Two barrelfish float serenly in the warm waters of the Carribean, and so forth.
Earth's coat of liquid water, more than any other feature, separates this planet from the other rocky bodies of the Solar System.
Earth's oceans cover two thirds of the planet's surface, and are home to by far the greatest majority of the planet's biodiversity. In most respects, the deepsea fauna of the Specworld is little different from that of our own - the abyssal environment is almost completely unaffected by events at the surface, and even in Arel was only locally affected by the K-T impact. However, it is susceptible to its own mysterious mass extinctions, perhaps global deepsea oxygen starvation related to current changes at the surface, and the marine biologists of the expedition speculate that it is these that resulted in the few significant differences in deep-sea fauna so far recorded.
Spec Hawaii Islands
Sitting thousands of miles from the coast of North America, Hawaii is easily one of the most remote island chains on Earth. Due to it's isolation, the fauna and flora have radiated into a number of unique forms since their ancestors arrived on the islands. In HE, the islands were dominated by a wild diversity of avifauna, ranging from the nectar-sucking honeycreepers to the large herbivorous geese and ducks. In Spec, this strangeness in local wildlife is amplified by the presence of clades endemic to Spec. The surrounding tropical waters of Hawaii are home to many familiar faces, such as triggerfish, stingrays, etc. And where there's an abundant food source, there's always something to hunt it. Jetting through the water are Dwarf Seaguins (Calcitrornis minor) and Hina (Pelaganserus tropicalis). Hina are one of a handful of equatorial walducks which have survived in the presence of predators such as mosarks, etc. Closer to the shoreline, Hawaiian Smoochers (Labiophoca hawaiiensis) and Lei Turtles (Bensenochelys floris) feed on therichfields of molluscs. These species are common prey for the Mano Kohola (Kronorhinoides swainstoni hawaiiensis). Reef Kronos are thinlydistributed throughout the pacific, restricted to coral islands and atolls, free from competition with the related King Krono.
The shorelines are as rich in life as the adjacent sea. Numerous crustaceans and arthropods scuttle along the surf-blasted rocks and beaches, while ebergs and tubenoses ride the air currents above. An interesting sight one would find on the beach are colonycrabs (Civilicancer hawaiiensis), social crustaceans which build large tunnel systems underground.
This is but only one of many species of Colonycrab, a genus of fiddlercrab distributed across the pacific islands and northern Aotearoa. Building large tunnel systems up to 5 feet underground, populations can number up to 500 individuals. Like their distant ant and wasp relatives, colonycrabs have a similar dimorphic caste system: the large, small-clawed queen is nurtured by serfs, which also maintain the tunnels and feed the soldier crabs, which can't feed themselves with their two large claws. This species has three subspecies, each adapted to different environments: C. h. ora inhabitats coastal habitats; C. h. flumen lives along the rivers and lakes; and H. h. paludis, which dwells resides in the Alakai Swamp on Kauai.
Walking through the lowland forests, one would witness the beauty and oddity of this isolated environment. The forest sings with many sorts of sounds, from tweets and screams, to belches and gurggles. The local wildlife is fittingly as vibrant and colorful as the forests, an example being the Hawaiian Gonzo (Allodirostris jimhensoni). The type species of Gonzo, the Hawaiian Gonzo can be found throughout the lowland forests of the main islands, using it's beak to probe for wood-boring insects. Mating usually takes place during May-July, with both males and females watching over a clutch of 2-4 eggs for two months. The genders of individual gonzos can easily be told apart, with males' heads having deep-blue feathers, while the females are more of a sky-blue.
Another bizzare forest inhabitant of the forest is the Tuki-Tuki (Megafructivora bartsimpsoni), a turkey-sized allocolumbiforme. One of Hawaii's most recognizable species, the Tuki-Tuki is quite an oddity among oddities. For example, is it's bizzare coloring: The head, wings (or what little is left of them), and the legs are yellow; Most of the torso is orange; The eyes are black with a ring of white surrounding the eye itself; It's underside is sky-blue from the tail to the lower torso. The feature that makes the Tuki-Tuki so well known to specornithologists is it's mating call, which it's name is derived from. The many witnesses of it's mating call describe it as "E-E! A-A! Tukki-Tukki!", then followed by a series of high and low-pitched trillings (Tuki-Tuki-Tuki!!!). Most of the witnesses agree that it has be one most annoying noises in all of Spec. No matter how annoying the call is to humans, to the females, it's music to their ears. Shortly after mating, they turke-sized birds lay 2-3 orange-sized eggs, which both parents look after. The Tuki-Tuki plays an important role in Spec-Hawaii's ecosystem.Along the omnivorous Menehune (Chthonopteryx wiki), the Tuki-Tuki is one of the islands' most important fruit-eaters. In fact, some species of tree need the Tuki-Tuki to digest their seeds in order for them to germinate.
Unlike HE Hawaii, Spec Hawaii is not without large predators. Filling the role of top predator is the 'Io Loa (Megaquilla terribilis), a 3-4 foot tall avisaur. Avisaurs have been top predators in Hawaii for at least 4 million years. A close relative of the 'Io Loa is the nocturnal Nightmarcher (Brontostrix nocturna). The main prey of these predators are the large anserids which reside in the light forests, lava fields, and grasslands. The largest of these is the Romper-Stomper (Brontobranta maximus). At up to 7 feet tall, it's Hawaii's largest terrestrial inhabitant. Just how Hawaii's anserids got so large is a puzzle for specpaleontologists, but it is theorized that like their Aotearoan gigaduck relatives, they increased in size as a defensive adpatation, making themselves less vulnerable to predators.
The islands' most unusual predator lives within the Maui cave systems. The Moehewa O Ana (Monstrurachne caverna). This large sunspider preys upon the Manu Ana (Cavernornis mauiensis) which nests on the cavern walls like HE swifts. The Moehewa O Ana has a nasty hunting behavior: when Manu Ana eggs hatch, the sunspider picks up the scent of the egg fluid, and follows it to the nest to prey on the helpless balaclavid chicks. Another predator is the Speopede (Turpiscolopendra reclusiva). A secretive species, most of what is known about it comes from prederved specimens and a few firsthand observations. The speopede buries itself under leaf litter. It senses when prey is near by picking up vibrations through it's antenna. When an unwary victim comes in range, the 5-8 inch long insect lunges out to deliver a nasty bite.
Upon reaching the higher mountain areas, a different cast of players are seen, including Spec's Hawaiian Honeycreepers. Balaclavids fill the nectivore niche in Spec Hawaii, as well as other niches. The best known of these is the 'a'o (Bellusornis montanus). A more remote gonzo species, the Cherry-top (Allodirostris rufucephalus) is endemic to the higher forests. It gets it's name from the blood-red spot on top of it's head which is found in both sexes. Predatory Hotheads (Pyrocephalornis hawaiiensis) scan the tree canopy from above. While found throughout the main islands, these avisaurs only nest in these mountain forests. Numbering around only 400-500, the rarest of the Gonzos is the Baby Blue (Allodirostris mauiensis), which is endemic to the Haleakala Crater in Maui. In this dry wasteland, it gets all the moisture it needs from the many flying insects which make up it's diet. It's rarity is thought to be connected with the lifecycle of the Silverswords (p-Argyroxiphium sp.), which dot the crater. Silverswords are long-living plants, and thus flower rarely. When they do bloom, they provide a grand feast of insects for the Spadaviformes, but shortly after flowering, the plants die. In response to this, insect number drastically, so the Gonzos decrease in number as well.
Freshwater environments, a relatively scarce habitat in Hawaii, is still home to some interesting creatures. Swamp Singers (Vocalornis alakaiensis) swoop along the riverbank, picking mosquitoes and dragonflies out of the air, while Daffy Ducks (p-Anas atra hawaiiensis) calmly stroll through the water. These, along with gobys and eels are the staple food source for the Mano Wai (Edacopteron vorax). The only coelacanth in the region, it is the unchallenged king of the rivers, lakes, and ponds, eating anything that can fit in it's mouth. During the initial exploration of the islands, it wasn't uncommon for a spexplorer to suddenly be yanked underwater by one of the voracious fish.
Exploration Of The Spec Mid-Atlantic Ridge:
The following is a series of notes written down for an unpublished paper of the fauna the inhabit the Mid-Atlantic region of Spec's oceans. ...But the shrimps down here did not seem to be blinded by the low setting that my submersible was opperating at. In fact, the shrimps that exist down here were actually trying to head towards my sub...were they somehow thinking that I could protect them? What down here would have given them that impression?
Or, seeing a larger body swimming towards the driftsquid, perhaps they were simply fleeing from it. And 'it' in this case was a squid. While the far-better-known Baleen Squids feed and travel by heading backwards, towards its arms; this creature seemed to use its siphon to propell it slowly into and through the clouds of driftshrimp, its arms held out in such a way as to funnel the driftshrimp towars its beak.
This type of squid had utterly lost its eyes, vanished over evolutionary time. Yet it seemed to have changed its mind at some point, you might say, since there were photo-sensitive patches on each of the longest two tentacles. Remembering how the shrimp had reacted, I slowly turned up the brightness of my sub's external lights.
This squid acted completely contrary to the shrimps. Eight of the arms curled up and the eye-tentacles shot out to either side. The siphon stopped pumping, and the body sunk quickly to the floor. Then the eight arms uncurled with enough speed to flick it back up ...and it sunk back down. Over and over again.
It was like watching a grasshopper bound about, with the aim of the predator being unable to determine where the prey would settle.
Then there came a bright light in the ocean depths. Was there another Spec explorer down here? But before I could begin sending a transmission to another sub, the light's source came into better view: a shark.
The shark's nose was blunted, like a cartoon character who'd just hit their head. Somewhy, there were loose folds of skin covering the flat spot.
One of the squid's longer tentacles turned away from me and towards the shark. And if I'd thought the squid to be panicking at my sub's lights, then the sight of the shark sent it into a nervous fit as it pushed itself away with all possible speed. Clearly the siphon was not strong enough to propell it with any speed.
Even the arms were not able to help this one escape fast enough, and the cigar-shaped shark zipped in and chomped the squid in two. While not as speedy as some benthic sharks, this one was quicker than anything else I'd seen down here.
When it turned its head, I could see that there were no eyes. Like the squid, it had lost its eyes; unlike the squid, it hadn't re-evolved anything like eyes.
As the shark swallowed the second half of the squid, the folds parted on the nose, and I had to cover my eyes from the sight. Note to self, inform sub-makers that they need to install glass that shades/tints when struck by bright lights.
This was no mere Flashlight Fish -- this was out and out a shark with searchlights! Hence the name I propose that the species be given. Sadly, I was unable to obtain a specimen, as the searchlight seems to be both a means to stun prey, and also to startle anything that bothers it, such as Spec explorers in submersables.
However, I was able to obtain one creature which had been clinging to the Searchlight Shark, and had been knocked into a collection jar when the shark had been turning around to leave me be. At first, the creature made no sense...until I realized that the eight sickles it bore around the needle mouth were cephalopod hooks. For some reason, evolution had shrunk this octopod's arms to mere fleshy nubs, while enlarging the hooks. The remainder of the body is pear-shaped, smaller than an adult human hand, and just plain inelegant to look at. I'm not sure if this is a true octopus, a squid that'd lost two arms to evolutionary pressure, or another branch of the family.
After having a quick bite to eat within my sub, I continued on. Now that there were no free-swimming animals to distract me, I could focus my attention upon the tube worms, and answer the question once and for all as to whether these were the same sort of worm as found on RL, or if they only seemed to be that way.
I had just put the collection equipment in place around one suitable-looking specimen when a startled crab glided off the seafloor on a current - And the tube worm leaped up and bit into the crab!It was a _Phytomimidae_! One that had evolved here in deep water, mimicking tube worms, and preying upon the crustaceans here.things like the shrimp and shark (why did i start to type 'dhark'?) were inspired by the on-list comment about RL shrimps being blinded by subs. The squids are kinda murky -- the arm-squids can't expand into open-water filter-feeding because those niches are held by faster (&stronger,etc) organisms, like the Baleen Squid and various sharks. the hook-squid can't expand because of the competition by superior Leech Squids and Vampire Snails and Bloodthirsty Barnacles (waiting patiently I am). :) ...so the two just stay in the deep deep sea, adapted to the extremes of pressure
(Roldox and Brhoz)
Denizens of the Deep Miscellanea on Spec's Abyss
The deep sea of Spec, as on HE, remains one of the least explored and most mysterious areas on the globe. More is known about the moon than about HE's deep sea; the situation is even worse on Spec, with deep-sea trawls being the primary source of information gathering. There have been a good many depth dives, tragically cut short with the unfortunate fate of the late George Gilman. Today, the submersible is slowly replacing more antique methods as the primary means of exploring the deep.
As relatively undisturbed environments, Spec's abysses are quite similar to those on HE. Most fish have bioluminescent apparatuses to display, detect or attract prey, and confuse predators. Anglerfish, viperfish, dragonfish, fangtooths, loosejaws, swallowers, gulper eels, lanternfish, barreleys all of these inordinately descriptive names have been applied to the p-versions of these fish. It would appear that, ironic as it is, the bizarre deep sea is actually the most familiar place to HE residents.However, exceptions abound, as they so often do on Spec. The existence of many surviving and new clades has imposed some animals that do not comfortably fit in with our own expectations. Many, if not all of these animals are known only by their Latin names. Some of the most famous and spectacular of these are the chthonacanths (Chthonacanthinae), or hellcanths, a family of highly derived and bizarre coelacanths that have adapted to live in the deepest benthic reaches of the sea. While known latimeriid coelacanths are already deep-dwellers, their morphology pales in comparison to the hellcanths.
Hellcanths are often large fishes, growing to a maximum of 5 meters. These fearsome brutes function as indiscriminate hunters and scavengers of the benthos. Their colors range from somber blacks and browns to pallid white and even, incredibly, a brilliant scarlet (Infernocanthus pyrrhus) which goes undetected in the lightless waters. Bioluminescent organs are present, usually lining the flanks and sometimes illuminating the inside of the mouth. Their jaws are garnished with sharp, protruding teeth, and their stomachs can swell to accommodate extra food. Hellcanths are slow and lazy swimmers; conversely, their lobefins are exceptionally strong and are used to prop them up on the seafloor or even propel them as they "walk" on the sand, looking for buried prey. The type specimen Chthonacanthus opalescens was discovered during a trawl for baleen-squid spawn, and since then has turned up regularly as bycatch and has been seen alive at the bottom of the sea by submersible crews. Stomach contents prove that this fish has scavenged (if not actively preyed upon) backscratcher sharks. Also recognized are Spectrichthys and Infernocanthus, both poorly-known.Sharing the floor with hellcanths are owlrays (Buboraja sp.), aberrant and bizarre specimens of torpedo ray. Although their electro-sense is highly advanced and extremely acute, they have completely lost their eyes. Owlrays depend entirely on the electric field surrounding their body to guide them through darkness that would otherwise be impenetrable to vision.
Sharks are also regulars to the abyss. The iconic shark of the deep is the backscratcher, which feeds on animals beneath the sand, and is in turn eaten by hellcanths. Another shark, the hybodont Noctilucopterus 'brachyrhinus, or "glowfin", has bioluminescence at the tips of each fin, presumably to trick small predators into seeing it as many small fish. Tiny flashlight-sharks (Genus unknown) use a large patch of bioluminescence on their use. The flashlight-sharks themselves are vicious little predators that will work their way into other fish's gills and devour them from the inside out.
The long, thin Lamprotoxichthys 'draconinus looks convincingly like some escapee from a low-grade science fiction novel. Several elongated glowing barbels stream from its toothy head, giving it quite a frightening appearance. Nonetheless, it has proven to be quite common and actually edible. Spec-gourmets often resort to lopping the hideous head off before cooking it.The largest animals of the deep are the visitors, gigantic saurocetes and anatocetes marauding the abyss in the search of prey. Judging from the tooth and tentacle marks that many of them bear on their hide, whatever it is that they hunt can fight back very well.