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.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Family of the Week: The Metazoic Seals

The Metazoic family of seals, known as the Paraphocidae, are not really descended from modern seals. Rather, they come from weasel relatives, like otters. They somewhat resemble modern phocid seals, the external ears are not completely gone, but drastically reduced in size. The tail is either of medium length or very short. The nostrils close tightly shut to keep the water out, as can the ears. These seals have a third, clear, nictitating membrane that covers the eyes when they are underwater. The legs have been reduced to mere flippers. When landed, they move somewhat like turtles or crocodiles. Some are highly social species, living in groups of up to 100 individuals. While some are solitary, such as Monachitus. The eyes are large and round, the body is long, though it is somewhat longer in the species of Eufoedes than in any other seal. These seals also have the longest foreflippers in proportion to it's body than any other seal. They range in size from the 4-foot long-finned seal (Paraphoca pterogale) to the 50-60-foot long Megalophoca, which is perhaps the largest of all aquatic mammals in the Metazoic. All are aquatic, but not all live in the ocean. Unlike modern seals, but like some modern cetaceans, Mesophoca has made it's home in the Amazon River system.

The most interesting seals in this family is the kelp seal (genus: Gorgona). It is so-named because it lives among the kelp beds in the Pacific side of the USA. This seal does not swim in the usual horizontal fashion that other seals swim in. Instead, it normally swims in an upside-down vertical fashion so as to mimic the swaying strands of kelp it lives and feeds among. This makes the animal almost invisible to predators that may hunt it by sight, such as sharks. Gorgona is also a slow swimmer, inching along also making it seem like it is a part of the kelp beds. The only time the animal goes vertical is when it needs to surface, either to breathe or haul it's self back to land. These seals are also unique that they will sometimes snack on the strands of kelp. This provides the animal with a supply of iodine, a necessary mineral in reproduction. Though most of their diet consists of fish and urchins.

The largest seal, and probably the largest of all marine mammals in the Metazoic, is Megalophoca. This huge seal is the size of some modern whales. The males are the larger of the two, and never come to land. The smaller females may come on land to rear their pups, but that is it. All mating games take place in the ocean. This species, unlike modern seals, does not gather in large groups to raise their young. Females haul out alone on a beach and have their single baby. The baby is born helpless, unlike modern seals. The eyes are closed and they can barely move around on their own. By the time the baby is 4 weeks old, it will be ready to take it's first swim. The babies are born relatively small but grow fast. By this time, it is close to ½ the size of it's mother. Unlike modern seals, these seals are very helpful with their babies. With no males, or bulls, to hassle the young or push them around, females can dote on their pups as lovingly and caringly as any mother is with their young.

Eufoedes is the Metazoic's version of a leopard seal. This animal is built like a crocodile, and has much the same hunting habits. The disproportionately long flippers of this seal are ideal for maneuvering through the water after fish and other sea mammals, like Natopterus. This seal is a hunter, and the only member of this family to hunt such prey as other sea mammals. The head is somewhat large and elongate. The teeth protrude, as in crocodiles, and are very sharp and tough. Prey is killed much in the same manner modern leopard seals kill penguins, by slamming them on the surface of the water until their flesh is dismembered. This seal is long and slender in build and are mostly white in color. They prefer to wait underneath an ice flow for a prey animal to dip into the water and then the seal gives chase.

Mesophoca is the only seal to inhabit an inland river. Though many are familiar with the baikal seal, which inhabits Lake Baikal in Siberia, Mesophoca is a river animal. It is a long and slender seal, with short, round flippers and an otter-like head. The tail is medium-length and used to help paddle the animal through the water. They feed on fish, even the fearsome piranha. Often what this seal will do with piranha is attack from the backside and get a good grip behind the gills and violently shake the fish underwater until it has beheaded the fish. They are not very social seals, living mostly in couples, rather than in large groups.

Seals are mostly predators. Each one having it's own menu but basically the main diet consists of meat, such as fish, and even other mammals. But seals themselves may fall prey to other predators as well. Sharks are a main concern. For some species, even the greatest of all Megalophoca, they have to worry about sea genets (Thalassogenetta), which will kill not only adult seals, but their pups as well. Thalassogenetta particularly relishes Megalophoca, ripping into their chest and abdominal cavity with extreme and terrifying ease, and dismembering the giants in a manner of minutes. On land, seals have to contend with land-based predators as well. Though seals in the Metazoic are very alert and quick to respond to predatory advances, they are sometimes taken by dogs, deinognathids, mongooses, and Ailurocyonids. The pups may sometimes fall prey to large predatory oceanic bats like Acerictus. Mesophoca is one of many prey items of Deinognathus, which will sneak up and kill the animal as it rests on the riverbank.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The End of the Metazoic

I have been asked about this, since this is my project, I think it'd be important to come up with a sort of ending to the Metazoic era. Some imaginary scenario if you will. It's a sad subject to think about. We all know by now what killed off the dinosaurs. Well, we seem to have some pretty accurate speculations. So what happens at the end of the Metazoic? Well, we need a beginning. Imagine a world in which we are missing. Humans have killed themselves off by cutting down forests, overpopulation, overuse of natural resources. Face it, our extinction is pretty much inevitable! Humans don't know it. Unfortunately nowadays, people are getting paid good money to overpopulate. People on welfare have more and more kids because it means getting more money from the government. People like the Duggars (19 kids and counting) get paid a lot of money because they keep on having kids and TV stations like TLC will always pay them well to bring cameras into their home and film these big families. People like that. And they are not the only ones. Look at John and Kate Plus 8, they got paid $10,000 a week to be filmed. People are interested in those kind of shows. It encourages more and more people to have large amounts of kids because shows like this appeal to them. But what people like this don't realize is that these kids soon grow and need space of their own. Thus cutting into forests and not only pushing other animals out of their homes, but also every tree that is cut down takes away the chance of developing new oxygen for the atmosphere. Trees clear the air, the less trees and the more people, the less our chances of survival. But enough about that! That's a different blog!

Anyway, in this world humans have become extinct completely. It takes several million years to clear the air. Thus the Metazoic begins. It begins modestly, because smaller animals need less oxygen to survive. I figure a good 14-20 million years for the air to clear. Small deer, antelope, rabbits, rats, mice, foxes, and even cats are running around along the ground. Cats hunt the rats and mice, foxes learn to hunt prey like the small deer. On the other side of the world, small antelope like the klipspringer and dik-dik are getting along without competition from larger species. The panthers have all died off. Elephant shrews have emerged, and they don't compete much with the small antelope because they have a wider range of food they will consume, like insects as well as vegetation. They have not completely become extinct because humans died off before that could happen. They learn to walk on their hind legs, giving them another great advantage that most antelope do not have. Now, they can feed off bushes and shrubs, and later on, trees. From here, the animal has 2 options: either they develop a long, thick tail to support their upright posture, or lose the tail altogether and develop humanoid-like buns. Keeping the tail is a greater advantage so that's what happens. Thus, the therapeds, or thicktails, are born. They develop a whole new group endemic to the Metazoic: the Trelatebrates.

Mammals in this age are different than they are in the Cenozoic. In fact, they probably deserve to have a totally different class of their own. Like modern mammals, they do produce milk for their young, and secrete it out of specialized glands, or mammae. But unlike modern mammals, the males all have no external scrotum. Either the testes have moved up into the pelvic cavity, or they simply cling closer to the body. There is also no external penis. Most Metazoic mammals have only 2 vents in the males, and 3 in the females, but in the case of the Trelatebrates, there are 3 in both sexes. Therefore externally it'd be very hard for us to tell the two sexes apart. When Africa collides with Europe, the descendants of antelope, elephant shrews and bushbabies all push thier way out of Africa, to land that they have never set foot before. They learn to deal with the cooler weather of Europe and the USSR, and migrate to other continents like Asia, India and ultimately Australia. Some species go further. The predecessors of the therapeds, the "pig-horses", have become highly adaptable, and even head north and cross the now connecting land bridge from Mongolia, to Japan (now a part of the Asian continent) and into Alaska. Thus heading down to North America where they settle and become the therapeds. Sometimes, while the land bridge from Alaska and Asia is still there, some species migrate back to the Old World. By the time the therapeds have become the Deinognathids, the land bridge connecting Alaska to Mongolia has corroded away. Some Deinognathids made it before that happens, and take over the Old World as top predators. They followed the migrating herds of therapeds, deer and antelope to get there. All this is within a space of 35 million years after man. The Old World in fact was good for the Deinognathids. They had little to no competition from large mongooses or Ailurocyonids. Those that were there got pushed out by the Deinognathids that invaded the Old World. They already fed on the deer and antelope that led them to this section of the world, and they found other varieties of food as well. Even a small deinognathid like Paricteria, was capable of bringing down and killing an animal like a deer or antelope.

Deinognathids did good in both sides of the world. They have a high reproductive rate, they are intelligent, and pick up on things very quickly, and most species are bipeds. The bipedal posture gives mammals a much greater advantage over quadrupeds. So the bipeds took over quickly. This is the reason deinognathids will win over barofelids and ailurocyonids as top predators. Descendants of felines never learn to walk in a bipedal posture for longer than a few inches. So the felines and their descendants eventually die out. But for their time on Earth, felines did evolve to hunt rodents, which also later became bigger, as did the felines, which led to the evolution of the Barofelids and Ailurocyonids, which are the Metazoic's "big cats".

In the Metazoic, some continents got larger and some more islands form. What I always call San Diego Is. is made up of the US states of Washington, Oregon and California, all the way to Baja California. Volcanic activity caused it to separate from the rest of the North American continent. Thus making it an island. Many animals were in that portion of the continent when it split apart. Some were gentle plant-eaters or omnivores, and others were meat eaters. Even some cats were present. Before the end of the Metazoic, San Diego Island actually dissipates and sinks back into the sea. So do the Batavian Islands. Thus their unique cargo of animals either migrates back to the mainland USA, or finds a distant land elsewhere, or dies off with the islands. Some peaks of tall mountains remain for several more million years, but are gone before the end of the Metazoic.

I figure the Metazoic era to last as much as 100 million years after man. At that time, I am figuring perhaps a surge in volcanic activity will cause the extinction of the mammals of the Metazoic. Perhaps Yellowstone will erupt. This would cause local and global catastrophe. Imagine if for a thousand years, Old Faithful failed to erupt. All that pressure builds up underneath. A thousand years worth of pressure in the ground is a lot of pressure! Earthquakes soon pile up and warn the animals of an impending disaster. Animals can take the warning, and migrate to safer places, but with this being a major eruption, where could they all go? Earthquakes continue to mount up, all leading to the final event. Finally, after many years of inactivity, the volcano awakens and explodes. Billions and billions and billions of tons of ash, rock and poisonous gases leak into the atmosphere. It is obvious the animals nearby were taken in the blast, but what about animals from other continents and the oceans? Well, with a thousand years of pressure built up underneath Yellowstone, it build up enough power to blacken the skies all over the world for as long as 10 years. In this time, plants die off, then the animals that feed on the plants starve to death. While predators last a little bit longer, feeding on the abundance of dead plant-eating animals, eventually their food supply will run thin. This will then cause the extinction of the predatory animals, which will be the last to die off.

The main animals that will make it past this event are the smaller animals, the ones who need less food, and go underground and hibernate when times get tough. But few mammals can hibernate as long as 10 years! So most mammals die off. Some, such as mice, may make it through. They are small, and need only tiny amounts of water, and they can feed on anything! So mice are likely to make it through even without hibernating. And smaller animals that feed on them, such as small predators, will also make it through. When the skies clear, we would see less in the way of mammals, and more in the way of open ecological spaces, waiting for something to fill in those spaces. What will be next? Perhaps the archosaurs? Maybe an age of birds? Or maybe some other little creature, maybe completely unknown to us, will evolve in the Metazoic to run through the grass, and wait their turn to take over the world. Perhaps? We won't really know until that time comes.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Family of the Week: The Bear-Dogs

The family Cynovulpidae, is actually an extension of the modern day dog family (Canidae). Only unlike modern dogs, most of these animals are plantigrade walkers. That is they walk on their soles, like bears, rather than on their toes, like modern dogs. The only real throw-back to modern dog locomotion is Velocitherium. These animals are mostly fox-like in the head and face. The tail is usually long, sometimes as long as the head and body. The body is slender, in most species the legs are short. The eyes are almond-shaped, in most species, the ears are triangular. Some have large ears and some have small ears. The largest ears belong to the genus Orealopex. Much like modern canines, this is a widely varied family. Some are runners, some are surprise hunters. Some live in the tropics, and some live in the arctic. Some are tree-dwellers, some are most at home in the water. They range in size from Vulpella, which is less than 2 feet long in total length, to Daspletarctos, which is more than 10 feet long in total length and rules the Arctic of it's time. Most are group hunters, but some are loners, unlike modern dogs. The eyesight in most species is very good, the sense of smell is less than it is in modern dogs, but better than it is in most other Metazoic mammals.

Cynovulpes is perhaps the most intriguing species, it is a total scavenger. This species never hunts it's own food. Instead, it relies on the "kindness" of other hunters like Carnophalanger. Which is not really kindness! One wrong move with these carnivorous roos and the dogs would be doomed! Often they are the first at a Carnophalanger kill, sometimes even before the prey it's self is killed the dogs have begun to gather to steal their share. Since Carnophalanger are actually sloppy eaters, chunks of meat from their prey often gets thrown about like pies in a Hollywood food fight. This is what Cynovulpes waits for. They grab the chunks as quickly as they hit the ground. The dogs then take the chunks of meat to a nearby quiet spot to be consumed. As many as 20 dogs may be in a group. When the predator is done with getting it's fill is also when these dogs move in, to take whatever is left over from the kill. Cynovulpes and Carnophalanger are constant neighbors, living in close quarters. Usually the dogs are good about avoiding attacks from the kangaroos. But sometimes one can get unlucky and will be killed and eaten by the kangaroos.

Velocitherium is the exact opposite of Cynovulpes, it is a pure hunter, and is built for the run. These animals, like modern day cheetahs, are slenderly built with small heads and long legs, and a tail they use for balancing while running. Their top speeds can reach 75 MPH and they can keep it up for considerable distances. They are larger than cheetahs, and most of that speed is in the stride it's self. With this speed, they can very easily chase down deer, antelope, therapeds, and coursing rats. These are their common prey items. With thier speed and adaptations, they can keep up with every swerve their prey moves, grabbing the prey with semi-prehensile claws and killing the prey by clamping down on the spine.

Cynovulpids inhabit many corners of the world. There is even a species confined to New Zealand called Erinyes. This fox is small and hunts mostly birds, bats, mice and reptiles. Though it is somewhat larger than Vulpella. The coat of this species is quite thick, and tough to withstand sub-Antarctic winds and temperatures. Another species that is quite interesting, and a new addition if I say so myself to this family, is the river dogs (genus: Alveolycon). These are small, otter-like dogs. Actually closely related to modern day bush dogs, only they have gone a step further in their evolution. These little dogs live mostly in and around the river areas mostly of the Amazon. They hunt for fish, shrimp, crayfish and crabs. They may even tackle piranha in the water, ignoring the razor-sharp teeth and powerful jaws of the fish to get after the soft flesh. Alveolycon is also the only species of dog in the Metazoic that is active only at night. The eyes are cat-like to be able to see in murky water even on dark nights. To a degree, they also use a bit of echolocation under water. The sense of smell is poorer in this species than in other dogs, as it is not needed underwater to find prey. It is really only useful to find mates during the breeding season.

Cynovulpids are usually the predators in their range, but sometimes they can fall prey to some more stronger predators. As we have learned, Cynovulpes can sometimes fall prey to Carnophalanger. Some like Dendrocynus, can sometimes fall prey to Deinognathus. The smaller species may be taken by various Deinognathids, large mongooses, predatory pteropods, snakes, raptors, and even Barofelids. Ornaturus is sometimes careless and is often taken by snakes like anacondas. Some species, like Daspletarctos, has no natural enemies as adults. But does face some stiff competition for food with such species as Ictocamelus. Even Erinyes sometimes falls prey to the larger predatory weasels in it's range. Namely Ariadne, which is the largest predators on the island.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Florida is Getting Colder

According to this article, it's true! Florida, the warmest and most humid state in the USA, is freezing over and it is causing a tremendous strain on the native wildlife that evolved solely for warm climates. Manatees are among the hardest hit. Florida has been experiencing record numbers of colder days, and manatees with very little in the way of warming blubber and no fur, are dying off due to shock. Fish are also suffering. This is just plain terrible because it could cause a mass extinction. Manatees, American crocodiles and several species of turtles rely on the warm, humid climate to keep them going. When they get too cold for too long, they go into shock and it kills them. Well, this article explains all.


Florida's Wildlife Freezing to Death

Manatees, sea turtles and fish in the Sunshine State are dying in record numbers because of the unusually long cold snap.
By Jennifer Viegas

Thu Feb 11, 2010 01:45 PM ET
With temperature in central Florida dipping down again this week, conservationists are bracing for more animal and plant deaths due to unusually long winter cold snaps that have resulted in record wildlife losses.
Manatees have been among the hardest hit, with over 200 killed in January alone, and carcasses continuing to wash ashore. The highest number of manatee deaths for a single calendar year in Florida waters is 429, so local officials are closely monitoring these endangered marine mammals.
"Manatees can experience what is known as cold stress syndrome when they are exposed to water below 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degree Celsius) for long periods," Florida's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute spokesperson Carli Segelson told Discovery News. "This can result in death, or weaken manatees, leaving them more vulnerable to other health issues later."

Fish experience similar problems, and widespread fish kills have been reported throughout the state. Multiple species, from small pilchards to larger snooks and tarpons, were affected. Young fish are particularly vulnerable. Dive teams have found the remains of numerous juveniles from fish such as barracudas, grunts, parrotfish and pinfish.
Officials remain cautiously optimistic about endangered sea turtles, which can suffer from "cold-stunning" when water temperatures drop to less than 50 degrees for prolonged periods. Patricia Behnke, a spokesperson for the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), told Discovery News that "under such conditions, the turtles may be forced into a coma-like state." It renders them nearly immobile at first and can eventually lead to death.
Behnke added, however, that rescue efforts for sea turtles in Florida have been "astounding and unprecedented."
Thanks to tremendous effort from FWC staff and volunteers, she said more than 4,500 sea turtles were rescued from the state's chilly waters in January. The turtles were placed in warm salt water to revive them and allowed to recover. Nearly 80 percent of the rescued sea turtles have since been released.
A benefit of the rescue effort is it has improved the ability of conservationists to monitor sea turtles.
"We've been able to tag many more turtles than ever before, which enables us to learn about their biology," explained FWC biologist Blair Witherington.
A report recently issued by Dave Hallac and colleagues at Florida's Everglades National Park determined that at least 70 crocodiles, more than 60 manatees, and countless plants, butterflies and snakes have died within the Everglades marshes and mangroves so far this winter. Hallac said the impact of the cold weather has been "substantial" in South Florida.
But Behnke believes at least some of the snake deaths could help local ecosystems. Burmese and African rock pythons, along with other animals, are not native to the area and are considered to be "invasive." Because they are tropical species, these animals have very low cold tolerance. Some Burmese pythons have even been found frozen stiff in the Everglades.
Scott Hardin, the FWC's exotic species coordinator, said half of South Florida's python population might have died in the recent cold weather. He speculates that green iguanas, which are also considered to be invasive, have experienced dramatic population drops—literally, as some South Florida residents have reported witnessing dead iguanas fall from trees onto their patios.
Behnke and Segelson indicated it could take months to fully assess the wildlife damage caused by this year's winter weather. The fish, plant, insect and other deaths could impact additional species within those ecosystems, and it remains to be seen how the deaths of juveniles might hurt the ability of species to recover in the spring.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Some More About Changes

As you all may know, I have been working on my checklist. I am still trying to reach that 5000 species goal. I have just over 1800 more species to go. The 5000 mark is my "half-way" point. I set my goal to a shorter route. Once I reach that goal, I will then set my ambitions to reach a goal of 10,000 species of mammals for the Metazoic. I've enlarged some families in the process, and added a couple of new families as well. I am mostly working on the rat and mouse family (until I reach a higher number of species than is recognized today), the bats (namely pteropods), and any trelatebrates because they are a group specific to the after era. But I have also been changing some of the names. For instance, now I have renamed the bushbabies. Originally I was going to go with the genus Galago. But I figured since this is a different era and a different family, I should go with a whole new genus for these little animals. Actually, I have them separated into 2 new genera. They are Nyx and Alectrona. In the process I managed to add many more species of bushbabies. Some even evolve to become active during the day, like their closest relatives.

I've also added some more common names for some of the animals that have gone unnamed for so long. Like I didn't want to call Megaloceromys a "rat". Even though it is closely related. To me, a rat is always going to be a small animal that scampers around in the shadows. That's why I refuse to call lions, tigers and leopards "cats". Because to me, the word "cat" only refers to a small animal that says meow. I always call the larger felines "panthers". Always did, most likely always will. So I wanted to give such rats as Anatomys, Megaloceromys, and Ceratomys different common names, instead of calling them "rats". Ceratomys is now called the jarchars. Megaloceromys is now the akital. Anatomys is now the tanzavar. Yes I know they are funny names. But it's better than using mutt-names IMO. Mutt-names are different when you are thinking of scientific names. I use them then myself. Or I never would have thought of Anatomys ("duck-rat"). But I like to be original when thinking of english names for my animals. Unless they are close kin and resembles what I've come to know their modern relatives as. Like in the case of the bushbabies. They don't change much in the Metazoic. Most are still small lemurs with big eyes and big ears and long tails that are active mostly at night. So, I kept the name "bushbabies", rather than change the name, because they are very closely related. Just in a different family. A family I like to call the "Metazoic extension of the Galigidae". I did that a lot in my project. I did it with the dog family. Known in the Metazoic as the Cynovulpidae. Some of the species I even still refer to as "dogs", even though they are not Canids, though very closely related.

I've even used some ideas submitted to me on here. I placed the "scamperers" on my list, they sounded like a great idea. I'm still thinking of this Deinognathid idea that was recently submitted. I am still not ready to put the new list up. I think I've done it enough for this period. So it will be a while. Maybe when I meet that 5000 species mark I will put up the new list.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Family of the Week: The Hedgehogs

The hedgehogs are pretty widespread in the old world Metazoic. I have retained the modern day family name, Erinaceidae, and even have a few modern genera stretch into the Metazoic era. Some species take dramatic turns. There are still several spiny species that walk along the ground and curl up into a spiky ball when they are threatened. However, there are spineless species that seek their safety in the treetops or in underground burrows. They range in size from the tiny, mouse-sized Neotetracus, to Pithecurus, which can measure about 3 feet including the tail. They still retain the same dental features of their modern counterparts. The elongated incisors seem to be what separates them from other insectivores, and is present even in exclusively Metazoic species. Most species are active only at night, with the exception of Echinosorex, Hylomys, Neotetracus, and Neohylomys. At night, these animals recover to their underground burrows, or ground-level tree hollows. Some species, such as Pithecurus, Dendroechinus, Gliropetes, and Sylvericus, are nocturnal tree-dwellers. Pithecurus has even developed a prehensile tail to aid in grasping tree branches as it runs. These species have no spines at all, and unlike the gymnures and their spikeless, ground-dwelling allies, have no odorous scent gland to use as defense. Their primary defense is remaining in the trees and moving quickly. All species are found only in the Old World. There are no species that can be found in the New World, not even in the Metazoic.

There are 2 sub-families in the Metazoic; the Erinaceinae contain the modern genera, and the Pithecurinae contain the tree-dwellers. Most of the Erinaceinae are tail-less, or have very short tails. The Pithecurinae on the other hand, have tails usually longer than their head and body, or at least of equal length. Some have developed prehensile tails, but none to the degree of Pithecurus, who has the strongest tail in the family. The legs are generally short in all but Pithecurus, whose legs are not really long, but better designed for leaping. All hedgehogs and relatives walk in a plantigrade fashion. That is, they walk on their palms and soles. A few species, like those of Erinaceus, are hibernators, and usually go to underground burrows, or hollow logs, to roost in a torpid state. However, the species E. amurensis, does not hibernate, but rather sits out the cold spells, and has developed a woolly coat between the spiny coat.

Erinaceids are omnivorous. Most of their diet consists of insects, small vertebrates, bird eggs, carrion, fruit, berries and even flowers. Erinaceids, even today, are uniquely immune to such things as snake venom. This is an advantage as such animals as Pithecurus dispatches small, tree-dwelling vipers. Pithecurus is among the most carnivorous and vicious of all Erinaceids. They feed on not only snakes, but lizards, birds, bats, eggs, mice, sometimes they will even descend to the ground to hunt small antelope, like Quadroculus. Despite it's ability to see in all directions at once, it often gets caught and killed by Pithecurus, which then carries it into the trees to be consumed. Pithecurus also sometimes will kill small lemurs, like the bushbabies, and eat them. They are agile enough to persue bushbabies, though they cannot always leap as far as the bushbabies can. But for their size, Pithecurus can leap as far as 15 feet in a single bound. Other tree-dwelling Erinaceids have a mixed diet, with equal amounts of meat and fruit in their diet.

Whether the Erinaceids use spikes, bad odor, or agility as their means of defense, they can sometimes fall prey to a wide range of predators. Most among them, foxes, predatory rats and Regisciurids, and civets and mongooses. Metazoic genets are particularly skilled at unfolding hedgehogs that have taken up their defensive spiny ball posture, and getting to their head, which is then crushed in the predator's mouth. They seem to have an ability to ignore the sharp spines. Some predators, like the predatory pteropods, can even take the tree-dwelling species. Sometimes even Pithecurus. Tree-dwelling Erinaceids do not always roost in tree hollows, sometimes they roost out on a tree branch like sloths, which makes them even more vulnerable to attack from day predators. Pithecurus has large, sharp teeth, and curved claws, which gives them some defensive weaponry. But they rarely get the chance to use these weapons when confronting a predator like Nycteraptor.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Family of the Week: The Dasyures

Today, the family Dasyuridae is a family of small, carnivorous marsupials. Most of them are mongoose-like in appearance. Some resemble small shrews or mice. During the Metazoic, this family has little time to change before the land is taken over by carnivorous kangaroos, which outcompete the dasyures for the title of top predator. A few species have been added, but the Metazoic only sees the emergence of one new dasyure genus, Spilotigris. This animal is the size of a bengal tiger and just as ferocious. In today's world, it could bring down a cow very easily. Metazoic dasyures are not too much different than they are today. They range in size from the tiny Antechinus to the Spilotigris. Antechinus and most other species resemble rats, with the lifestyle more akin to shrews. Dasyurus, Dasyuroides, Spilotigris and Myoictis resemble mongooses, and in some cases, even cats. The body is covered in soft fur, the ears are mostly small and triangular in shape. The eyes are large and round. The tail is well-haired in most species. In the smaller species, the tail is slightly haired and mouse-like. The feet are also like those of mongooses, with the exception of Spilotigris, whose claws are retractable. Spilotigris also has protruding canines, as did the sabre-toothed "cats" and the ancient Thylacosmilus. The tail is generally long, almost as long as the head and body. Most dasyures are ground-dwellers. Myoictis may be the exception though, as it has most often been seen in trees.

Dasyures are most active at night and during the Metazoic, that doesn't change at all. These animals prowl the night in search of prey. Sometimes they can be seen in daylight, but it's rare. Later on in the Metazoic, these animals will be replaced with a species of night-hunting caroroo. Dasyures are low to the ground mostly, with shortened legs, but they can move surprisingly fast. They have a great sense of smell, and usually use this method while hunting. Unlike the caroroo, which uses sight. Most small dasyures feed on anything they can capture, from insects to frogs to small lizards and even birds and eggs. Spilotigris is the largest species and is capable of eating anything. They will hunt down kangaroos, and even wild horses single-handedly. Dasyures are lone hunters usually, but sometimes will team up with other individuals in order to bring down prey they otherwise would not be able to overpower.

Unlike today, there are no scavenging species in this family. They too become out-competed by local foxes, soon to become the scavenging bear-fox (Cynovulpes). Larger dasyures have few natural enemies. The worst would be predatory bats, but smaller species may be preyed upon by snakes, larger dasyures, foxes, monitor lizards, raptors, bats, and felines. Small species tend to roost in burrows they dig in the ground. While most species are quadrupeds, today there is a bipedal species, that unfortunately does not make it to the Metazoic. Like all marsupials, Dasyures raise underdeveloped youngsters, but they have no pouch, like kangaroos. The young cling to a nipple under the mother's belly and are kept exposed. They must cling tight, so they do not fall off, because the mother will offer no help if it does. After they are weaned, the babies crawl onto the back of the mother and cling on with their claws. After the babies are completely weaned and off to be on their own, the females of the smaller species usually die.