Sunday, September 20, 2009

Armadillos, Bastardsloths, Gloops and Un-gulates, *Antarctitheria*

This Clade of Spec placental mammals contains the familiar xenarthra of HE, but has members that are far more basal in one respect, they retain enameled teeth. It is speculated that the K/T impact event wiped out most of the original xenarthroid diversity. Spec had no such thing occur and the full flowering of the newly christened antarctitherians resulted in truly unique animals that have conquered a wide range of niches. The bewildering number of forms have resulted in the creation of Antarctitheria as the crown clade. Xenarthra itself is “demoted” and strictly limited to the bastardsloths and the armadillos.

Not only do the armadillos roam the Americas, so do the mind bending bastardsloths, and the funky un-gulates. Tingamarrs apparently represent a totally convergent radiation of ungulate antarctitherians completely apart from the un-gulates and the gloops are marine grazers. Once again, Spec defies expectations and easy categorization.

Gloops and Un-gulates *Antipodungulata*

The antipodungulata resemble the paraphylectic “condylarths” of HE’s Paleogene in their morphological ambiguities. Only molecular and genetic studies have placed them firmly alongside the xenarthrans. This raised a host of questions, one of which is, are they Spec’s version of the Meridiungulata? Many workers in HE believe that the recently extinct meridiungulates of our world may have shared a close relationship with the extant xenarthrans.

They retain enameled teeth and either lack the xenarthrous vertebrate that give the rest of the clade its name; or they are very underdeveloped. To top this off, the un-gulates are convergent ungulates and the gloops are Spec’s mammalian equivalents of sea cows. It took the discovery of rabbit sized late Eocene *Antipodungulatia*, however; to finally convince workers in the field that both gloops and un-gulates share a relationship exclusive of all other antarctitherians. Previously, un-gulates had been lumped in with the equally bizarre Australian tingamarrs. This means that mammals in Spec convergently evolved unguligrade posture not once, not twice, but three times. This is not as astonishing as it may seem, HE’s paraphyletic “ungulates” may have independently evolved unguligrade posture as many as 6 times. Certainly it convergently evolved at least twice, once in eutherians and once in a very recently extinct metatherian.

This has been a huge headache in terms of classification, initially, morphological structure such as teeth and certain skull bones had some of the animals studied regarded as weird, derived gondwanatheres. This ridiculous idea was promptly abandoned once genetic analysis revealed that they all were placentals and all shared a common xenarthroid ancestry.

Un-gulates *Antipodungulatidae*

The un-gulates were yet another reason for Spexplorers to reach for an aspirin, because they certainly seemed to be the sugar in the absinthe. These small animals have striking equine builds with rather long tails. The morphological resemblance to HE Meridiungulata has been remarked on in passing, especially with some aspects of their dentition and ankles. However, they also share the strange xenarthran “septomaxilla” and certain other features, such as ossified deposits in the skin along the torso. Should HE Meridiungulata DNA ever be recovered, they will certainly be compared with these strange mammals.

The Un-gulates seem to have been present in Spec’s South America and Antarctica during the Eocene as rat to rabbit sized critters. By the Oligocene, Antarctica had frozen over and Patagonia was rapidly converting into the first true grassland. Here one finds remains of the hare sized *Hippocavia*. Unlike it’s predecessors, *Hippocavia* had developed high crown teeth to deal with the abrasive vegetation. This development has been retained in modern day antipodungulates with further enhancements such as open roots and even more complex loxodont configurations of the premolars and molars. Antipodungulates also have developed an unguligrade posture, with the 3rd digit the primary weight bearing structure and the 2nd and 4th digits acting as support and balance.

The Un-gulates were more speciose and generally larger during the late Miocene and early Pliocene. They were found throughout the continent in small rabbit to hare sized forms, but also reached quite large sizes, up to 150 kilos in one montane Patagonian species. Needless to say, the Pliocene Bolide Event nearly annihilated them. Today, the majority of the 10 or so species are no more than 8 kilos. Only 3 species exceed that at some 30 to 60 kilos.

Fonies *Psuedoeculeusia*

Fonies range across the pampas and altiplanos of South America. They tend to seek out exposed forbs and tender new grass growth by following the spelk or neohadrosaurs herds.
Social structure varies, with large herds to solitary individuals. Mares breed in June and drop their single or twin foals in October.

Cerrado Fony *Psuedoeculeusia cerrado*

(Picture by Tiina Aumala)

Cerrado fonies are denizens of the rich mixed Brazilian savannahs. They are mixed feeders of the thickets and dense tree stands that are their primary refuge. One characteristic of the species is the well developed 2nd and 4th digits that help them secure a better grip in the often hilly and loose soil. Stallions live solitary lives defending territories with good forage and permanent water holes. Mares will occasionally form loose groups, but mostly roam alone or with their foals. They are the smallest of the fonies, weighing just 30 kilos.

Big Fony *Psuedoeculeusia patagonicus*

(Picture by Tiina Aumala)

The largest fonies, they can be found across the pampas up into the altiplano. Large matriarchal herds are often seen alongside spelks and nandrakes. Males form bachelor herds until the age of 4, when they become physically mature enough to battle rivals for potential mates. Big fonies are the most cursorily adapted of the clade. The side digits are extremely reduced and provide virtually no support.

Liebrayos *Alogolagonae*

Liebrayos are the dogbunnies of the South American open areas. They feed on grasses and forbs and utilize bastardsloth and armadillo burrows for denning. The 8 species range between 3 and 8 kilos in weight. They are mostly animals of the cold altiplanos and pampas, although one species is found in the llanos, cerrado and ornithischian created pathways of the Amazon. Small family groupings of 6 to 12 paired adults and their foals come out during the day light hours to graze. They rarely stray far from the safety of their burrows or thickets.


There must be something strange about the sea that attracts mammals. In our timeline, whales, sea cows, seals and certain otters live off and largely in the deep blue, not to mention the extinct desmostylians; in Spec, cancridonts and selkies have taken to the oceans. The fertile waters of South Australia were found to hold yet another funky marine mammal, the gloop, which is associated with marine, coastal, estuarine and marsh faunas. The Gloop family includes the kelpcow, one of the largest marine mammals known in Spec.

The Gloops are generalist cold water algae and kelp grazers that first appear in the fossil record in the Oligocene. These antarctitherians seem to have had their center of origin around Antarctica. The presence of the late Oligocene *Merididugongia*, a 30 kilo seashore browser of kelp and algae on a newly discovered deposit located only on Spec’s Seymour Island indicates so. The Oligocene and Miocene saw the family radiate across the sub Antarctic as far north as Australia and New Zealand. The Pliocene saw algae browsing tropical forms and the subsequent evolution of the North Pacific kelpcows.

Gloops *Thalassocamelinae*

Gloops are the most widespread thalassocamelids. They may be found in seasonally migrant herds around the Antarctic Ocean and range north into the tropics and cold Atlantic Ocean. Some 6 species are currently recognized. Most are generalist algae browsers, though the north atlantic species specializes in kelp and sargassum weed.

Gloop *Thalassocamelus thieliei*

(Picture by Timothy Morris)

The gloop ranges from the coastal waters of northern Aotearoa to northern New South Wales, sustained in these bountiful waters fed by the southern ocean. Gloops have a large, camel-like head, stubby, clawed forelimbs, and a tapering, cylindrical body much like a sea cow. Their tail is deep, flat and powerful, but relatively short, and their back legs are paddle shaped; they swim with horizontal undulations much like a sea otter. Gloops have a covering of long wiry hair along the back; this not only serves as insulation but harbors green algae, small crustaceans and snails (some beneficial, some parasitic, some commensal). They also have a thick layer of fat for buoyancy and extra insulation, and their belly is covered in very thick, tuberculous calluses that protect them from scraping rocks while feeding – and even sometimes from shark attack. These animals feed on a wide range of marine plants, from tender red algae to seaweed, cold water Spec “sea grass” and kelp, which they crop with their thick, muscular lips and cut with their large incisors.

(Picture by Timothy Morris) Gloops during mating season

Gloop breeding behavior is amongst the strangest of Spec's Mammalia. In the breeding season (June – August), females and males congregate around river mouths, the younger first-timers following the elders there in single file (called "caravans"). Upon arrival the males will pick and fight for a choice area upstream – the further upstream you are, the calmer the water, and the harder you have fought to get there. Naturally the stronger males are positioned further upstream. The males choose their spots in this way to "serenade" the females with their loud belch-like above-water calls of "GLOOP!! GLOOP!!" punctuated by long strains of jowl-shaking calls. The females travel upstream past the throngs of belching, blubbering males until they find a male that they see fit to sire their young. This bizarre procession, as well as the convoying and lek fighting behavior that precedes it, is a singularly bizarre spectacle.

The females travel upstream into estuaries to give birth. The solitary calf (rarely two) is dependant upon its mother for nearly a year. Out of breeding season these animals tend to either live alone or in loose aggregations depending on resources. These animals can live for as long as 40 years or so and grow to 3.5 meters in length.

Mediterranean Gloop *Thalassocamelus suboriotethyis*

Unique to the Mediterranean Sea, this animal is a typical tropical water gloop. They slurp the algae growing on vast beds of inoceramid clams and coral reefs. Often seen alongside duckgongs, the two clades never come into conflict, because one feeds on sea grasses, while the other prefers seaweeds and algal mats.

Kelp cow *Bovigalinae*

The Kelpcow is the only member of its clade. This is truly an exclusive kelp feeder. Compared to other gloops, kelp cows are rather archaic in certain details of their teeth and skull. However, they are more derived in having lost the ancestral belly tubercles and developing a more pachyostylic skeleton, especially around the ribs.

Kelpcow *Bovigale memorium*

(Picture by Timothy Morris)

The kelpcow is an impressive 6 to 7 m long beast, weighing as much as a Moby Duck. It is found primarily in the kelp forests of the northern Pacific ranging from The Baja peninsula to the Sea of Oshkosh, hugging the shallow waters. Local Alaskan and Kamchatkan populations sporadically range into the Bering Sea during the summer season.

Kelpcows subsist mostly on kelp, which they process with their formidable dentition and digest in their extensive stomachs. Kelpcows swim with powerful up and down strokes of the lower torso, which moves the paddle-like tail and hind limbs. Kelpcow forelimbs are stubby, with clawed fingers used to grasp large amounts of growth.

These animals possess both a large amount of blubber and a reasonably thick coat of smooth, slick hair. Kelpcows will mainly browse on the floating rafts of kelp when they are in season, but observing kelp cows feeding on whole belts of kelp is both intriguing and amusing. Firstly, the mighty beast dives down and severs the kelp from its holdfast, then the animal returns to the surface and grasps the belt as it eats, much resembling a mouse eating a whole strand of spaghetti.

Armadillos, Bastardsloths and Tingamarrs *Roroarvatherai*

This clade includes both the familiar armadillos and the bizarre bastardsloths, but it also contains a totally weird group of animals from halfway around the world, the tingamarrs.


Australia, traditionally a land of strange creatures, has surpassed itself with the unassuming tingamarrs, a group of Australian placentals whose existence ought to be considered patently impossible. Tingamarroididae forms the only group of eutherian mammals in the Australian realm. Probably tingamarroids migrated from South America before Gondwana had entirely split apart. The tingamarr fossil record is rather sparse before the Miocene. The only Paleogene site possessing any fossils have been the Eocene Murgon. The late Miocene Riversleigh records an abundance of forms, but their peculiar anatomy sheds no light on their origins. Only genetic analyses establishes a relationship with xenarthra.

The living species of tingamarrs are most common in Tasmania and the cooler, more arid regions of Australia, where they eat grasses and other abrasive vegetation. They are very fleet-footed and skittish, with excellent senses and a nocturnal disposition. Tingamarrs possess cloven hooves like those of the artiodactyls of Home-Earth, but this trait is certainly convergent.

Their reproduction is normal for placentals, they bring offspring to full term in the womb and then suckle the newborns for between four and eight months. The teeth of a tingamarr, however, are quite strange, with large, flattened incisors, totally absent canines, and a set of deep-rooted, ever-growing molars most similar to those of the extinct taeniodonts of our timeline.

Striped Tingamarr *Tingamarroides nyahnya*

(Picture by Daniel Benson)

The striped tingamarr is a typical member of the clade. Crepuscular herbivores, striped tingamarrs graze upon grasses and low-growing foliage before dawn and after dusk, when predatory dinosaurs' eyes are less sensitive than the mammals' senses of smell and hearing. Unlike the solitary Tasmanian tingamarr *Tingamarroides tasmaniensis*, striped tingamarrs travel in clans of about six individuals, sleeping in abandoned mieolanid burrows, thickets, and anything else that offers suitable protection.

Armadillos, Bastardsloths *Xenarthra*

When Spexplorers first came into South America, they were simply shocked at the huge numbers of large terrestrial mammal species present, far in excess of any other continental landmass. Much of the diversity came from invaders such as spelks, pokemurids and metacanids. The native mammalian fauna was hardly a slowpoke in this department. The multituberculate necobataarids produced the epunamun. However the bulk of the native large mammals within South America are the xenarthrans.

Spec’s xenarthrans are far more speciose than in HE, although not quite as diverse
morphologically as their recently depauperated counterparts. Armadillos represent the greatest numbers in terms of species, but the bastardsloths are the widest ranging, found from Alaska to Terra Del Fuego. They play a very important ecological role as small hunters and herbivores. Bastardsloths are particularly influential as strange taeniodont analogues. These animals in turn are heavily preyed upon by a very wide assortment of predators.

Xenarthrans probably evolved in South America, and this continent has been their traditional home, although some have migrated into North America. These creatures did not widely radiate into arboreal insectivore niches as in our timeline (these niches already having been taken by the metatherians), they became quite successful as insectivorous ground-dwellers and burrowers.

Itavykais, Bastardsloths *Babeltheridea*

As xenarthrans go, these mammals are bizarre. They possess many typical xenarthrans traits, such as a lack of enameling to their teeth, bone scutes embedded within their skin and the xenarthrales, the complex assortment of inflexible articulations within the vertebrate joints. The xenarthran trend towards bipedality is also present, to an extreme degree. Babeltherideans also possess the “septomaxilla”, lacking in all other therians, though it is not certain exactly what these nasal bones are in xenarthrans.

Here the similarities end. The babeltherideans have developed a complex pelvis, with the ischium and acetabelum extended to a great degree. The ilium flares broadly. Both seem to be responses to massive leg muscle insertions. The tail is long and like HE macropods, supports further extensions of thigh muscles at its base. The subdermal bone scutes that tend to be randomly placed among non-Cingulata xenarthrans are instead highly organized along the dorsal sacrum and torso, extending across the base of the tail. The guts also possess rows of tightly ligmented subdermal bone scutes. Both ligmentized scute complexes serve the purpose of keeping the body rigid during intensive activity. The resulting union allows babeltherideans to do something perhaps truly unique among synapsids. They can walk and run bipedally just like a dinosaur.

The babeltherideans have one of the most intriguing digestive arraignments of any mammals. They possess a multichambered stomach, secondarily simplified in the itavykais.
Their lack of enamel allows them to retain perpetually ever growing teeth. The digestive “flora” includes bacteria, fungi, and even nematode worms that are secondarily consumed much like HE macropods. The teeth are heavily derived from the basal xenarthran herbivorous/myrmecophagous ancestor. They are secondarily incisorforme, molariforme and most unusually of all, plagiaulacoforme. The plagiaulacoid isn’t quite serrated like the enameled cutters of multis or teddies. They maintain a sharp, irregularly crenulated edge thanks to the constant rubbing actions of the maxillary molariforme teeth.

Babeltherideans seem to have derivatively evolved the ability to see into the ultra-violet spectrum. Both bastardsloths and itavykais possess patterned under fur that shine under black lights when they erect their guard fur. Why this ability evolved is not certain. Perhaps the overwhelming presence of ultraviolet perceiving predators in Spec in the form of dinosaurs was responsible. Secondarily derived fur markings could’ve been selected sexually over time. The fur seems to have some intriguing pigments, as always…yet further research is needed.

Itavykais or Tarziwaks *Schizicebidae*

These are heavily derived babeltherideans. Their closest ecological analogs may be the galagos of HE. Quite small, averaging less than half a meter including the tail and just .5 to 1.5 kilos, these primarily arboreal, carnivorous babeltherideans also partake of saps and nectar when in season. Insects and microvertebrates are preferred food samples. Resting camouflaged against tree trunks or within wood burrows, they spend the day asleep. Night awakens them to possibilities of predation. Itavykais range from the dry subtropical forests of Mexico to the open woodlands bordering the pampas.

Itavykais are solitary, with a male sharing territory with up to four females at a time. Their secretive nocturnal behavior has made them very hard subjects for research. It is known that females generally have an average of two young per year by the resident male. The offspring remain with the mother for a year before dispersing.

Unlike their bastardsloths cousins, their stomachs have simplified, much reduced anterior chambers. Itavykais have a pair of prominent plagiaulacoid teeth in the lower jaws that seem to act in concert with two pairs of molariforme teeth in the upper jaws. The incisorforme teeth number roughly around 7 pairs per jaw. The outer most “incisors” are rather canineforme in appearance, used for seizing insect and small vertebrate prey. The tooth formula follows as thus. It should be recognized that this formula is being used for animals not representative of standard mammalian dentition. PL represents the plagiaulacoid.

Upper Jaw I7, PL0, M11
Lower Jaw I7, PL1, M9

The plagiaulacoid is used for shearing through tough chitinous exoskeletons in arthropods and the bony skeletons of vertebrates. The incisors are fairly prominent, though not recognizably so in living specimens, covered as they are with lips. They tear out grooves in sweet sap trees throughout an itavykais’ home range. The molariforme teeth are set within a simplified shearing pattern to further process animal matter.

Socially, itavykais are mostly loners. Males maintain territories within up to 6 females divide for their own use. Juveniles roaming away from their mothers may remain for up to two years before reaching sexual maturity and seeking out new territories far from their natal home ranges. Daytime sleeping holes usually are utilized by the resident male, females and their offspring. Occasionally, the resident male may share his sleeping hole with many of his weaned offspring.

The earliest complete itavykai fossils known are less than 40,000 years old, indicating they have been tropical rainforest and dry forest specialists for at least that long, if not much longer. However, a few Miocene mandibles and carpals have been found in Patagonian deposits. These primitive scrapes show some similarities with the modern day llorona.
Given that lloronas are the most terrestrial itavykais and also routinely hunt for food around sleeping mega fauna, this might well be the ancestral state of affairs for the clade. Molecular and morphological evidence indicates that itavykais split off from the bastardsloths no later than the Oligocene. Some four species are so far described, with one species fairly cosmopolitan across the tropical rainforest and dry forests of the Americas and the other three much more limited in distribution. They seem to not be really in competition with strigosaurs so much as they are often preyed upon by them during crepuscular hours.

Llorona *Schizicebus phasmatis*

A ghostly white furred itavykai that is renown for its wailing calls akin to a bereaved woman. Scientists camping in the cerrado region will often see these fearless xenarthran bush babies leaping or walking about on their hind legs grabbing insects attracted to the warmth and light of the fires. Lloronas are simply carrying out an extension of their natural behavior in this respect. They are often seen congregated around herds of sleeping neohadrosaurs or pachamas during the nighttime hours. Lloronas also maintain more typical itavykai dietary habits. They leap from tree limb to limb catching insects with their excellent eyesight and good hearing. Daylight hours has them curled up within tree holes, often with several mates.

Bastardsloths *Nothusasimiadae*

These are familiar mammals throughout the Americas. Bodily, bastardsloths resemble the viriosaurs they share their ancestral homeland tropics with. Several key differences exist. Bastardsloths have powerful forelimbs with large claws for digging into soil and climbing up trees. They are of course furred with prominent ears. Whereas viriosaurs are obligate bipeds, bastardsloths are facultative bipeds. Most bastardsloths amble along on all four limbs searching for food. They usually rear up and run on their hind limbs in response to a predatory attack. Small species race to the nearest trees to climb up into for protection. Larger species may seek out burrows or dense undergrowth to lose the predators. The giant species may stand their ground within a circle or against trees or rocks and brandish their claws.

Bastardsloths tend to be herding species that are rather diurnal in habits. Herd structures may be variant from open mobs where unrelated individuals loosely join and leave at anytime to male led family groups of many females and their offspring in various stages of maturity. Herds may range from less than a dozen to upwards of hundreds in some species.

Most bastardsloths are relatively small animals between 5 to 50 kilos in weight. Species found in the cold forests and plains may be much larger. Bastardsloths have four digits on their hind limbs, with the 2nd and 3rd digits bearing the primary weight. The forelimbs generally have five digits, with all five bearing fairly robust claws akin to badgers or coatis.

Females normally bear 2 to 4 well-developed offspring at a time after a gestation of roughly four to nine months depending on the species. Weaning usually takes place some four months afterwards, with the young staying with their mother for up to a year.

Bastardsloths have a fairly extensive fossil record within South America. The first recognizable bastardsloth is a late Eocene mandible coming from an animal just a meter in length and perhaps 8 kilos in weight. The fossils remain rather small, but common until the Pliocene, when size shoots up. Interestingly the earliest North American bastardsloths show up in the Miocene. They are quite close morphologically to virtually all modern day bastardsloths. This similarity posits the intriguing speculation that the Pliocene Bolide event wiped out the majority of bastardsloths in South America. After the impact event, the North American bastardsloths may have re-invaded their ancestral homeland to radiate into the current 8 species recognized today. The only modern day bastardsloth with closer similarities to the pre-Pliocene animals is the trunk-lip.

Bastardsloths have molariform teeth very similar to glyptodonts, their cousins on HE. Roughly 8 to 12 molars in each jaw row are present. They also have a pair of plagiaulacoid teeth in the lower jaws buttressing the anterior molars. Generally, two incisors are present in each jaw row. The trunk lip seems to have lost these, indeed, most South American bastardsloths before the Pliocene were in the process of losing or had lost them.

Trunk Lip *Labiomanae*

These bastardsloths are an ancient line that separated from the main body as far back as the Oligocene. They are montane dwellers, preferring the high scree ringing altiplanos all along the Andean chain. Their size is quite impressive, with adult males reaching up to 200 kilos.
The most unusual feature of these bastardsloths is of course, their muzzle. Trunk lips possess massive jaws that have many insertions for lip muscles. The trunk is quite dexterous, akin to a tapir’s though located on the lower jaw instead of being formed from the upper naris and labia. The sole surviving species is *Labiomanus morrisi*. Trunk lips feed on tubers and browse scrubs within home ranges of roughly a few square miles or so. Both sexes lead solitary lives. Females share their territory with their young for roughly a year after birth. Oddly, the trunk lip is the only bastardsloth to actually have curved claws that require obligatory bipedality. Other bastardsloths are perfectly capable of walking on the flat of the manual metacarpals much like HE bears.

Bastardsloths *Nothusasimianae*

The bastardsloths are among the most wide ranging groups of xenarthrans in the Americas. They can be found virtually in every type of environment except the most open stretches of the arctotitan steppes of boreal north america. Bastardsloths have very diverse feeding strategies. Some are browsers, others rooters or grazers. Many employ all three. Size range is also quite diverse, with some species under 10 kilos but most species in the 20 to 150 kilo range and one pampas/altiplanos species reaching close to 500 kilos, rivaling many of the local maniraptorans and the glory elk. Total species numbers are not yet known, with an estimated 20 or so species to eventually be named across the Americas. Bastardsloths are so named because the first sighting of one elicited a cursing response at yet another weird mammal clade in Spec with no clear parallel.

Bastardsloths are most diverse in North America, where they seem to have filled in the niche of hogbirds and dinoceratopsians as small pig/tapir like rooters and browsers. However, all bastardsloths under 50 kilos routinely climb trees to forage for leaves and fungi. Carnivorous behavior is rare, though they will occasionally scavenge carcasses or abandoned eggs.

Three genera are recognized, *Nothusasimius*, *Eunothusasimius* and *Improceritherium*.

Pataguari *Nothusasimius grandis*

The largest of the bastardsloths, the pataguari lives in immense herds numbering in the hundreds ambling across the pampas and altiplanos. They forage for grasses and forbs and scrape up shallow tubers and roots. When saber tyrants or other predators threaten, they rear up on their hind legs and thunder across the landscape until either they have outrun the threat or one of their number has fallen prey. They often graze in mixed association with spelks, un-gulates and nandrakes.

Pine Bastardsloth *Eunothusasimius pinus*

This North American species of bastardsloth lives in small herds of roughly 12 related females and a single dominant male. These 40 kilo animals are quite arboreal, foraging for conifer needles and fungi throughout their range. They also dig up subterranean fungi, roots and tubers as well as browse twigs from angiosperm and gingko trees found in the understory or clearings. Pine bastardsloths experience winter torpor, with herds sleeping for weeks at a time in caves and dens dug out for the harsh conditions. The 2 rarely 3 or 4 offspring are born communally when spring arrives. When foraging, predators cause them to race up the nearest tree. However, only the most foolish drak would attempt to enter the sleeping burrows of a pine bastardsloth family. Those great claws are very effective at ripping flesh and breaking bones.

Little Bastardsloth *Improceritherium brasiliensis*

These were the first described bastardsloths although not the only known species at the time. Their size is typical of the Improceritheres, at some one meter and 6 kilos. A dweller of the Amazon basin, they live in loose associations of roughly 6 to 12 with interchangeable membership. The flooding season sees them stranded on highlands, where they become more vulnerable to fellow marooned predators like ocelotars and cockatrices. Little bastardsloths forage for corms and tubers in open meadows and hmungo halls. They will climb quite high into the understory for choice fruits and leaves as well as steal abandoned eggs they come across.

“True” Xenarthrans *Xenarthradea*

These animals, for the most part, are the typical rather odd yet mundane armadillos known in HE. They contain well over 30 species in Spec, with perhaps many more to be described.

Nufflers and the Pangodillo *Echinomanidae*

Spec's "anteaters" are the dominant small insectivores of South America, and are clearly xenarthrans, possessing the clade's slow-growing, enamelless teeth and supplementary articulations between their vertebrae. However, these hedgehog-like creatures are not true myrmecophagids (the familiar anteaters of our home timeline), but a more generalized group that often mimics the pangolins (Pholidota) of Home-Earth.

Nufflers *Notechinogalinae*

Bristly nuffler *Notechinogale minor*

(Picture by Timothy Morris)

Nufflers are common, but cryptic, insectivorous denizens of the undergrowth of the south american scrub. The bristly nuffler found in the drier Amazon region, is the smallest and most common species, the size of a kitten. Adorned with stiff bristly hairs that can sometimes break the skin, even more often they irritate the mouths of a would-be predator. The clade Notechinogale consists of numerous species of "bristly nufflers", though they are relatively conservative in their differences.

Spiny nuffler, *Dendrechinogale scansor*

(Picture by Timothy Morris)

The spiny nuffler climbs more often than its smaller relatives, and frequently grows to the size of a sut, which it resembles in behavior and diet. It has sharp spines on its back, deterring strigosaurs and other predators. A denizen of the Amazon rainforest, this animal is in many ways transitional between the bristly nufflers and the pangodillo.

Pangodillo *Echinomaninae*

Bizarre pangolin mimics, they caused quite a few headaches until the first specimens were finally procured. The results of genetic and morphological studies place them within xenarthra, among the nufflers.

Pangodillo *Echinomanis echinis*

(Picture by Daniel R. Heald)

The first mammal researchers to explore Spec's Central America were startled to discover the pangodillo, a creature that at first glance appeared to be a pangolin. Not only did the creature possess razor-sharp blade-like 'spikes' instead of the flat but very tough scales of Home world pangolins, its mere existence in the New World, in fact its mere existence at all, was a major puzzle. In our home timeline the Pholidota have an exclusively Old-World distribution and are not found in South America. On top of that, they belong to the Laurasiatheria, a clade of placentals whose Spec diversity is rather miserable.

Fortunately, after trapping and further examination, the mammal researchers could breathe a sigh of relief. *Echinomanis* was, in fact, a kind of armadillo – a very strange, partly arboreal, ant- and termite-eating spiny armadillo, but much more easily accepted than a Spec-Panamanian pangolin. The spikes were found to contain ossified cores overlain with typical alpha keratin, instead of the weird mixture of alpha and beta keratin present in HE pangolins. Pangodillos range from the Mexican dry forests down into the north banks of the Amazon.

Armadillos *Cognatadasypodidea*

The most diverse clade of xenarthrans, armadillos are small generalist/insectivores that range from South America to southern North America. Many species (though not all) are covered with an articulating armor of flat bone plates. All armadillos are burrowers to some

Armatell *Carnodasypus horridus*

(Picture by Daniel R. Heald)

The armatell is a large (almost a meter long in some regions), burrowing, nocturnal carnivore of the Amazon and Central America. The species has an excellent sense of smell with which this badger-like animal uses locate its prey of small mammals and reptiles. Prey is usually unearthed with the digging claws on the forefeet and dispatched with a swift bite. Armatell teeth are, like those of other xenarthrans, naked dentine, but much sharper and more robust than usual. These teeth grow slowly, even though they are open rooted. Armatells dig extensive burrows ("sets") that many other species will inhabit if abandoned. However, they are not social. Younger individuals may inherit a set, but only after the current resident dies or is driven away.

Armies *Paradasypodidae*

This clade seems to encompass many of the more traditional armadillos of Spec; their resemblance, though in many ways strikingly similar to armadillos, is superficial, as the scute arrangement and internal anatomy shows.

(Pictures by Timothy Morris)

These are examples of the more mundane armadillos that inhabit the Americas of Spec. Both grow no larger than a small cat. Top is the knuckleball *Bolotherium hoploscutatum*, a common insectivore of the pampas capable of curling into an impenetrable ball. It is well named; its rounded, rivet-like scutes are the thickest of any armadillo. Below is the common army *Paradasypus populator*, known to be widespread throughout South America, north through to warm-temperate North America.

Mongoose army, *Dolichodasypus herpestoides*

(Picture by Timothy Morris)

On the South American pampas of Home-Earth, one will occasionally see an armadillo trundle slowly from place to place. But in the pampas of Spec, the mongoose army (Dolichodasypus herpestoides) is far from slow and cumbersome, in spite of its armour. Cat-sized, and far sleeker in shape than most other xenarthrans, it still carries trunk armour as protection against cazadins. Its diet consists of practically any small animal it can find, though it has a penchant for reptiles. Like the far heavier armatell, it digs "sets" in which to sleep and raise young. Its dentition is unique, showing differentiation from thin conical teeth at the front, to rounded teeth further back in the jaw line.

Bullettes *Buliidae*

Bullettes are small and (not surprisingly) bullet-shaped burrowers that range from Argentina to the great plains of North America. The family sports armadillo-like armour, but this plating has been reduced to a carapace over the top of the skull – used to push earth aside as they burrow – and scattered bony nodules over the shoulders. Bullids are adapted to eat colonial insects – termites and ants – which they dispatch by burrowing under the insects' nests and then bursting into the upper chambers from below. Many species of termite defend against this behavior by spitting poisons at attacking bullids, and by extending the hard walls of their fortresses far below ground level, but the sharp claws and impervious head shield of the little insectivores are proof against the strongest wall or poison. Swarming ants, which seek to escape predators by leaving their nests and forming large, mobile bivouacs, are not safe from bullids either, as the these xenarthrans will often construct conical traps, in the manner of an ant-lion, in which they can catch swarms of walking prey.

Argentinean Bullette *Bulia argentiniensis*

(Picture by Daniel R. Heald)

Argentinean bullettes are small burrowing insectivores, thriving on (or rather under) the South American pampas. This species is rarely seen on the surface, and has small eyes and ears – the latter protected by small bony hornlike extensions of the "skull cap". These horns are slightly larger in the males, but do not appear to be used in any offensive function.

Arbourarmour *Hoplotamandua recurvonychus*

(Picture by Timothy Morris)

One of the most unusual inhabitants of the Amazon rainforest is the arbourarmour. This large-clawed, rat-sized bullette has a prehensile tail and is an extraordinarily good climber and swimmer. Unlike its relatives, it has pursued a lifestyle similar to the “true” armadillos, albeit with caveats. When the rainy season hits the Amazon, this animal undergoes a niche change. Its claw sheaths lengthen very quickly in the weeks preceding the rains, during which the keratin growth on the carapace slows; when the rains come, it transforms from a low-level forager to a climbing inhabitant of the treetops. The evolution of this incredible trophic transformation has allowed this animal's ancestors passage into the seasonally flooded Amazon basin, where their ground-dwelling cousins could not. The prehensile tail is equal or greater in dexterity to that of the tamandua of our timeline, the tail morphology of which is paralleled in the arbourarmour.

Daniel R. Heald, Daniel Bensen, Timothy Morris, David Marjanovic, Tiina Aumala, Karl Zimmerman and Raymond Tobin


HE has known a spectacular variety of mammalian carnivores since the late Paleocene. Spec on the other hand, seemed to have continued dinosaurian and crocodilian dominance throughout the entire Paleogene. Nevertheless, an abundance of small insectivorous and carnivorous mammals have been recovered from fossils. They belonged to an astonishing diverse array of clades. Within Eutheria alone, weasel and fox like furballs abounded. Cimolestans and zhelestids and within Placentalia, actual stem carnivorans and even possibly mesonychids. Among insectivorous mammals, many different groups apparently strived for dominance.

However, by the Neogene, it seemed that the metatherians would become the dominant mammalian carnivores of Spec, however limited that niche was. Four clades, the pusillonecatoridea, the suchotheriidea, the stagodonta and the esurimalaidae are presently known. While molecular analysis nest them together to the exclusion of other metatherians, they are clearly very distant from each other. This extends far back into the late Cretaceous, when close relatives of each clade were present.

The working theory at the moment is that all four clades are derived members of deltatheroidia. While the molecular analysis can only deal with the living deltatheroidians, morphological comparisons of both living and fossil examples of the clades can give more clues. So far, all four members are aligned with predecessor forms. However, they generally fall outside of them as sister groups in most respected character analysis.

However the final tally plays out, these interesting critters are noteworthy just for their ecological effects on Spec. They’ve been the primary terrestrial carnivores under 10 kilos across the Holarctic and into the Paleotropics since the late Miocene. The arrival of the Ice Age has seen them spread into South America (where they face the necobataarids).

The Possum Weasels and Badgers *Pusillonecatoridea*

This clade developed by the late Eocene. The seismonychidae have achieved great success as burrowers and badger analogues. The pusillonecatorids have crowed as mustelid analogues.

Tarkas, Fitches, Vairs and Snoats *Pusillonecatoridae*

Widespread throughout Spec, the pusillonecatorids fill the niche that is otherwise occupied by the mustelids on HE. They are quite common and successful small predators, and are often themselves prey for larger carnivores.

(Pictures by Timothy Morris. Descriptions in descending order)
The notabrock *Parametameles apates* is a pusillonecatorid trying very hard to be a brock. Unlike its Holarctic relations, the notabrock can be found in Africa, and is more closely related to the weasel-like pusillonecatorids than the badger-like seismonychids. At any rate, its habits and behavior are sufficiently badger-like: it is an indiscriminate omnivore, and also has a sweet tooth that attracts it to bacchus-tree fruit drops.

The short-tailed vair *Metamustela nivalis* and its relatives are the closest on Spec to weasels. Aggressive and deadly little hunters, they will prey on animals substantially larger than themselves by going for the throat and clinging on till death ensues. Despite their ferocity, they commonly fall prey to avisaurs, kronks, scowls, pokemures, and even their own kind.

North America's Great Plains is home to large groups of Laccolithons *Geodeltatherium grecoi*. Living socially in groups, these pusillonecatorids move into uplift glyphon burrows and take them for their own purposes. Despite the presence of the large lizards, neither of the two species seems to ever enter into conflict, with only the occasional squeak betraying the collision of an industrious glyphon into a resting laccolithon. While the glyphons expand the burrows, the laccolithons, with their sharp eyes, keep a watch for predatory animals by sitting upright. As the lizards feed on insects and the deltas forage for vertebrate prey, competition is duly avoided.

The Montezuma *Montezumustela striata* can be found throughout South America as a generalist arboreal hunter. Fast and agile, montezumas use their quick reflexes to dash at top speed between tangles of otherwise inextricable branches. They will prey on lizards (including the ponderous treeguanas), snakes, birds, and mammals, and regularly raid treetop nests. Montezumas are quite fearless and will follow prey to the tips of the flimsiest twigs, relying on a catlike aptitude to survive falls. They are one of the very rare few possum weasels to have invaded the realm of the death multis.

Williamson's tarka *Tarka williamsoni* is the best known of a group of pusillonecatorids that approximate otters. Found from the British Isles to the Mediterranean, Williamson's tarka is a highly adaptable amphibious animal that will eat almost anything, is an agile swimmer and a quick sprinter, and is as much at home up a tree as it is in a river or the sea. Tarkas have been observed diving to great depths to snatch shellfish and garbargee eels. The whistle of a tarka ("Ic-yang!") is very distinctive, and is often heard before the animal is actually seen.

The Northern fitch *Pseuderminea mustela* and other fitches are the stoats to the vairs' weasels. Fitches are larger than vairs and feed on even larger prey with the same throat-bite, but lack the hair-trigger temper and irascible attitude of their smaller relatives. Fitches are relentless trenchermen, and spexplorers have often appreciated their propensity for eradicating xenos, even the repulsive naked sweat mice. It is likely that they would make excellent pets and companion animals for humans, but no-one has bothered to try domestication yet.

The waistcoat deltamandua *Bicoloripelta africana* can be found in African savannah and scrub. A ground-living generalist, it has a fondness for insects, especially social insects. Termite mounds, anthills, and bee's nests are favorite haunts, and it guzzles the insects down with glee. A thick pelt with unusual, "waistcoat" markings provides ample protection from bites and stings. Deltamanduas have strong digging claws on their hind legs which they use to break into nests, and to defend themselves by kicking backwards.

Natives to Europe's coastline, the channel snoats *Pusillonecator myxinis* are scavengers and beachcombers, nimble little opportunists that feed on the smorgasbord of food to be found on Spec's bountiful shore. A small, lithe body allows snoats to skitter between rocks and ferret out food, which includes mollusks extracted daintily from their shells, fish gaffed neatly from the water, and seabird eggs taken in pairs – one snoat distracts the parent while the other gluts itself. Snoats are also invaluable scavengers, crawling into a dead animal to devour it from the inside out. Other species of snoat can be found on riverbanks, in forests, and on the high alpine peaks.

The pastinaca *Obnoxiotherium pastinaca* is a large, omnivorous Asian jungle beast. Its brightly colored and striped pelt, and foul stench, fully advertises its nasty defense to predators. If attacked, a pastinaca arches its hindquarters over its back in a spectacular feat of contortionism, and fires at its attacker's eyes with a noxious fluid ejected from glands in the anus. Whether this fluid is manufactured by the pastinaca, or is synthesized from the toxic plants that the pastinaca feeds upon, is still a matter of conjecture. The pastinaca itself has no problem guzzling virulent fruit, not to mention a wide range of small prey.

Other pusillonecatorids include the wabassos *Metamartes*, a strictly American radiation with several species. Some poorly known African rainforest species are still being evaluated as of this writing. There are also three recently collected specimens from the Eurasian taiga that may represent new species or even genera.

Brocks and Allies *Seismonychidae*

The seismonychids, or Spec-badgers, are deltatheres clearly distinguished from their pusillonecatorid relatives. While the pusillonecatorids are small weasel-analogues, the seismonychids have expanded into the burrowing and digging niches. Seismonychids are widespread over the globe in various badger, mole, and desman roles.

(Pictures by Timothy Morris. Descriptions in clockwise order)

The bloody bill brock *Metameles sanguineus* is the largest and most distinctive member of the family. Males may occasionally reach 30 kilos. A European species, this massively built omnivore will eat everything it can get at. Pretty much anything that moves is fair game, but there is no shame in munching on berries. Bloody bill brocks are tough fighters and relentless diggers, and have few enemies in the wild. The related timmy and tommy brocks are smaller and less aggressive.

Shatterlogs comprise a compact genus of semi-amphibious brocks. Distinguished by naked and webbed hind feet, shatterlogs dig burrows on riverbanks, and use them as a base from which to hunt frogs, fish, and other small animals. The burrows are quite complex, and can never be totally flooded. A parent shatterlog will dart out of its burrow at startling speed if it feels its offspring to be menaced. These relentless predators often use gnawed and broken branches to mark territory, hence the name. Pictured here is an American bank shatter log *Fluviomeles jacquesi*.

The largest subdivision of the Seismonychidae is the Plissorhyninae, known as schnozzles. These animals have a unique and unmistakable nose: bare-skinned up to the forehead, large, drooping, and heavily wrinkled. The wrinkles increase surface area massively both inside and out: externally, they provide more tactile surface, while internally they allow more space for sensitive chemoreceptors. The snout is highly flexible and exploratory, and a full complement of whiskers rounds out the sensory array. Plissorhines may have the most powerful olfactory and tactile senses in Class Mammalia. At any rate, the nose must be the key to their success – members of this family outnumber other seismonychids three to one in both number of species and diversity.

The girdled schnozzle *Rhinotalpa hemicincla*, shows usual plissorhine adaptations: powerful digging legs, weak back legs, and the diagnostic wrinkled snout. In this species, the snout-pad does not reach up to the forehead. While this was previously seen as a primitive trait, it is now being reconsidered as a schnozzle moving up and out. Girdled schnozzles are water-loving and less subterranean than the rest of their group.

The silver schnozzle *Plissorhinus argyrus* is a typical schnozzle. Filling in the mole niche in temperate to cold areas (glyphons are dominant in warmer climes), the silver schnozzle digs extensive tunnel networks to seek out small invertebrates and the occasional lizard. Its fur gleams silvery in light, which is hardly ever seen as it spends almost all its time underground.

Florida schnozzles *Riparitalpa floridiana*, as their name implies, may be found in Florida, but then they are widespread in various marshy environments. Larger and more powerful than most schnozzles, these hardy beasts build and shore up riverside holes from which they continue excavating. They are good swimmers and have been known to feed on fish.

Pack-noses *Pachynasotherium troglodytes* are primarily desert dwellers. Living in holes excavated in rock crevices, these tough schnozzles come out at night to feed on insects and to gather grass and leaves to line their nests. They are tasty snacks for countless other desert animals – mattiraptors, avisaurs, vipers, small draks, kronks, larger metatheres…

The edible schnozzle *Nasotupaia glis* was unfortunately named after an early spexploring expedition, on the verge of starvation, survived by feeding on these abundant little creatures. These creatures stand out from the rest of their family as tree-climbing, agile schnozzles. Like the rest of their family, they come out only at night, and use their nose to ferret out prey.

Crevice-runners *Lithotalpa hirsuta* are found in the karst habitats of Eurasia, acting much like rock hyraxes. Again, they are indefatigable burrowers, tunneling during the day and emerging by night. The bristles and whiskers on the face are particularly well-developed, to aid it in making its way through a treacherous maze of sharp rocks and gaping holes.

Winged moles *Pterotalpa musculus* were once considered cryptid jokes, but recent discoveries have proved their existence. These schnozzles have enormous arms (almost wings) that practically dwarf the rest of their body, and as such are powerful burrowers. The hind legs are just about vestigial, and winged moles rely solely on their arms to pull them through the earth.

The masked ranger-mole *Personatalpa kemosabei* is a non-plissorhine trying very hard to be one. The snout is bare at the tip and slightly wrinkled, and it functions in much the same way, but any resemblance between this brock and the schnozzles is purely convergent. In addition, ranger-moles are much more active, and may cover large distances by night in search of prey. By day, they sleep in excavated burrows. This species is native to the American Southwest. It may be identified by its odd chuckling growl, transliterated by imaginative spexplorers as “tu-de-dum, tu-de-dum, tu-de-dum-dum-dum…”

Another well known seismonychid is the Grumbler *Thylodachius saskatchwannensis*. They are quite powerful critters, these 12 kilo diggers are mostly diurnal hunters of the prairies and dense eastern forests. Multis and glyphons live in mortal fear of these determined burrowers. The savage disposition of these critters is well known. Grumblers have incredibly thick yet flexible hides with stiff fur that allows them to turn completely around a tight corner underground.

Gorgeese *Necroanatidae*

These are the primary scavengers of Spec's old world. Soaring above the plains and woodlands, they eagerly sight out carcasses for consumption. Gorgeese have developed the typical scavenging bird profile. The naked heads and necks prevent fouling infections as they probe deep inside carcasses. They have heavy-loading wings for hours of energy-efficient soaring. By most standards, gorgeese are quite indistinguishable from HE vultures. The most obvious exception is the superficial anseriforme appearance of the hooked beak. The bill is far less pneumaticised than wading ducks. Strongly reinforced for ripping open carcasses and narrowed to reach into the viscera. Interestingly, it is lined with fine, sharp serrations. This is most likely to further enhance the tearing of the hooked beak into the corpse; giving the gorgeese a decided edge over the weaker,
non-serrated bills of rocs.

One other very surprising characteristic of gorgeese is their body odor. The smell is often overpowering when excited, but it's not a rude, skunky scent; quite the opposite, they smell of spices and perfume. Most gorgeese are described by their alluring scents alone. The naming scheme is unprecedented in HE, even though many of OTL vultures have a pleasant funk. The difference is that gorgeese have retained and liberally apply their heavy anseriforme oil glands onto their feathers. During moments of excitement, such as jostling at a carcass, the glands release even more of the scented grease, causing the gorgeese to vigorously rub it into their coats. This results in a spray of incredibly heavy aromas, believed to drive off parasites and suppress microbial infections. This possibly could also be a deterrent for fellow scavengers. The presence of several gorgeese in a perfumed frenzy has been known to hold back even quite large predators such as saber tyrants and moloks, at least temporarily. Old-world carrion sites quickly become a riot of spices spiking the air. The aroma often is compared to a winter holiday feast, a spice island or a flower bed, if a slaughter house was nearby.

The earliest definitive gorgoose is *Inferanas cadaviperidis*, an Oligocene taxon. Some possible fragmentary remains from Eocene beds in Asia have been found but not yet described due to their still indeterminate identification. Gorgeese fossils after the Oligocene are fairly spotty, with several Pleistocene fossils and plenty of sub fossil Holocene remains of *Gypanas sp.* and most others scattered in the old world. The saffron gorgoose *Placentiavoros* is the sole exception for which only recent remains of a sub-adult killed by a golden flanker are known. Surprisingly, this largely old world clade has a purported Oligocene partial cranium in South America the same age as old world *Inferanas*.Should this be verified it would put an interesting twist on an already fascinating clade. Currently, they are regarded as a sister clade to all other anseriformes, with new work that seems to indicate they might form a distinct grouping with the Spec pseudodontorns. Whatever their origins, all modern gorgeese are old world in distribution with the exception of a single population of citrus gorgeese *Necroanas citreus* seasonally present in Alaska via southern Japan.

Gorgeese are typically socially monogamous, breeding once a year in some species to once every few years in others. The newly mature gorgeese gather in communal leks, with males and females honking and scenting the air with their passionate excitement. Ritualized dances and calls are complimented with vigorous oil rubbing, releasing a bounty of lavish, heady scent. Being by a gorgoose lek is one of the safest experiences one can have in Spec. The sheer overwhelming odor, while pleasant to humans with strong stomachs, causes most animals with a more delicate olfactory apparatus, which includes everything that could threaten humans in the Old World and Alaska to keep a several mile radius. The young gorgeese eventually pair up after hours, if not days of courtship. These will be their mates for life. One or two eggs is the usual norm, with the saffron gorgoose unusually having as many as six. The chicks are lavishly cared for, growing to adult size within three to six months. Maturity is not attained for another 2 to as much as 7 years. The chicks often stay with their parents for years as helpers. This allows them to both gain experience for raising their own offspring and learn the social hierarchy of their scavenging lifestyle.

Another attribute of gorgeese is their seeming intellect. All gorgeese have complex social lives and even engage in play behavior well past childhood. Eurasian gorgeese have been observed teasing roosts of near-crows by diving to a low altitude from afar and gliding to the colony unnoticed. They suddenly announce themselves with loud croaking honks, driving the roost into total confusion. One spexplorer had this to say about it, “they sure do look damned pleased with themselves".Like HE turkey vultures, gorgeese almost never kill their own food, having been known to inquisitively play with xenos in their nests by grabbing the tail and watching them try to scurry like mad before letting them go. Further study in this area is desperately needed.

Eurasian Gorgoose *Necroanas aumalae*

This was one of the first described gorgoose. A summer breeder as far north as the edges of the Eurasian taiga, they winter in Africa and India. The neck is feathered half-way to the head, which is naked with red wattles abundantly covering it rather like HE muscovy ducks. The informal local name of kalma is somewhat misleading as the gorgoose has been said to have the aroma of lilac, or sometimes passion fruit and cream.

Cinnamon Gorgoose *Gypanas cinnamum*

Soaring the African skies on +3 m wings, cinnamon gorgeese are an impressive sight. The huge, very deep bill with visible serrations allows for even the toughest grassbag and saurolope hides to submit to the slashing strokes. Many gorgeese and adjutant rocs must
await the coming of this titan to open up the carcasses. The cinnamon scented gorgoose mates for life at sexual maturity, reached at 7 years of age, and breeds every 2 to 4 years. This is speculated to be a very long-lived species, possibly reaching ages of +60 years.

Germanic Gorgoose *Cathartanas asperabrassicae*

A largely central European gorgoose that winters in the Mediterranean. Also know as sour duck or more rarely, sauerkraut`n' beer goose, it is definitely an acquired aroma. Lovers of pickled cabbage will enjoy the scent wafting off a venue of squabbling sour ducks at their communal roosts. Gorgeese use their sense of smell as well as sight to hunt out carcasses. Germanic gorgeese are believed to have an especially acute sense of smell. The sour duck's olfactory capabilities is said to rival that of HE's turkey vulture. Germanic gorgeese soar over dense forests, looking and scenting for deceased animals.

Lavender Gorgoose *Palmagypoanas lavandua*

Also know as the heaven-scent. This gorgoose indeed smells like sweet, gentle lavender. The most interesting aspect of this bird is the fully feathered neck and head. Feeding on the nuts of oily palms (Specelaeis sp.) does not engender the same
risks of fouling as probing rotting innards does. The gorgoose also will crack open abandoned or neglected eggs with its ripping beak, or use a heavy stone for the tough cases.

Saffron Gorgoose *Placentiavoros safranum*

Breeding in the high tibetian plateaus, this gorgoose is one of the few carrion eaters on Spec to routinely engage in a behavior common among scavengers in HE, eating derived eutherian placentas. The sources are the herds of montane steppe spelks. Unlike their forest dwelling cousins, the twin offspring are born ready to move with their mother in hours.This leaves ample numbers of unattended placentas for the saffron gorgoose to consume during the spring breeding season. Males court their potential wives with offerings of afterbirth, showing her that they can provide. The spelk calving season on the exposed steppes lasts roughly four weeks. Saffron gorgeese patiently pace the spelk herds like ghastly midwives. The result is a clutch of large eggs numbering two to three, sometimes up to six. The rest of the summer is spent seeking more typical carrion. The quick growing young follow their parents south into sundaland in autumn.


The hesperornithines are very interesting birds in a variety of ways. They are the last of the basal Ornithuromorpha. Hespies as they are commonly called, were the first dinosaurs to successfully enter the marine niches in a big way. They are known from Early Cretaceous deposits, some of the fossils indicating flightlessness having independently evolved several times. Having entered the seas, Hespies were similar to the pinnipeds of HE. They seem to have only returned to land to lay eggs or perhaps haul out for sleep.

On HE, they died out along with all other birds outside of Neornithines. Spec of course, is different. These toothed birds continued into the Paleogene, albeit in reduced numbers. They disappear from the fossil record during the PETM; reappearing in the late Eocene in the form of *Phocavis*. This initial reappearance lead to a nearly worldwide distribution. The Phocaviids even were found in the southern seas, traditional home of the penguins. They had a very long temporal range, the last members fading from the record in the mid Pliocene in southern Africa.

Phocaviids have only recently been studied in detail. The prompting came from a Paleocene bed of archaic hesperornithine oo-fossils. This bed was very interesting in showing large numbers of eggs laid in sand and overlain by repeated volcanic pyroclastic flows. The reason for such interest lays with the fact that modern hesperornithines are not known to lay eggs in beach sand, indeed they do not construct nests at all. For quite some time, it had been assumed that modern hesperornithines were directly descended from sea-going archaic Maastrichian/Paleocene ancestors.

The revised studies have shown marked contrasts. Modern hespies do belong to the order, but they are not closely related to any of the known archaic species. The phocaviids instead seem to have descended from flying members of the clade. Close study of phocaviids show primitive features in their wings, dentition and skeleton compared to archaic hesperornithines. However, the braincase shows massively advanced features such as development of the neocortex, further developments of the optic and auditory bulla which are completely unknown in archaic hesperornithines. This was a revelation, which is being further supported by fossils that are yet in press. The main guise of this interest was the difference between modern hespies and their archaic cousins with regards to reproduction.

Modern hespies do not lay eggs in sand and abandon their young, they don’t even construct nests. These birds retain eggs within their bodies until they hatch. These archosaurs, like the qurry laurasiornithopods and heterodontosaurs; have found loopholes. Archosaurs and Testudines (turtles) cannot retain eggs like many other Sauropsids because of the unique properties of the egg shells. However, once the eggs are laid, they can be transferred into a pouch for safe keeping. The qurry ornithischians have independently developed throat brooding. The modern hesperornithines have developed cloacal pouches to hold their eggs in. These posterior pouches are richly developed with capillaries and frequently open their sphincter muscles to allow fresh oxygen to be exchanged. The result is that hespies mate out at sea, with the females beaching themselves once the egg or eggs are laid; pushing themselves across gravel, sand, rock or ice to incubate for up to three months.

Both seaguins and penguins suddenly shoot up in size and diversity from the late Miocene onwards. It seems the more ancient phocaviids may have filled niches that the reigning warm-water mosarks, the later duckotters and abysmal walducks could not. Whatever the case, the phocaviids dwindled to obsolescence by the Ice Ages. Modern Hespies are quite common in the seas of the northern hemisphere, with a few species found south of the equator on tropical islands abutting cold upwelling abysmal waters in colonies shared with their penguin counterparts. One species is cosmopolitan.

Gharihingas *Odontanhingidae*

Not all modern hesperornithines are flightless marine swimmers, the ancient gharihingas are flighted birds found across Africa, Eurasia and Australia. They fill a niche similar to the predominately New World ebergs and HE’s loons, cormorants and especially anhingas. This clade is ancient, molecular and morphological studies indicate that they separated from most hesperornithines probably by the Turonian.

Gharihingas are quite common in tropical wetlands, with a few migratory species. They are strong fliers, excellent swimmers, but are poor walkers due to their splayed legs. Their characteristic beaks retain teeth in both skull and maxilla; as well as being usually long, almost a third of body length. Most species nest in tree hollows or construct floating raft nests where they hatch their 2 to 6 precocial young. Incubation is long, and parental care of the offspring is rather short. The young are usually capable of fledging within a month of hatching. Migratory species usually abandon the chicks after hatching.

Blue Cheek Gharihinga *Odontanhinga mordax*

The blue cheek gharihinga measures about 75 cm in length. It lives along the large rivers and lakes of Europe, southern Siberia and China. Remarkably, the Siberian populations migrate to India for the winter, while some European populations head for the Nile delta.

These waterfowl are not the first to arrive in spring, but they are never the last. Adults court each other in large polyamorous gatherings. The females retreat to nest in tree hollows or dense bank vegetation within close distance of the lakes, rivers or ponds they choose. The precocial young hatch after an incubation of some 40 to 50 days. The mother promptly abandons them to their fate. The clutch scramble their way out of the nest and hide in tall reeds during the day. They are already expert swimmers, diving and foraging together until they fledge in a month or so.

Seaguins *Sednaornithidae*

The modern day flightless hesperornithines share common ancestry with the phocaviids. However; skeletal morphology shows they split from them around 45 mya during the beginning of the Cenozoic cooling cycles. Fossils are rare, only showing up during the Miocene. They are of scrapes usually; showing animals rarely larger than an average duck. The Pliocene is quite different, with an increase in size and ecotypes. The Artic and North Atlantic Oceans have long been their centers of diversity since the late Miocene. That pattern has diverged with the rise of large numbers of North Pacific species since the earliest Pleistocene. Seaguins today range throughout the northern Oceans and Seas. A few species may be found in Equatorial waters as far south as the Hawai’is and the Galapagos; where they meet their distant penguin relatives.

Seaguins share with their phocaviid relatives, the intriguing trait of incubation within a cloacal pouch. Some phocaviid fossils show this trait as far back as the late Eocene, indicating both clades have derived this from their last common ancestor. The implications are both staggering and presently obvious.

Keeping the egg or eggs within a sealed pouch close to the body allows for rapid incubation. The capillaries and oxygen exchange by “burping” or “farting” the pouch gives the mother extended feeding opportunities within shallow waters if needed. The chick can be born in a fairly neotonous and yet precocial state. They are loaded with yolk fats, allowing them to remain in safe coves and estuaries near rookeries for weeks or months. This period also allows for extensive teaching by mother and/or relatives before finally heading out to sea. This has been a very successful strategy, resulting in more than 40 to 50 species. Like their predecessors; they swim the seas with permanently splayed legs. Their four toed feet adorned with lobed webbing. Well oiled coats and powerful muscles allow some species to reach speeds of more than 70 kph.

Sea Parrots and Sea Jars *Maripsittacinae*

The sea parrots and sea jars represent a good portion of the diversity of seaguins. More than 20 species are known. The two tribes are noticeable for having blubber layers up to six inches thick around their torsos. They are also known as “double-eggers”. Unlike other seaguins, females always lay two eggs within their uniquely divided cloacal pouch. Various species have different haul-out choices. Pacific and Atlantic species choose offshore islands. Arctic species are much like HE ringed seals in excavating snow caves for the duration of the incubation period.

The maripsittacines are intensively hunted by selkies and other seaguins. These gentle clam crackers and filter feeders have devised many strategies for survival, ranging from pods thousands strong to shy, solitary ice dwellers barely surfacing for a breath. Mortality is high, especially when young and most species see near-complete turn-over rates every 5 to 12 years.

Sea Parrots *Maripsittacini*

The sea parrots often spend their time in nearly vertical positions above the seafloor selecting various mollusks to crush between their jaws. Sea parrots share a niche similar to HE and Spec diving ducks; except on a much larger scale. Because they cannot apply suction like HE walrus, their crushing jaws are limited to specific clam and ammonite species. This has resulted in an ever spiraling increase in diversity of both sea parrots and especially clams. Spec sea clams and ammonites have ironically benefited from this evolutionary arms race with many new types invading niches far beyond their ancestors.

Some sea parrots stay close to shore, feeding in tidal pools or flats. Other species feeding in waters as deep as 500 feet. Various species are specialists; others generalize over many clam and ammonite species with similar shell densities and sizes. The Ice Age has only increased much of this diversity with niche squeezes and expansions. Sea parrots may actually be much more species rich than the currently recognized 20.

Walrooster *Odobenornis occinerator*

The walrooster is by far, the largest sea parrot species, weighing around the same as the much sleeker and longer empress seaguin. This is partly because of their rather heavy and robust bones, which help them dive; walroosters are also known to swallow stones for the same purpose.

These massive divers live in the arctic sea, feeding mostly on bottom-dwelling mollusks such as shellfishes, which they detach from rocks using their hooked beaks, and crush the shells with their impressive battery of teeth. They also occasionally catch crabs, but hardly ever even try chasing ammonites like their smaller and swifter cousins. There have also been reported cases of walroosters scavenging. It seems that with their powerful jaws and teeth they can crack the bones to get to the marrow, inaccessible to most predators.

Walroosters can often be seen in large numbers resting on arctic rocky beaches or ice floats. Using their hooked bills and powerful legs to haul their great mass ashore. The males have a very loud and recognizable voice, used during the mating season and related social disputes, which resembles the crowing of a cock. Not all walroosters are strictly artic animals. Southern regions such as New England and Iceland harbor large brooding colonies of walroosters. Walrooster eggs rival those of grassbags in size.

Atlantic Sea Parrot *Maripsittacus atlanticus*

The Atlantic sea parrot is a generalist species. It is average size for the clade, at around 2.5 meters and 200 kilos in weigh. They may be found in a wide variety of near shore environs from tidal flats digging in shallow mud, out to depths of 100 feet. Favored prey are clams between 200 grams to 1 gram in size and similar sized ammonites easily caught. A recent division has raised the closely related Bering sea parrot *Maripsittacus stelleri* to species status. Both species tend to have large rookeries of hundreds to thousands on off-shore islands shared with jarrks and duckotters.

Sea Jars *Maricaprimulgini*

The sea jars very much resemble nightjars with their wide mouths lined with innumerable stiff feathers and lamellae to catch zooplankton and baitfish. They often follow baleen squid to large concentrations of food. Sea jars have also been known to cooperate with jarrks, large ammonites, teleosts and even certain sharks and mosarks to concentrate bait balls of fish or crustaceans. Such behavior is necessary, since the 8 known species of sea jars are all deep ocean wanderers, visiting various upwelling nutrient hotspots.

Knight Jar *Maricaprimulgus dracophagus*

Named with tongue in cheek for their feeding habits. Knight jars are deep diving seaguins who sweep huge numbers of immature sea dragonflies into their craws. Knight jars have a huge cosmopolitan range across the cooler to tropical waters of the northern hemisphere. A Galapagos colony is known. They are generalist predators of most sea dragonfly species, but will also take Argonautoids and join bait ball congregations if they come across them.

Knight jars are primarily nocturnal feeders, they meet the rise of sea dragonflies every night. These birds are also known for their grisly habit of snatching pirhanakeets during their main feeding and breeding season. While the tiny penguins are busy devouring ample numbers of exhausted male baleen squids; the knight jars zip through their feeding frenzies. A single knight jar, at nearly three meters and 300-400 kilos can take up to 10 pirhanakeets. These seaguins are lightning quick and can dive to depths far below the terror penguins’ perceptions within moments. Besides, the pirhanakeets are too busy gorging themselves on cephalopod flesh.

Speckled Sea Jar *Sednaornis geladus*

The speckled sea jar lives permanently below ice in waters between 30 to 500 feet deep. This is the smallest of sea parrots at less than a meter and 40 kilos. These birds have very thick, ragged bills to allow them to saw away at the thinnest spots of ice within their territories. They are much more generalist in their diets, taking winter slowed fish and ammonites under the ice as well as diving to depths of 500 feet to crunch shellfish. Their whisker like bill feathers are exquisitely developed to allow them to sort out prey items.

These animals form snow caves for their two offspring. Like HE ringed seals, the female birds nestle for much of the 3 week incubation period; diving into the sea only when polar draks burst through. Several caves may be found throughout her territory. Still, up to 40% of the hatched chicks may fall prey to the draks. Also, when ice break up occurs, selkies take their share.

True Seaguins *Dagonavinae*

The 10 to 15 species of true seaguins are primarily fish eaters, with a few exceptions. Most seaguins are very large animals, average 4 meters in length and some 300 to 500 kilos. These are deep water birds, closely resembling many dolphins in their long distance migrations. Unlike the sea parrots and sea jars; females beach themselves only when hatching is imminent. The young are quite precocial, being lead down into protected coves and grottos for the first two to five weeks before they are allowed to join the larger flock on their never ending search for food.

Seaguins tend to have temporary monogamous associations during the breeding season. Successful males might have up to three mates. The reverse is true for some species, with one gravid female having two males providing for her and their shared clutch of up to three eggs.

Seaguins *Delphigavini*

After the speckled sea jar, these hespies were among the first described seaguins. The deep ocean fishers that sport among walducks, mosarks, jarrks and sea jars. They spend most of their lives at sea, coming ashore only for a brief month to hatch their eggs and shelter their young before racing back out to sea with the chicks in tow. Little is known of these birds. They mysteriously appear in the thousands to herd fish and cephalopods in enormous bait balls and quickly disperse again when the glut is over.

Little is known of these animals; including their rookeries. They have several species in northern hemisphere oceans. One species is known from the Mediterranean and a possible rare, separate species found in the Indian Ocean.

Hylekki *Delphigavus balticus*

The specific nomer is somewhat misleading, since these birds are also known from carcasses and flocks in Iceland and off the Faroes. Unlike most true seaguins, hylekkis tend to nest in large rookeries alongside other sea critters like their maripsitticinine relatives and jarrk selkies.

This has been a boon, allowing spexplorers to see they have a polyandrous mating structure.
Females have one to two tiercel; the males, who are around three quarter of the female’s size, will hunt for her while she is gravid with up to 4 eggs. Surprisingly, the female seems not to make land-fall until well after egg laying. The chicks hatch within a week. The 300 kilo males heave ashore to their 400 kilo mate time after time for three weeks before the chicks scramble behind their mother into the surf. The whole family may remain near shore for another week before shooting out into the deep sea to parts still unknown.

Tuna bird *Delphigavus thunnoides*

The tuna bird is probably the fastest of the hespies. Top speeds of 70 kph have been reliably recorded. They literally rocket out of the surface to heights of 20 feet in the pursuit of their main prey, bait fish and squid. These enigmatic north Pacific birds are little known. They seem to travel along the Pacific Gyre from warmer waters to the south up to the frigid Bering seas. Only one small rookery has ever been discovered in the Priblof islands. It seems that a single male mates with several females and has no further care for the offspring.

Tyrant loons *Orcavini*

The tyrant loons are a small tribe consisting of just two members. They have the unusual habit of beaching on ice floes or shallow sandbars when gravid. The young are hatched into open waters. Fish and ammonites are the primary prey of the lesser species; while the larger species seeks tetrapods. Both have short, broad beaks to allow them to crush prey with great force.

Blue tyrant loon *Orcavis velocinatans*

The blue tyrant loon is a common artic hespie. These generalist feeders mostly take fish and ammonites; but will also snap up the young of mammals and birds alike. At 2.5 meters and some 300 kilos, they are too small to threaten the majority of adult marine mammals and birds.

Blue tyrant loons are easily recognized by their stout bills and dappled coloration. The flanks flash vividly blue when caught by the pale artic summer light; the rest of the bird is a mottled white and dun blue coloration. This serves them well in all seasons. The blue tyrant loon remains quite close to the ice in all seasons. Females haul out for the incubation period while males hunt for food. Leads in the ice are sensed with their delicate hearing, allowing them to penetrate far north during especially warm years.

Polar draks are their principle predators. Nesting females live in matrilineal families that offer good protection. Even a starved drak will turn back at crushing tooth lined jaws. However, when leads close and trap flocks; they hope against hope that a polar drak will not discover their breathing hole or several of them may end up dragged up onto the ice with their throats torn out.

Like many other Spec marine denizens, blue tyrant loons may be found in Spec’s St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. There they feed on warm blooded prey such as selters and walrooster chicks.

Empress Seaguin *Orcavis regina*

The empress seaguin is the terror of the cold northern oceans. Murders of these birds have been known to tear apart kronosharks and chilled giant mosarks with impunity. At some seven meters and close to 4,000 kilos, they are the lords of the bitter frigid seas. They can be found across the cooler waters of the northern Atlantic and Pacific into the Artic. An Empress raising her unmistakable head above waters near a rookery provokes an instant reaction. That reaction may be a quick head raising or an all out race to higher beach. These extremely intelligent birds are totally in control of their realm and enjoy it.

Empress seaguins live in life-long monogamous pairs within matrilineal rookery flocks. They prey on all life in the sea, but prefer warm blooded animals. All their cousins are torn apart, as well as all unlucky mammals who stray into their jaws. Only the presence of giant mosarks in the tropics prevents them from taking over the oceans of the world.

During the breeding season, the murders find safe havens on sandbars in estuaries near large rookeries of their prey. The females lug their huge mass half ashore; digging out enough sand so their chests float easily in water while their hind ends remain beached. No known terrestrial predator has ever threatened these birds and lived to tell of it. A spexplorer saw a saber tyrant dragged to death by two sister empress. The whole flock ripped it apart and feasted. The eggs seemed not to suffer since the females were soon back ashore; stuffed by their mates with tyrannosaur flesh.

Empress seaguins have short, broad mouths much like their smaller kin. They also possess a hooked beak and a scooping bill like any raptor. Acting in concert, the tearing tip works with the shredding posterior teeth to yank away huge chunks of flesh. They do not roll like crocodiles to secure meat; instead, they hone keratin and tooth against gravel, driftwood and bone to razor sharpness.

Dagon *Dagonavini*

When spexplorers first arrived, they were divvied up into dozens of teams. One team doing paleontological work in some New Jersey late Pliocene shore beds recovered the enormous skull of a seaguin. Naming it after HE’s sperm whale *Physter macrodon*. The 2.5 meter skull was stored away and spoken of mainly in academic and Spec fan circles. Impressive, but regarded much like HE’s *Andrewsarchus* or *Daeodon*, an after thought monster of a close, but still by-gone era.

But a young mammalogist affectionately known as Coyote was diving off of Bermuda studying and filming an adolescent male striped walduck recently kicked out of his pod. He was preparing to tag the animal when a massive…thing rose up from the dark depths and slammed its 3 meter golden jaws around the hapless monotreme. Blood spattered and bloomed like squid ink. The poor man was less than two feet away from the pitiless eye of the monster.

Coyote was raised shaking from the sea. All that could be heard from him was “Dagon, Dagon!!!!”. Eventually he recovered. But the nomer stuck unofficially. Luckily, he had tagged the sea monster with the camera. This allowed more sane members of the expedition to observe the creature over several days. This results were surprising. This animal was a hespie; the largest ever known. They watched the female return to a shallow Bermuda island cove where she remained for the following days. The film tag frustratingly showed her hatching a chick before it went dead. The location was tracked, divers later recovered several eggshells; partially reconstructed, they showed an egg larger by far than any other tetrapod known in either timeline.

By this time Coyote had recovered and named the species *Dagonavis*, he spend the next few years searching for these mysterious birds and following their living patterns. It turned out that dagons were deep divers, hunting at depths of more than half a mile. Tagging and filming as well as dissection of beached specimens in Iceland showed a preference for cephalopods and fish, with some sharks and walducks occasionally present.

Ambergrans are the only cosmopolitan member of the hespies. They are found in all seas, but prefer the cooler latitudes, mostly heading into the tropics only when certain deep sea prey are massed for breeding. Their own breeding can be varied, but is primarily limited to cooler waters, where giant mosarks cannot go.

The modern seaguin tribe was christened after this monster; however, in one of those ironies, it turned out that the Pliocene *Physteravis* was close enough to the dagon to be regarded as an extinct representative of the genus. The dagon, also known as the ambergran; was rechristened *Physteravis marovum*.

Still, when the huge females cloak their eggs, they can no longer dive to great depths. Their ravening hunger turns to the supine prey close to the surface. Any reptile, mammal, or cephalopod unlucky enough to catch her eye or alert her ear will be torn apart for food in primal need to feed herself to care for her unhatched egg. Fear the dagon, for she rises with speed and jaws of death.

Ambergran….or Dagon *Physteravis marovum*

The ambergran must be the most magnificent of the already great hesperornithine clade.
Females reach over twelve meters and males are little smaller at nine to ten meters. The big females weigh up to 12,000 kilos lean and may be close to 16,000 kilos during the breeding season. Unlike all other hespies and indeed unlike all other archosaurs, the female ambergran remains out at sea for the duration of her pregnancy. The one or rarely two eggs are incubated for three months; the mother burping them every few minutes. When the eggs are hatching, the mother will often gently roll the egg in her mouth to crack it, much as some crocodilians and qurry ornithischians will do for their young.

Even though ambergran eggs are enormous, the hatchlings are still only 10 kilos in size. They are kept well protected by their mother within her jaws in bays and estuaries while their father hunts for both of them. Growth is rapid. The chicks put on hundreds of kilos within months. Their first year may see them nearly 1,200 kilos in weight. Both parents will take the chicks with them out into the open sea after eight months to join the larger flock.
The chicks will remain with their parents for nearly three years; helping with the next hatchling before reaching their adolescent weight of 5,000 kilos and joining their relatives out in the open sea. It will be another 5 years before they consider raising their own chicks.

The latter nomer, ambergran, comes from regurgitated pellets. Ambergrans eat large quantities of deep sea prey, many of while have bones or keratins than cannot be digested. This grain-like oily mush is much like the regurgitations of HE sperm whales and giant diving mosarks in its pungent odor. The musky vomit is being studied with great interest as a possible perfume base.