Another of my alien species, following on from the cuilco and the diophel. Here’s the biology to start with – I suspect I won’t write up posts about the culture right away, but since I’ve written this I may as well post it. I’ve experimented with the idea of doing it in a slightly more structured way this time, as you can see.
Body Plan: vertebrate tetrapods, with tails
Stance and Gait: falarandru at low levels of alertness most often adopt a quadrupedal stance – the rear legs are bent, but as the arms are much shorter than the legs, this still leaves the hips higher than the shoulders, and the head in a low position. Most of the weight passes through the legs, with the arms lent on lightly, on a thin pad on the outer side of the hands. Due to this stance putting their heads so low (and thus impeding their senses), falarandru also spend time in a bipedal stance, though often seeking to lean on supporting items to transfer part of their weight through their arms. Their typical stance leans forward somewhat, with slightly bent legs; they are, however, capable of a fully vertical stance for periods of time. Originally employed to increase the field of vision and to intimidate, vertical stance has historically been approved of by many falarandru cultures, as it has been taken to indicate alertness and good health. Excessive use of this stance may, however, promote back problems. In general, all stances promote back problems in falarandru to some degree, so falarandru at rest will vary their posture periodically. They may also squat, crouch or kneel.
Falarandru primarily move bipedally – at slow speeds or in rough or uncertain terrain, this is by walking or running, but when rapid movement is needed on reliable ground, hopping is preferred, though this can only be sustained for limited periods. Quadripedal walking may be used when stability and balance are particularly necessary, and for short periods carrying heavy loads.
Dimensions: falarandru are typically between six-and-a-half and seven foot tall (there is relatively little variation), in vertical stance; their tail is around six foot in length.
General Appearance and Behaviour: falarandru have an astonishing tail – long, prehensile, and strong. They also have relatively strong legs, to provide rapid bursts of acceleration, and in particular have very large muscles at the rear of the legs and at the buttocks, as well as at the base of the tail. Apart from these areas, however, they are gracile in appearance, with relatively thin bones, minimal musculature, and little fat. In particular, their arms and upper bodies are much weaker than those of a human – a fit falarandru may be able to grab a branch or bar and pull themselves up onto it, but they cannot hang by their arms for very long, cannot bracchiate, and are poor throwers. Where strength is required, their legs are used rather than their arms – for instance, falarandru bellows are operated by the legs. They are primarily evolved for brief, explosive burst of activity – they are very fast, but have poor physical stamina. Their psychological stamina, however, is impressive – they are able to endure discomfort and boredom for long periods of time while remaining motionless. Evidently, they are evolved from predators who relied primarily on ambush, though they also have generalist traits.
Diet: falarandru are omnivores. Their favoured foods are sweet – fruit, honey, tree sap – but they are also meat eaters, consuming everything from small invertebrates to other predators, and ‘in nature’ both hunting and scavanging. They have difficulty digesting any but the softest leaves or shoots, although fresh leaves and shoots are part of the diet, as well as roots, nuts and seeds.
Skin and Pelage: falarandru are almost entirely covered in fur. The only fur-free areas are the underside of the tail, the soles of the feet and palms of the hands, and an area extending from the base of the tail, between the legs, and including a small midline area of the lower abdomen (but excluding the penile sheath of males and juveniles), as well as small areas of the face immediately around the eyes and mouth. Infants hatch without fur, before rapidly growing a thick, black or dark brown coat, which in turn is moulted and replaced by mature fur when the child develops into an adolescent. Mature fur is of four types: very short, sparse fur, found on the face and armpits; the fur of the lower legs and feet, which is relatively coarse, thick and long to provide additional insulation when walking through snow; display fur of the tail-tip and tail-crest, which is soft and long (up to several feet in length in healthy adult females, if left uncut); and typical fur. Typical fur is short, soft, but dense. Mature fur begins a golden yellow, with ventral fur (aside from the fur of the penile sheath) slightly paler than dorsal fur; as the individual ages, the paler parts of the fur turn white, while the yellow parts become darker and redder, passing through yellow-orange and ending a dark red-orange. This process is controlled by exposure to the sun, so those who live in sunnier climes are typically darker and redder in colour. The fur of the lower legs is darker and less vibrant in colour, while the display fur of the tail may combine white, yellow, black and orange fur at any age, in an unpredictable pattern. Typical fur may be slightly uneven in colouration, with slightly darker and lighter patches, but this is not normally immediately noticeable, and does not form striking patterns. The skin, meanwhile, is a dark chocolate brown, or in some cases black.
Tails: the tail of falarandru is worthy of special attention. It is prehensile, with a furless underside, and may be used to lift or manipulate light objects; it may also be used to aid climbing or to give additional support when standing, but it cannot bear too much weight. It is used sometimes for throwing, but only light objects, and both speed and aim are poor. It is, however, very flexible, aiding not only in manipulation but in balance, and in high-speed cornering. Movements of the tail are an important part of non-linguistic communication and are incorporated into most forms of sign language, while the tail may also be held out in a prominent location as a form of signalling within a group.
The tip of the tail has longer and gaudier fur, but this is less noticeable in most cases than the hard ‘crest’ found about a foot back from the tip and extending a further foot or so along the length, which is several inches tall/long. The skin on this crest may be consciously or instinctually retracted, revealing a sharp, razor-like cutting edge. This semi-flexible edge (constructed from many individual thin blades arranged tightly together in a line lacks the hardness or sharpness necessary to cut most plant matter, but it is perfectly adequate for delivering unpleasant cuts to animal flesh. This may be used in defence, or occasionally in predation, but is primarily used in fights between individuals. Falarandru martial arts are acrobatic – powerful legs encourage both jumping and kicking, while the powerful tail may deliver both painful slaps and vicious slashes, but is prone to spinning the tail’s owner around in the process.
This mechanism of skin-retraction is seen again and even more strikingly in the tail anterior to the crest, but for a very different reason. Here, the furred skin of the entire tail anterior to the crest may be retracted, exposing about three feet of underskin (one foot of tail is posterior to the crest, one foot bears the crest, while the foot closest to the base of the tail ‘stores’ the retracted overskin, leaving three feet of exposed underskin). This underskin is thin and filled with blood vessels, leaving it a pale pink colour; the retraction of the overskin is aided by a lubricating liquid excretion, so the underskin of the tail is also typically slick and glistening. This bizarre process serves a vital function: cooling the falarandru down. As their native climate is cold, they are generally designed to retain heat, which leaves them prone to overheating after any exertion, especially as they do not sweat. Instead, the tail fur retracts, and the wet and blood-filled underskin is used as a radiator. Panting is also employed.
Senses: falarandru have unremarkable senses. Like many predators, their vision is better adapted for detecting motion than that of humans, and they also have more impressive night-vision; however, their distance vision is poorer. Falarandru are notably superior to humans in their sense of smell, though this is still poor relative to, say, canines.
Faces: falarandru do not have flat faces, instead possessing a distinct, albeit short, muzzle. The eyes are large and forward-facing; the ears are narrow, but the external ears are long, and are high on the head, which is taller and narrower than that of a human.
Reproduction: falarandru reproduce exclusively sexually, with two biological sexes. Insemination is internal, with the male possessing a penis protected within a ‘sheath’ of furry skin when not in use. Female falarandru give birth easily to a single large egg; the young that hatch from this egg are very small, but have fully developed senses and digestive systems, and do not require special diets, although as their jaws are weak due to their small size, they may require adults to cut up harder foodstuffs for them into swallowable chunks.
Development: falarandru grow rapidly in infancy; they also develop intellectually very quickly, with infants being intellectually fully capable in only a few years, although learning some skills of course takes longer. The accelerated infant phase then passes, after eight or ten years, into a prolonged juvenile phase. Juveniles do not stop growing, but their growth is slower; fat deposits increase, as does muscle mass.
The most striking feature of falarandru development – and the reason why the juvenile stage must be distinguished from maturity – is that juvenile females closely mimic the appearance of juvenile males: they develop a penis of similar size to that of males, and are even capable of ejaculation. Male and female juvenile falarandru are essentially indistinguishable, and are not themselves aware of their own sex. Indeed, most falarandru societies have believed that femininity was simply a condition – possibly a curse or blessing, possibly a disease, possibly socially determined – that happened to afflict a percentage of juveniles; modern science has disproven these theories and demonstrated that males and females can be medically distinguished from hatching onward, although falarandru cultures typically still view this as intensely private knowledge: except where there is a vital medical reason for sex-determination, sex is left unknown until maturity; where a juvenile’s sex is known, it is rarely revealed to them, and when an individual knows their sex they do not reveal it to others. The juvenile stage ends with the development of sexual maturity – juveniles are (after the first few years of development) capable of mating, but not of viable reproduction. Again, full sexual maturity is not externally discernable; typically, males become fully sexually mature several years before females begin to have their sex become apparent. Females at the beginning of maturity have a period of transformation – increasing erectile dysfunction is followed by the gradual deepening of hollow at the base of the penis and its connection to the womb – but this may also be mimicked in its early phases by some male juveniles.
Adult females lose a degree of muscle mass, and cease growing, while mature males develop increasingly muscular physiques. Females then continue to be capable of reproduction so long as they remain healthy, although their sex drive diminishes as they get older, and reproduction can be shut down if the female is malnourished, frail or diseased. [The pseudopenis of the mature female becomes vestigial, being gradually reconnected to the body along its length inside its sheath, although the nerve endings remain]
Physical development in falarandru is primarily driven by genetics, but the social environment is also significant – in particular, the development of sexual maturity is partially triggered by the absence of mature adults in the community. This is not an absolute trigger – juveniles in contact with many mature adults will still mature themselves – but nonetheless the increasing number of mature adults in modern society does appear to have lead to a significant lengthening of the juvenile period in modern societies.
EDIT: you can now find some notes on their primitive society here.