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Reedstilt

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Reedstilt

On its thin legs, the reedstilt stands nearly a meter high at the shoulder.

The reedstilt, Harundopes virgatus, is a tall, almost dinosaur-like talpine talpid frequently found near riverbanks and lakesides in the wetlands of temperate woodlands and grasslands of the Northern Continent, in After Man: A Zoology of the Future.

Its long, slender legs and neck and vertical stripes render it almost totally invisible among reeds, where it is frequently found fishing. Its head and neck are most unusual. Practically all mammals have seven neck vertebrae, but the reedstilt has fifteen. In evolutionary terms the extra vertebrae have appeared quite recently and result from the fact that, in fishing, longer-necked individuals have an advantage over the others. The tooth pattern is degenerate (the incisors, canines and molars having all reverted to an almost reptilian condition in which they are all of the same shape). The reedstilt uses this combination of neck and tooth features to catch ray-finned fish by darting out its long neck and snapping shut its needle-pointed teeth.

Reedstilt fishing

The reedstilt stands motionless in the water until a ray-finned fish swims directly beneath it. Plunging its head into the water, it seizes the ray-finned fish, straightens its neck and swallows it.

Reedstilt legs

The lower parts of its legs are covered with hair and probably provide camouflage as well as protection

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