XOTLNOPS

planet: Humma

Xotlnops [zot-l-nops] is a large quadruped native to the planet Humma, living throughout the core region. A generalist species, xotlnops are a successful ambush predator living near embankments of the rivulet system in the Chanaconaway archipelago, but can also survive in higher altitudes and mountain regions. Xotlnops are known for their long, slender frame and carapace neck and tail regions, reaching lengths of 3 meters (118 inches).

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Core region on Humma.

Evolution: Xotlnops are part of a larger family of carapace covered quadrupeds known as the chichecnopto, a group believed to have originated in the core region 30 millions years ago. Xotlnops bones have been dated back to 3.9M orbits (5.5M Earth orbits ago). Xotlnops belongs to a group of animals that have distinct beak-like mouths, with Phoraxl being the largest, living exclusively in the Northern region of Udeligivde. Like most native humma fauna living on land, xotlnops descended from a single group of animals; the chichecnopto, with arthropod characteristics. Some key distinctions from Earth arthropods include a unique endoskeleton with some exoskeletal features and a proto-digestive sack below the eye socket. Such developments enabled their insect-like descendants to reach larger body sizes.

Cladogram of the chichenopto group: trexmachipo, agodopl, xotlnops, checleops, phoraxl, poco.

Characteristics:Being of exoplanetary origin, it is not surprising that the xotlnops has unique anatomy and biological solutions. The overall skeleton is at the core an endoskeleton with muscle groups built for larger body support; however key areas such as the neck and tail have skeletal features on the outside. Earth based fauna such as extant turtles and amardillos, along with extinct species such as glyptodon and doedicurus contained endoskeletons with exoskeletal features. Unlike earth tetrapods, xotlnops exterior neck bone is flexible, a carapace with an internal interlacing lattice-like structure that does not impede its movement. Additionally, they have wings that jut out the pelvic bone which cover the tail.

The jaw bone connects in front of the eye socket, leaving the xotlnops to have a more elongated, almost duck billed mouth, with pointed dentition for tearing flesh. The dental arcade has a fan-like display where the back tooth points down, then radiating to a near parallel-to-ground direction. The curvature of the alveoli creates the ability to tear large pieces of flesh.

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Below the brain stem resides a “proto-stomach”: a thick cutaneous sack which makes acids for breaking down meat and other swallowed matter. Food gets washed with a thick, gelatinous saliva rich in enzymes allowing for quick processing of nutrients to the body before traveling to the main gut near the hindlimb.

The head of xotlnops comes to a point, and with a highly maneuverable neck, serves to deeply cut and slash large prey. The front limbs have an inner protruding talon for additional clutching and tearing.

Xotlnops exhibit sexual dimorphism most apparently with their tails. Males exhibit rich blues and greens, while females generally contain greens and browns. From the pelvic area a wing-like carapace juts out on each side of the tail. Though much harder than the neck carapace, these “wings” share a similar composition and thickness, with hairs extending throughout the edge. Observation shows these are not only displays for courtship, but are also used as a signaling device for communication.

Xotlnops stand about 1 meter high (28” – 42”) with a long, slender body which reaches 3 meters from snout to tail. Of this length, the tail accounts for about 1 – 1.3 meters. Males are larger, weighing on average 140 Kg (308 Lbs), and females weighing about 120Kg (265 Lbs). The largest xotlnops on records was caught weighing in at 163Kg (359 Lbs).

Behavior: The splintering riverbeds of Chanaconaway offer a rich diversity of life, and xotlops, a successful generalist predator, will eat a wide array of sizes of animals, from Humma fish to flying bocs. As an obligate carnivore, it seeks larger prey, such at the herbivorous shukku. Xotlnops have been known to stalk their prey in the dense riverbank coverings for days.

The flexible spine allows for extreme leap and tear tactics, usually marking an upward strike to the lower neck. Once a prey is lacerated, xotlnops will circle round and either knock over or wait for it to bleed out.

A single large kill can hold a xotlnops for several days, but if hunting in packs are known to strike only a day apart.

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Xotlnops move in small packs of 3 – 5 individuals, but they are also known to roam in pairs. Essentially, xotlnops are social creatures, and use communication for hunting, mating, group dynamics, and is a major reason for their success as a species.

The reproductive cycle is generally once every other Humma year. Litter size ranges between two to four nups (child xotlnops) and is generally parented for at least one year. Upon sexual maturity, young adults leave the pack to find their own territory. Siblings can stay paired for life, but may split when introduced to a new pack.

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Scouts survey the edge of the transitional border.

Relationships with Hummas: Xotlnops were some of the earliest recorded challenges for the early settlers of Humma, and so, it is not surprising we find them in Humma folklore and ancient art dating back several thousands of years. Modern times have acclimated to a “working relationship” with the beasts. Most Humma cities have a transitional area around their border which protect them from nearing wildlife. Scouts survey the transitional area for wandering predators and are equipped to keep them from entering highly populated areas. Because of the larger size of Humma compared to Earth, and overall expansion of human population to other planets, their is ample space for wildlife to co-exist with modern cities.

In trade, xotlnops carapaces make popular wares, and can be found in jewelry, pots, vases, plates, belts and other apparel. The bolo is a percussion instrument made from the dried and treated carapace. Xotlnops meat is not generally eaten by the general public, and they are rarely made as pets, usually only found in interactive reserves or captured and trained for sheer entertainment.