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INTRODUCTION

REGITHERIIDAE (Moltiarties)

In RL, the northern continents are full of molehills, sub-Saharan Africa has the so-called golden moles, and Australia has marsupial moles. Madagascar has at least a digging tenrec. South America has nothing of that sort. Such animals simply never evolved there. This is a source of great puzzlement to those few people who ever think about these matters.

Naturally, the situation is different in Spec. The South American continent, especially across the flat Pampas, is peppered with molehills. The first spexplorers theorized that real moles from North America had reached this far south. The truth is not so simple, or perhaps it is simpler: Docodonts (non-mammalian mammaliaforms dating back to the Middle Jurassic) have survived in Spec's South America. This fact is very convenient for RL paleontologists, because so far the only reasonably complete docodont specimen comes from the Late Jurassic of Portugal. Like ancient Haldanodon, today's moliarties use mainly their forehead, which is covered by a thick horny pad, to dig in soft soils. Unlike true moles (which do live in Spec), moliarties sprawl, lay eggs, and, unique among extant mammals, retain the archaic double jaw joint, formed by bones that, in other mammals, support the tissues of the inner ear. Like many archaic mammals, male moliarties bear a poison spur on each ankle.

Copper moliarty (Antitalpa vulpecula)

Digg2

Copper moliarty, Antitalpa vulpecula (Southern South America)

Despite the fact that its tunnels are everywhere and its molehills are impossible to overlook, the beautiful, metallic-orange, 15cm-long copper moliarty is very seldom seen. It only leaves its tunnels when it absolutely has to, and such situations are extremely rare. The first biologists who tried to dig one up will never repeat the experience, for example, because a sting from a male's poison spurs is comparable to the nastiest snakebites.

Digger

Copper moliarty in a shallow excavation

Nevertheless, unending curiosity on the part of many spexplorers has brought to light a few facts about this elusive creature. Copper moliarty nests are always deeper than 3 m in the ground (protection against pseudosauropod stampedes) and contain 4-6 relatively large, sticky, soft-shelled eggs. Apparently the eggs are laid some time before the rainy season starts, so that the young hatch when there are most insect larvae in the ground, but nobody knows for sure.

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