An alien species: thaugomur (biology)

Another alien species to go along with diophel, cuilco, and falarandru. No, I’ve not forgotten about my falarandru, I’ll get around to writing more about them. But at the moment I’m just writing up what I feel like when I feel like it. And today, that’s these guys…

 

Name: Thaugomur
Body Plan: vertebrate hexapods
Stance and Gait: thaugomur walk and stand on their rear four limbs, with their forelimbs held above the ground. Their foreparts are not held vertically, but at a slight angle to the horizontal – this is made possible by their large, highly zygopophosalized vertebra, which hold the spine near to rigid in the vertical plane. Additionally, the gap between their forelimbs and midlimbs is relatively small.
Thaugomur may utilise a range of quadripedal gaits, including using their long forelimbs for additional balance when required, but they are incapable of elegant motion at speed, or indeed for sustaining speed for any length of time.
Dimensions: a length of around 8-10ft, not including forelimbs, and a height of around 3ft, half of which is leg. Males and females are similar in length and height, but males are more heavily-built, particularly around the foreparts.
Diet: thaugomur are omnivorous, eating soft plant matter and small animals, as well as scavenging. Thaugomur instinctively hunt through the creation of traps.


Skin and Pelage:
in adults, the back, skull and limbs are protected by bony plates: these are not independent external plates, but external extensions of their skeleton. These bones are grey in colour but coated in a thin layer of protective ‘varnish’ that imparts a slight reddish tinge in healthy individuals. Skin left exposed is thick and leathery, a browny-red in colour. Thaugomur possess no pelage.
General Appearance and Behaviour: thaugomur are lumbering, slow creatures for the most part, relying on defence rather than flight to escape predators, and hunting through intelligence and opportunism rather than physique. Their bony heads are further protected by a bony ‘cowl’ rising from the shoulders; their necks are relatively long but concertinaed, allowing them to hide their heads under their cowls or to stretch out to graze on the ground – their necks have evolved to snap out rapidly, enabling them to grab small creatures in their mouths. It’s hard to think of an Earth-based analogy for their appearance – perhaps a small, meat-eating rhinoceros, or an immense cockroach. A longer, more rapidly-moving turtle? Or a giant land-lobster may be more accurate in some ways. A behavioural analogy might be the beaver: like beavers, thaugomur (and their non-sapient relatives) extensively modify their environments to protect against large predators (and conditions), to create traps, and to farm. Much of this is done through the forelimbs of the males, which terminate in huge, spade-like claws. Burrowing and the construction of walls and mounds comes naturally to them, and they also instinctively tear down trees, coppicing them to promote the production of reachable soft new growth. Females lack these claw-hands and have less strength in their forelimbs, so must leave most of these tasks to the males; however, in place of claw-hands they have developed opposable digits, and are able to manipulate objects with some limited dexterity.
Thaugomur are poor swimmers; however, they do enjoy wading in shallow water, having broad feet to help bear their weight in mud.
Senses: thaugomur are primarily visual, but also possess extremely good hearing, and have organs in the knees to sense ground vibration. Their sense of smell is poor, although they have three distinct olfactory systems: in addition to their primary sense of smell, they possess two vomeronasal organs. The first, located in the roof of the mouth, is adapted to detect odours dissolved in a liquid, and can be used when submerged; more importantly, this also replaced the sense of taste – the tongue moves specimens to the mouth of the organ, where they are dissolved in spittle and processed. The second vomeronasal organ is located between the lips and the teeth, and is only involved in reproduction.
Thermoregulation: thaugomur control their body heat not through insulation but through internal pockets of briny fluid. This fluid acts as a heat sink in hot temperatures, and as a source of heat in cold temperatures. However, while this cycle is ideal for day/night temperature cycles, it leaves the creatures vulnerable to harm in sustained extreme conditions. In cold spells, they are able to slow their metabolisms and huddle together for warmth, but they are very vulnerable to overheating – when this becomes a threat, they resort to submersion in water.
Faces: thaugomur have round, bony heads, and broad cheekbones for crushing nuts. Their pointed ears project horizontally, swivel, have bony scutes, and can be closed to help protect them in a fight. The nostrils are located on the side of the head, anterior to the ears but posterior to the cheekbones.
Reproduction: thaugomur reproduce rarely, and almost always within monogamous pairs, which typically establish themselves as a pair for many years before attempting reproduction. Reproduction involves the transference of a solid ‘egg’ from the male to the female; the result is a pair of twin offspring, one male and one female (litters of 4, 8 or more are theoretically possible, but rare; single births do occur, but are viewed as tragic, and often involve some defect in the surviving offspring). The offspring are themselves ‘born’ as a single leathery true egg; this egg grows over time through the additional of layers of nutrient-rich liquid, which solidify onto the egg. This liquid is produced by the female in a special organ, and she licks it onto her egg. Females are almost helpless during this period, and lose considerable weight as they devote resources to the egg: they rely upon their mates, and upon the rest of their community. The young, once hatched, grow to become small but fully-functioning adults within two or three years. Thaugomur females typically reproduce two or three times in their lives; having selected a mate for their first mating, they are monogamous for life, although if their mate dies they may sometimes take a new one for subsequent matings.

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