Welcome to my Metazoic site! This site discusses the existence of the creatures to come along after humans will be extinct. I first became interested in a world after man when I acquired my first copy of Dougal Dixon's After Man: A Zoology of the Future in 1992. However, I unwittingly created creatures that did not exist from the time I was about 8 years old. But it was after I obtained a copy of that book (now a collector's item) that I decided to take these same creatures I created as a child and make them more realistic in an evolutionary sense. Though it may be hard for a lot of us to grasp, humans will soon become extinct. One of the biggest factors of how this will happen is the current overpopulation rate. Which is why I don't contribute to the population. I created this world with little more than mammals fulfilling all ecological niches with the help of some friends. I even gave the era of the age after man a name, I called it the Metazoic, derived from the words for "After-era" (Meta, meaning after, and zoic meaning era). We are now in the Cenozoic era. To view all the animals I have created since I began this project, you can go to the "Meet the Mammals" section of this site. To discuss your own ideas about what you think will happen in the future world, and share your ideas with others, please feel free to leave a comment.
One more thing, some of you may find this site quite offensive, and you have a right to your own opinion. But please respect my right to have an opinion too. I'm not saying there is no GOD, I believe it was HIM who got the ball rolling. But I believe after that, evolution took over. There is so much more evidence of evolution than there is of creation. Even that going on right under our noses. Other than that, enjoy yourself and visit our many links.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Family of the Week: The Earless Sea-Monkeys

The family Delphinadapidae is the most advanced group of aquatic pentadactyls in the Metazoic. Evolved from particular species of the Promonsamiidae family, these animals have dropped the musk glands present in the Promonsamiids, and have very short, but thick, fur. The tail is long and eel-like, and waves from side to side to propel the animals through the water. The ears are little more than slits on the sides of the head that have small flaps that close the ears while the animals are underwater. The foreflippers are larger than the rear flippers and are used for steering. The muzzle is long, with nostrils at the tip, with whiskers that are thick, and sensitive. The eyes are rather large, as these animals can dive pretty deep. Unlike their modern namesake, these animals do come to land to relax and breed. All sea monkey species are most active during the day, spending most of the day in the ocean, and coming to land by night to sleep on the beach. On land, these animals move a lot like modern Phocidae seals, only their foreflippers are often used to help pull them over land. Unlike seals and dolphins, the body is quite flexible, and these animals often curl up on the beach, like cats, when resting.

All species in this family are carnivorous, though while some species are strictly piscivorous, some will feed on other smaller mammals, including other sea monkeys. Phocinus has the most varied diet in this family. It is also the largest and heaviest species in this family, with a total length of about 25 feet long, including the tail. These animals use their large, powerful jaws to crush the head and neck bones of their prey, then they tear chunks out of the flesh using shaking motions underwater. Prey consists of fish, as well as oceanic birds and bats, other sea monkeys, seals, and even occasional deer who wander near the ocean.

The smallest species in the family are in the genus Delphinadapis, with a total length of about 3-4 feet long, including the tail. Like modern dolphins, these animals' preferred method of locomotion is to porpoise through the water, and they are good at it. Porpoising practically doubles their swimming speed, and it shocks fish to congregate into tight groups for easy pickings. These animals are very intelligent, much like modern dolphins. Delphinadapis is also among the fastest swimming pentadactyls, with the ability to reach speeds of up to 45 MPH. Similar in size and lifestyle is Uropinnaps. Though in Uropinnaps, the body is much longer and more slender than in Delphinadapis.

The most unusual member of this family is Leptorca, also known as the spinner sea-monkey. As their name suggests, they spin in the air as they leap out of the water. They also use this spinning motion while swimming. This is somewhat reminiscent of modern sea lions, and like sea lions, this motion helps these animals view their surroundings at all angles. They are the most slender of the sea monkeys, with the longest muzzle. The muzzle is filled with long, sharp teeth, which enables them to grab fish, squid, and even jellyfish. They will also probe in crevices to hunt prey like crabs and shrimp. The flesh at the tip of their muzzle is very sensitive, so much so that they can detect prey in their hiding places just by feeling their vibrations in the water.

Megalobracchium has the most primitive foreflippers, which still resemble the arms of land-dwelling pentadactyls. The flippers are rather short themselves, but powerful. The hands are also still capable of grasping prey, and sometimes, this sea monkey will use their flexible hands to grasp large rocks that they can use to crush open shellfish, such as crabs and lobster, and clams.

Predators of these sea monkeys are basically anything that can capture them; both on land and in the ocean. Giant sea genets are perhaps one of their deadliest enemies. As are larger sea monkeys. Sharks will also prey on these animals. Sometimes even sea-going crocodiles. On land, more often the young are taken by foxes, civets, and even deinognathids. Though rarely are the adults taken by land-based predators. Sometimes there are exceptions even to that rule. A sickened adult may be taken by the larger deinognathids. Swimming is often the best defense for these sea monkeys. Though they can use their sharp teeth and powerful jaws as defensive weapons as well.

To view this family, go to this link.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Family of the Week: The Rear-Clawed Lemurs

The family Pholidobatidae is unique among pentadactyl families, for having larger, scale-like folds in the soles of their feet and palms of their hands, instead of the typical fingerprint patterns we are familiar with in primates today. This feature is a little more reminiscent of the geckos of today. Other real characteristics of this family is the presence of flat nails on the hands, while the feet are tipped with sharp, curved claws, much like the marmosets and tamarins of today. Most species in this family are nocturnal and mainly omnivorous. The claws on the rear feet are used for either aid in climbing or defense, and in some species, even for dispatching large prey.

Most species in this family are ground-dwellers, mostly in arid regions. The folds in the palms and soles help grip the loose, sandy ground they live on, and in the case of the tree-dwelling species, helps them get a good grip on the tree trunks they prefer, which is so smooth, it's almost glass-like and slippery in the moist climate. The most arboreal species in this family are Pholidobata and Lepidopus, who live among specific varieties of eucalyptus trees with these extremely smooth trunks, feed on the toxic leaves, and sleep curled up in the highest branches. These lemurs are not active leapers, but spend nearly 100% of their time in the trees, almost never coming to the ground levels. These species are almost strict vegetarians, only occasionally feeding on insects and grubs.

Different species have varying levels of omnivory. Parapithecia is the most carnivorous species. Though meat only makes up less than 50% of this animal's diet. The large claws on their feet are as long as 6 inches, sharp and curved, and used to disembowel prey. The hind feet are elongate, much longer than in any other species in this family, and aid this animal in leaping up to 5 times their own body length. Occasionally, these huge lemurs will hunt such prey as antelope and therapeds. Though they scavenge kills by other animals just about as often as they hunt, and they feed on leaves, fruits and grasses more often than they consume meat.

The most varied genus is Decarus, most of which are ground-dwellers, but a few of these species also inhabit the trees, though they prefer to live at much lower levels than Pholidobata and Lepidopus. They are also much active leapers, with a much more varied diet. Most of the ground-dwellers in this genus prefer arid and savanna lands. Though D. epaulettus, D. picta and D. alienus prefer the wetter rainforest climates. D. epaulettus also lives in the highest elevations among members of this family. The ruffles on the animal's upper back help keep them warmer in the cool mountain climates.

Like the majority of lemurs, these animals are social creatures, living in small family groups, usually consisting of a dominant male, a few females, a subordinate male and young. Communication consists of calls. Pholidobata has the loudest calls, resembling those of a child crying. Each individual call lasts as long as a minute, and are generally given by the males. Parapithecia and it's close relatives are almost strictly ground-dwelling, only occasionally retreating to the trees when danger threatens. They communicate with other families with loud, whooping calls that carry all across several miles of savanna. Breeding for these animals occurs only once a year, and usually a single cub is born to each female, though all females in the family unit may be bred at the same time.

Predators of these lemurs are quite a few. Various carnivores like foxes, mongooses and vulpemustelids may take these lemurs if they can capture them. Large, predatory bats may also take the tree-dwelling species. Deinognathids are also major predators of these lemurs. Spathodon is the greatest enemy of Parapithecia and it's closest relatives. In defense, these animals will run, kicking back with their sharp claws, most of the time, they will seek refuge up a tree, or in burrows or bushes. To view this family, follow this link.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Sabre-Tooths Revamped

It has come to my attention that I have been drawing my sabre-toothed animals all wrong lately. Someone told me that in prehistoric days, when most sabre-toothed mammals as we know them, always had some kind of protection for their elongate canine teeth. It makes sense. I mean check out the ancient marsupial known as Thylacosmilus:

Notice how the lower jaw has long folds for the canines to remain protected when the jaws are shut? This is an interesting feature, and would be good to keep the canines from breaking when the animal is relaxing. However, I found that these animals had a bite force that is weaker than that of a housecat. The reason is because their canines rooted so far back in their head that any intense pressure would have forced the roots of their teeth to put too much pressure on their brain cavity, or would have even crushed their brain. So, when creating any sabre-toothed futuristic beast, one has to take things like this in consideration.

Well, I took the concept of Thylacosmilus, as well as the cat-like Smilodon, and combined them together for one of my most famous sabre-toothed inhabitants of the Metazoic, Spathodon. This creature probably would have been much scarier than it's father species, Deinognathus. It's just the right size to prey on humans, is a sharp-eyed hunter, and has 14-24 inch long fangs, followed by a series of smaller fangs that get progressively smaller in it's jaws. So, for them, not all the pressure would be placed on the front canines. Just the initial stab. But that would be immediately followed by several pokes from the animal's post-canine teeth. They go for the throat of their prey usually. For smaller prey, they use their powerful arms to flip their prey over, and use their long canines to rip open the belly.

The canines of Spathodon would not be rooted as far into their skull as Thylacosmilus, but still rooted up into what would be their sinus cavity, which are absent in these animals. I think the disproportionately large head of Spathodon would allow plenty of growth and rooting for their elongated canines. Anyways, here is Spathodon revamped;

Notice the subtle changes. The forehead is quite more rounded and bumpier, and the lower lips extend down to cover the canines.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

What Would You Like To See?

I've been getting some comments from people who would like to see more on this site. I may not get around to answering all of them, but I am always open to more ideas. So, I want to know, what would you like to see some more of on this site? I am trying to create a page for every animal in my Metazoic world, just head to the Meet The Mammals section. It's a slow process for sure. I am also trying to work on a companion book for Metazoica. This book will also have more info than I could put on this website. Keep in mind, the Meet The Mammals section is a visual list. There you not only see the names, but also what the animal would look like if you were to see it in real life. If I were to put more info on those pages about each of the animals, it'd take forever! So, I try to confine that to the companion book I plan to put out. I don't know when the book will be out, but I will make an announcement on here.

I'd just basically like to know if I did decide to put some info up on this site, what would you all like to see? Share your thoughts and post me a comment below. Also, I am probably not going to be taking any more requests for which families to add next to the Meet The Mammals section. People seem to get too impatient, and I cannot promise when a group will be finished and posted onto the page. I am going to limit requests for families only to those people who donate to our site. Make a $20 donation, and I will do whatever family you want to see and put it up on here. That will also get it done quicker too. But no more freebie requests. I will update the donation link today. I think I might go through Patreon. But whatever happens with that, I will continue to work on the Meet The Mammals section at my own pace for now.

You can now voice your opinion on any of the pages. Please feel free to share your ideas, if you think something in the drawings needs improvement, or you want to elaborate on them, or whathaveyou, let me know. Post a comment down below and I will get back to you. I have also updated the Contact Us form on this site, my apologies to those who have tried to contact me through that and it didn't go through. Now, it has been fixed and should get better.

Friday, November 27, 2015

10 Things You Never Knew About Metazoica (because I never mentioned them here)

#1. I actually began working on Metazoic mammal prototypes in 1980, but I was too young to make them scientifically accurate. The first mammals I worked on were the therapeds and deinognathids, which laid dormant in my head until I was almost 20 years old. At which time, I brought them back to life and added more accuracy scientifically to them.

#2. There were originally more family groups for Metazoica, about a dozen of which never actually made it into today's checklist. When I first started to create the mammals of the future, I went wild with ideas. Sometimes too wild. When I first created the original checklist in 1994, there were family groups on there that you will not find in the checklist of today. They were groups that I just could not find an empty niche in the Metazoic for. So, I threw them away.

#3. The odd names you see given as common names of the mammals of the Metazoic were thought up one rainy day by me and my sis in 1995. I got tired of simply calling all the mammals on my list by their latin names, so my sis and I began coming up with the silliest words we could think of as common names for these animals on one boring, rainy day in the summer of 1995 when we could find nothing else to do. Some work out well! Some are just silly, but I kept them anyways because even some modern animals have silly names (case in point, the aye-aye).

#4. It was actually my interest in Batman characters that jump-started the Metazoic project. In 1992, I worked on a series of my own Batman comics, using animal figures instead of people. But modern mammals are too boring to play Batman characters. So, I created my own, most of them lemurs, based on physical and psychological characteristics of the original characters. Later on, when I decided not to use most of the animals I created specifically for those stories, I made them more scientifically accurate and thought up a world where they could fit in, and thus Metazoica was born.

#5. Over the years, the mammals of the Metazoic have literally "evolved" in my mind. If you'll pardon the expression, the animals that you see on this site today are not the same animals they were when I first created them. Some have changed forms over the years many times, and even changed families. I've been trying for the past 23 years to make these animals as scientifically accurate as I can. My biggest inspiration to motion towards accuracy came when I met Metalraptor in 2009. I still give him credit for that.

#6. The Case of the Missing Species. My very first complete checklist for the mammals of the Metazoic was typed on a Mac computer. But I got rid of the Mac in 1997 when I had a terrible time trying to find good software for it. Well, I had to transfer everything from a Mac disk to a PC disk, one of those things was my Metazoic checklist. I had to retype the list all over again, which was a project I set aside in November of 1997. It really took me a total of 2 weeks to complete the list. Unfortunately in the middle of working on that list, I received the shattering news that Michael Hutchence (INXS's lead singer) died. I was so distraught as I loved that man more than life it's self, that I was like a zombie for the rest of that night. I kept typing, but my mind was not on the work. To this day, because of that, I believe whole-heartedly that there are some species that was on that Mac disk checklist that I accidentally never listed on the PC disk checklist and are now lost forever. (and just so you know, yes I did meet him, and fell in love)

#7. Originally I was content to go with Dixon's predatory rats idea as the Metazoic's apex predators, but in 1994 that changed. That was when I worked extensively on the Deinognathids, and made them the Metazoic's top predators.

#8. I have used models of many other animals as ideas for the Metazoic. In my will to create a world with 10,000+ species of mammals, filling every niche, I have used models of fictitious animals that have been presented in Dixon's other evolution books, as well as books about animals of other worlds, including Star Wars. Though I have gradually drowned those out.

#9. The dark background on my Metazoic website is meant to give the illusion of the nighthouse at a zoo. It was kindof inspired by the original Tyrannosaur scene in Jurassic Park 1. The fact the dinosaur went hunting at night made it a bit scarier. I utilized that feeling on my Metazoic website, which is why I always present the site in black, or in this case, charcoal.

#10. I've been thinking for some time about putting up a Metazoic print book. Though such a project would be expensive, to say the least, I thought about having every animal presented on the checklist in the book, in full color. If I do go through with that project, it will become available on UMG Productions (www.umgproductions.com) and on Amazon. But again, it won't be cheap.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Done Transferring Pages

Hello again everyone! I am done transferring all the pages. Now, I am working on the Meet The Mammals section. That section is going to take the longest to complete. You all will notice I don't have the pull-down menus on those pages anymore. Now, I just list the mammals' names. I will soon be working on a book that will have more extensive info about the animals' lives, but the new checklist is up and running. I adjusted the setting so it can be viewed by anyone. Last night, I realized someone tried to view it and couldn't without my permission. I didn't want that!! It should be available to everyone!! It's growing and I am getting closer and closer to my goal of 5000 mammals listed. After that, I want to work towards getting a goal of 10,000 mammals listed for the Metazoic. As long as it took me to reach the goal I am at now, to reach a goal of 10,000 mammals is going to take downright forever!! But I think it can be done.

Well, bear with me in the Meet the Mammals section, as that one is going to take a while to complete. I first want to get up all the drawings I have completed already, and then I have been asked to work on the gerbbucks next. But I want to get up what I have already done. It could take months to get to the gerbbucks, as I had already begun another group before I was asked to do the gerbbucks. So, I want to complete that group before I get to the gerbbucks. But I will get to them. Keep your eyes on the Meet the Mammals page. Each time one is completed and put up, you will see their family name turn into a clickable link. Please be patient with me, as I am working on all this alone and I want to have the pics looking good before I put them up. Each one needs to at least tell a story of some kind about that animal's lifestyle. But all-in-all, the pages are done being transferred. And I will continue to post more updates as I can.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Website Going Down

I am realizing surely that the old site is just too much now to keep. But I am making a compromise. I am going to turn this blog into the new Metazoic website. This blog will contain everything the website does, with a few improvements made. In this blog, I will be keeping the comments open on all pages, so you can have a chance to comment on each page. I wanted to add that feature to the regular site, but unfortunately Yahoo does not allow that. I won't be adding my guestbook here for that reason. Now, if you want to comment, you can do it directly on the page. Even anonymous comments are welcome. This is a forum of free speech, so please feel free to speak your mind. I even welcome criticism. The only posts that will not be welcome will be those with too much profanity. No F-bombs please!! There is no reason to do that!! Feel free to love, hate, show indifference or whatever to the animals displayed on this site and even to me if you want, but there is no good reason to cuss one another. Cussing accomplishes NOTHING!

Since I am putting everything here, the old site will be taken down soon, and all pics and pages will be moved here. I will also do all I can to keep up the blog here. I know I haven't written in this blog for a while, and I took down all the posts I found to be offensive to my viewers. At my age, I don't need to feel such anger and hatred! All comments will still be welcome. It will take a while for me to move everything here, so please bear with me during this transition. I will eventually move the domain to this blog. The navigation bars are on the left side of the screen and they will take you to what ever page you wish to view. I will put up the Meet The Mammals section soon. I am still working on it. But I am thinking it will be more like a visual checklist, rather than tell the complete stories about each species. I have another plan for that! ;)

I will get started again with the Family of the Week as soon as I am done. My apologies for not working on that lately. So many things have been going on, and I am about to get married and move yet again. I've moved like 3 times since my last post on this blog!! I will also keep you all up to date as much as I can with interesting videos and articles I can find. I scour all over the internet for just such goodies. So please, stay tuned, and tell me what you think of this idea! As I said before, I welcome your comments. Also, if you want to contribute to this site, I can add more authors to this blog. You will be able to make pages to display your work, and also write articles to this blog as well. Also, if you have a favorite link you'd like to see on the sidebar, please, let me know! I will check it out and add it to our new site.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Family of the Week: The "Aqua-Lemurs"

I thought I would do this early this week, so I can remain at work on some of my stories for the UMG Productions site. The family Promonsamiidae is made up of mostly aquatic lemurs. They are not the typical prosimians that we know today, they are a seperately evolved group that came from modern tree shrews that originated on the ground, more often than not inhabiting swampy areas, such as the flooded rainforests of Indonesia. These lemurs are more otter-like in form, with broad, flat muzzles, large, round eyes, and tiny ears. Though like their modern counterparts, some species are tree-dwellers as well. The ears and nostrils of all the aquatic species in this family are capable of closing, and they have a clear nictitating membrane that acts as eye goggles underwater. Some species prefer rivers and fast-flowing streams, however, most of the species in the sub-family Frissinae are oceanic creatures. These animals are excellent swimmers and divers, and move through the water much like modern otters do. The tail is long and flat, the legs are short and both the hands and feet are webbed and tipped with claws. The ears and eyes are both placed at the top of the head, like modern hippos. The teeth are rather small and sharp, fitted for capturing their slippery aquatic prey. The diet is almost strictly carnivorous, except in those species who live in trees, or in Callolemur, which is an omnivore. Favorite prey for these lemurs is fish. But crustaceans like crabs, crayfish and even lobsters may also be taken. In the ocean, octopus and squid are also favored, depending on the species. These animals are slenderly built, with no blubber like in most other marine mammals. Instead the lemurs in this family have a unique feature that no modern prosimian has ever developed, an oil gland under the base of the tail. Before swimming, these lemurs will rub their hands over these glands, and spread the specialized oil over their body. The oil has the same consistency as petroleum jelly, and when rubbed over their thick fur, makes it completely waterproof. These animals are mostly diurnal, but would rarely be seen, as they spend most of their waking hours in the water. Particularly the oceanic species.

Instead of mentioning individual species, I thought I would talk about the different sub-families in this group. The sub-family Promonsamiinae is made up of river-dwelling lemurs. That is, they prefer the rushing river waters. Some inhabit such areas as ponds and lakes as well. These lemurs feed mostly on fish and crayfish, and can easily find them using their sharp eyes underwater. Most species actively swim to hunt for prey, but sometimes they will just sit at the edge of the river or stream and snatch a fish as it swims within reach, usually using their claws to grasp the fish, and carry it in their mouths to an isolated spot to be consumed. Sometimes they will even wade like raccoons, using their hands to feel for prey. Monsamogale also feeds on aquatic insects. These are the smallest members of this family. When roosting or raising young, these lemurs use a cavern under a tree, or a bush, or an abandoned burrow of another animal. When threatened, these lemurs either take to the deepest part of the water, or may climb a tree until the danger passes. Callolemur is the largest land-based species in this family, but it is also less aquatic than other species in this sub-family. This species prefers to live in rocky outcroppings, and feed on bird eggs and fledgelings, as well as grass, berries and lichens. This sub-family has better developed legs, feet and hands than the species in the Frissinae, and still retreat to trees when necessary.

The sub-family Frissinae is made up of mostly oceanic species. One species, Indra, lives in Antarctica, along with Frissa. But unlike Frissa, Indra is not an active swimmer, and cannot get away from Antarctica when winter hits. Instead, it eats whatever it can find during the summer, and stores fat for when winter comes so it can retreat to a burrow and hibernate. It has a much thicker coat than any other species in this family, much thicker than we would see in modern chinchillas. It gathers up moss and fur and builds a warm nest usually 6 feet underground, away from blizzard winds, and settles for the winter. Frissa however spends it's winters away from Antarctica, on warmer, remote islands nearby. The species in this sub-family are deeper divers than their river and lake based relatives are, often capable of diving as far as 2000 feet below the surface. Rhynchocebus is specialized in that it is the only lemur to produce musk from the glands at the base of the tail. the musk is a defensive mechanism, to make it's self seem unsavory to predators. Both Rhynchocebus and Moloja are ambidextrous, that is they can inhabit either rivers or the ocean. Inland specimens of Moloja are also mostly nocturnal, whereas near the coast, they are more active during the day. Most species in this sub-family are characterized by the legs being even more reduced in size than in the Promonsamiinae, more resembling the flippers like we see in seals and sea lions. As a consequence, these animals cannot climb trees at all.

The sub-family Endendrinae are jungle animals that live in the trees. They are not as active leapers as other lemurs are, and usually live at lower levels of the trees than most other lemurs. Some even spend most of their time on or near the ground, but they are also not swimmers, like the other 2 subfamilies. The legs are shorter than in any other tree-climbing lemurs, but they are still fairly good leapers. Unlike any other lemur, the legs are of the same length. They mostly rely on their claws to keep them in the branches, as their hands are not as flexible as in other lemurs. One species, Testudicodas, also has a long, prehensile tail, which is naked for about 1/3 of it's length. The naked portion of it's tail is also coated with a fingernail-like protein, keratin, which provides the roosting animal some degree of protection from tree-clambering predators. It sleeps hanging upside down from it's tail, and folds into a ball, with it's head tucked under it's arms. They have very long, sharp, curved claws that they also use for protection, and a very powerful and painful bite.

Predators of these lemurs are numerous. Deinognathids, vulpemustelids and predatory bats are the most common predators. In the ocean, sea genets and sharks are their major predators. Sometimes snakes like pythons will prey on land or tree dwelling species. Sometimes, they may also be taken by other predatory lemurs, like Bromista and also by caroroos and predatory rats. The claws offer these lemurs some protection, but most of the time, they prefer to swim away from danger. Some species, like those in the Promonsamiinae and Endendrinae will take to trees when danger threatens, as sometimes a predator is determined enough to follow them into the water.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Iridescence in Golden Moles

I added irridescence in some mammals in my Metazoic project. Mostly pteropods. I was told that was not possible in mammals. Though polar bears are probably the closest, or were for a long time. Their fur reflects the colors of their surroundings, which is not the same as irridescence, but the structure of each strand of hair would be about the same. Anyway this feature, according to this article, is possible in mammals, and it does exist.


World's First Iridescent Mammal Discovered

By Jennifer Viegas
Tue Jan 24, 2012 07:00 PM ET

Iridescence -- a lustrous rainbow-like play of color caused by differential refraction of light waves -- has just been detected in the fur of golden moles.

Aside from the “eye shine” of nocturnal mammals, seen when a headlight or flashlight strikes their eyes, the discovery marks the first known instance of iridescence in a mammal. The findings, published in the latest Royal Society Biology Letters, reveal yet another surprise: the golden moles are completely blind, so they cannot even see their gorgeous fur.

“It is densely packed and silky, and has an almost metallic, shiny appearance with subtle hints of colors ranging between species from blue to green,” co-author Matthew Shawkey told Discovery News.

Shawkey, an associate professor in the Integrated Bioscience Program at the University of Akron, was first inspired to study golden moles after an undergraduate student of his, Holly Snyder, wrote her honors thesis about iridescence. Snyder is lead author of the paper.

For the study, the scientists pulled hairs from specimens of four golden mole species. Using high tech equipment, such as scanning electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy, the researchers analyzed the structure of the hairs, down to their smallest elements.

The researchers determined that the hairs are indeed luminescent. They further discovered that each hair has a flattened shape with reduced cuticular scales that provide a broad and smooth surface for light reflection. The scales form multiple layers of light and dark materials of consistent thickness, very similar to those seen in iridescent beetles.

Optical modeling suggests that the multiple layers act as reflectors that produce color through interference with light. The sensitivity of this mechanism to slight changes in layer thickness and number explains color variability.

What remains a mystery is why blind animals would have such eye-catching fur.

Ancestors of the moles were sighted, so it’s possible that the iridescence is a carryover from those times. “However, the moles have diverged considerably from these ancestors so there had to be some selection pressure other than communication to keep their color intact,” Shawkey said.

Another possibility is that the fur somehow wards off the mole’s sighted predators. But Shawkey said shiny fur “would seem to make them more conspicuous,” doing just the opposite. The moles are not poisonous, so the coloration does not serve as a warning to other animals.

The researchers instead think that iridescence may be a byproduct of the fur’s composition, since the structure also streamlines the mole’s profile and creates less turbulence underground, permitting the animals to move more easily through dirt and sand.

“Many of the nanostructures producing iridescent colors have non-optical properties like enhanced rigidity (think mother of pearl) or enhanced water repellency (such as seen in Morpho butterflies),” Shawkey explained. “In the former case, the color, like in the moles, clearly has no communication function and is a byproduct.”

Iridescence has been around for at least 50 million years, since beetles from that time with the unique coloration have been unearthed. An ancient, iridescent bird feather dating to 40 million years ago has also been documented, as have early shells. Now peacocks, hummingbirds, sunbeam snakes, birds of paradise, the rainbow skink, and many fish flash their iridescence.

Daniel Osorio, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Sussex, has studied iridescence in birds. Surprisingly, one of the most beautiful examples may belong to the common feral pigeon. The pigeon’s neck feathers shift from green to magenta, but often look drab gray to human eyes.

Osorio told Discovery News, “In fact, this gray may be a remarkable and very unusual color to birds that can probably see more colors than us.”

In the future, Shawkey and his team hope to study the phenomenon more, to better understand the function of iridescence in the moles and other species.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Family of the Week: The "Roof Shrews"

The family Subvilliidae is made up of small-sized armored insectivores. Not really shrews, though they have a unique kinship to them. They more resemble modern hedgehogs. Though most, with the exception of Fistulostium, have body armor that somewhat resembles that of armadillos, only far more complex. These are all tiny, nocturnal creatures. All feed on insects, spiders and earthworms, but occasionally will lap up honey and fallen fruit. They are short-legged animals that sleep by day in burrows. The eyes are large and round, but the eyesight is relatively poor. They mostly use hearing and their sense of smell to find food. The nose is large and naked, the ears are small, round and lies close to the head. These animals have long whiskers, like cats, to help them pick up scent particles. They have long claws on their feet, to aid them in digging their roosting burrows. Most species have long tongues with sticky saliva that helps them catch and trap insects. Most species are small, the largest species in this family are those of Palatops, which is about the size of a large chihuahua dog. Rarely would these animals be seen by day. Most of the time, they spend in their burrows sleeping, and only come out when it is dark out.

Armatechinos has the most extensive armor in this family. The armor is very thick and nearly impenetrable. Another close relative, Subvillius, has almost the same effect in it's armor, but it is not as extensive. The armor has almost a 'trapdoor' effect, and has joints that allows it to close tight into it's self, forming an almost complete ball-like fortress against predators. The armor material is made from the same material that makes up our fingernails. In Subvillius, the armor also has bulb-like spikes that offer it added protection from predators.

One variety, Fistulostium, does not have full body armor. Instead it is camouflaged very well. This species lives in the American south, making it's home in the bristles of the largest cacti in the world. Their fur is even a greenish-brown, making them almost impossible to see. Most of their body is covered in dense wool, but they have also developed sharp spines on their back and tail that are just as sharp as the spines on a cactus, and this also offers them added security should they be singled out by a predator. A single 25-foot tall cactus could house a whole community of 200 or more of these little animals. Though they are solitary animals, and make their own burrows in the sides of the cactus, and have little to do with their neighbors outside the breeding season, except for maybe an occasional territorial sqwabble. But the cactus provides these animals with a home, food and water. They feed on insects and even lap up nectar from the flowers these cacti produce, thus pollenating it. These are the smallest members of this family, smaller than most modern shrews, and are capable of getting around by leaping from one cactus thorn to another, much like how lemurs leap from one tree branch to another.

Few predators prowl the Metazoic nights. But among the many predators the species in this family have are mongooses and small deinognathids. Occasionally predatory bats, birds and snakes will also take them if they can find them and capture them. But these animals are not easy prey, as they can quickly disappear in their armor, and even into their burrows.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Family of the Week: the Wiverns

The family Viridae is a family of marsupials that have turned carnivorous. They derived from small, tree-dwelling dasyures. The body form is basically like that of the ancient Miacids, with a few differences. The paws have developed into grasping hands, with large, very sharp claws. The eyes are large, they have naked soles and palms, and several species have prehensile tails. The fur is soft and thick, and covers the body, with the exception of the muzzle and around the eyes. The ears are small and pointed. They are mostly active at night, and are among the few remaining marsupials in the Metazoic that hunt by scent, and recognize territories by marking them with odor. These animals have scent glands in the nude part of their face that they use to rub on branches, and sometimes on plants. These animals are pouncers, and hunt their prey using the same technique that modern cats do. These animals range in size from the size of a large mouse to the size of a St. bernard dog. Most species are insect-eaters, but some eat small vertebrates as well. Larger species, like Imperivia, often hunt animals as big as kangaroos.

One of the most unique species is Volanecator. It is the only fully carnivorous mammal that has a gliding membrane. It is mostly an insect eater, but sometimes adds small lizards and small rodents to it's diet. It is about the size of a flying squirrel, and the gliding membrane covers the areas between the arms and legs and from the back of the legs to the base of the tail. It retracts when the animal is at rest or climbing. It climbs using a series of leaps and jumps.

The largest species in the family is Imperivia. This species is not a tree-dweller like most of the others in this family. Imperivia is a ground-dweller, and hunts larger prey than the other species in this group. Kangaroos, phalangers, lemurs, rodents and even large reptiles make up their menu. Though they are ground-dwellers, these animals will climb trees, or even cross rivers to get at their prey. This animal kills it's prey by capturing it with the forepaws and biting the windpipe shut so the prey cannot breathe, often shaking the prey violently to dig it's canines in more.

The smallest species in this family are in the genus Dumetanguis. Most species are the size of a small house cat, but one is the size of a large mouse, or a small rat. Most of these species have crests on their head and neck, or horse-like manes. The eyes are large, and the ears are small, round and naked. In the smallest species, D. minuare, the tail is lightly haired with short, fine, white hairs, whereas other species have long, well-haired tails. The mouths are big in Dumetanguis, and give the face an almost reptilian appearance. Their mouths open wide so they can take on prey as big as themselves, or sometimes larger.

These animals are mostly active at night, and few other predators are active during the same hours. One species of caroroo roams around at night, and are capable of making a meal of some of the larger species in this family. Smaller species may fall prey to the larger species as well. These animals can defend themselves by using their claws and teeth, which can be effective weapons. Smaller species may also fall prey to snakes, gowannas, and carnivorous bats.

Friday, September 30, 2011

More Genera Changes

Every once in a while I do this. I go back and change some names of some of the genera on my Metazoic checklist. Well, I've been working on that for a bit now, since I printed another prefix and suffix list. I'm really getting to know these terms now! Aside from adding a few new genera and species to the list this past week, I also changed some names, and if you have printed a copy of our most recent checklist, you might want to change these names. So I just wanted to give everyone a headsup on this. Some have been screaming for name changes for a long time! So the names that have been changed are:

Tapimimus is now Tapiemulus
Callichroma is now Anemodryas
Plumipitheca is now Crossodemnus

I had to change these! For one thing, I remember what Metalraptor said about using the name "pithecus" for lemurs and other prosimians. And besides, I think Crossodemnus better fits these varieties of lemurs, whose face and body is full of frills and crests. Hense the new name, which means "tasseled-" or "frilled-upon". I thought it was creative anyway. :) And I found out that Callichroma was already taken. So, I had to change it too. The new name actually means "wind spirit". It too is a lemur, and today, lemurs are often seen as spirits. And I like the sound and feel of "wind spirit", as these lemurs would be fast in today's world.

The Tapimimus is another one I just had to change. The animal is NOT entirely based on Dixon's Tapimus. Same idea, but I wanted to make it it's own animal, an antelope instead of a descendant of rodents. So I felt I had to change the name. The new name actually means "equal to tapirs", even though it is a tiny animal, only the size of a modern tapir's nose! LOL!

Anyway, those are the new changes. I will be updating you all on more as they happen. I'm still hoping to reach 4000 species by Christmas 2012. But if I keep going at the rate I went last night, I should reach that goal by next summer. So, keep your eyes on the ticker on the right side of this page! I update it every time I add new species to the checklist!