View Full Version : May/June 2011 Lite Challenge Entry: NK004 III (Inari)
06-02-2011, 07:59 PM
The NeoKosmos Celestial Body Catalog is a project to catalog all objects of interest in the Shuriken Galaxy, a dwarf spiral galaxy approximately 9800 ly in diameter, with an average disk thickness of 150 ly, and a bulge thickness of 420 ly. The galaxy is rich in gas and dust; although it has a mass of about 600 million suns, half of this mass is dark matter, and over 90% of the remaining mass is gas and dust, the remaining matter being found in nearly 50 million stars, with an average mass slightly above 0.5 suns. It is classified as a Dwarf SAb galaxy, or a kS2 under the Yerkes scheme. It has five well-defined spiral arms, labeled Alpha through Epsilon.
The NK004 system is located on the Beta arm, 3438 ly from galactic center. Under IAU definitions, the system has 8 known planets and 12 known dwarf planets, one of which, Inari, is known to sustain life. Inari is one of the best explored objects in the NK catalog, and is home to a permanent robotic presence, as it is biologically the closest analog to Earth known in the universe.
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great to see more entries - looks like a good start, but try using less compression (higher quality) when you save - the texts are getting mauled by it :)
06-03-2011, 07:46 AM
What Tilt said...
06-03-2011, 03:24 PM
Hmm... I saved at maximum quality.
I think the text got mauled earlier on.
GIMP's text is too simplistic, so I tried making most of the text in Word, taking a screenshot, and finally scaling it up to the size of my image (which was probably where the problem occured). I may need to find a different way to get large amounts of text into images in the future.
06-03-2011, 04:32 PM
What do you mean by "too simplistic"?
now I don't know GIMP, but I believe some users choose to use inkscape (also free) for texts after making the image in GIMP, however, the amount of text is rather small so I would guess that GIMP should be able to do it.
06-03-2011, 05:36 PM
If you scale up your image in GIMP, which it looks like you might have done, GIMP automatically rasterizes all of your text layers. If you catch it early enough, you can use the text tool on those "formerly" text layers which gives you the option of editing them as text again to increase the font size normally. It all depends on your saves and timing. Likely at this point, you'll need to reenter all of your text either through GIMP, or as tilt suggested, Inkscape.
06-04-2011, 10:12 PM
So yeah, I was too lazy to make a bunch of text layers, and didn't realize how crappy the end result looks.
Fix'd (I think)
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Edit: lol, wrong picture. Fix'd again.
06-04-2011, 10:27 PM
Now we can see that the first "Characteristics" is spelled incorrectly. Also, down in the "Biosphere Characteristics", "Biomass" somehow picked up an extra "s".
Also, the "More Info" button isn't working. :-)
06-04-2011, 11:38 PM
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The "more info" button is coming later.
looking muuuch better now :)
06-14-2011, 05:41 PM
Inari is the most bizarre extrasolar planet ever discovered, not because it is so different from Earth, but because it is nearly the same. Its composition, structure, and atmosphere are in the range considered "normal" for terrestrial planets, but its biosphere exhibits an uncanny degree of convergence with our own, despite a different evolutionary history. Early on, there was speculation that a currently unobserved wormhole occasionally allowed interactions between Inari's and Earth's organisms, but the former world has supported complex life for twice as long, and its denizens, although similar to Earthlings, do exhibit minor physiological and molecular differences which rule out the possibility that they are truly related to us. Given the immense number of inhabited planets which must exist in the universe, it is of course inevitable that planets as Earthlike as Inari must exist, but for our probes to have happened upon such a world is an almost unimaginable coincidence. (a few people have suggested that this similarity is the result of a deity either guiding Earth's creatures to its twin or creating life the same way on many different planets. However, this explanation has, according to recent studies, garnered approximately 0.4469 +/- 0.00003 seconds of serious attention from the scientific community).
Inari’s plate tectonics are somewhat different than those of Earth. While on earth, continents float on top of plates of oceanic crust, on Inari there is no such difference in density. The continents are actually built up by hyperactive sections of the spreading ridges like those found in the oceans; even where the ridges do not reach above the surface, they may only be one or two thousand feet down.
The planet has three continents, referred to as the primary, secondary, and tertiary continents in order of size.
The primary continent is gigantic; it reaches a width of nearly 4000 miles from east to west, and its spreading ridge towers about 65,000 feet above sea level while stretching from the north pole to near the Antarctic circle. There are also two chains of volcanic mountains where the continent subducts into the oceans; a mountain range- impressive in and of itself at similar height and width to the Andes, but with a far greater length- along the west coast, and a giant island arc 100-300 miles off the east coast.
Because of the immense strength of Inari’s tides, many parts of the coasts are lined by sprawling tidal zones, occupied mostly by amphibious plants and animals; with tides sometimes exceeding 50 vertical feet, and nearly impossible to predict. In the tropics, the dominant plant species is the Beach Umbrella Tree. These bizarre trees take root in the tidal sediment in relatively shallow areas, eventually developing anchor roots which can descend more than twenty feet into the sand and silt. Then, gradually growing up through the zone partially covered by water, they finally reach their peak twenty to thirty feet above the tides’ highest point, spreading into a sheet of twisted foliage that eventually collides with and twists around the branches of neighboring individuals. This creates a partial cover of leaves. Some lower branches are intermittently submerged, and both these and the trunks of the trees often become encrusted with hard-shelled sessile marine organisms much like barnacles and anemones. These creatures retreat into their shells to avoid drying out, and extrude their tentacles to feed, typical on suspended debris, when the tide comes in. Beach Umbrella Trees bloom only once per year, and produce seeds too tough for the digestive systems of any animal without the jaws to break them open, but their leaves can provide a food source for animals.
In this ecosystem, the primary communities are:
Canopy: leaf-eaters which spend nearly their entire lives in the trees above the water line.
Tidal zone trunk-dwellers: the aforementioned hard-shelled invertebrates, as well as a few of their small parasites.
Ground-dwellers: These animals are capable of indefinite respiration in air or water, and consist mostly of arthropods, with a few echinoderms. They must also all have mechanisms to avoid drying out. Mostly decomposers, they get their food from the shed leaves of beach umbrellas, and the bodies of many of the animals present. Likewise, the trees’ upper roots will ultimately break down their bodies, along with any leftovers they don’t get. Their major predators are the
Wet migrants: these aquatic animals swim or drift in with the tide, and may use anything left below the water-line as a food source. They often tear apart large carcasses before the ground-dwellers get to them, and prey on these amphibious creatures, but occasionally become stranded themselves when the tide goes out and suffocate.
Dry migrants: At low tide, these creatures venture down from the trees to comb the sand and mud for food, and may go fishing in long-lived tide pools or occasionally dive, but most are sent scampering back to the treetops when the tide comes in.
In addition, several creatures, especially seabirds, use the beach umbrellas as a convenient nesting site, which may be miles off the coast, giving them access to waters further out than they could normally reach. The canopy also makes a good place to raise a family, assuming the nest can be defended from opportunistic predators.
Northeastern Mountains and Plains: In Inari’s thick, relatively CO2 rich atmosphere, high-altitude air is warmer and thicker, and the tree line varies from one mile at the poles to 20,000 feet of elevation in the tropics. Above this level, with no trees to resist its path, the wind tears up the eastern slopes in powerful, shrieking gales, forcing most animals to hold on for dear life. However, a group of insects called Sailbugs not only tolerate these winds easily; they use them to their advantage. Sailbugs have a slow, ectothermic metabolism, but their tissues contain antifreeze compounds and their proteins are all built to handle cold temperatures. Also, their exoskeletons contain air-filled pockets which serve as insulation, and can store fat. These creatures are definitely animals, but their backs of their flat, roughly disc-shaped bodies are covered with a layer of photosynthetic tissue outside the carapace. However, sailbugs must still get most of their carbon and other nutrients required for growth by grazing on alpine plants, so they qualify as photoheterotrophs, the most common on Inari. The trait that gives sailbugs their name is a set of four large wings, similar to parasails, which although incapable of powered flight are perfect for catching strong updrafts off of ledges, allowing the insects to fly in the same way as kites, securely anchored to the rocks by a silken line. This unique method of flight allows them to spend their days well out of the reach of ground-dwelling predators, and the same high winds that benefit sailbugs are too high for most flying animals, so they often have the skies nearly to themselves. However, ants can climb right up a sailbug’s safety lines. The insect holds its line near its mouthparts, and so can brush off or eat some enterprising predators, but many manage to crawl onto the backs of the much larger insects and graze off the nutrient-rich photosynthetic tissue. In some sailbug species, though, these invaders actually benefit the sailbug, feeding mostly off parasitic mites on the insects’ backs. In a few, symbiotic spiders set a deadly trap for these marauders. Finally several sailbugs’ backs are covered with tiny spikes and stinging hairs, much like those found on plants which want to discourage having their leaves eaten. However, while they are mostly safe from predation during truly extreme winds, at night, and during winter hibernation, sailbugs must still descend with furled wings, and can become prey for any creature that can penetrate their armor.
Back on the ground, fur and feathers are nearly universal among Inari’s mountain fauna, along with endothermic metabolisms. Sailbugs only get away with being ectothermic because most of their movements consist of small adjustments to their wings; most creatures need their muscles warm enough for them to search for food and evade predators. Arthropods mostly have insulating pockets in their exoskeletons just like the sailbugs, and many are endotherms as well. Just as on earth similar ecosystems may contain multiple species of ungulates, and bears, wolves, and mountain lions may occupy the same general area, Inari’s mountain forests and sloping prairies contain a wide diversity of animals. Inari’s air is thicker than earths and more oxygenated, and the gravity is lower, a combination perfect for flying animals. Dragonflies are common below the treetops, their wing design giving them the agility to prey on insects and small birds, the latter of which consist of seed-eaters, insectivores, and omnivores. However, above the trees, the dominant arthropods are flying centipedes. Evolved from the gigantic aquatic centipedes, the flippers of these animals have been modified into wings, and their flexible, snake-like bodies, combined with the capability to make dives impossible for dragonflies, picking both those insects and small birds out of the sky with ease. One of the world’s largest, the Blue Angel centipede, named for its blue underbelly which blends in with the sky above, and for its aerobatic maneuvers worthy of fighter pilots, can grow to ten feet in length, and patrols the skies of temperate to boreal forests. It, and many other species, has also been known to dive into lakes to catch fish. However, birds remain the true apex predators of the sky, with the largest reaching wingspans of nearly 20 feet and weights of 25 lbs, large enough to take down deer and other large land animals. Likewise on the ground, mammals, although dominant in similar ecosystems on earth, must share the mountains’ resources with close relatives of the birds which never evolved flight: the therapods.
Although Inari’s animals are superficially very similar to those of Earth, there are some internal anatomy and biochemistry differences, and they actually have a very different evolutionary history history. Mammals and Avians (a group analogous to Earth’s dinosaurs, and later birds) evolved from a single parent group of amniotes nearly 300 million years ago, and both groups have recovered well from subsequent extinction events. As a result, the two groups live in both harmony and competition throughout the planet’s terrestrial ecosystems. In the mountain forests, a family of quadrupedal herbivorous and omnivorous therapods known as the Terramanidae is particularly common; like deer, they feed primarily on low-growing plants and shrubs, but their nimble bodies, aided by long, flexible tails for counterbalance, allow them to rear up on their back legs to reach the low branches of some trees.
Inari’s montane forests and grasslands have no true apex predators; for example, felids typically feed on small prey and hunt alone, while large canids like wolves may hunt in packs, attacking animals several times their weight, as may the vastly successful dromaeosaurids. However, canids are truly restricted to the northeast, between 35 and 75 degrees of latitude. Felids are almost universal, but once again the temperate northeast contains the majority of the population of large dromaeosaurids, in part due to the extremely successful Stellaraptor, an 8 foot long predator which has spread all across the northeastern forests and plains. Thanks to their high intelligence, the result of a complexly folded brain with neuron densities exceeding those found on earth (A trait common to most of the planet’s animals, which allows an extremely powerful brain to fit snugly in an animal’s skull), Stellaraptor can, in spite of being native to temperate forests and prairies, scrape out a living almost anywhere. Isolated packs and loners have been found at the maximum extent of the northern taiga forests above the arctic circle (at higher latitudes, only cold-weather specialists can survive), and in the rainforests and savannas of the tropics. However, they peter out at around ten to fifteen degrees of latitude. In the southern hemisphere, terramanids, canids, and dromaeosaurids are all but nonexistent, although arboreal members of the latter family are almost as numerous in the rainforests as their flying cousins.
Tropical forests: Little can be about Inari’s tropical rainforests but that they host an incredible diversity of life. The tropics extend about 1000 miles from the equator in either direction, and can proceed about 1500 miles inland, thus forming an area the size of Australia. Even sharing with grasslands, Inari’s rainforests boast an area two thirds the size of the Amazon. However, in the low gravity of Inari, trees can reach massive sizes, upwards of 300 feet above the ground, with one species, the Gothic Spire Clover Tree (a member of a genus named for its large, distinctive triplets of heart-shaped leaves, similar to Clover) exceeding 400 feet. This softwood is a broad-leafed columnar tree, with leaf-bearing branches radiating out from the trunk most of its height, starting at a small upward angle, but at their tips being bowed the same amount downward by the heavy leaves. However, only above the main canopy do the leaves reach their full size, with each trio stretching nearly six feet across. Because they stand above the main canopy, these trees have an ecosystem all their own, but are rare enough that most animals migrate up from the canopy or can fly from tree to tree. The trees’ leaves are eaten by insect larvae, and are in turn picked off by the birds and flying insects that nest amid the branches. At such dizzying heights, the wind makes these trees sway dramatically; they can bend up to 30 degrees in high winds, and withstand up to 45 degrees without falling. This equates to massive swing distances of almost 100 feet; any animal in the tree must hold on for dear life or fall the same distance before hitting the first leaves that can bring it to a stop. As one final note, the Gothic Spires bloom each year, producing a bonanza of kiwi-sized purple fruits that can bring temporary migrants up from lower levels; of course, this fruit also falls down to the canopy.
Meanwhile in the canopy itself, many of the rainforest’s most unique animals live out their whole lives without ever touching the ground. The Vernier’s Cat -a feline believed to have evolved from polydactyl mutants of the ground-dwelling Engraving Cat, known for marking its territory by scratching complex patterns into trees which are believed to be unique to each individual- leaps from branch to branch in pursuit of birds, squirrels and even small monkeys. Its modified front paws actually have opposable thumbs, an adaptation perfect for climbing trees. Vernier’s cats also have the longest claws of any feline proportional to their body weight; they are only slightly bigger than housecats, but their claws reach almost an inch long.
The canopy’s trees are rich in edible leaves, and although some are toxic, they often have dedicated species of herbivore which feed only on them. For example, the blade-like leaves of the Red Duodeciparticifolium contain a mixture of toxins which can survive even a full-absorption stomach, and destroy the intestinal lining, necessitating completely draining the digestive tract (a highly painful process) and making an animal’s digestive system useless until the cells can regenerate. Only a particular species of the hard-plated Ironclad Worm has the enzymes necessary to break these poisons down, and feed on this tree. Many epiphytic plants also grow in the canopy, producing edible foliage of their own. In addition, in the rainforest at least one species of plant is always in bloom, and many have flowers modified to only accept particular insects, producing an immense variety of pollinating insects, which also make a good food source. One spectacular example is the Majestic Tuba Vine. Its trumpet-shaped yellow flowers are, on average 4 feet long and can reach 5 feet, and have a u-shaped curve, starting out growing upward from the trees in a large bulb, than thinning and descending to below the substrate branch, with anthers protruding from the fanned out end. They are pollinated by Inari’s largest butterfly, the Royal Tubaist Butterfly (This common name is of course a play on words related to the plant on which the insect feeds). This flamboyant butterfly has a wingspan of over 30 inches, and feed primarily on the nectar of Majestic Tuba Vines. They hang from the flowers inverted, their feet clinging to the blooms’ tough, thick petals, supporting their weight of nearly half a pound. No other insect has a long enough proboscis to reach into the depths of the flower and access its nectar, and such a large body can carry a lot of pollen. However, it takes a lot of food to sustain them, and when the Tuba Vines go out of bloom, the butterflies mate and lay eggs as soon as possible. They can still feed on other plants, however, and about 80% are believed to survive each year inter-bloom period, especially since as overripe fruit falls from the trees, it bursts against the ground, opening its soft, juicy insides to the butterflies.
Fruit trees on Inari must adopt a different survival strategy from those on earth. The digestive enzymes in a full-absorption system would break apart and destroy the seeds of most earth fruit, and the seeds of non-fruiting plants are rarely safe. In a typical Inari fruit seed, the embryo is protected by two additional layers outside the normal seed coat; a thick coat that is slowly worn away inside an animal’s stomach, and only fails hours after the rest of the fruit is gone, and inside that a toxic layer which induces regurgitation of the seeds. In some fruit eaters, seeds simply accumulate in the stomach over the course of a day or night, or even over weeks, and are regurgitated before the animal’s feeding cycle resumes. Even so, seeds frequently have small cracks which allow their destruction. Nevertheless, fruit is a common food source for animals in Inari’s rainforest canopy. Fruit-eaters are common, and any one tree will become depleted, forcing the herbivores to move on, often carrying seeds nearly a mile. Fruit that falls to the ground is a perfect food for animals on the forest floor; not just butterflies eat it; scavenging arthropods, rodents, some avians, and ungulate mammals will all come for their shares. The forest floor and understory have relatively little vegetation, but shade tolerant shrubs and vines can still thrive, and in areas where the trees are a little less dense, form a jungle of dense undergrowth. Fungi are also common, but the probing roots of the trees themselves show similar behavior, growing over and through carcasses and digesting them.
06-14-2011, 05:42 PM
Tropical Grasslands: Tropical Savanna and grasslands on Inari cover about two million square miles of area; while small compared to the African Grasslands of earth, this would constitute a square more than 1400 miles on a side. Its area lies more dominantly in the south, and is sometimes crisscrossed by rivers. In this biome, the grasses form the base of the food chain, and are cropped by several species of grazing animals. Because the more northern grasslands form a patchwork of massive (up to 10,000 square mile) clearings within the tropical rainforests, populations have become separated and given rise to a wide diversity of species. Hoofed mammals are common, including 15 known fast, nimble species similar to antelope, only five of which are grazers, as well as 8 species of intermediate bulk, comparable to buffalo, and six massive, tank-like species, comparable to rhinos or elephants, the largest of which reaches maximum heights of more than thirty feet and weights of that many tons. Another, the aptly named Polyceras monstrousa, has a bewildering array of fourteen different stout horns in males of the species, and six in females. These massive, low-slung grazers can weigh up to four tons, and live in herds of up to forty adults, about 75% of which are female. Males compete heavily, using their horns both as display and as weapons in headbutting contests with other males. However, with the mentioned gender ratios, even the losers stand a decent chance of breeding with a female that does not attract the attention of the dominant males. A herd typically has a home range of 300-600 square miles, but many wander long distances in search of food.
These southern grasslands have a very different diversity of land predators than the north. Canids and Dromaeosaurids are not found in the southeast, but the grasslands are home to five species of cat, three small and two large, three species of hyena (one of which, the Dwarf Hyena, weighs only 45-55 lbs at adulthood), and four species of Ostosynthlipsgnathids, a family of caniform carnivorans not found on Earth. Characterized by a low build with a long skull and protruding “saber-tooth” upper canines, all but one of these creatures has very little hair similarly to large ungulates, and weighs more than 300 lbs. The largest reaches a weight of 4000 pounds, a head-body length of 16 feet, tail length of 6 feet, and shoulder height of 6 feet. These are the apex predators of the ecosystem, and the only ones capable of hunting the large ungulates of the savanna.
Note that this ecosystem has distinct scale classes.
SMALL SCALE: herbivores: rodents and small birds. Carnivores: the three small cat species and smallest hyena species.
MEDIUM SCALE: herbivores: antelope-like and buffalo-like ungulates. Carnivores: both large cat species and the larger hyena species, as well as the smallest two other carnivores. Scavengers: all hyena species and the larger carnivores.
LARGE SCALE: herbivores: tank-like ungulates. Carnivores: the larger three of the massive carnivore group.
The flora of this biome are also of interest. These grasslands and savannas have significantly more rainfall than the African grasslands on Earth, with annual rates of 25-35 inches. Although far less than the 80+ inches found in the rainforests, this allows the grasses to reach very large sizes; stem diameters commonly exceed half an inch, with heights often reaching 5 feet or greater. Even in the shorter grass, the stems are thick on the ground, providing plenty of biomass to feed the herbivore populations. The trees are mostly umbrella shaped, with small, broad, thick leaves. There is also a wide variety of shrubs in short-grass areas, providing a perfect food supply for browsing herbivores. Many animals also seek shade beneath the trees during midday. In fact, except in periods of famine, even different species of carnivore not in direct competition while tolerate each others’ presence in neutral areas such as shade trees and watering holes.
On that subject, water in this biome is typically found in the form of small lakes, ponds, and streams. However, there are also some patches of wetland. In most cases, grass roots hold the ground in place and make the terrain passable for animals, but in a few cases, typically where lakes have been filled in by erosion, the vegetation more closely resembles water plants, and does not hold the soil in place, forming barren expanses of treacherous mud up to five miles across. Animals generally avoid these areas, but occasionally the lush water plants lure in grazers, which risk being trapped in the mud, and may die, their bodies fertilizing the plants further. Predators will also move in on the trapped creatures, but only if they are desperate. Paws are better than hooves, and a faster metabolism may give them extra energy to escape a deep spot, but wading or swimming through muck too watery to provide a surface to walk on, but viscous enough to rapidly tire an animal attempting to traverse it, is too dangerous a way to hunt if there are any other options.
Southern temperate grasslands and deciduous forests:
The temperate grasslands are basically an extension of the tropical ones, but beyond the point where snow falls during part of the year. In these colder areas, little food is available during the winter, and life must either tough it out or migrate to warmer areas. In dryer regions, grass still dominates, but cannot grow to large sizes, thus constraining the size and population of animals. Beyond the mile-wide Carvassi River, one of the largest on the planet, life takes a decided turn for the weird. Herbivores include both ungulates and large, flightless birds, and carnivores include the Beaked Mammals, an order of mammals with birdlike head shapes, not found on Earth. One of the most notable is the Lupicorvis Griffon, a creature with a wolf-like body and a semi-furred, raven-like head, which stalks the moors of the colder temperate south. Another species, evolved from an order of basal placental mammals now mostly extinct, has been named the Chupacabra. This predator, native to the warmer coastal forests, kills its prey by biting down into major blood vessels with its hollow canines and draining them of their blood. Although it eats large parts of its prey’s bodies as well, Chupacabras are followed by large numbers of small scavengers. Another common resident of these forests is the Hydra, a quadrupedal reptile with seven heads on long, serpentine necks, and a central brain located in the torso. Hydras are ambush predators, and can use multiple heads together to pin prey down while another delivers the killing blow, but cannot run at high speeds. In addition, these areas are home to several species of Ostosynthlipsgnathids, including the second-smallest member of the group, the mountain-dwelling Sigouratherium. These creatures are more fur-covered than their tropical cousins as a mechanism to cope with cold climates. Up in the high mountains, one group of animals remains constant from the Northern hemisphere; floating above the stark cliffs, peaks and ridges, lines of sailbugs still populate the mountain skies.
The western half of Inari’s primary continent, caught between the two mountain ranges, is almost completely rainshadowed. A little precipitation comes in from the west despite the mountains, about 25 inches per year on the inland slopes, but this level quickly falls the further east the air gets. Rivers either evaporate into nothingness or end in large lakes, which themselves lose water to evaporation. The air, now slightly humidified by evaporation, continues eastward, hits the central ridge, and is forced upwards, creating precipitation on these slopes as well due to the orographic effect. Thus, the edges of the desert are wetter desert-scrub, while the center almost completely dry.
Near the poles, this desert is a barren expanse of icy sand, nearly devoid of life. Only a few species of plant can tolerate the dry, often freezing conditions, and the growing season is only a couple of months. Here, vegetation grows on the period of human lifetimes. Plants are small, but may take hundreds of years to reach even this size. No true animal population can be sustained here, with food so scarce. Any creature with sense will instead seek the wetter, more hospitable tundra biome.
Below 45 degrees of latitude, however, everything changes. Here, the growing season is much longer, and drought-tolerant plants like succulents, cacti, and coniferous shrubs can grow without difficulty. Around mountain streams descending from the western slopes of the mid-continental ridge, and up at higher altitudes where rain and snow mostly fall, less hardy plants can find a foothold as well. Despite the dry conditions, these desert plants can be spectacular. Succulents in the genus Monorosetta are rosette-shaped, with thick, tapering leaves, but never form offsets of themselves, instead gradually expanding their single rosette to larger and larger sizes. Monorosetta magnus can grow to an incredible six feet in diameter, and just as tall. In late summer to early fall every few years, it puts out spikes holding atop them clusters of small, pink flowers. These are pollinated by moths, which are active all year, relying on there always being at least one species blooming (these moths are great migrants as well; some species may fly several miles between food sources). The pollinated flowers develop into seed heads, which are dispersed by the wind and fall dormant over the winter. The spring melt brings a little extra water that gives the seeds a head start in germinating, and beginning the cycle anew. Other rosette succulents do develop offsets, and can form fairly large clusters. In rocky areas, leafed succulent vines take advantage of the free real estate on rocks which otherwise cannot support roots by climbing or cascading across the rock faces. Others employ similar behavior underground, spreading through a network of runner roots. Then there are the cacti, such as the squat, spheroid Urchin Cactus, the Porcupine Cactus, which has extremely long, barbed, hair-like spines, and the columnar Obelisk Cactus, which grows up to thirty feet high and one foot across, the tallest plant in the desert. The area is also home to a few hardy, seasonally dormant wildflowers, and waxy-leaved shrubs, both broad-leafed and coniferous. In a few parts of the tropics, broad-leafed seasonal forests appear as in the east, but their seasons are not warm and cold, but wet and dry. In still other places in the deserts, columns of sand dunes are marched endlessly across the land by the driving winds, and no life occurs.
In a place with such interesting plant life, one might think it easy to forget the animals that live in the deserts. However, this is not the case. Mammals are really limited to foxes, weasels, and rodents, but lizards, snakes, and Avians are common. Millipedes, isopods, and crickets make up the bulk of arthropod herbivores, while centipedes and beetles are the most common predators, with scorpions also flourishing at high altitudes on the mountain slopes. The desert skies are ruled by birds and flying centipedes. Dragonflies are highly maneuverable and have 360 degree vision, so they excel at hunting in forests, but they lack the staying power to soar long distances searching for food, and their advantages are nullified by the sparce vegetation. Also of interest, the tropical deserts get enough intense sunlight for grounded relatives of the sailbugs to photosynthesize while they graze, attracting a few predators which themselves graze off the insects, and others which directly attempt to penetrate their armored bodies.
The tropical deserts are actually drier and less hospitable than those in temperate regions due to the searing temperatures produced by more direct sunlight, but are home to rhizome-forming succulents which during the day store most of their water supply deep in the sand, away from the heat. However, most of the animals are durable arthropods which can either shelter under rocks or burrow into the soil.
Because they do not drain into the sea, the desert rivers and lakes are isolated, and each basin has its own set of unique species of fish, crustaceans, snails, aquatic plants, and occasionally birds. A few lakes, however, are extremely salty due to evaporation, and are only inhabited by halophilic bacteria.
06-14-2011, 06:06 PM
Well, that deserves some rep for the two longest posts I've ever seen at the guild.
06-14-2011, 08:00 PM
omg I'm blind!
You deserve something for putting the most thought into this. Honestly, is this all done just for the light challenge or do you have a game or novel you are also working on?
If it's all just based upon the challenge then I have to salute you for incredible dedication.
06-14-2011, 09:00 PM
Well . . . Now I know who to go to with my Astronomy/Evolution questions. :D
And the map looks sharp. Well done.
Seems like this is going to be a tough round of voting.
06-15-2011, 12:46 AM
omg I'm blind!
You deserve something for putting the most thought into this. Honestly, is this all done just for the light challenge or do you have a game or novel you are also working on?
If it's all just based upon the challenge then I have to salute you for incredible dedication.
I'm not working on a game or novel based on Inari, but it is an WIP which itself is part of a much larger ongoing project: the Neokosmos Celestial Body Catalog.
Glad to see people like this, though.
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