Darwin IV- Arrowtongue and Thornback

"A pod of eight thornbacks burst into view."

The Thornback is an armored, gregarious, herbivorous tripedalien from the planet Darwin IV. Barlowe had an interesting encounter with some late one afternoon in the fall of 2358 during the First Darwinian Expedition, near a stretch of dried-up riverbed in Chasma de Salle that twists in ghostly oxbows across the plains, in Planitia Borealis.

There can be at least two major herds feeding alongside each other, each composed of about 100 individuals pinging and eating. As many as five pods of thornbacks will break away from the main herds. They meander around the dusty ravines, searching for round, rolling, succulent fodderball weeds that make up their usual forage. Predators that will hunt down these wandering individuals include arrowtongues. When Thornbacks are in danger, they will make warning pings.

Am wayne barlowe thornback

The thornback's flexible bony plates, or scutes, and two-meter-long horn provide the creature with formidable defenses even while it is asleep. When fleeing, the tripedaliens gather in tightly packed herds that confuse their pursuers with deceptive sonar images.

When running, thornbacks' clattering hooves seem to barely touch the ground. Their dorsal nostrils pucker and flare as their foamy breath moistens their armored backs. Members of a pod will run as one, instinctively knowing that security lays on their joined efforts. Running in a mass with only their horned backs exposed, they provide their pursuer with a confusing sonar image. Without a single target to focus upon, the hunter can only follow its prey and hope for a killing opportunity.
Steeple Gourds

Thornbacks grazing in the shadow of steeple-gourds.