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bhut: , ( ) " : ". . : " " : , . ( ). . , , - "", Ungulagus spp. -, ( ), , , , , - . , . - , Microlagus mussops, " - ". " , , ". : "" , , ? - , , . , . , , - , , " , " . , . , - Ungulagus spp., - Macrolagus spp., "" - Dolabrodon fossor. , ? - . "" . - /, . ( !), ? - . , . , - Cornudens spp., ", Hebecephalus montanus, , , "... , , : - Cornudens spp. - Megalodorcas spp. "Hebecephalus" . - ! . (, ) - , , , - - , , , - . . , , , . . -, - . - ( ) , . , "" (Carnivora), Vulpemustela acer. , mustela - . , , - , , . , , ( Oromustela altifera) , - , , , (, , ) 10 , , . . - , , ? , . , Vulpemys albulus, , Smilomys atrox. "Smilo"? . " - ". ", , , - ". , (Megalodorcas borealis). . , . , , - ... Thalassomus piscivorus Scinderedens solungulus. / ; . ,

- 79, : 1 2 3 4 All

bhut2: - The Migrants (pg. 60-1) The woolly gigantelope (Megalodorcas borealis) was already discussed, and I believe Ive mentioned the bardelot (Smilomys atrox) as well. However The bardelot, unlike other members of the group, exhibits sexual dimorphism in that only the female is equipped with saber teeth and hunts the gigantelopes. The male, having none, resembles more the polar bears that once inhabited these latitudes. This opens up a rather nasty set of questions about the bardelots love life, sorry about the clich. Sexual dimorphism is not that rare a thing, both among the invertebrates (i.e. the stag beetles horns) and the vertebrates (the horns of the actual stags). It usually involves size (spiders), coloring (birds), presence of such specialized weaponry as tusks and horns (deer, etc) and even size (among us). So Dixon didnt make any breakthrough here. Then again, the fact that the bardelots sexes live different life styles isnt that big a shock either. The extinct Huia (Heteralocha acutirostris), a New Zealand bird had that type of sexual dimorphism, and indeed Dixons birds have it as well, namely the pine chuck on pg. 56-7. Basically, this type of sexual dimorphism decreases the feeding competition among the sexes, especially if the food resources are limited (like in the tundra or on is-lands). But this still raises certain questions, including both the bardelots and the woolly gigantelopes. Firstly, is the woolly gigantelope a loner or a social creature? Even the mammoths used to congregate in groups and modern herbivores of the tundra the reindeer and the musk-ox are clearly social, because its easier to survive in a group. While a bardelot female could and would attack a single woolly gigantelope, two or three defending themselves from it as a group could give the bardelot pause. And that leads to the next conundrum. As a rule, females are not as big risk-takers as males, especially in loner species, such as tigers or brown bears. That is because they have to take care of offspring for some part, and that they are actually pregnant for another. I feel it is safe to say that a pregnant bardelot will not be as eager to attack a healthy woolly gigantelope that stands three me-ters at the shoulder without the hump, and is armed with a formidable pair of horns as well. Right? To answer this question lets first see the bardelots other options which are scanty. Anything small like the meaching on pg. 62-3 would be to agile for the bardelot to catch (and those saber-like teeth do not make chewing easy, to say the least), while in-termediate creatures like the Arctic Rabbuck (pg. 38-9) would be probably still too fast and dexterous for the solid-looking female bardelot to catch. So, we return to woolly gi-gantelope and its horns. And then Dixons genius hit me: the horns of gigantelopes were not meant to be weapons! Think of it. The horns of the woolly gigantelope and the true gigantelope on pg. 82-3 were shown to be shovels of sorts, uncovering various sorts of grass-type vegetation from the ground. (And yes, Dixon has shown at least one browser gigantelope into the mix, but the presence of the rabbucks (the Arctic rabbuck here), the strank and the watoo in the savannah (pg. 80-1) shouldve made the gigante-lopes a browsing, rather than a grazing family.) And since to do that these keratin protu-berances of the skull must be very solid and heavy, this means that the gigantelopes are naturally inclined to keep their heads close to the ground, convenient for the predators to attack. Personally, I think thats just dumb. While some antelopes (like the oryx) do use their horns to defend themselves, most prefer to run away instead, a method of defense that the really big gigantelopes seem to lack: they are solid, remotely buffalo-like creatures. The thing is, though, that all the buffalos, irrelevant of their genus, have more or less formi-dable horns to defend themselves not to feed. Seriously, from where did Dixon get the idea that horns can be made into a food-collecting apparatus? Unlike the tusks of pigs and occasionally elephants, the horns (and antlers) of the artiodactyls are mainly for courting females, or defense, as said above Back to the bardelot. What bothers me really is that the male and the female lead such different lifestyles, so how do the young male bardelots learn to hunt in the polar bear style? As a rule, neither polar bear nor rat males show much concern towards their off-spring (and male bears sometimes eat bear cubs), so I dont think that father bardelot will be much help in this department. Plus how does this division of the specie works in terms of habitat? Where do the bardelots make their lairs inland or among the ice? The pilofile, Phalorus phalorus, is an enigmatic bird. During the summer it feeds like the nightjar family, with a ring of stiff hair-like feathers surrounding its beak that forms a cone and deflects insects into its mouth, i.e. during the summer pilofile feeds in flight. Thats fine because during the summer the tundra marshland spawns a whole lot of in-sects. But in winter it migrates south, shedding its bristles and growing in their place a long, probing bill. So, one presumes that by spring/early summer a reverse metamor-phose takes place. Now beaks, like horns, are composed of keratin, so can keratin be shed? If yes, then the pilofile is one of the more realistic birds of Dixons. - The Meaching and Its Enemies (pg. 62-3) Surprisingly, but I think that the meaching (Nixocricetus lemmomorphus) is one of the more realistic animals of Dixons bestiary. Their fortress is now more outlandish than the tunnel system of the prairie dogs, just located above ground due to permafrost. The bootie bird (Corvardea niger) also comes across quite realistic. Still, I guess this means that Dixon got rid of both the snow owl and the various sea eagles that also lived in the north during the summer. Although it even behaves like a heron, wading into shal-low pools and streams to dip for fish. So why couldnt it migrate southwards and take over the Ciconiiformes niche instead of the reedstilt (pg. 48-9)? It is certainly more realis-tic than that mammal. But if I dont have a problem with the bootie bird, the gandimot (Bustivapus septen-treonalis) is another story. It has supposedly descended from the magpies, which are birds of open, partly wooded land, or farmland: i.e. those temperate woodlands and grass-lands mentioned by Dixon earlier. So why would the magpies migrate north? From what I gleaned, they are actually inclined to the warmer climates than other corvids like crows and ravens. The polar ravene Vulpemys albulus is yet another predator rat. Since the last predator rats that the book talks about actually inhabit the Arctic Ocean, this makes me think that the predator rats have moved northwards from their temperate habitat, not south. But that was discussed earlier. Finally, the lesser ptarmigan, Lagopa minutus, nests exclusively in old meaching bur-rows. What for? Safety? Rodents arent so good guards, and in fact their colonies at-tract predators (just look at the prairie dogs). Unless the ptarmigan is one of these preda-tors, I doubt that the nesting ptarmigans will find much comfort if a polar ravene or an-other predator will decide to have their eggs or nestlings as a consolation prize. - The Polar Ocean (pg. 64-5) I have already talked about the pytheron (Thalassomus piscivorus) and the distarterops (Scinderedens solungulus) in the earlier essay why would rats want to go into the arctic waters in the first place? Also, what advantage does the distarterops asymmetry gives it? The walrus have two tusks to deal with the shellfish, and no claws. Plus, why just the left claw? Wouldnt two claws be more efficient? And, does the female distarterops have claws since it has no tusks specifically designed to dislodge shellfish? Also, abrasion patterns on the tusks show that they are dragged through the sediment, but are not used to dig up prey like the distarterops does. The flightless auks first evolved at the northernmost tip of the Northern continent and, as they became established, spread both east and west, forming a chain of subspecies in a ring around the Polar Ocean. Throughout most of the ring each subspecies is able to breed with the neighboring ones, but where the ends of the chain overlap the differences are so great, that no inbreeding is possible and these populations must be regarded as separate species. Firstly, I go to ask: and the other marine birds? The Alcid family of auks alone has 11 genera of very different birds, and the Charadriiformes family itself has about 350 spe-cies all over the world. So what has happened to them? Gone extinct? Secondly, why are the differences at the ends of the chain so great? What changes in the habitats have affected the flightless auks so, that the end results are so different indeed? The chain of subspecies does not make the picture clear either. Not to mention that in-breeding is not that great in regards to the gene pool - The Southern Ocean (pg. 66-7) I have talked both about the Pelagornids and the skern earlier, and so I wont do so now. Ill just ask again: how do the Pelagornid chicks handle their first entrance into the Ant-arctic waters, how have they adapted to the fully aquatic life period? Even the baby ceta-ceans need help staying afloat and getting around and compared to them the baby pen-guins are much more helpless and vulnerable to cold. And also, all the cetaceans went extinct?! Ouch! Here I thought that humanity has gotten it act together and has started to actually save the whales and the dolphins as well as other aquatic animals. But no, they died out the cetaceans, the pinnipeds, the sirenians (dugongs and manatees). Dixon must have a really low opinion of humans, I suppose. - The Mountains (pg. 68-9) I have mentioned all the montane creatures of Dixons earlier, so theres no need to re-visit them. Ill just add that the parashrew Pennatacauduus volitarius with its dandelion-seed method of transportation must be the most bizarre creature that Ive ever read about, including the chiselhead.

bhut2: - The Sand Dwellers (pg. 72-3) Okay, I admit. I am not really competent in regard to desert animals, so I am not going to really comment on them. Although, the spitting featherfoot Pennapus saltans does re-semble somewhat the kangaroo rats of North America, but since the North American de-sert animals are discussed on pg. 76-7, neither it nor the kangaroo leaper could have de-scended from them, so well have to settle for the jerboas of Asia and Africa instead. True, the jerboas prefer to go to hibernation during the hotter parts of the year, but compared to other creatures of Dixons, the featherfoot and its amazing kidneys are actu-ally realistic. As for the leaping devil, Daemonops rotundus, an insectivore with carnivorous habits, it could have descended from the elephant shrew (family Macroscelididae, order Mac-roscelidea), which do live in such places as the Namib Desert (and Dixon does have a desert in southern Africa as well), but that would rule out the jerboas as the featherfoots ancestors. Anybody else has any theories what animals could have been the ancestors of the featherfoot or the leaping devil? Or the desert sharks Psammonarus spp.? The golden moles (family Chrysochloridae, or-der Afrosoricida) are insectivorous burrowing mammals that live in southern Africa (the Namib desert again!) but the desert sharks have about as much similarities with them as the chiselhead does with the squirrels of todays. - Large desert animals (pg. 74-5) Okay, heres the thing. While it may look like a stretch that the camels have died out, one must realize that the dromedary camel has been strongly domesticated (though there is a substantial feral population of them in central Australia, of all places), and if the conven-tional farm animals have died-out (pg 38-9), why should the dromedary be spared? And the Bactrian camel has been strongly domesticated as well same story. There are about 1000 wild Bactrian Camels in the Gobi Desert and small numbers in Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey and Russia. So, in Dixons vision, the camels future does not look good (and considering what is currently goes in Iran he may have an impromptu point here). Next, we come to the desert leaper, Aquator adepsicautus. The leaper is descended from the rodents, possibly one of the jerboas or sand rats. (By sand rats Dixon most likely means those rodents that are more commonly known as gerbils.) I doubt that. The jerboa moves like the kangaroos of Australia and the kangaroo rats of New World i.e. no fore-limbs involved in locomotion, ever, plus they are nocturnal, and the desert leaper is probably not, while the gerbils are also nocturnal, and are about 8 inches long with 9 inch tail. To go and grow into a 10-foot rodent equivalent of a camel would take a serious toll on the gerbils (most desert rodents, as a matter of fact) skeleton system, of that I am sure. It should be noted that the camels/camelids have originated in what is now south-east USA when it was not desert, and have arrived in Old World deserts after a long mi-gration and evolution, while the desert leapers rodent ancestors were apparently home-grown. Plus the modern camels ancestors had the size advantage from the start. Barring the question of size, theres also the matter of fur. Why did the desert leaper lose it? It gets very cold in the deserts at night, and without the fur (and most of subcutaneous fat is being stored in the tail) the desert leaper might grow quite cold very soon; and dur-ing the day wont the creature get sunburned (or tanned, for that matter?) All of the above facts witness against the desert leapers plausibility rather than for it, but because I am not a specialist in desert animals, I may be wrong. The other large desert animals on pg. 74-5 also look bizarre, to say the least. The grobbit (Ungulamys cerviforme) is another rodent though it sort of looks like a rabbit or rather a rabbuck with these ears. Since it has evolved hooves and is about 2 feet in size, I think that it will have problems getting these ears cleaned after sandstorms, though maybe the rocky desert it lives in may not have that much sand. But at least it has fur. And a long tail. Most large herbivorous animals do not have long tails, except for the equiids (horses, zebras, and co.) that evolved theirs into fly-swatters. The grobbits tail does not look like a flyswatter, so why does it need a long tail?.. The khilla, Carnosuncus pilopodus, has descended from insectivores, and is standing 2 feet tall at the shoulder. Considering that the reedstilt (pg. 48-9) is standing 1 meter tall at the shoulder (a bit over 3 feet), this is nothing fancy. What bothers me that for a descen-dant of insectivores (elephant shrews?) the khilla looks too much like a crazy coyote; in fact, when I showed it on a whim to one of my sisters charges (she baby-sits the neighbors kids), the boy said: Doggie! And yes, I know that the artist Diz Wallis was relying on Dixons own original sketches for illustrations, but honestly, she couldnt have asked for somebody elses advice? Guess that the year 1981 was different in a lot of things from today. As for the kriskin, a common predatory bird in desert areas well, to me it just looks like a generalized bird. Sorry, Dixon and Diz Wallis, but if take out of context, Id say that it feeds on insects as easily as one could say that it feeds on snakes. The artist bombed. - The North American Deserts (pg. 76-7) When I first saw the fin lizard Velusarus bipod, I actually thought: What the Hell is it? The theoretical critter looked like it actually belonged on Mars in a cheap sci-fi movie than on Earth. So, what do I have against the fin lizard? Plenty. First of all, why did its forelegs go? Even the great theropods, the Tyrannosauroidea superfamily, kept some vestiges of its forelimbs. The fin lizard didnt, and neither did the South American mammal wakka (Anabracchium struthioforme), (pg. 104-5). This raises a curious, albeit a childish ques-tion: what happens if a fin lizard (or a wakka) falls, and cant get up? The bipedal crea-tures, namely us, use arms and hands to push themselves even into an upright position and quadrupeds can push themselves along on their forelimbs. The fin lizard with only two legs cant really do either of the things, no? And if somebody catches a fin lizard by a leg, then again, it is in trouble, because with one broken and one functioning limb, a reptiles chances of survival are slim. If we are talking about lets, lets talk about how theyre built. The modern lizards are sprawling because their legs connect with the hip bones forming right angles. This makes it impossible for the lizards to stand up erect, as the dinosaurs did. The fin lizard, on the other hand, is clearly erect, so this makes me wonder: just from what has it evolved from? Dixon tells us nothing about that. Finally, the fin lizards tail. It has fins to raise into the wind when its body becomes too hot. Modern desert lizards just go and climb into burrows, under rocks, or just bury themselves in sand to do just that. Guess Dixon just tried to be showy. Anyways, the modern animals that depended on speed (as well as the extinct dinosaurs) have stream-lined tails (like the cheetah) or tails that are practically absent (the gazelles, the prong-horn, etc). The fin lizards tail on the other hand has a sail-like fin. Firstly, wont it slow the fin lizard down? Secondly, wont it as easily catch heat from the sun as it will dispel it? Compared to the fin lizard, the rootsuckers (Palatops spp.) look actually rather normal. Personally, I think that it looks like an armadillo of the Chlamyphorus genus (fairy arma-dillos), albeit a big a bulky one. Admittedly, it is armored to protect itself from desicca-tion rather tan to defend it from attack, but the similarities are there, and only the lower incisors in its jaw (armadillos are about as toothy as anteaters) makes it not a member of the Cingulata order. On the other hand the desert spickle (and if there are any others, Dixon didnt mention them) Fistulostium setosum is clearly not a realistic animal. It has no teeth and subsists entirely on nectar of cactus flowers which it drinks through its long snout. Judging from the spickles picture on pg. 76, it rather laps the nectar up with its tongue, but thats just nitpicking. Seriously though, what does the spickle do when the flowering season is over? I doubt that it can go into hibernation, because nectar does not accumulates well into fat, and unless spickle can make honey, its probably toast. As for the long-legged quail, Deserta catholica, it is clearly a New World Quail (family Odontophoridae). Those birds eat mainly plant matter, but eat insects and similar crea-tures as well, so I guess if all the birds of prey (and owls) have died out in the New World as well, then a carnivorous quail is passable.

bhut2: - The Grass-Eaters (pg. 80-1) The rabbucks (Ungulagus spp. and the picktooth Dolabrodon fossor) were already dis-cussed by me and Tiina earlier, while the flightless guinea fowl (Pseudostruthio gularis) looks realistic enough. My only wonder, though, is what happened to the original os-triches; did humans hunt them down to extinction or what? Personally, I think that Dixon did that with all the ratites, at least the bigger ones ostrich, rhea, cassowary, and emu. Of course, since Dixon does not offer any evidence in either way, this is just specula-tion - Giants of the Plains (pg. 82-3) Again, the gigantelopes were discussed before (together with the hornheads and the woolly gigantelope). Still, I must point out that according to Dixon the hornheads (pg. 52-3) have descended from the gigantelopes, as did the woolly gigantelope (pg. 60-1). Since both of them have descended not from the current gigantelopes as illustrated on pg. 82-3 that is fine, though it wouldve been nice if Dixon had shown some intermediate forms. Or maybe he did, but the artists and the editors just didnt show them. Oh well. - The Meat-Eaters (pg. 84-5) Now weve come to something interesting. The horrane, Phobocebus hamungulus, is descended from the tree-dwelling apes of the tropical forests, a fact indicated by the way that the animal walks on the knuckles of its forefeet. Really? Judging from the illustra-tion by Diz Wallis, the horrane walks on the knuckles because of the massive claws on its forefeet! After all, the anteaters of the New World and some of the bigger armadillos walk in the same way on the knuckles of their forefeet but nobody compiles them with the primates. Not yet, anyways. Anyways, knuckles aside, the main reason why the horrane could not be an ape (a homi-noid) is because of its tail. All apes/hominoids are tailless, while the horrane shows-off a very impressive tail, so Id rather put it into the Cercopithecid family of the Old World Monkeys, whose representatives I am not talking about the baboons can be encoun-tered on the plains. However, the primates (I am talking about the simians monkeys and apes) are omnivorous, rather than strictly carnivorous, as a rule. Even the baboons and their relatives can eat plant food, not just animal. (On the other hand, the superfamily Colobinae is largely herbivorous but the colobines are some of the most sylvan of monkeys, so they are irrelevant to the horrane.) The horrane, however, is strictly carnivo-rous: As they pass by, the horrane leaps out on to the back or neck of its quarry, using its sickle-like claws to rip deep wounds around the neck and throat. The horranes hunting relies heavily on concealment and the element of surprise, in other words uses the am-bushing tactic, not unlike the one of the cats. Only most of the modern predators-ambushers, like the tigers, leopards, and partially lions, use claws to secure their prey, and finish it off with a suffocating bite. Isnt that more sureproof than bleeding a gigante-lope to death? Then we come to the raboons, Carnopapio spp. Personally, I like the raboons; Dixon and Diz Wallis in the upper left-hand corner of pg. 84 have even shown the evolution from the baboon to the raboon, and it is reasonable-looking. Its just that, well, I dont see why the baboons had to evolve into mammalian theropods rather than new apes. After all, all monkeys have hands, rather than paws (though not as advanced as those of the apes). Then we learn that there are at least 3 species of the raboons, as shown by Dixon. There may be more, but only 3 are discussed. It stands about 2.3 meters high at the hip and lives purely as a scavenger. As a rule, there are few large mammal scavengers, and those that do scavenge as hyenas or lions can also hunt live prey. So why cant C. gran-dis?.. As for the ghole, Pallidogale nudicollum, it is supposedly the most efficient scavenger of the African grasslands. Again, I am not so sure about that. Yes, smaller mammals (such as the raccoons) can also scavenge, but the most efficient (and specialized) scaven-gers are the birds, vultures of the Old and New Worlds. They didnt die out Diz Wallis on pg. 85 shows birds eating the dead gigantelope alongside the gholes. So I doubt that the gholes are all that they lack one very important thing to compete with the neo-vultures (or whatever those birds are) they lack wings: they lack speed to compete with them for the remains of gigantelopes and other dead animals. The almost symbiotic relationship with a specie of termite that the gholes have also bothers me. Termites eat cellulose in its various forms as plant fiber. To do that, Paul Volkov pointed out earlier, they evolved/developed a very specialized digestive system complete with symbiotic protozoa and other microbes. So how can Dixons termites feed on the scraps of carrion? To do that would change the whole digestive system of the termite. Even if it is possible, I still think it is a stretch.


bhut2: - The Tree-Top Canopy Now the flunkey, Alesimia lapsus, the amazing gliding monkey, looks passable enough. Though it may look impossible, one is ought to remember that the modern gliding ani-mals flying squirrels, geckos, frogs, colugos, and tree snakes they all did not pop into gliding-hood overnight. Thus, the flunkey does have a historical precedent to speak on its behalf, in the evolutionary sense, so to speak. Of course monkeys appear no need to glide, due to their amazing tree-leaping abilities, but so do squirrels, and that didnt stop so of their numbers of developing gliding skills. On the other hand, the ziddah, Araneapithecus manucaudata, seems to a chimerical crea-ture, composed of hylobatid familys brachiating style and the New World monkeys semi-prehensile tail (capuchin monkeys). I think its a bit of stretch (Old World monkeys and tree-dwelling apes deal just fine with arboreal lifestyle without a prehensile tail, and to use it only for hanging from when resting or asleep makes me wonder if that is pos-sible I mean, when a body is sleeping, all of its muscular structure relaxes or what? Also, I dont know why the ziddah should be tiny. The capuchin monkeys are 30 to k6 cm while the biggest of the lesser apes, the siamang, can reach 1 m in height and weigh up to 23 kg. But since it was Dixons call, this speculation is moot. Finally theres the anchorwhip, Flagellanguis viridis an extremely long and thin tree snake. Its broad, grasping tail, the most muscular part of the body, is used to anchor it to a tree while it lies coiled and camouflaged among the leaves of the tallest crowns to wait for an unwary passing bird. The snake is capable of darting out three meters, equivalent to about four-fifths of its body length, and seizing its prey while still retaining a tight hold on the branch with its tail. Now, there are two types of snakes venomous and non-venomous. Which one is the anchorwhip? How does it hunt? To grab the bird is only a part of the process: the snakes teeth, by their own, are not the sturdiest material around, so once the bird is grabbed, the anchorwhip must either poison it, or suffocate it. I lean towards the constrictortype snake, because the venom even of the most venomous snakes does not kick right away, a struggling bird (or any other type of prey I think its reasonable to expect that a hungry anchorwhip wont pass a convenient monkey or other small animal within its reach), could still break lose, break the snakes teeth, and flee to die someplace else. Since the anchorwhip is not build for speed, and because it is not easy to find a dead animal in a rainforest, I think that after establishing a hold, the anchorwhip brings its coils into the play, chocking its prey to death. What do you think? - Living in the trees (pg. 90-1) Now, the striger, Saevitia feliforme, is my friends favorite animal in this book. He once (when he was in the grade 6), wrote a story for his class where the strigers have evolved into sort of anthropoid creatures, similar to early Homo. When I asked him about it, he pointed out that the strigers have hands and dont hands make a body smarter? Now, I think that he has a point. A hand (or a prehensile foot, for that matter), is a rather more complicated organ than a paw, it can manipulate objects. What bothers me is why a feline would evolve it in the first place? To adapt to the life on trees? Felines may be no stranger to the arboreal ecosystem, but unlike the mustelids and certain viverrids they prefer to hunt on the ground as well; plus they already have an important advantage over the monkeys - they can see during the night, while the monkeys cant (except for the Aotidae family of the New World). Thus, the striger, if did become specialized in preying on monkeys, should have really adapted to a nocturnal way of life so that it would be able to hunt monkeys when they are at their weakest modern leopards do exactly that, by the way. Speaking of monkeys, the striger got its nemesis the khiffah, Armasenex aedificator, a monkey whose defense is based on its social organization. It is not unknown for a female to taunt a passing striger and allow herself to be pursued back to the citadel, dash-ing to safety while the striger finds its way barred by a powerful male capable of disem-boweling it with a swipe of its powerful claws. This apparently senseless behavior, how-ever, provides the colony with fresh meat, a welcome supplement to their basic vegetar-ian diet of roots and berries. Only young and inexperienced strigers are caught this way. Firstly, the khiffah is the horranes (pg. 84-5) opposite number: the latter is an ape with a tail; the former is a monkey without it. Even the mandrills have tails, albeit only 7-12 cm. long. The khiffah, however, lacks a tail altogether, at least according to the artist Diz Wallis. It is built like a neckless orangutan, with horny armor over the face and chest, which actually makes sense, because the cats tend to go for the throat to kill, vicious claws on the thumb and forefinger (the khiffah illustrated on pg. 90 has claws on all of its fingers and toes), and a face like an orc. (Well it does to me.) The female drawn on pg. 91 lacks them. Again, this is nothing outlandish, many males are more impressive and better armed than the females, but Since the khiffahs are obviously well-equipped to deal with the striger if it decides for a close encounter, that is just more motivation to make the striger nocturnal. Secondly, if the khiffahs have a basic vegetarian diet of roots and berries and they want to differen-tiate it, rather than playing with strigers who can turn the tables on them all too easily, wouldnt it make more sense to eat besides roots and berries (wouldnt it make more sense to eat leaves and berries instead if you live in a tree?) insects, spiders, geckos, bird nestlings, etc? Certainly they are less dangerous, easier to catch, and more populous than the strigers? Finally, theres the clatta, Testudicaudatus tardus, a lemur-like prosimian with a heavily armored tail protected by a series of overlapping horny plates. When attacked, the clatta drops down, presenting the predator with an impenetrable heavy-plated tail. The predator, of course, is the same striger. To begin with, the non-Madagascar prosimians (and Madagascar is still a separate island, ergo no striger there) are represented (at this day and age) by the infraorder Lorisiformes, which consists of 2 families: Lorisidae and Galagidae. The lorisids, or lorids, (lorises, pottos, and angwantibos) are slim arboreal animals with diurnal lifestyle and unlike the closely related galagos, they have slow, deliberate movements and never jump. Can one of them be an ancestor of the clatta? Theoretically yes, but in practice the lorids tails are short or missing completely, so just how can a piece of fur 3 to 10 cm long evolve into that armored monstrosity? Secondly, the lorids limbs are all prehensile with opposable thumbs, while the clattas limbs resemble those of the sloths or anteaters in-stead. Why would the prosimians devolve in this way? And then, of course, I seriously doubt about the effectiveness of the tail. The striger itself has a pad of hairless skin at the tip of the tail () used for gripping branches. Since the clatta is found on the lower branches of tropical trees, i.e. the thicker ones, what exactly prevents the striger from dropping upside down as well to eat a clatta at its lei-sure? - The Forest Floor Leading the charge are the pigs, anteater-like turmi Formicerus paladens and the zarander, Procerosus elephanasus, who resembles either the tapirs or the okapi aka the forest giraffe (Okapia johnstoni). Lets look at the turmi first. Though it superficially resembles the warthogs (genus Phacochoerus) the latter were never jungle animals; the swine that lived in the jungles belonged to the genuses Hylochoerus (Giant Forest Hog) and Potamochoerus (Bushpig, Red River Hog, etc). Which one of the two was the ancestor of the Neocene pigs is any-ones guess. Back to the turmi. It has taken over the niche of the anteater (I guess that the scaly anteat-ers and the aardvarks who are occupying this niche right now have died out as well), complete with clawed feet. Unfortunately, the pigs are artiodactylids; their feet have only two toes by now, and converting two of the toes to claws for digging makes me wonder just how fast the turmi are. (The real anteaters are quite fast, but they move on the knuck-les of their forefeet, not toes proper.) And though there are plenty of places to hide in the jungles, therell be always a time to run, rather than hide, even there. The zaranders long trunk, developed from a snout similar to the trunk of the ancient elephant, enables the zarander to reach leafy branches 4 meters above the ground, where it can snip branches and vines from the trees by the scissor action of its upper and lower tusks. That is actually quite okay: Paul Volkov in his Neocene bestiary has introduced plenty of pigs-with-trunks, from the relatively gracile tapiroid to the mammoth-like noz-drokh. I guess that the zarander passes. The trovamp, Hirudatherium saltans, is a parasite, which sucks the blood of larger ani-mals. The trovamp is a prodigious jumper and can leap 3 meters from a branch to bury its needle-like jaws into the hide of a passing animal. Its protruding canine teeth act as barbs and prevent it from being dislodged from its host until it is finished feeding. Most modern-day mammal bloodsuckers the vampire bats have not only stealth, but also the nocturnal way of life, for better chances of feeding and survival: sleeping ani-mals are easier to handle than awakened ones. The trovamps, on the other hand, do not seem to have such strategy: on the upper right-hand corner of pg. 92 several trovamps hang off a clearly awakened and alert animal. Whats to stop it from just sitting on them, squashing them flat? Finally, theres the giant pitta, Gallopitta polygyna. Since I dont know anything about the pitta bird family, Ill pass. They seem to be sufficiently realistic and thats good enough for me. - Living with Water (pg. 94-5) And now we come to the bodies of the tropics fresh water. The first creature we see is the mud gulper, Phocapotamus lutuphagus, a descendant of a water-dwelling rodent, and I am honestly stumped which one. I have not heard about any African-dwelling water rodents, and I think there is a good reason: the crocodilians (genus Crocodylus) have firmly established themselves in the African waterways, and they provide serious dis-couragement to those brave souls who brave the aforementioned bodies of water: you go in, and that armored mouth with fangs pins you to the bottom till you drown just swal-lows you whole. And since, according to Dixons Tree of life on pg. 118-9 the croco-diles and co. have survived like other reptiles (and amphibians), Dixons ordinary ex-tinction of the big creatures may not cut it. The influence of the crocodiles aside, the mud gulper is an odd-looking beast. It may show adaptations that closely parallel those of the extinct ungulate hippopotamus, but John Butler and Diz Wallis draw it rather like the dugong or manatees (also extinct, in all probability), without any forelimbs. So, this raises a question: can the mud gulper spend much of its time on mudbanks, where it breeds and rears its young in noisy colonies at the waters edge? The hippos do it easily enough, but they have all four legs, complete with feet, rather than flippers. Conversely, the manatees (and the West African manatee Trichechus senegalensis occurs both in rivers and coastal waters of tropical Africa) cant move on land (though they are reputed to be able to get from the shallows into the deeper waters, unlike the cetaceans), because of their weight (they can weigh anywhere from 1000 to 2000 pounds), so this raises the question: just how big and heavy the mud gulper is? And dont forget about the crocodiles: only the hippos superior size, strength, and weight keep them safe from the crocodiles (doesnt stop the great reptiles from taking pot shots at the hippo calves though). So can the mud gulper successfully stand in for the hippopotamus, or is the crocodile the king of the rivers once more? The swimming monkey Natopithecus ranapes has descended from the swamp monkey, Allenopithecus nigroviridis, or as it is known nowadays, Allens swamp monkey. It is a real life animal, dwelling in the Congo basin of Africa. That alone puts the swamp mon-key, together with the raboons on pg. 82-3 miles ahead of the majority if Dixons ani-mals: it has a definite ancestor, rather than some vague rodent or predator rat. Further-more, Allens swamp monkey seems to fit the bill: it is partially aquatic: swims well, mainly to escape predators, and has slightly webbed fingers just like the swimming monkey on pg. 94 has. True, the swimming monkey also lacks a tail, but we can probably blame it on Dixon: neither does the khiffah from pg. 90-1, and we know that they mon-keys, especially of the subfamily Cercopithecinae, have rather long tails (the tail of the Allens swamp monkey is 50 cm. long, while the monkey itself is 45 to 60 cm. long), so even a specialized animal like the swimming monkey should have some remnant tail (or it could have evolved into a rudder-like appendage like those of modern semi-aquatic mammals) left. Then of course we have the question of the diet: the swimming monkey eats fish (and similar animals), while Allens swamp monkey eats fruits and leaves as well as beetles and worms non-aquatic food. But evolution has changed more than dieting prefer-ences, so the swimming monkey remains one of Dixons better efforts. The swimming anteater Myrmevenarius amphibius is a South American beast, probably shouldve been discussed in the island section (by fifty million years in the future, Dixons South America is an island), and unlike the swimming monkey, I simply cant believe in it. There are three families of anteaters: Cyclopedidae, Myrmecophagidae, and Tamandua. Cyclopedidae family has a single species: the silky anteater, an arboreal mammal of 32 to 52 cm. in length. I doubt that it will leave the relative safety of the trees for an aquatic lifestyle; plus its limbs are too specialized to be converted to flippers as well. Ironically, the giant anteater of the Myrmecophagidae will not become an aquatic animal for the very similar reasons: not only are its forelimbs too specialized to become flippers; it is exclusively a land-dwelling animal, showing rather reluctant interest to go into the water. I think I will bet that the swimming anteater will evolve from one of the lesser anteaters of the Tamandua family: the lesser anteaters show just enough versatility (can survive both on land and on trees) to possibly adapt to an aquatic lifestyle unless one remem-bers that the waters of the South American jungle rivers are full of such dangers as the caimans, piranhas, sting rays and the candiru fish. And as for the aquatic ants I find that hard to believe as well: they have appeared approximately 92 million years ago, and if by now they havent evolved into an aquatic species, I dont think that another 50 million years will. Now we come to the birds. The toothed kingfisher, Halcyonova aquatica, too seems normally: it is an ordinary kingfisher, just somewhat better adapted to life in the water. As for the tree duck Dendrocygna volubaris, it too could have evolved from the African pygmy goose, Nettapus auritus, as I have mentioned when I discussed the tree goose (pg. 44-5). But its possible ancestor is on the Red List of Threatened Species, so the question of whether or not a pygmy goose-descended tree duck can appear is hanging. - Australian Forests (pg. 96-7) Now we come to Australia, which according to Dixon, some time between 25 and 50 mil-lion years in the future will join the rest of the continents (except for South America) into one big solid landmass. The mountains of the Far East the most extensive and the highest chain in the world, greater even than the Himalayas at their zenith 50 million years ago have kept this cross-traffic (between the marsupial and placental mammals D.K.) to a minimum and the sub-continent still has a predominantly marsupial fauna. Well, to start with, by now Australia has placental mammals of its own foxes, cats, din-gos, rabbits, camels, bats, and also seals (but the latter are extinct in all probability). Thus I think that 50 million into the future Australia, a subcontinent or not, will have some native placental mammals as well. Whats more, due to their superior anatomies, the placental animals have an edge over the marsupials, and unless some sort of epidemic devastates most of the current Australian placentals, the Australian marsupials will be in trouble by the time Neocene comes. And even if most of the current Australian placentals do die out, the Neocene placentals will be there to pick-up the slack so to say, moun-tains or not. Lets examine the marsupials now. The first one is the chuckaboo, Thylapithecus rufus essentially a marsupial monkey. Thats realistic enough: some smaller and more agile possum could evolve a superficial appearance to the monkey; considering, however, the more primitive condition of the marsupial brains, its unlikely that the chuckaboo will evolve into a marsupial ape, let alone a human. A less energetic tree-dweller, the slobber, Reteostium cortepellium, can be thought of as a kind of a marsupial sloth that spends nearly all of its life hanging upside down from trees and creepers. It is totally blind and subsides entirely on insects that it catches in the flowers of its home creeper by entangling them in long strands of mucus dangled from its mouth. Its large downturned ears and sensory whiskers alert it to an insects arrival and tell it when to drop the mucus, which it aims at the flowers scent. As far as I can see, the slobber suffers from the same ailment as the spickle on pg. 76-7: extreme specialization. True, it does not eat the nectar or pollen (in fact, after I looked at the teeth of the slobber on pg. 96 I cannot help but think that the slobber wouldnt mind at taking a bite at something bigger than a bug it looks downright mean), but it has ba-sically the same problems as the spickle. One is that the flowers bloom only part of the year; however, since this is a tropical rainforest, its much more possible for the slobber to find a working flower, then for the spickle to find one in the desert. And now we come to the question of diet. Specializing on insects is well and good, but the insects are small. A slobber will need to eat a lot of insects daily to stay alive. So how big is it? And finally, how does it mate? Being a blind homebody, the slobber probably does not navigate over big distances very well, so if the slobber population at given jungle area is not very dense; a slobber will probably have a problem finding mates. And it is probably not very fast either, or very energetic, so thus it cannot afford to just wander around, looking for a mate. So how does it reproduce? I cant figure it out, for once. At last there the hiri-hiri Carnophilius ophicaudatus, supposedly descended from the Tasmanian devil, Sarcophilus harrisii. Unfortunately for Dixon, Diz Wallis drawn the hiri-hiri in such a manner that it looks like it descended from a quoll (genus Dasyrus) in-stead, albeit with sloth-like forelimbs and why was it drawn in a manner that looks like it is straddling the tree? And strangling its prey with its tail? Come on? What if the strug-gling prey pulls the hiri-hiri from its perch instead, or just tears the tail?! Neither scenario looks very optimistic for the hiri-hiri, and in fact the whole tail-strangling idea reminded me of a 19th-century hunting anecdote, which says that an owl will catch a hare with one leg, attach the other to a tree, wait till the hare exhausts itself, and then the owl eats it. The owls in that anecdote got occasionally torn into two by the struggling hare, so why wont the hiri-hiri fair differently? - The Australian Forest Undergrowth (pg. 98-9) We meet first the omnivorous posset, Thylasus virgatus. I think it is safe to say that the posset evolved from a bandicoot (order Paramelemorphia) or a similar land-dwelling marsupial, rather than the tree-dwelling possums. Unfortunately for the posset, the artist Philip Hood gave it the coloring of the marsupial anteater, aka the numbat (Myrmaeco-bius fasciatus), and thats just wrong, because the numbats have long tongues but small teeth not proto-tusk material. The possets coloring aside, it is a rather realistic-sounding beast. As for the giantala, Silfrangerus giganteus, it is slightly more complicated, the artists visualization of it aside (I swear, Philip Hood drew it with a human-like face). Since the giantala is a big animal, Id guess that it is not a descended of the subgenuses Osphranter and Macropus. Those big creatures were creatures of open land, and so probably did not fair well when most of the Australias landmass got converted to a jungle, except for the northwest arch. There, probably the descendants of Osphranter and Macropus dwell. As for the giantala, it is probably the descendant of some wallaby instead, which, while adapting to a sylvan life-style, took over the niche of the biggest sylvan herbivore (the kangaroos and the walla-bies are the biggest marsupial herbivores anyways). On the other hand, the fatsnake Pingophis viperaforme just was not drawn realistically. An elapid that supposedly looks like a viperid (family Viperidae) it does not look like a viper at all; it looks more like a half-slug/half-snake hybrid, thanks to Diz Wallis. The fatsnakes neck is very long and slender and allows its head almost to forage inde-pendently from its body. Its main method of catching prey is to deal it a poisonous bite from where it lies hidden. Only later, when its venom has finally killed it and begun its digestive function, does the fatsnake finally catch up and eat it. So despite being an ela-pid, the fatsnake does not have a neurotoxin, but a proteolytic type of venom instead. Since I dont know which Australian elapids do not have neurotoxin in their teeth, I can-not continue discussing this development, but point out that this actually makes sense. The fatsnake probably cannot move very fast, so unless its venom will begin to show that theres something wrong with that dead animal, some posset or another omnivore will be able to eat it before the fatsnake finally arrives at the scene. Same for the hawkbower, Dimorphoptilornis iniquitus. Though its behavior does seem bizarre, the modern red-backed shrike (Lanius collurio) behaves in a similar manner, making a larder of live prey, even though it is looks like an herbivorous songbird. The hawkbower, with its fly-attracting scheme, looks rather tame by comparison with the red-backed shrikes larder and carnivorous habits. Another curious bird is the termite burrower, Neopardalotus subterrestris. This mole-like bird lives entirely underground in termite nests, where it digs nearby chambers with its huge feet and feeds on termites with its long and sticky tongue. Now this is outlandish. Birds may nest and raise chicks in burrows underground (like the kingfishers and certain swallows) but permanently live there? I just cant believe it. Be-sides, how do the termites tolerate the burrowers anyways? Their social system is just as efficient in dealing with the intruders as the one of the ants, so this means that the termite burrower will be able to exist probably only in the human imagination.

bhut2: - South American Forests (pg. 102-3) Let me start of by telling that I do not believe in the tapimus, Tapimus maximus, a long-tusked rodent that feeds in open areas of the forest, for one single reason: rodents cant develop tusks. They have no canine teeth; the molars are too far deeply in the mouth, and unlike the lagomorphs (rabbits, hares, and pikas) they only have one pair of incisors in each jaw. Thus I can accept the picktooth rabbuck (pg. 81) because as a lagomorph it had a pair of incisors to spare to develop into tusks, but a rodent such as the tapimus doesnt. Besides, why does a rodent need tusks anyways? Apparently for shock value only. The tapimus is hunted by the gurrath, Oncherpestes fodrhami, a giant hunting mon-goose. Its ancestor, Herpestes, was introduced by man to then offshore islands at the north of the continent, where it became a pest and overran them. When the islands be-came fused to the mainland the mongoose spread southwards and developed into its pre-sent jaguar-like form i.e. the gurrath. Okay, I am set at a loss since I dont know which mongoose of the genus Herpestes was introduced to West Indies, although judging from the map on pg. 34-5 the former islands in the Caribbean Sea have fused into one single island rather than to the South American mainland. Anyways, back to the mongoose. Why did it take over South America (if thats what happened)? Why not some other predator even if the puma and the jaguar died-out from Dixonitis there are still the ocelot and the jaguarondi, theres the coati and kinka-jou, there are a number of birds of prey (including the rather infamous harpy eagle), theres the maned wolf Chrysocyon brachyurus, even the caimans and the anaconda for the sake of the argument! If were talking about the carnivores, lets not forget the nightglider, Hastatus volans, () derived from tree-dwelling mustelid stock. It might have evolved from the tayra (Eira barbara) an omnivorous animal that eats mainly fruit but also small animals and birds and is an expert climber that can leap from treetop to treetop when pursued, or from one of the species of the grison (genus Galictis), but the latter sound more like ground-dwelling than arboreal animals. Now, onto the nightglider proper. Quite frankly, I am guessing that the nightgliders im-paling attack is Dixons own idea, because I cant see any normal vertebrate developing that sort of an attack. And what about the fact that each (nightglider specie D.K.) is camouflaged against a particular species of forest tree. Thats just silly. Yes, there are several different species of nightglider, but currently there are different species of mar-tens and weasels, and they dont differentiate by camouflage, but by hunting different prey in different ecosystems. Thus, Dixons nightgliders could avoid competition by go-ing after different prey one species will hunt near ground, another among the tree branches, etc. As for the matriarch tinamou, Gynomorpha parasitica, with its angler-fish lifestyle, I think its a stretch. But I am not sure that it is unrealistic (especially for Dixon). - South American Grasslands (pg 104-5) I have already expressed my profound disbelief about the existence of wakka (Anabrac-chium struthioforme) back when I was talking about the fin lizard (pg. 76-7). Basically, just relook my arguments about it (the lack of practicality in a just two-legged animal). And as for the strick (Cursomys longipes) The rodents of South America are represented by the Caviomorpha parvorder. The ro-dents that compose it are either solidly built burrowers (superfamilies Octodontoidea and Chinchilloidea), are porcupines (superfamily Erethizontoidea) or are just heavily built and quite formed (superfamily Cavioidea). The maras and the capybaras in particular belong to the latter group. Now personally I think that the South American rodents have a very good chance of tak-ing over the ungulate niche in the South America; in fact, they have already begun to do so. (After all, what are the ungulates in South America? The tapirs? The llama and its kin? The former are too few in number and the latter are domesticated, so Dixon probably just killed them all, justified or not.) Only, unless were talking about the mara (genus Dolichotis), I dont see any of the Caviomorphs evolve into a gracile creature like the strick; personally, I see them as more or less solid creatures (like the tapimus but without the tusks). Finally we come to the flower-faced potoo, Gryseonycta rostriflora. Now the potoos (ge-nus Nyctibius) are related to such birds as the nightjars, but lack the bristles around the mouth found in true nightjars. They hunt from a perch like a shrike or flycatcher, and actually live in the rainforest, not on the plains. So what forced the ancestors of the flower-faced potoo to abandon the jungles for the plains? Truly, there may appear little difference between the flower-faced potoos actions and those of his ancestors, but keep this in mind: the flower-faced potoo must migrate constantly, or it will fall behind the flowers and the rainy season and starve. This is the spickle all over again. - The Island of Lemuria (pg. 106-7) I have only one question: where are the carnivores?! If Lemuria has split before the rab-bucks arrived and forced most of the original ungulates to die out, it must have also taken with it those predators who fed on those ungulates the descendants of the original car-nivores, the ones that died out on the mainland and got replaced by the horrane and the raboons (pg. 84-5)? Apparently Dixon didnt think this through or something, so I opt not to comment about Lemuria anymore (though why is called Lemuria? Dixon didnt show us any lemurs living there at all.). - The Islands of Batavia (pg. 108-9) The islands of Batavia were discussed between Tiina and me earlier, so I wont dwell on them. Basically though, bats cannot beat birds, especially if the islands are in the middle of the ocean, and why did Diz Wallis painted a rabbuck in lower half of pg. 108? As Ti-ina pointed-out, Batavia is located very far away from any landmasses so no rabbucks. Thats a fact. - The Islands of Pacaus (pg. 110-11) I think it is safe to say that the pacauan whistlers (Insulornis spp.) were modeled after the Galapagos finches. Since the latter finches are one of the holy pillars of evolution, I wont mess with them. As for the terratail (Ophicaudatus insulatus) and its bird snake imitation I actually agree with it. The modern-day wryneck birds (genus Jynx) do a very similar thing especially if startled in their nesting site or at least the Eurasian wryneck, Jynx torquilla, does. And lets not forget that the caterpillars of some hawk-moths also have a threatening pose that resembles a snakes thus terratails sound and show combo is actually rather realistic, and thats a wrap. Dixons bestiary is finished, and sos my review of it. Questions? Ratings?

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