This is a group that I have extensively worked on. The family Therapedidae is a group of mammals, some are biped and some are quadruped, and occupy a wide number of niches during the Metazoic. Their base ancestor is today's elephant shrews, but these animals spread fast! Their range does not stop in Africa. When Africa collides with Europe it gives these animals an advantage in spreading. Though they are very good swimmers as well, and can cross some parts of the future Mediterranean sea. So it would not be too hard for these animals to reach Europe and Asia. They reach their greatest diversification when North America collides with Asia and the Therapeds are able to reach the Americas.
The therapeds range in size from the dainty Dendromillops
. Most are vegetarians. Although some species, like Tachypus
are known to be somewhat omnivorous. The widest-spread genus is that of Tachypus
. This is also the Metazoic's fastest runner. They can out-run a cheetah! Some species of Tachypus
can run as fast as 120 mph, and keep it up for several miles. They live in herds and are very migratory. They roam from one end of the North American continent to the other in search of food. Sometimes they even come within close range of other Tachypus
species. The range of this genus is from South America all the way to Africa, and they are one of the most successful animals of the Metazoic. They keep their herds together with loud communicative calls that include squaks, barks, and bleeps. When danger is near, the leader of the herd gives out a series of loud clicking sounds and the herd usually turns and runs.
All therapeds have soft feet, rather like camels or hippos. Unlike their closest kin of the Metazoic, the Deinognathids, of which most species have well-developed hooves. The tail is long and thick, and held much like those of kangaroos. Most species are bipedal and run like ostriches. Those that use all fours run pretty much like dogs. I usually like to divide this family into 3 varieties. There are the Geotragines that are basically 4-legged, ground-dwelling species, the Therapedines that are 2-legged animals, and the Hylophagines, which are known on this site as "bark-peelers".
Geotragines originally derived mostly in America. Geotragus
is a species that prefers to nest underground. Brittonia
, is a large, horse-like theraped. Though they are large, they are not very numerous, due to their restricted range of the mountains of central Africa. They are one of the tallest therapeds, standing about 15-feet tall, and browse on lower branches, bushes, plants and grass. However, they are among the slowest reproducers among mammals during the Metazoic, and a female can only have young once every 4 years. It takes 2 years of pregnancy and 2 years to raise the young. Vehemens
is the largest species, particularly V. australis
. The total length, including the tail is around 30 feet, and weigh about 13 tons. Dichoceros
is a tapir-sized theraped of the Amazon jungle, equipped with a hollow, Y-shaped horn that actually aids in vocalization. These mammals make loud, trumpeting sounds that can carry through the forests for miles. This allows them to lay claim to their territory. The horn however, is useless for defense or fighting of any kind. They are also the most social of all Geotragines, living in small, family-oriented herds.
The therapedines are the bipedal species, and also the most social, and migratory species. Unlike modern bipedal mammals, these animals do not hop, but rather they prefer to run like ostriches. Though some highly-energetic species like Tachypus
are omnivorous, most other therapedines are vegetarians. The smallest is the rat-sized Dendromillops
which lives in trees and feeds on it's leaves. At night, they also make nests of leaves in a tree hollow or small clump of branches. Some species live like mountain goats, like Oreogale
. Both of these species are completely at home in the mountains and steep cliffs. Like mountain goats, they are capable of clinging to even nearly vertical surfaces. But unlike mountain goats, they can do it without using their front legs. Labiocheilus
has another adaptation for this nearly vertical world it lives in, it has a very long, flexible upper lip. This allows these animals to grasp lichens, grass and moss that they favor that would be seemingly out of their reach. The lip acts rather like an elephant's proboscis to grasp the morsels and bring them to their mouth to be consumed. One species of Equitragus
, known as the Arctic Thicktail, inhabits the high-polar areas. Their coat even has the ability to change color with the seasons, much like the snowshoe hare of today.
The most interesting therapedines of all is Anabracchium
. This animal has completely lost it's front legs, and the body has gotten short, and globular in form. The neck is still as long as in other Therapeds though. These adaptations make this animal extremely streamlined for running, and they would be quite capable too of out-distancing a cheetah in no time flat! They can reach speeds of 70 mph from take-off, and keep it up for several miles. They stand about 7 feet tall, but most of that is legs and neck. They live in herds and can number in the hundreds of individuals. If caught by a predator, these animals are capable of kicking with their rear claws, but they usually prefer to run when they can.
The last group is also the smallest group, the Hylophagines. These are the bark-peelers of the Metazoic world. The reason they peel the bark off of certain trees is to get at the thick, rich, sweet, sappy flesh underneath. Sometimes they will eat the bark it's self, but their preference is with the flesh underneath. The trees they relish have co-adapted to tolerate this, and always regenerate new bark. Because of this, these animals tend to stay in forest areas where these trees are abundant. These animals are even good climbers. The bark is peeled from anywhere on the trees, and these animals have adapted to climb up to higher levels and branches to get the most out of each tree. These therapeds also take to trees when danger threatens. Two species are bipedal, and still capable of climbing very well. They are Genaceros
. Most of these species live in North America, while Hylophaga
, also the largest species among the bark-peelers, is a quadruped and still inhabits the Old World.
Like all herding grass-eaters, therapeds have a wide variety of predators. Among the greatest are large mongooses, dogs and deinognathids. Sometimes predatory pteropods will also prey on the therapeds, particularly such large species as Cercomoloch
. Therapeds are ever-watchful for any threats. Some species are hard to approach by all but the most cooperative pack-hunting animals like dogs and certain deinognathids. Tachypus
is actually a quite common victim of dogs, particularly Velocitherium
. But difficult for most other predatory animals to approach because they are so alert and so quick to respond.
To view some of the Theraped species I have thought up for the Metazoic era, you can visit their page on our website, though I think I need to redo some of the pics!! They can be viewed here: http://www.metazoica.com/Therapeds.html