarious, feeding, nesting and travelling in flocks of up to 200. They breed all year round except during particularily dry or paricularily wet times. The male incubates the clutch of dark green eggs, there are usually about 15 to 20 of them. The babies are yellow-white with black stripes, and mature within 2 years, feeding on nutritious grubs and insects, aswell as pieces of vegetation loosened by their father, which cares for them until they mature.

Marsuipial Puma (Diablowallabia camelophoneus)
Order: Marsupials (Marsupialia)
Family: Kangaroos (Macropodidae)
Habitat: Moutainous areas of Meganesia.
The result of the extinction of fissiped carnivores across Meganesia during the early neocene has resulted in many marsuipials userping the long-vacated niches of powerfull hunters. In the mountanous areas of Meganesia numerous types of agile, adaptable rock wallabies prospered, and one gave rise to a fearful cranivore.
This is a fierce macropod, 100 kilograms with a flexible torso and long, bushy, balancing tail. A carnivore, it feeds on birds, herbivorous macropods and mountain camel-gazelles. It terrorizes the rocky mountainous uplands, as well as scrubby and forested mountain ranges over most of Australia, including the Great Dividing Range. Their colouring is a mottled gray and tan-brown, though the darkness of the patterning varies with how heavily vegetated the terrain is. They have a huge advatage in the rugged terrain, being far more agile than marsuipial jaguars or marsuipial panthers. With long, strong limbs and feet, and strong, curved claws, they can easily pursue and subdue even goat sized prey. They pounce on their prey and pin them down with their powerfull forearms, then rip out their throats with long, sharp incisors. The long jaw hides slicing premolars, and sharp cusped molars, the snout contains masses of turbinals, their sense of smell is very keen. They can run very fast over short or long distances, but in open or lowland terrain, they often conflict with other marsuipial predators. Courtship and mating occurs at any time of the year, and pairs mate for life and live as hunting nomads. The young are born as twins or triplets twice a year, once in April, once in December, the litter are suckled in the female's large pouch. The young are spotted, and this pattern fades to a rough mottling with age, the young are able to follow their parents in the first year, and help with the hunt by the third year.

Orcine sea-polecat (Orcinomustela mordax)
Order: Carnivores (Carnivora)
Family: Seal-Polecats (Phocamustelidae)
Habitat: Nearshore and open-sea waters of the Pacific and Indian oceans.
In the holocene's pacific, indian, and atlantic oceans, the terror of the seas were orcas. The Neocene is bereft of any whales or dolphins, but the two oceans other than the atlantic have a fierce marine mammal. It originated in the southern coasts of New Zealand, where introduced polecats gave rise to seal-like aquatic mammals in the early neocene. The Orcine sea-polecat (Orcinomustela mordax), is the largest of this group, and it terrorises fellow marine mammals, fish and squid from the arctic down to the antarctic. Though it is most prevalent in cooler or cold waters, it is found throughout the indian and pacific oceans. Roaming the seas in packs of up to ten, their arms are powerfull, the paws webbed, and large-clawed for grabbing prey, the back legs are short, with wide, webbed backfeet. The covering of slick, water resistant fur is ash greay with black spots and a cream underside, and beneath the skin is an insulating coat of subcutaneous fat. The head is streamlined, with huge jaws and teeth, it is the beast's main killing organ. Though it's tail is shortened, it swims with vertical undulations, pushing the water with it's lower torso and backfeet. Once their large eyes fix on prey, the pack will chase down the other animal, grab it with their clawed flippers, and rip it apart. They birth on land, the whole pack mate and bear young at the same time each year, usually in the spring or summer, mainly on isolated beaches in the sub-antarctic, the southern Meganesian coasts, Northern Eurasia and the Arctic, protecting the cubs as a group. Pregnancy is about 5 months in duration, each individual bears a single black-furred young, which mature within two years. Woe-betide the foolish land predator that stumbles on calving Orcine sea-polecats.

Rat-sealion (Phocorattus sp)
Order: Rodents (Rodentia)
Family: Rat-sealions (Otarattidae)
Habitat: Nearshore waters of the Pacific and Indian oceans.
The extinction of most marine mammals left many nieces open as the neocene proceeded. In the atlantic, these nieches were taken by birds like loons and gannets, which became flightless and marine, aswell as becoming larger. In the Indo-pacific, large rodents and feral polecats in Meganesia and New Zealand gave rise to many species which came to greatly resemble the Phocids and Otarids of the Holocene.
Found in numerous similar, yet differing species across the pacific and indian oceans. The Rat-sealions swim acrobatically after squid and fish through seas of many differnt climates, from the cold antarctic waters to the bay of bengal. Descended from the fierce and adaptable Australian water rat, the beasts are now similar to alsatians in size, with broad, powerfull, webbed back feet, and paddle like tails. They swim somewhat like a seal, with powefull strokes of it's feet and tail, also using them to steer. Like seals, they mate and raise their young on island or beach colonies in the summer, where they congregate in numbers. Pregnancy lasts 2 months, and they a bear single, white-furred young which mature within a year. They eat mainly fish and squid, but their powerfull, sharp, rodent dentition can process shelled animals as well.

Gibbon-possum (Pithecopetaurus hylobatoides),
Order: Marsupials (Marsupialia)
Family: Marsupial apes (Pithecophalangeropsidae)
Habitat: Lowland mixed forests, jarra and eucalypt woods of Southeastern Meganesia.
Grey-black, round headed mammals swing through the trees, chewing on eucalyptus leaves, gumnuts, bark, and fruit. This creature, much like a gibbon in size and shape, but also having a medium-length tail, is actually descended from the Common Ringtail Possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus), a creature that also gave rise to the marsuipial apes. The Gibbon-possum (Pithecopetaurus hylobatoides), has long, powerfull, ape-like forelimbs and strong leaping hindlimbs, both with well developed opposable digits. The body is compact and well muscled, with a large balancing tail, strong hips and powerfull shoulders. A stout neck, and a robust set of jaws for chewing tough foliage make it seem at home in the canopy with other animals like koalas. The pelt is a dark grey, with a tawny face and neck, and white extremities. Their digestive systems can process eucalyp leaves and other foliage, which is their main food, very well, and they often also eat fruits and nuts for energy. When they leap between trees, it is their powerfull limbs that provide the propulsion. Though they are ape-like, their brains are only slightly larger than their ancestor because they live in family groups. The real neurological advantage the marsuipial apes have, as do macropods, is an independantly evolved nerve link between the brain's two hemispheres, which allows better coordination and improved agility. This feature, though standard for placentals, has had to evolve independantly in marsuipials. Each year, during the winter courtship season, the males roar loudly and harshly in order to attract a female, mating is generally brief. In the spring the female gives birth to a single joey, which remains in the forwrd facing, muscular pouch for a 6 months, emerging fully able to follow their parents.

Eucalypt gecko (Eucalyptogekko ledii)
Order: Squamates (Squamata), suborder Lizards (Lacertilia)
Family: Geckoes (Gekkonidae)
Habitat: Lowland mixed forests, jarra and eucalypt woods of Southeastern Meganesia.
This is is a ten centimeter, diurnal, eucalypt dwelling, insectivorous gecko. It has a body that is almost identical in patterning, shape and colour to a eucalypt leaf, and is usually very hard for a predator to find in the canopy. To aid this camouflage affect, the animal can contort it's body into an uneven "S" shape, to imitate a dry eucalyp leaf. in the summer, when the leaves become brown, so too does the Eucalyp gecko's colouring. They lay their eggs on the surface of eucalyp branches, as many geckos do, they have sticky eggs that adhere to any surface when still moist.

Pine cockatoo (Pinocacatua chlorocaudus)
Order: Parrots (Psittaciformes)
Family: Cockatoos (Cacatoidae)
Habitat: Pine forests of Flinders Island.
The pines of flinders Island harbour Black-green Pine cockatoos (Pinocacatua chlorocaudus), descendants of Red-tailed black cockatoos. These noisy, messy, smelly, winged brutes eat pinecones, pine nuts, pine needles, branches and constantly drink the sticky pine sap. They are jet black in colouration, witha green pearlesence to the feathers of the upper-parts, with bright green bands on the tail, the bill is grey and powefully built. They process the sap and incorporate it into their tissues, refining the chemicals and storing it in glands under the tongue. When a predator comes along, they open their mouth and spray the foe with noxious, sticky fluid, allowing the birds to escape. They breed mainly in the spring when there is alot of pine nuts to feed on, their eggs incubate in a hole in a tree, and hatch within a week, the young leave the nest-hole at three-months of age.

Pine-Pseudoscorpion (Pinochelifer pinophagus)
Order: Pseudoscorpionida
Family: Cheliferidae
Habitat: Pine forests of Flinders Island.
The Pine-Pseudoscorpion (Arboropseudoscorpios pinophagus), is a quarter-inch in body length, bright red, and has poisonous pincers and mouthparts, unlike their ancestors. They raise their young in an open pinecone, also protecting fiercely the cone itself, untill the eggs hatch. Then they vacate the cone and allow it to fall, on the forest floor, where the young grow to maturity on the insects of the leaf litter.The adults will find a new nursery each year. The adults feed mainly on insects and spiders in tree bark and pine needles, never straying more than ten metres from their home-cone.

Pine gecko (Pinogekko chloris)
Order: Squamates (Squamata), suborder Lizards (Lacertilia)
Family: Geckoes (Gekkonidae)
Habitat: Pine forests of Flinders Island.
The Pine gecko (Pinogekko chloris) is a twenty centimetre long, bright green, insectivorous gecko, being crepuscular and dwelling among the pine needles. The creature is covered almost entirely with long, green, quill like scales which look very much like pine needles, allowing it to blend in perfectly with it's habitat among the pine needles. As with other leaf-mimicking geckoes, they change colour when the foliage becomes brown in summer. Eggs are layed on the bark of a tree, to which their sticky surface adheres.

False-marsuipial lemur (Pithecophalanger papiops)
Order: Marsupials (Marsupialia)
Family: Marsupial apes (Pithecophalangeropsidae)
Habitat: All forested areas of Meganesia.
Down among the fruit trees, false-marsuipial lemurs (Pithecotricosurus papiops), descened from the common brushtail possum, growl and hoot as they gorge on fruit and other vegeatble matter, they leap and chatter like some otherworldly, ten kilogram, brobdignagian squirrels. Their faces are bright blue and leathery, with huge incisors, and yellow stripes on the cheeks. Their fawn coloured fur is thick and wooly, the males have an orange and brown-red tail to attract females in the mating season, which lasts for most of the year. False marsuipial lemurs are descendants of the Common Ringtail Possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus), this neocene group also contains the marsupial apes. They breed throughout the year, females give birth to 2 to 4 cubs, which mature in the pouch within 3 months, and sunsequently ride on their mother's back untill they are able to keep up with the group's movements.

Marsuipial civet (Phascolocivetta australiensis),
Order: Marsupials (Marsupialia)
Family: Predatory marsupials (Dasyuridae)
Habitat: All vegetated habitats throughout Meganesia.
The tiny and adaptable marsuipial mice survived the rigors of introduced predators and the early Neocene's ice ages with relative ease, and have given rise to many small and medium sized predators 25 million years from now.
The Marsuipial civet (Phascolocivetta australiensis) is a constant prescence in almost any Meganesian habitat, from savanah to rainforest. Eating mainly animal matter, but also seeds, fruits and flowers, their family groups can bring down marsuipial lemurs with ease. The males mainly wander alone once they mature. The adult females and young travel in hunting parties of up to 17, mating with any roaming males they meet. This creature, like other neocene marsuipial predators, is descended from marsuipial mice, small dasyurids. They mate throughout the year, giving birth to 1-4 young, the pouch young are able to leave the pouch within three months of birth.

Marsuipial cat (Phascolofelis nanus)
Order: Marsupials (Marsupialia)
Family: Predatory marsupials (Dasyuridae)
Habitat: All vegetated habitats throughout Meganesia.
Some species of marsuipial mice already climbed trees and jumped with great agility in the holocene, and their descendants in the neocene are the marsuipial cats.
The Marsuipial cat (Phascolofelis nanus) the size of a common tabby, and closely resembling a cat in general bodyform, with supple legs for pouncing, leaping, and climbing, a balancing tail, aswell as keen vision and hearing, they feed mainly on small creatures like rodents, insects, and rabbits. Marsuipial cats can be found in many climates and habitats in meganesia, where they vary by colour and fur thickness. During the most bountifull times of year, they mate and subsequently give birth to a litter of 2-5 pouch young, which are able to leave the pouch within two months.

Mauruipial racoon (Omnivorantechinus medius)
Order: Marsupials (Marsupialia)
Family: Predatory marsupials (Dasyuridae)
Habitat: All well vegetated habitats throughout Meganesia.
Another coniseurr of insects, worms, small vertebrates and also fruit is the mauruipial racoon (Omnivorantechinus medius). The size of a racoon or coati, it is descended from the Antechinus, which beat other small creatures to the role of generalised omnivory over much of Australia's forest floor. The bandicoots that used to fill such niches were hunted to extinction by feral cats early in the neocene, before meganesia's carnivorans went extinct. It's colouration is a dappled and banded brown, which is fawn in the females and auburn in males. It's head is flat, it's teeth broad, and it's canines are large so it can deal with large insects and small vertebrates as well as fruit and seeds. Like other descendants of marsuipial mice, they breed at almost any time of year, the litters are usually 2-4 young, the pouch young are able to leave the pouch within 3 months.

Marsuipial jaguar (Phalangerobalam ferox)
Order: Marsupials (Marsupialia)
Family: Predatory possums (Carnopossumidae)
Habitat: Forests of Meganesia, including mixed forests and northern Megeanesian rainforests.
Many marsupial carnivores evolved from relatively innocuous ancestors when Australia's introduced fissipeds went extinct. Even the relatively sedate-looking possum has left a legacy written in blood.
The marsuipial jaguar (Phalangerobalam ferox) , a semi-arboreal, sixty kilogram, carnivorous possum. With huge, razor sharp claws, gripping thumbs on feet and hands, and wide jaws with huge hide piercing incisors, and slicing molars, it can make short work of even a bear-sized-marsuipial. It's fur is grey-fawn with black stripes across it's long, strong torso, turning into bands on it's long, bushy tail. The family that this species belongs to has also evolved from the Brush tailed possum, the group is known as Carnopossumidae, which also includes bear-like, and hyaena-like possums. They raise a single young in spring, the cub leaves the pouch within four months of birth.

Stegochidna (Stegotachyglossus armatus)
Order: Monotremes (Monotremata)
Family: Echidnas (Tachyglossidae)
Habitat: Forests and scrub of Meganesia.
The back and tail of a strange, dinosaur-like beast, one and a half metres tall at the shoulders, bristling with horny spikes and scales, wanders in the wake of the larger forest animals. No reptile, but a huge, root-and-tuber-eating echidna, the Stegochidna (Stegotachyglossus armatus), digs with it's gargantuan foreclaws for growth below the ground. It is the largest monotreme ever, 2 metres tall at the shoulder, and weighing 150 kilograms. Walking on it's knuckles, and having a huge, roman-nosed head, it grinds the tubers beween horny plates in it's jaws and on it's tongue. It also greedily eats grubs and worms, as well as fallen fruit. It's skin is sparesly furred with short, black fuzz, and it's skin is two-centimetre-thick, horny leather. The spines are long and sharp along the back, being bright red, becoming orange plates on the hips and tail. Mating usually occurs when there are ample tubers and roots to feed upon, usually in late spring and early summer, three large eggs are laid in the female's pouch, and they are fed constantly on milk-secretions young emerge from the pouch well developed after three months, and they follow their parents, feeding upon grubs untill they are robust enough to process tubers.

Gerenuk-wallaby (Neoprotemnodon gracilis)
Order: Marsupials (Marsupialia)
Family: Kangaroos (Macropodidae)
Habitat: Lowland and upland rainforest of Northern Meganesia.
While numerous browsing and grazing camels can be found in Meganesia, there are also many browsing and grazing marsuipials, one such creature is the Gerenuk Wallaby.
Gerenuk-wallaby (Neoprotemnodon gracilis), a descendant of the black wallaby, browses quietly. Though it's colour is much like that of it's ancestor, the physiology has changed. It has a long face, long ears, upturned nose, and powerfull snipping incisors and chewing molars set in a deep jaw, and a long tongue to aid in gathering the leaves it eats. It's neck and torso are extremely long and slender, as are it's arms, all to aid it in it's browsing. It's legs and feet are extended and danity, with the help of it's tail this allows it to reach up to three meeters into the trees, but when it is standing normally, it is around 2 metres tall. these wlallabies are able to move very quickly, even through the dense Meganesian rainforest. On the plains, such roles are filled by camels, but as bushy trees grew taller in the southern woods, some wallabies followed this food source before the camels could migrate south. The result is the numerous species of tree dwelling and tall browsing wallabies. They mate all year round, and produce several joeys each year from different males, the pouch young take 2 months to become strong enough to follow their mother.

Spotted false moa (Nanodromauius agilis)
Order: Cassowaries (Casuariformes)
Family: False moas (Pseudodinornitidae)
Habitat: Dense mixed forest throughout Meganesia.
Spotted false moa (Nanodromauius agilis), is commonly seen sprinting through the dappled forest undergrowth. Unlike it's larger cousins it is only one point two meters high, living on herbaceous plants and leaves, aswell as small animals and fruit, much like the emu, it's ancestor. With black feathers, spotted with white patches, this pattern was formed during evolution from the stripes and spots of juveniles, retained into adulthood. It can run fast, about seventy kilometres maximum, when healthy. They mste and nest often, whenever food in it's forest habitat is plentiful, the eggs are large and black, ten are laid, and the male broods the eggs. The black-and-white-striped young follow the male and feed in his wake untill they are large enough to fend for themselves.

Quollupe (Lupequoll socialis)
Order: Marsupials (Marsupialia)
Family: Predatory marsupials (Dasyuridae)
Habitat: All vegetated habitats throughout Meganesia.
Quollupes (Lupequoll socialis), wolf quolls, the Meganesia's answer to pack hunting canids. They tear their prey with independantly evolved carnassial shearing teeth, bone crushing back molars, and long canines, the once timid quoll has left a bloodthirsty legacy. The Quollupes are found in forests and open areas, with different subspecies across the continent. The quollupes are brown in colour, with white spots, their bodyform is very canine in general, with powerfull running legs, a flexible spine, a meduim-length balancing tail, a thick neck and a powerfull set of jaws. They hunt in large family groups of up to 25, bringing down prey through chasing them to exaustion. The females give birth to a single cub, occasionally twins, and the cubs leave the pouch about two moths after birth. When hunting takes place, groups of females care for the cubs while others bring down the prey.

Gargantual burrowing cockroach (Titanoblatta hoplitochelys)
Order: Blattodea
Habitat: All heavily forested areas of eastern meganesia.
Inumerable invertebrates, worms, beetles, isopods, swarm amongst the soil, processing the dead leaves, fruit and gauno of the forests of eastern Meganesia. But they mostly go unseen, or become food for larger beasts. One, The Gargantual burrowing cockroach (Titanoblatta hoplitochelys), is far more noticeable. A giant, wingless, burrowing cockroach, fifteen to twenty centimetres long, it is descended from the bush burrowing cockroach of the holocene, but coloured metallic jet black. It feeds mostly on dead leaves and fallen fruit.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


I am creating two new Blogs as add-ons to this one, one for spec and one for siv, I will post their URLs once they are up.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Siv - Neocene Adventures in New Zealand.

Desecendants of introduced animals in Neocene New Zealand.

Wart-kuni - A small grazing pig of the lowlands, with large, wart-like callouses. Descended from wild pig.

Monster-kuni - A giant, rinocerous sized browser and grazer of swampy areas, with giant tusks and a wart-callosued face and back. Descended from wild pig.

Boulder-bullock - A small, cryptic bovine grazer, which feeds among the boulders and scree, and at a distance resembles a boulder. Descendant of domestic cattle.

Deer-gazelles - varieties of deer that live similarly to gazelles, grazing mostly, being social and fast running. Descended from red-deer.

Bush lion - A lion-sized cat that lives in most open habitats, upland and lowland, and hunts big game. Descended from domestic cat.

False puma - Forest and upland dwelling leopard like cat. Descended from domestic cat.

Hedgehog-racoon - A racoon-like omnivore found all over New Zealand. Descended from Hedgehog.

Stoat-wolf - A predatory, pack hunting, dog-sized mustelid. Descended from stoat.

Stoat-fox - A sleek, small game hunting mustelid. Dsecended from stoat.

Gulo-ferret - A hyaena like, and hyaena sized big game hunter and bone-crusher. Descended from ferret.

Castle-rabbit - A small rabbit that lives in huge colonies, which have a social system of "digger/food-gatherer- (adolescent/subservient both sexes)" "breeder/excavator/defender-(mature/dominant males)", and "breeder/nurser/denmother-(mature/dominant females)". They build immensely complicated and extensive burrows with compartments for dens, food-storage, and causeways. Burrow openings usually have mounds of dried soil-excrement (which forms a hard, cement-like surface) around them which act as fortifications and lookouts. The smaller mounds are only half a meter high, but the largest, known as "castles" have multiple openings for look-outs and burrow ventilation, and are up to four metres high. The combination of dried mud, faeces and urine, combined with stones and branches, dry to form a tough, cement like fortification.

Man-child frog - Frogs that mature at a stage of metamorphosis partway between tadpole and frog, having four legs like a frog, but a fish-like shape and powerfull tail like a tadpole. Various species range in size from that of a sardine to that of a trout. They are omnivorous and specialise in weed-choked water habitats that are unfit for more conventional fish. descended from introduced banjo-frogs.

Ostritch-peafowl - Large, cursorial pheasants that are flightless, and like an ostritch in habits, dwelling in medium sized flocks. They eat mainly grass and browse, but readily eat small animals. They are very ornately feathered, and xtremely vocal. Descended from Peafowl.

Grouse-partridge - Grouse like birds found all over the two island's open areas, males have a harem of females within a flock, and defend them from roaming bachelors. Descended from partridge.

Moa-goose - Giant, quarter ton, high browsers found in all forested habitats of New zealand, flightless and very tall. Descended from cape-barren geese. Very capable of self defence.

Turkey-emu - Emu sized, emu-like flightless turkeys, dwells mainly in lowland scub and savannah. Convergently similar to ostritch-turkey of america. Descended from introduced turkey.

Hellhorse - Huge (3 meters at the withers), grazing/browsing horse found mainly on savannah and scrub of uplands and lowlands, where the soil is not marshy.

Garbage-carp - Ubiquitous freshwater carp, eats mostly vegetable matter, but also consumes carrion. Size of large Koi carp. Descended from introduced Koi carp.

Herring-trout - Herring sized trout species that fills the role of herring like freshwater fish. Desecended from introduced trout.

Drifter-trout - Omnivorous large trout, descended from brown trout, and of similar maximum size.

Pike-trout - Pike like lurking predaceous trout, similar in size to muskelunge. Descended from brown trout hybrid.

Monster-trout - Huge, 6 metre long carnivorous trout. Found in numerous bountiful lakes of south island, eats mainly large fish and eel.

Demon Swan - Giant, moderately flighted swan. Mainly feeds on water plants, thrusting their neck underwater. Destructive, strong beak can tear at almost any plant matter, as they occasionally also eat land plants. Height is 1.8 metres, wingspan is 4 metres, weighs as much as a large bustard. Descended from Black swan.

Red-water-shrimp - Ubiquitous. Dsecended from introduced crustaceans that were used to farm salt in the time of man. Tiny in size, feed on phytoplankton and algae, found in marshes, rivers and lakes. Similar species found in Eyre gulf of Australia.

Decendants of native animals in neocene New Zealand

Tramper-parrot - Goose sized, omnivorous parrots, ground dwelling. Frequently scavenges, cracking bones. Also very good at killing small prey, and can defend self with jaws and feet. Flies fairly well but not very often, walks and runs quickly and powerfully. Cranial kinesis limeted. Desecended from kea.

Shore-parrot - Turkey sized shore-dwelling parrot. Mainly eats shore dwelling mollusks, aswell as dead fish and carrion. Can fly fairly well, but runs and swims very well and very often. Seraches for and crunches up all types of shellfish. Can dig out shellfish from the sand. Cranial kinesis limeted. Descended from kea also.

Bustard-gull - Bustard sized omnivorous, ground dwelling gull. Found in most habitats, forages for all manner of food, particularily invertebrates, frogs and lizards. Long legged and long billed, with moderately long neck. Desecended from Silver gull.

Heron-gull - Heron sized, heron-like piscivorous gull. Found around fresh and saltwater, particularily swamps. Long legged, long necked, and long billed. Desecended from Silver gull.

Mountain gull - Omnivorous ground dwelling gull, found mainly in mountain habitats where water is abundant, and also found close to the snowline. Eats almost anything. Feathered everywhere except beak and eyelids. Can dig well with feet and stout bill. Runs well, and climbs over scree and outcroppings very well, flies well but seldom. Extremities stout, powerfull, and fairly short, to retain heat. Descended from Black billed gull.

Ram-pukeko - Giant flightless swamphen, the size of an emu, found in montane wetland, scrub and grassland. Feeds on all forms of vegetation with powerfull bill, but especially flax, tussock, reeds, and other grasses, it lays it's head sideways and shears off grass at it's succulent base. Skull and neck reinforced, has a horny helmet (extention of bill base) which it uses in tusles over mates and territory. Cranial kinesis limeted. Desecended from purple swamphen.

* A fairly conservative variety of swamphen still exitsts throughout Neocene New Zealand and Australasia.

Monster eels - Giant (3-9metres) eels of various species, eats anything, especially live or dead animal matter. Found mainly in large lakes, but smaller species also exist in rivers and streams. These eels breed entirely in feshwater, unlike their ancestors.

* Normal, salt water breeding small eels also exist in Neocene New Zealand and Australasia.

Flamingo-gull - Widespread, duck-sized gull. Strains water with whale like jaws while wading or swimming. Found in any well watered area where planktonic organisms thrive. Also common in southern Australia, especially eyre-gulf. Staple food is Red-water-shrimp. Can be found in fresh and salt water, runs, flies and swims well. Similar species found in Arafura and other inland salty lakes and marshes of northern Australasia. In australian waters, mainly strains plakton from water while swimming.

Flightless flamingo-gull - Flightless, emu sized relative of Flamingo-gull, found in brackish marshes and shallows of eyre gulf in Australia. Seldom competes with other flamingo gulls because of larger size and being restricted to marshes and shallows, whereas the flighted flamingo-gull feeds mainly in deeper water while swimming.

Blind cave eel - Detritivorous/omnivorous, small, pink eel found in underground waterways across New zealand.

Elephant weta - One of the remaining wetas, giant, flightless omnivorous crickets. Heavier than any holocene or neocene insect, 22 centimetres long, excluding tusks and antennae. Feeds on almost anything. Main mouthparts very powerfull, often gnaws at woody shrubs and chews on bones. The other mouthparts have developed into huge tusks, often used in territorial tussles, and for moving stones or soil to find food. Found mainly in mountain scrub, occasionally found in the open. Males can occasionally be seen sitting atop rocks or bushes looking out for intruders, mates or other males. For competing for mates, males clear vegetation to form a dinner-plate-sized arena in the center of their territory, which he then lines with rocks, piling a large rock in the centre. The males fight with competitors here using the tusks to throw eachother around, the winning male can mate with all females in that patch of territory. They breed all year, and the female lays thousands of eggs, which are buried underground.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Re-translations for Paul

Country of high grasses

"Ex Africa semper aliquid novi" ("Africa always presents something new") - the ancient Greek proverb says so. Africa during the Neocene justifies this phrase on a grand scale. This continent is rich in life, as it almsot always has been. On the plains of Africa, we see savannah very similar to that which prevailed in Africa during the age of man, thousands of herbivores of different size and shape graze: from the tiny to the gigantic. But we do not see on these plains the most remarkable and common herbivores of the age of man, known to many naturalists and hunters - hoofed mammals. There are no herds of antelopes, elephants, giraffes, zebras, rhinoceroses, as one would have seen in Africa during the Holocene, nor are there any lions, leopards, or hyenas to hunt them. All these animals have become victims of man or have become extinct due to the accidents which ocurred at the close of the Holocene. The new herbivores still seem somewhat familiar. If you were to fly above the plains, it would seem that nothing has changed. But if you look closer, you will see that things are strikingly different.

In the bush thickets large animals browse. They break off the branches of bushes with their huge incisors. It would seem that they are some sort of rodent, but these animals nevertheless are descendants of a group of hoofed mammals, one which survived mass extinction due to their ability to live in extreme conditions. They are flathorns - descendants of hyraxes (also known as damans). On the heads of the giant adults there are flat, horn-like structures. It is impossible to pierce an opponent using such “horns”, but it is possible to administer a crushing blow which can knock an opponent off their feet. The large flathorn male with his huge, thick, horn-growth, tears off a branch and slowly chews it. He is calm: the adult flathorn has no enemies. Beside him frolicks two of his cubs, twins mothered by one of the group's females. One-and two year-old juveniles nearby are the male and the female that previously dominated the group. For a long time they had established hierarchy and now they are simply enjoying food and safety. The smaller adult female grazes on lush green grass : now it is the wet season, and grass is especially juicy. Large incisors allow her to tear out big clumps of grass. In search of food flathorns thin out bushes and do not allow them to grow thicker. In the past such work was done by elephants and rhinos.

Due to the work of flathorns, bushes do not grasp open spaces. On open parts of the savanna the ground is overgrown with a carpet of grasses, providing food for other herbivores. From the thick grass a long-eared muzzle shows itself, and behind it the body, with short fore and very long hind legs clambers clumsily out of the thickets. The animal moves similarly to a kangaroo: leaning on it's forepaws, and bringing it's hind legs forward. But it moves somewhat more clumsily than at the kangaroo, because the tail does not serve as a support point. This animal is the grass kangoohopper. It lives in groups: after the first animal, a second and third appear out of the grass... Among them the cubs, staying near to mothers, also come. Kangoohoppers are grazers, eating mainly dicotyledonous plants - herbage: they eat rigid graminoids - grass, only in case of hunger. The awkwardness of these small mammals is deceptive: when in danger, they can hop away very quickly. And it is no wonder: an African rodent, the springhare, was their ancestor. Kangoohoppers have keen hearing and are very cautious: at any suspicious noise the animal that heard it jumps three meters vertically, in order to check the vicinity for danger. Having seen the predator, the sentinel notifies the herd by a sharp whistle, and kangoohoppers instantly flee to safety. And now, having caught a scent, one of the young females shoots upwards. But her fears are in vain, in the nearby bushes harelopes, another herbivore of new Africa, are browsing. Resembling hornless antelopes by the constitution, these animals are actually descendants of hares. Strong jaws allow them to eat food which is not eaten by kangoohoppers: graminoids, more commonly known as grass. Because of unexpected jump of the kangoohopper the harelope jumps aside, but quickly calms down and continues to browse on the bushes. They are not frightened by thorns: the narrow muzzle allows them to accurately nip off leaves, without being pricked by the thorns.

Not far from the harelopes another family of flathorns graze. They do not pay attention to the harelopes constantly jumping aside when birds or locusts fly off. The keen hearing of the flathorns will warn them of any danger. But they are being watched keenly by another animal. These watchers are miteeaters, the small motley birds watching the huge herbivores. The heavy smell of large animals attract clouds of bloodsuckers: mosquitoes and horseflies. Also large mites await them, falling from grass and bushes onto the animal's skin. However, these small birds struggle against the hordes of parasites. For a long time they have divided the savanna into territories, protecting them from neighbours. But, when animals graze in their territory, the pair of miteeaters processes the giants, pecking at their parasites. If the giant beasts pass near, the birds can involve them: the birds make a special vertical “candle” flight in an open place, sharply taking wing vertically, and slowly falling down, frequently flapping it's wings. Bright colouring makes them very visible. Besides this they perform an advertising call consisting of repeating soft whistlings. Miteeaters have keen eyesight: they see the slightest extraneous movement of grasses and branches, instantly making it known by a loud, disturbing alarm cry. Therefore they became the “flying eyes” of the huge herbivores.

But one kind of savanna inhabitant can live without the services of the watcher: it is the largest bird to ever live on the planet. The giraffe ostrich, the giant of the Neocene African savanna, grows up to 6 meters tall. From it's high point of view, it can see any activity nearby or in the distance. And still it does not refuse the services of miteeaters: many parasites inhabit the feathers of this bird and the naked neck is constantly being attacked by blood-sucking insects. Weaverbirds willingly sit on the back and the neck of the giants, searching for dinner. Giant ostriches keep to family groups of only afew birds: the male, two or three females, and their chicks. Miteeaters from several nearby territories fly to them taking the chance to process such a family.

Having such good watchers is excellent luck for the herbivores. Having basked in the sun, the flathorn female has fallen into a light sleep. An uneaten branch has dropped out of the beast's mouth, as has a string of saliva. The animal is not being watchfull, that can cost any animal their life. But flathorns live in groups, therefore nothing threatens the female: neighbours are on the alert. Suddenly the miteeater makes it's alrm cry, having seen something. Grumbling cubs instantly stop their play, and sleep leaves the female, their mother. The alarm is not in vain: in the grass the spotty, black-and-white back of a deadlynetta, the most terrible predator of savanna, flashes. The flathorns immediately move into the defensive formation, hiding the cubs behind their powerful backs. They roar and shake their heads. Simultaneously, the animals send a chemical signal to their neighbours: a bunch of wool on the flathorn’s back rises up and opens up the channels of the stink gland, giving out a bitter, musky stink. Other flathorn families, sensing this signal, start to sniff the air and to roar, showing their huge incisors.

The spotty predatoress leaves the bushes. She is a female, and behind her, in the small hole between bushes, a pair of cubs sit. The cubs are hungry, and the hunting of the genette was foiled many times during the last three days. Flathorns can destroy the shelter of the genette by their destructive movements; therefore she can not recede. The female is not going to attack: there is no chance for her to conquer the adult flathorn. But she shows her might to the huge herbivores, she loudly roars, lunges forward (still keeping her distance), and tears out tussocks of grass, throwing them into the air and shaking her head.

At last the nerves of flathorns are weakened, and they slowly depart. The dominant male leaves last. He departs by shuffling away sideways, ready to make a charge. But at the same time he is drawn back to the plans – he can see he will be safer there. The genetta leaves too - she has no need to waste her energy on a show of force, and her cubs are hungry.

Not only genetta hunt here: on the savanna there are also other predators. Near the tree, a herd of huge, bear-like mighty grasscutters graze. These descendants of the reed rat dexterously cut off grasses almost under the root. Young bushes and the most rigid grasses are their basic food. The rigid grass is very necessary for these rodents: their teeth grow quickly, and they need to be ground off constantly. And they do not have competitors, no other herbivores, except sometimes flathorns, eat their food. But the mighty grasscutter has enemies - its meat is tasty and soft. However it is only possible to prey on these rats by hunting them from ambush. And now a pair of barbed herzogcats hunt them. The male and female creep towards the giant rodents under cover of high grass.

One of rats tears off the bushy branch and starts to eat it, having sat upon it's hind legs. Its eyes are located on each side of head, giving it an almost circular field of view. And literally out of the corner of it's eye the mighty grasscutter sees the barbed herzogcats. If the rat notices the predators from afar, it can mound an active defence: riseing on hind legs and tries appear imposing to the predator. The group of rats, chattering with powerful incisors and making aggressive attacks at the enemy is a formidable, unified opponent. The barbed herzogcats jump out of the grass, but they are already met by by the whole group of rats. Contrasting colouring on their stomachs warns: "do not approach, I will kill you!". The bright orange incisors and their mighty bites will be remembered by an unlucky predator for a long time. But the barbed herzogcats apply another tactic in this hunt, they try to frighten the huge rodents. The male fluffs up his mane and shows his power and ferocity. He roars with full voice, hoping to force the rats to run away. He could frighten one or two rats, but it is a group, and their collecive defence gives them confidence. The rats retreat to the big tree, trying to gaurd their back.They are sucessful at keeping the cats at bay. It seems their defense is indestructible.

The egg endures the weight of the hen, but breaks, when the chick pecks through it from within. The mighty grasscutter had tried also to break the huge ostritch egg, which sits under the tree. From the branches of the tree a huge black-and-white body lands upon the mighty grasscutter's head: the deadlynetta has taken advantage of the failure of barbed herzogcats and has turned it to success. The predatoress has landed with her full weight upon the head of the mighty grasscutter. By a strong jerk of her saber-like canines she has throttled the rodent. Other panic-stricken mighty grasscutters run up, and the barbed herzogcats are not slow to take advantage. They take chase and pursue the young male rat. Some seconds later from grass a quiet rustling overlapped by the growl of barbed herzogcats is audible.

Life on the savanna is the life a soldier during a war. The long lull and brief minutes of fear make up the life of all inhabitants of the savanna. The predators have had their share, the fear subsides, and herbivores return to the habitual rhythm of life. Miteeaters again fall on the backs of the herbivores and search for parasites.

The herd of harelopes will drive off annoying insects, waving their ears. But it's not always sucessful: under the skin of some of the animals cambers are visible. These are larvae of hypodermic botflies, developing and parasitizing the harelopes. Before being eaten by birds, botflies have time to infect animals and to reproduce. Their adaptation is not absolute: the harelopes have a friend... or does this friend have an alterior motive?

The small bird hovers around the herd. It is similar to the miteeater, but the attentive eye will notice distinctions. However, it is similar, the harelopes do not notice that it is a fake. The bird sits on the neck of the harelope and surveys the skin of the animal. Having found a firm swelling, it starts the operation. The thin strong beak finds an aperture through which stigmas of larva emerge and penetrates it with it's beak. By dexterous movement of the head the bird takes the larva out and swallows it. But then... it picks open the wound and starts to lick out blood, using it's long tubular tongue which deeply enters into the wound. The bird’s saliva has an anaesthetic property, and the wound does not cause anxiety to the harelope. This is the bloodbird - the successful fake and close relative of the miteeater. Being sated, it departs, heavily flapping it's wings. The bloodsucker must be cautious: miteeaters pursue them because of their similar colouring. The gorged bird tries to hide in the tree because of its aggressive relative.

Certainly, the work of the bloodbird causes inconveniences to the herbivores, but it is a unique bird which is able to extract larvae of hypodermic botflies: its saliva will paralyse the larva so it can be taken out easily. As opposed to the miteeater, the bloodbird tries to keep near the herds of herbivores, moving with them during migrations. It depends to heavily on specific food. The posterity of this species depends on the continued existence of it's food. From it's step-parents a juvenile bloodbird also learns to service the herbivores.

The world is penetrated with connections of mutual aid and antagonism between living creatures. Even the giant which, apparently, is out of the competition, is compelled to face it. The huge giraffe ostrich browses on the leaves of trees, passing from one tree to another. No other animal can eat leaves at the height accessible to this giant. It especially likes sweetish leaves of the sugar tree, which grows in small aggregations on the savannah. But the foliage of this tree looks marvellously rich and green, despite of its appeal to the giant herbivore.

Put simply, the tree has friends too.
But that is another story...

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Golden Afternoon

This is for Spec, and for Paul.

A closer look:

The Golden Afternoon:

The secret garden of Spec's european forests.

Part 1 - Tiny denizens and their predators.

In the forests and undergrowth of temperate europe, the world goes at a pace of knots. Small denizens of the shade go about living, eating, mating, birthing and dying all through the day and night, for most of the year. In the spring, sunlit glades are filled with countless types of wildflower, with bees and butterflies fluttering about them.

An always-abundant parasite, sucking blood from the titanic bodies of the browsing dinosaurs like streks and therizinosaurs, is the rocking-horsefly (Hippodipterus hippochephalus). So called because of it's long, vaguely equine snout, which it uses to pierce hide and suck blood, it can be seen in swarms wherever the dinosaurs browse a path through the vegetation. As they fly they constantly zip back and forth.

At the level of the forest floor, a rich compost of manure, rotting vegetation, and windfall fruits and branches provides nutrients for a rich carpet of moss, ferns, and orchids. Here roam beetles and grasshoppers of countless kinds, many preyed upon by the west eurasian trapdoor spider (Burkaracne zygoti).

The fiercest insect predators at this level are mammals, the west eurasian pygmy zam (Eumetasorcis minutus), it is no larger than a mouse, it stalks and rips apart any insect or other invertebrate it finds. It closely resmbles a shrew, but is descended from the pediomyids of the Cretaceous.

The eurasian rabbit-ear (Leporomys agilis) is another small but formidable beast, only as large as a small rat. It feeds on seeds and stems, and will also feast on fallen berries and even insects and lizards. It is mostly bipedal, with long, strong jumping legs.

The barb-tongue (Smiloglossus nanus) is another odd mammal. Large for a mammal, it is actually related to the pigshrews, equable in size to a gunea pig, it posesses a long, narrow head. It is almost always seen sniffing the ground, pawing soil with it's long claws, and probing the ground with it's snout. It doesn't appear to feed on anything on top of the ground though, it will locate worms with it's keen sense of smell, and probe the ground, sending it's tongue into the soil, and skewering the worm with it's barbed tip.

Part 2 - higher calibre mammals

One of most dangerous mammalian predator of the forest floor is as mall deltatheridian, the Pygmy False weasel (Eumetictis nanus), preying on other mammals, lizards and large insects. It has a painfull bite thanks to it's sharp teeth and powerfull jaws, it is a liliputian terror however, averaging at 25 centimetres inlength.

The common false-mole (Metatalpa mosseyi), churns up the worm-rich-soil beneath leaf litter in the forest. Another deltatheridian, it preys on worms and mole crickets, and grows to fifteen centimetres in length.

A sligtly more shady relative, the long whiskered false mole (Hispidotalpa carrolae), at thirty centimetres long, is much more cunning. It forages at dawn and dusk, consuming any creature small enough, and also eating vegetable matter. It regularily stalks birds and baby dinosaurs, hiding in ambush and pouncing with quick and powerfull movements.

Part 3 - Dogerpillars, catterpillars, lizards, snails, slugs, beetles and a copper centipede
Higer up, in the lower branches of the trees and the upper branches of the undergrowth, caterpillars of various sorts munch happily on leaves. Most develop into butterflies, but three species stay in their larval state almost their whole lives, before briefly metamorphosing into plain brown large moths to mate, lay eggs, and die soon after. Just after winter in one year the catterpillars hatch and grow, they stay this way until as close as a week before the start of the next winter, they metamorphose, mate, lay eggs and die before winter sets in.

Due to the fact that the catterpillars spend the better parts of the year as larvae, the adult form, or imago, which only appears in the late autumn, does not feed. Indeed, it has no mouth, the imago lives off some of the fat that it accumulated as a catterpillar. In this short period of time before winter, the adult hurriedly seeks a mate, soon after mating, the female lays only one large set of eggs. As autumn ends, the imagos die in their thousands, this influx of insect food is usefull to other animals preparing for winter.

The Black doggerpillar (Caninopapillion hirsutus), is a voracious, four centimeter, hairy black catterpillar, that feeds on mainly leaves and buds, but will eat small insects as well. It's adult form is plain and brown, and feeds on plant matter, nectar and sap in the treetops.

Less offensive is the three centimeter, white catterpillar (Felipapillion wuzzii), covered in silky white, non-irritating hairs, it feeds mainly on the leaves of the wild rose. It will take any action in defending it's food source, chasing brown-mouse aphids (Brunoaphidus musoides) and detaching them with it's mouthparts, throwing them onto the ground. It's adult form is a handsome chocalate brown, with a five centimetre wingspan, which feeds on rose blossoms.

The largest and most voracious of all is the Mooncalf catterpillar (Bovipappilion harryhauseni), an eight centimeter, bald green eating machine, it spends all of it's time eating stems and leaves. It's adult form is a simple, fairly large brown moth that feeds on fruit such as blackberries during spring.

Many other butterflies and moths, more normal in their life cycle, grace the forests dappled stage.
Another large catterpillar is the larvae of the European neomosura (Neomosura oweni), which is plain, bald, red-brown and ten centimetres long. After pupation it hatches into one the largest moths in all of temperate spec, the European neomosura, with red-patterned wings and a wingspan of ten centimetres. The only one larger in temperate spec is the Japanese mosura (Mosura japonicus) at fifteen centimetres in wingspan.

All "mosura" moths have tiny symbiotic mites, Cosmos mites (Mosuraphilus sp), they keep the adult moth's wooly body and wings clean of other parasites and dirt particles.During the moth's mating period, which is long, as is it's lifespan,the mites also mate. When the moths are intertwined, the mites areable to cross from moth to moth, mate, and lay their eggs. "Mosura"moths feed on the nectar of night blooming flowers.

By far the most common butterfly can be seen in the spring, feeding on the wildflower's nectar. The pupae, little, fuzzy red catterpillars pupate and open by spring to take advantage of the wildflower's bounty. The Bread-and-butterfly (Carollopapillion medius) is the adult butterfly, with five centimetre wingspans and light brown wings which bear yellow blotches.

Enemies of the moths and butterflies, and many other insects, are the lizards.

The British tree-whiptail (Longocaudolacerta agilis) is a common, twenty centimetre lizard of the forest's leafy undergrowth, it feeds mostly on the unremarkable ants and aphids, aswell as catterpillars. Most of the cooler parts of the day and night, it will stay at ground level, when the sun is bright and the air is warm in the afternoon, it travels into the upper reaches of the undergrowth to bask and hunt.

The most remarkable Lizard is the green and brown cuckoolizard (Cuculacerta oviphagus), hence named for the early misconception that it was a nest parasite. It is, in fact, an egg stealer. Most of the year, it can be seen in the undergrowth among the shrubbery, but in the breeding season, spring it takes to the trees to exercise the habits that earn it it's name. In spring it eats a small bird's eggs, scares off the mother, and uses the empty nest to incubate her own eggs. The male and female will take turns basking, incubating and feeding, warming up their bodies and then sitting atop the nest untill the lizards hatch. This lizard is twenty five centmetres ling, banded brown and green, and lives mostly in the forest's undergrowth. When not eating eggs, it preys on insects and occasionally small mammals.

Slugs and Snails are also abundant among the leaves, from the unassuming, spec-garden snail (Mundanocochlea mundanus), to the brightly coloured green goon snail (Chlorocochlea villanus), with a green shell the size of a golf ball and the thickness of a small seashell, and a huge appetite for leaves, berries, and carrion.

The most interesing are the Brass Wazoo (Monsterocochlea oscari) and the green and gold wazoo (Monsterocochlea wazowskii), not only are their shells brightly coloured and shiny, but have large eyespots on either side to scare off would-be predators, and violently poisonous flesh.

The eight centimetre british roadworks slug (Biffeus lazyboyi) is so violently poisonous that it can kill a large man, and is marked with red, yellow, and black, it spends most of it's time munching leaves and secreting virulent poison.

The ten centimetre short-horned-armour-slug (Horaceus slughorni), bycontrast is not poisonous, is a dark green, and has it's backcovered in a chainmail of horny growths, it has bad vision, andcompensates with it's long, white, moustache like chemoreceptorytentacles.

The Blue goon slug (Goonyus insectophagus) is another slightly poisonous, six centimetre, bright blue slug, it feeds mostly on leaves. But in spring, the breeding season for many insects, it eats beetle eggs. It especially likes those of the hairy-faced black beatle-beetles (Beatleus jonpaulringogeorgei), unassuming, abundant,hairy, fingernail sized, leaf eating beatles that produce a wonderfull sounding chirruping song, when they rub their hind legs together. It is thought that it eats like this in spring to provide protein to fuel the production of gametes as a prelude for mating.

Ladybirds and other carnivorous beetles of all sizes and shapes also feed on the small insects and berries that the growth harbours, and scarabaeids revel in piles of guano at ground level, left by large dinosaurs.

The most fierce invertebrate predator is the armour plated, ten centimetre long, copper centipede (Carnomyriapus smilomandibulus), which ravenously devours insects, mollusks and lizards alike with it's huge, venomous, sword-like mouthparts. It is recommended that, however pretty the coppery sheen that it's armour displays, never pick one up, though their venom has no lasting effects, the mouthparts can administer a seriously painfull bite.

Part 4 - tweeties, crickets and grasshoppers, the REAL singers in the golden afternoon

The forests canopy is the part most birds always see. Rustling with foraging birds, basking lizards, singing crickets, grasshoppers, and birds, it is a buzz of activity.

Crickets of all sizes, from small or tiny brown grasshoppers, bright-green katydids, spiny brown bush crickets sit in the lower reaches of the canopy singing in thribulatory musical tones. The largest is the green-brown thumper (Pixarus pixarus), a locust six centimetres long, with a loud and melodious chirruping song and an apetite for leaves.

Birds are the singers of the sunlit canopy-top, Wagtail tweetys, jaubs, false-magpie tweeties. Fawlty birds (Sibilornis fawlteyi) a variety of large wagtail tweety, are the most commonly seen forest bird, the males being gracile and long-legged, feeding on insects with it's slender bill, the females plump and fluffy with a large feathery-crest, feeding soley on seeds, berries and snails with a stout, stumpy beak. The female's call is a raucous "Baaaa-ziiiiiil", replied to with the male's lugubrious "wyes-deear". These birds pair for life, and the male is constantly being harrased and harried by the female, even though they do not compete for food. They are known to do this because the female will only reproduce once a year, and she needs to constantly watch and harrass the male to stop him from mating with other females. The male's mating ritual is strange, the usually quiet male will take a well vegetated branch, and show his vigor by ripping leaves off the branch. This ritual is accompanied my the males mating call, a very loud series of rough, yell-like cries, which makes it seem like the male is extremely angry.

Part 5 - Climbing mammals, high society among furballs

The levels of vegetation also harbour small climbing mammals.

The Black midget-mouse (Minutomys niger), diurnal and tiny, the smallest xeno on spec's earth, weighing only 2 grams and able to stand atop a thimble. It eats mainly insects and seeds, as well as vegetable matter. It lives soley in blackberry thickets, and in spring, it's diest consists mainly of berries.

The chubby tree pseudovole (Gravinanomys potteri) is a tennis ball sized nocturnal xeno that gorges itself on seeds and leaves as well as fat juicy mooncalf catterpillars. It is without a doubt the most common of the canopy's mammals.

The curl-tail tree mouse (Dendromys pardus) is a crepuscular omniviore, and common prey to branch dwelling predators. It is the size of a small rat and can make prodigious leaps among the foliage.

Many other small and interesting denizens doubtless await us as we study the undergrowth of other areas of spec, awaiting us will be new frontiers, new species, new golden afternoons.