Tour to Neocene
During the history of the Earth its appearance had constantly
changed. Tectonic plates move slowly, but time works to their benefit: millions
years are enough for the whole ocean to appear or to disappear. Many times it
happened so during the history of the Earth: in Cenozoic Tetis Ocean existed
till many millions years had completely disappeared. But in this time another
one, Atlantic Ocean, had formed. This ocean is rather young. It started to form
from Mesozoic era, but in early Cenozoic it still had been rather narrow, and
on its coasts, in Europe and North America, closely related species of animals
lived. Spreading of Atlantic till the Cenozoic occured very actively, and in
Neocene it had not stopped.
Attributes of Atlantic Ocean bottom spreading are clearly shown on its surface. Volcanic activity in the zone of Mid-Atlantic Ridge had caused the occurrence of faltering chain of islands lengthways almost whole ocean from the north to the south. In human epoch peaks of Mid-Atlantic Ridge formed Iceland and Azores. Continuation of volcanic activity in Neocene epoch had resulted in formation of unite island named New Azora at the place of Azorean archipelago.
In Neocene the warming of climate had caused expansion of tropical zone of the Earth. The New Azora Island is located in tropical latitudes, but its climate is determined mainly by ocean surrounding this island. Till millions years New Azora is in the field of antagonism of warm Gulf Stream current from the south, and its severe opponent – cold Anti-Gulf Stream which flows down from high latitudes. Both currents move almost in parallel each other along slopes of Mid-Atlantic Ridge, but towards each other. The wind frequently mixes warm and cold waters and above the sea fog is forming as the result of it.
The ocean bottom rises in the area of Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The relief of ocean bottom and current create slow whirlpool in which warm waters from equator and rich in nutrients cold deep waters rising on ridge slope mix up. It promotes the prosperity of underwater vegetation. Seaweed of various species plentifully expands at underwater shallows and forms magnificent thickets in coastal shallow waters of New Azora. At the some distance from the coast the separate species of seaweed form the reduced similarity of Sargasso Sea of Holocene epoch – dense floating thickets. Some fields of this seaweed stretch to tens kilometers. In places where macroalgae can not grow, in water phytoplankton develops, serving as forage for small animals. It provides various inhabitants of ocean with plentiful food.
The antagonism of two currents resulting in plentiful night fogs has an effect to the character of vegetation of island. The zone of wet foggy woods is located at New Azora rather low – morning fogs create optimum conditions for development of moistureloving vegetation.
The island is almost completely covered with rich wood. Only in high mountains and at beaches trees do not grow. The vegetation of New Azora includes treelike representatives of heather family, some species of laurels, and also descendants of olive tree introduced by people in historical epoch. In woods growing in lowlands and foothills, there are many epiphytic ferns and orchids. Lacy fern leaves cover trunks of huge trees, and higher in crones of trees the long peduncles of orchids covered with motley flowers rock in air. On trunks and large branches rich pillows of moss and “beards” of lichens develop. In mountain areas treelike myrtle descendants grow – they are high trees with long leaves, silvery from the down side. They are similar to any species of Australian eucalyptus and emit in air the specific aroma of volatile oils. Higher in mountains they are replaced by gloomy mountain woods formed by large species of cypress. Tops of mountains are overgrown with heathlands and thin grassy vegetation, where the highest plant does not exceed half meter in height.
The beach of island is covered with dark volcanic sand. Sea water filters into ground here, and only few plant species can normally exist in such conditions. Beaches of island are separated from woods by the zone of bush vegetation and grasses. It is something like a border between two worlds – dwellings of wood and sea inhabitants of New Azora.
Beaches of island are full of life almost all year – colonies of flightless sea birds settle here and representatives of completely different species coexist, not preventing each other. These species do not compete with each other in the ocean, because they eat different kinds of sea animals, and search for food in different areas of sea. In noise of bird voices the cry similar to mad laughter is remarkable. Owners of such voice meet not only at New Azora, but also at the European coast. They are laughterloons, flightless birds distinguished by aggressive behaviour and strong beak. The island subspecies of laughterloon is smaller, rather than continental congeners, but is similar to them externally. This species of birds nests in shelters, among bushes and at islets in estuaries of short rivers of island. Laughterloons do not form separate colonies, but do not avoid a society of other birds where it is easier to find protection against local predators. Having hatched chicks, laughterloons keep near to common colonies of sea birds where it is possible to expect for protection.
The most part of birds in colonies of New Azora is presented by two-meter giants similar to seals with long red beaks. These sea birds with white feathering and black spots on flipper-like wings are the heritage of glacial epoch past approximately twenty millions years before the described time. They are tropical gannetwhales – hunters for large fish and cephalopods. These birds hunt far in sea, and can dive to the depth of 20 – 30 meters, and sometimes up to 100 meters, searching for catch. These birds spend a significant part of life in sea, but for the nesting period they creep out to the coast. All gannetwhales belong to giants among birds; therefore their nesting period is strongly stretched. Nestlings of gannetwhales hatch featherless and blind. They require care for a long time, and therefore about half-year it is possible to meet these huge birds on beaches of New Azora.
Among colonies of gannetwhales there is one more species of sea birds marking out on the background of strict black-and-white order of tropical gannetwhales by graphite-grey feathering. These ones are also flightless creatures with short flipper-like wings and massive body. But their necks are graceful and flexible, and because of that these birds resemble tiny plesiosauri. They are plesioloons – pelagic hunters for small fish and squids; they are dexterous and fast swimmers. On beaches of New Azora they have only a rest, and posterity hatching they departure to unapproachable rocky islets.
Inhabitants of beaches of New Azora are going for hunting early in the morning when the sun only just rises above horizon. Plesioloons wake up the first. They had spent night not far from massive gannetwhales – it is much safer so. Plesioloons sleep very sensitively, and wake up of night rustles. They cry loudly, finding out the predator sneaking in darkness. Shrill cries of plesioloons awake gannetwhales and not any predator will want to deal with these birds armed with “toothed” beak. When the night alarm passes, birds fall asleep one by one.
In the morning plesioloons concurrently leave a coast and swim to hunting in high sea. They clumsily creep to water, pushing by flippers and supporting by webby paws. On land they seem completely helpless, but in water they magically change. Their flipper-like wings as if “recollect” the past purpose: plesioloons as if “fly” under water, flapping them. Birds develop the high speed, and swim in sea by whole flock. Plesioloons do not choose to themselves large fish or cephalopods – their narrow beak will not permit them to swallow such catch. But they have other food source, which is much more plentiful: tiny fish, crustaceans and squids of small species. Plesioloons are perfectly adapted to catching of such prey: the massive body serves as a support for flexible neck. By short, but exact impacts of beak plesioloon seizes small fish or squids by some ones at once.
In the morning in top layers of water it is still possible to find deep-water fishes rose for night feeding to surface of water. Deep-water fishes making grandious vertical migrations are very important part in food chains of ocean. At the cost of their life they deliver organic substances forming in the top layers of water to inhabitants of depths. Having filled stomaches with small crustaceans and other plankton animals of top layers of water till the night, fishes form huge shoals and swim down to depth. Preparation for vertical migration is the enchantling show of nature. In beams of rising sun it seems, as if under the surface of ocean one more ocean rages – shoals of deep-water fishes are so great. They stretch to hundreds meters, and edges of such shoals disappear in blue haze. Fishes move fussy, and the surface of huge shoal as if boils, when small school of fishes leaves it, having been frightened of something. They immediately dive into the shoal again –schooling fishes feel like in safety being surrounded by congeners.
When it becomes lighter, fishes adapted to life in darkness aspire to leave in depths. But it will be possible not to all of them – from the side of island to shoals, numbering millions of fishes, plesioloons swim. For them inhabitants of depths having watery meat and soft bones are not too delicious catch, but such fishes are very easy for catching. If birds will rush directly to the shoal, they will be content only with casual catch. Therefore they operate under well fulfilled circuit bringing success. Plesioloons dive into the school of fishes gradually swimming in depth, and cut one school out from the main shoal. Fishes scared by their attack swim to the depth even faster. It seems, that from schools of fishes as though shivering feelers are pulled downwards – fishes direct to saving gloomy depths. But some of them cannot come back home – plesioloons keep near surface of water the rather big school. Birds swim under it, and push fishes to the surface of water. At last, plesioloons start to turn around of fish school, gradually narrowing their ring. The school is forced to dense shoal – it is just needed for plesioloons. They start to devour the captivated fishes - jerky lunges of long necks and movements of sharp beaks pull out from the school by some fishes at once. New birds swim to the attacked school of fishes, and the number of fishes gradually decreases. Circles making by birds around of the fish school are closer and closer, and already many fishes are seized and swallowed. Separate fishes succeed to break in turmoil through the flock of plesioloons. They leave a battle-field, and swim to depths of ocean where plesioloons dive very seldom. Such fishes succeed to escape and even to find by smell the school of congeners. Ones searched for rescue in school of congeners, most likely, will die out – plesioloons skilfully use this feature of behaviour of fishes in hunting.
In the morning coasts of New Azora are lost in rich fog. Plesioloons had left beaches of island a long time ago and hunt in sea, but gannetwhales only had started to wake up. Lazy large birds stretch, clap on sand by flipper-like wings and yawn. Yawning gannetwhale is rather impressive show. At this moment sharp teeth-like outgrowths, with which edges of beak of these birds are supplied, are especially well visible. Such beak has death grip – from it neither a slippery fish, nor the ground enemy of such birds will not escape. Gannetwhales form amicable pairs which are not breaking up of many years. In the morning partners in common declare their rights to territory – the site of beach making approximately double length of adult bird in diameter. Both birds from pair rise heads to the sky and simultaneously cry in loud unpleasant voices similar to crow croak. Therefore in the morning beaches of New Azora are the noisiest place of the island.
Spring and summer pass in cares of posterity at gannetwhales. Similarly to their northern congeners, these birds lay one large egg per a season, and both birds of pair alternately “hatch” it, holding in turned upwards paws. The palama of hatching bird is poured by blood, and due to it the egg receives warmth necessary for incubating. From above it is covered by wide tail of bird. Partners carefully pass the egg to each other from paws to paws, and the bird free of parental duties, creps to the sea for feeding.
In the beginning of summer at gannetwhales nestlings hatch. These strange looking naked creatures are the subject of gentle cares of birds of both genders. While the nestling is small, one of parents always holds and heats it in paws. But the grown up nestling starts to creep on beach independently, and one of adult birds only looks after it, driving away from it another's nestlings and birds of other species forming a colony at beaches of island.
While nestlings are small, the male and the female are fed in sea serially. In the morning, having declared the rights to territory, bird had been “nurse”, holds the nestling to the partner, and moves to the sea to feeding. It will not only eat plenty, but also will bring enough food for the posterity. Possible, something from its catch will remain even to other parent of gluttonous nestling. But till the growth requirement of nestling in food increases, and parents leave it on coast. They provide it with forage together, coming back to nestling twice per day. While the sun is low above horizon, tropical gannetwhales simply have a rest on the coast and put themselves in order: clean by beak flippers and feathering on a back. During the feathering cleaning breeding partners render marks of attention to each other: they clean head of the partner, gently touching up to feathering near its eyes.
Some birds even had not woken up yet, and other ones already search for forage some kilometers far from the coast. The sea near to New Azora resembles a gigantic plate of soup - in water locks of huge seaweed of various shades of brown and green colors float, weaving to continuous floating carpet. Even furious storm only slightly excite the sea surface near New Azora – algae tame their violent customs in the multiton weight.
Thalli of algae are covered with gas bubbles which support these plants swimming. Thickness of algal carpet reaches one meter and even more. In its top part algae are alive and actively increasing, and from the bottom part of algal carpet orange locks of seaweed dying off because of lack of sunlight hang down. Thick carpet of seaweed gives food to set of small invertebrate animals and fishes, and they, in turn, involve to this “sea swamp” some birds of New Azora. In the mornings at algal fields of New Azora the surprising show takes place – from the side it seems, as if long-legged fog-colored birds walk right on water. But this phenomenon is explained very simply: birds perambulate on dense cover of seaweed. Thin long toes permit them to wander on seaweed, not failing in. These are ghostly wanderers – close relatives of the crabstork from European coast. But they differ from the strongly combined congener by graceful and fragile constitution. Ghostly wanderers wander on seaweed, ceremoniously lifting legs and accurately putting them on the texture of plants. The bird feels movement of small sea animals among seaweed, and the exact impact of pointed beak overtakes the escaping prey. Having thrown killed animal up, ghostly wanderer dexterously picks it up, quickly swallows and continues to wander slowly on surface of algal carpet.
Among thalli of seaweed crabs, octopuses of small species, and various fishes search for refuge. On the surface of seaweed larvae of various sea inhabitants, and also microscopic animals – hydroid polyps, worms and unicellular organisms – develop. Insects are among smallest inhabitants of algal fields of New Azora. Usually insects may be met in sea seldom, but on algal fields of New Azora there is one exception of the common rule. Above seaweed the true swarms of midges hover. It is the algal midge which had found a convenient place for life in thalli of these plants. Its larvae bore gas bubbles of seaweed, avoiding direct contact to sea water. Some bubbles of seaweed are as if proded by thick needle – these are exits gnawed out by larvae, from which midges undergone the metamorphosis had climbed out to the surface. Such courses are closed by thin film of seaweed tissues – the young midge easily breaks through it by head, and leaves outside. It keeps on surface of gas bubble till some minutes while wings will dry. Then midge flies up and joins millions congeners swarming above algal fields.
Ghostly wanderers are not interested in them – midges are too small to fall prey to these birds. But midges constantly remind to ghostly wanderers of their presence. They hover above heads of birds by whole swarms, and annoyingly intrude to their eyes. A plaintive liquid is not as salt, as sea water, and insects simply drink it. The ghostly wanderer being pestered by these insects is compelled to stir head up, and to immerse it deeply in water to wash off importunate midges. In fog midges not so bother to birds: their wings swell, and midges fly low. Besides the fog is condensed on bodies of midges, and insects receive from it necessary amount of water.
Seaweeds grow very quickly, therefore larvae of algal midges are always provided with forage. Midges hatch plentifully, giving new generation at least every week. Seaweeds soften roughness of sea, and insects alight for rest and egg laying directly on carpet of seaweed. They easily creep on film of superficial tension of water, gathering for laying of eggs to live “islets” of black color. Their breeding may be prevented only by strong wind, blowing off midges in high sea. But the population of these insects easily restores number due to fast breeding.
Algal midges successfully resist to forces of nature. But at New Azora the creature eating these insects lives. Each morning from trunk hollow of huge cypress, growing near the coast, hundreds of longwing birds fly off. They gather to flocks and hasten to algal fields. To reach them, it is necessary to fly by some kilometers. But for these birds such distance is not a problem: these ones, fog swifts, belong to best flyers among birds. They are not frightened with morning fog hanging above algal fields – birds see well, and have fine reaction. Besides in fog these swifts emit not usual cries, but high-frequency series of clicks. This is the display of their ability to echolocation. Due to this property they accurately fly round ghostly wanderers walking on seaweed, and do not collide with each other. While midges fly low, fog swifts sweep right above the surface of water, chasing them. But, when the fog dissipates, midges and birds rise above. In clear sky fog swifts are difficult to find out because of their light colouring, but their shrill cries are audible from apart. Fog swifts remain above algal fields till the evening.
When the sun rised high enough, it became much more spacious on beaches of island. The majority of gannetwhales swims in sea, searching for forage. Nestlings of these birds are not yet ready to swim – they had not saved up enough of fat which would permit them to keep in water without efforts. They had become covered by juvenile feathering a long time ago, and had already ceased to be those helpless creatures what they had been in first days of life. They are rather active – nestlings freely creep on coast, pushing by long flipper-like wings. They are curious – they are involved with any creature which has appeared on coast. But curiosity may be dangerous: at New Azora predators able to attack even the adult gannetwhale live. Therefore some adult birds stay near the nestlings on the beach – they are birds of stable pairs, protecting the posterity. While one partner stays on the coast, the second one is compelled to hunt for three birds: it searches for food not only for itself, but also for the partner had stayed at the coast, and for gluttonous nestling. Except for parents, in colony of gannetwhales there are single and old birds not having partners. They live only for themselves, and leave in sea when they want to have a meal. But their presence frightens wood predators off from nestlings.
Nestlings scratch themselves: on any birds various parasites settle, and gannetwhales are not exception here. But the specific structure of parasites of these birds is unusual. Among them there are insects sucking blood – these ones are often visitors of birds. But on gannetwhales small crustaceans parasitize also. Copepod crustaceans take root into skin of these birds, forming tumours on breast and sides of gannetwhales. Their egg bags from time to time drop out of these tumours. On land they quickly dry up and their eggs perish, but, having got in sea water, eggs successfully develop, and nauplii of these crustaceans hatch. Some crustaceans gnaw dense short feathers of gannetwhales, leaving featherless areas on bodies of birds. More often they attack single birds, and settle in places where the bird can not clean them from feathers – on head and back part of neck. Nestlings of gannetwhales are struck with parasites too: they receive them from adult birds when parents look after posterity. But parents clear the nestlings as can. Breeding couples of gannetwhales can help each other too, clearing the partner from parasites in places where it can not clean itself. Such form of behaviour matters not only for hygiene: in such way the connection between breeding partners is keeping, and it can be kept till whole life – while one of birds will die. But even single or widow birds are provided with good care. When giant birds have a rest, from bushes growing nearby to them small longtail birds of dim yellowish-grey color fly. They are beach soilprobers – distant relatives of wagtails of Holocene epoch. Each bird of this species occupies the certain territory of the beach, and considers gannetwhales nesting on it as its lawful fodder area. The quick bird clears large sea birds of parasites more carefully, than gannetwhales armed with huge “toothed” beaks can make it. Small birdies fearlessly run on bodies of sea giants, pecking parasites out from them. The pointed beak of beach soilprober accurately and precisely pulls out parasitic crustaceans keeping for feathers of bird. Also beach soilprobers hunt in air, dexterously seizing flies in air above birds. The specific smell of large birds and their dung involve flies and other insects, therefore beach soilprobers do not remain hungry. Each of these birds keeps up inviolability of borders of the territory, and protects it from strangers. These birds nest in bushes where clumsy gannetwhales and their neighbours do not get.
In the afternoon on beaches of New Azora it becomes appreciablly more spacious and more silent. At this time the majority of adult gannetwhales feeds in sea. Clumsy and sluggish on land, this bird becomes very dexterous and fast in sea. Flapping by flipper-like wings, gannetwhales as if “recollect”, that their ancestor was one of the best flyers among sea birds of Holocene epoch. Small groups of these birds hunt for large fishes and squids far in sea. Usually the best catch meets in places where in water there are small congestions of floating seaweed. Thickets of seaweed involve various small animals, and squids of large species and fishes hunt for them. But such catch would not suffice for the big flock of these birds, therefore during the hunting gannetwhales expect only for own forces instead of harmonious action in group. They differ from plesioloons in it, but the catch at these birds is absolutely different.
Hunting gannetwhales almost quietly “fly” in water, rhythmically flapping by wings. From time to time one of birds emerges to surface of water, and makes fast act of expiration-inspiration similarly to dolphin. On the surface of water the lacquer red beak sparkles, black spots on white background of feathering flash, and the bird dives again. Red beak does not prevent this bird to hunt – sea water quickly absorbs red beams of solar spectrum, therefore under water the main weapon of the tropical gannetwhale seems black.
Giant birds had left from the coast more, than ten kilometers far. They search for floating seaweed torn off by current from edge of algal fields. It is simple to do – at small distance from the coast such small islets of seaweed are the rarity, but the large number of them floats in high sea. Soon birds find such islet of seaweed about ten meters long and more than one meter thick. It is rich in life: at approaching of gannetwhales the whole school of small fishes has whisked to the thicket of seaweed. It had drawn attention of birds, and they had surrounded seaweed lump. Swimming near it, birds attentively peer into thickets, trying to find out inhabitants of this world. Careless movement had given out the presence of one inhabitant. Dexterous movement of beak follows, and then one gannetwhale, almost not stopping, has pulled the small octopus out from thickets. The seized mollusc tries to free: it changes color intensively and sharply, its tentacles wriggle, and the sharp corneous beak scratches a jaw of the gannetwhale. But the bird slightly compresses jaws, and teeth-like outgrowths on edges of forward part of beak pierce the body of octopus. One “tooth” pierces its cartilaginous head capsule, and the mollusc dies. The gannetwhale quickly swallows it, while catch is not taken away by less successful neighbours. By sharp movement another bird immerses beak to the texture of seaweed and pulls out from it small fish, also hastily swallowing it. But such kind of catch is only a snack: tropical gannetwhales catch larger prey. Having left a lump of floating seaweed, birds swim further. And frightened inhabitants of seaweed gradually calm down and continue their daily life.
Having swum some hundreds meters more, gannetwhales find one more lump of seaweed. And it seems, much better entertainment expects them here: they notice, how near velvety thalli of seaweed sides of fishes glisten like silver. Large pelagic fishes often meet near floating seaweed – some species spawn on seaweed, and other ones hunt. But now hunters have turned to catch, when on stage gannetwhales had appeared. The school of fishes had reacted to occurrence of predators by habitual maneuver: fishes had formed dense spherical congestion, and had rushed from birds pursuing them. Fishes and birds have advantage and weak places before each other. Fishes breathe by gills, and they do not have need to emerge to the surface. And gannetwhales are connected to the surface of water, and can not swim under water indefinitely. But they are hardier, and fishes can not swim away from them for a long time, accelerating high speed. Therefore chances of hunters and prey are approximately equal. Fishes swim away and hide among seaweed, and gannetwhales one by one emerge to breathe. But then birds rush to school of fishes from the surface of water, as if the hawk from the sky. They run by powerful bodies into seaweed and tear them apart by beak, if seaweed casually prevents their hunting. Birds continuously keep behind the school of fishes, and are guided not only by fishes, but also by their own neighbours chasing fish. Some minutes of such race pass, and fishes begin to get tired. They swim slower, rather than earlier, and the distance between them and birds is gradually reduced. And the first gannetwhale runs into fish school, and its beak is closed on the body of one fish. After it catch is attacked by second bird, and in some seconds all gannetwhales begin beating the tired out fishes. Birds kill fish and hasty swallow it, and then direct follow the school again. In water the smell of fish blood spreads, involving other inhabitants of sea. Small plancton crustaceans turn in clouds of fish blood, as if drugged by its smell. But their behaviour is explained simply: they filter smallest clots of blood and swallow them.
Fishes unsuccessfully try to hide in seaweed: sharp beaks of gannetwhales find prey terribly accurately. And fishes, exhausted by long pursuit, have a unique way of escape: to swim downwards. The school of fishes gets out of seaweed, and starts to immerse in deeper layers of water. Gannetwhales reluctantly follow them – many birds in flock are already sated, and are not going to continue the chase. But one bird dares to chase fishes further. It emerges to surface of water, makes some deep breaths, and dives. The school of fish disappears in blue haze, but the bird runs them down for some waves of wings. Gannetwhale can dive to some tens meters, therefore it can catch and swallow some more fishes. Having swallowed the last prey, it begins the rise to the surface. At first the environmental water seems silent, but then the ominous silhouette of huge orcine squid – one of dangerous predators of Atlantic – flashes in the distance. This huge cephalopod, obviously, was involved with smell of blood of fishes caught by gannetwhales. Having felt the presence of such predator, the gannetwhale began to flap wings more frequent, and had directed after neighbours. Orcine squid may exceed the gannetwhale in length twice, and it is a predator with which presence gannetwhales should be considered. Many of these birds, especially young ones, perish from sting of huge mollusc, or choke in loops of its strong tentacles. However, the young growth of this squid frequently becomes catch of tropical gannetwhales.
During global ecological crisis on a boundary of Holocene and Neocene a lot of species of pelagic fishes had died out. Their place almost at once had been occupied by cephalopods – immemorial competitors of fishes. Among them various species had appeared – from solitary huge predators, such as orcine squid, up to tiny schooling creatures, whose unique protection against enemies is the high number and speed of reproduction. Herring squids, one of small squid species, are those. Their schools reach colossal number and stretched at many tens meters. Alive or dead, these creatures make a basis of diet of many sea predators.
The school of cephalopods quietly feeds in the congestion of tiny zooplancton. Herring squids pick up small shrimps and myzids by thin tentacles, tighten them to the mouth, bite them to carapace and eat quietly. Squid quickly eats one crustacean after another, biting out at them back part of cephalothorax and fleshy pleon by two bites of beak. Only forward part of cephalothorax with antennas and mandibles, and uneatable legs remain from the crustacean. Having finished with one crustacean, squid makes short throw, and overtakes the following one. Herring squids eat quickly - for five seconds the mollusc finishes with a crustacean about two centimeters long and even has time to catch one more animal.
But squids may turn catch just on the point: in top layers of water covered by sun silhouettes of long-necked birds slide. Plesioloons leave beaches of New Azora in the morning, and come back to the coast shortly before the sunset. These dexterous swimmers notice herring squids, and begin hunting. Birds wave flipper-like wings and quickly come nearer to feasting herring squids. Escaping from them, cephalopods gather to dense shoal and rush away. Gradually the shoal of squids forms by the wide half moon figure curved forward. Plesioloons try to gather squids to small dense school which is easy for preying. They rush after squids, and try to cut off the central part of school. From time to time birds catch squids remaining behind, and immediately swallow them entirely. But it is only casual catch, which only stimulates the appetite of birds. Plesioloons drive the school of herring squids for rather long time, and their plan comes to life – birds dissect the school of squids to three parts. Side parts of squid school vanish in sea depths, but the middle part of school, including largest individuals, is surrounded. Squids try to break in depth, but plesioloons push them to surface of water. They do not dive deeper, and from time to time emerge on surface of water for a breath of fresh air.
From surface of water it seems, as if sea begins to boil – herring squids jump out to the surface of water, escaping from birds restricting them from below. On edges of squid school heads of plesioloons on long necks appear from water – birds make a breath, and dive again. Once again hunting in flock had given fine result. Birds seize squids, swimming under their school. They do not let cephalopod to the sea, and school of squids gradually reduces in number.
The shadow of huge bird slides on waves: above hunting plesioloons the nomade albatross flies. This bird travels around the world till the most part of year, using wind, and departs very far from nesting places. When in Southern Hemisphere the sumer will come, it will depart to subantarctic islands and will hatch the posterity, but at this time it stays at the north. This giant of air observed from height for a long time the hunting of plesioloons, hovering above waves. By experience the nomade albatross knows, that in case of success of plesioloons it also can profit by their catch. Having made the next circle in air, it flies down, and moves above the surface of water, touching waves by tips of wings. Flying above the surrounded school of herring squids, bird quickly immerses the beak in water and picks up the squid. Frightened of occurrence of winged monster, squids had literally terrified: they had rushed right to plesioloons had surrounded their school. Birds hardly managed to drive squids again, but nevertheless some molluscs had broken through an environment and had vanished in depth. The nomade albatross hovers above hunting plesioloons, and quietly catches the squids surrounded by them. While plesioloons constrain the school of herring squids, it uses an opportunity to have a meal easily and quickly. But the shoal of squids gradually disappears in stomaches of birds. Sated plesioloons do not wish to take part in hunting any more, and swim away. Some hundreds herring squids had managed to go through bird hunting, and life and the opportunity to have posterity will be the award to them for it. When plesioloons had ceased to restrict molluscs to the surface of water, squids quickly disappeared in depth. Nomade albatross had made some circles above the place where plesioloons hunted. It had seen, that these flightless birds had stopped to keep squids, that molluscs had swam out to sea depths, and it had understood, that it is already impossible to search here for food.
Having majesticly waved wings, the huge bird flies up. The ocean surface under its wings changes: at first in clean water separate lumps of floating seaweed appear, then water free from seaweed remains only as narrow channels in thickets of seaweed, and then seaweed form a continuous cover on surface of ocean at all. Above algal fields nomade albatross flies up. It had got used to feed clean water; therefore here it can catch of nothing. If it will be hooked by beak or by paws against seaweed and will lose balance, this event may turn tragedy for it: the massive bird simply can not make start on sticky medley of seaweed, and may sink in sea swamp. Fog swifts surround nomade albatross. These small birds chase for algal midges, but respectfully exempt the road for the huge bird. On a twist of fate, among seaweed many various live creatures live, which appear inaccessible to this sea tramp. But they do not feel like in safety too: birds of absolutely other constitution hunt for them. Ghostly wanderers had flied on fields of floating seaweed in early morning, but even in the afternoon they still proceed feeding. These ungainly birds are not as good flyers as the nomade albatross, but they are able to walk on unsteady carpet of seaweed. Basing by long toes on floating seaweed, the light weighting bird distributes the weight to the sizeable area. The texture of seaweed slightly rocks at each step of bird. But the ghostly wanderer does not stick in seaweed. Ghostly wanderers sink head under water, and try to determine the presence of live creatures with the help of sensitive beak. On edges of beak they have the congestions of sensitive cells detecting movement of water. Sight sense gives no advantage at underwater food search – inhabitants of seaweed skilfully mask, mimicking by the shape and colouring of body plants surrounding them. Therefore ghostly wanderer does not feel inconvenience when blinks, sunk head in water. Steps of birds frighten away crabs and fishes hiding among plants, and waves, spreading from catch, give out itspresence. After that exact impact of beak follows, and catch is caught. But sometimes there is also another situation – hunter and catch interchange their positions. Nothing foretells danger at algal fields: wind blows weak, water is silent, and ghostly wanderers quietly walk on seaweed by whole flock. Thus birds keep at the certain distance one from another. But suddenly one of birds as if is stuck in algae – it tries to pull the leg out from water, but it can not make it. The bird makes jerk, claps wings, and tries to free. Then short alarm cry is heard, than splash follows, and bird suddenly disappears under water. Other birds searching for forage at some distance, look back, but do not notice anything suspicious. In some minutes they simply forget this event, and continue searching for food. And at the place of missed bird some feathers may emerge, or there will be no traces at all. Ghostly wanderers have enemies: octopuses and predatory fishes, masking among seaweed, can catch and eat these birds. But these bird-catchers can overcome not any bird at all: they should be afraid of other inhabitants of New Azora.
Ghostly wanderer cautiously gropes the way among seaweed. It wanders on edge of hole in continuous cover of seaweed, and peers into water. Sometimes it notices silvery sides of small fishes searching for small crustaceans and other live beings in seaweed. Ghostly wanderer willingly eats fish; therefore it freezes at the edge of seaweed thickets and waits for occurrence of fishes. Silvery sides and dark backs of small fishes had gleamed near the surface of water, and ghostly wanderer managed to prey one of them. Graceful grey bird had hasty swallowed catch, and had prepared for continuation of hunting. But suddenly fishes had rushed to seaweed, and had hided in their thicket. Among algal fields of New Azora water is surprisingly transparent, and the reason of fish anxiety is visible from apart. On the surface of water some air bladders emerge, and from underwater haze the big creature of white color had appeared. The ghostly wanderer had not seen the approach of this creature – the sun sparkle on water prevented it to see everything occuring under water. Therefore it was full unexpectedness for the bird, when from waves the red beak seizing fish had appeared. The splash of water and noisy exhalation had frightened the ghostly wanderer, and the bird had taken wing and had flown aside. And at the surface of water the magnificent tropical gannetwhale has appeared. The ghostly wanderer does not depart far from this feathered giant – at the presence of gannetwhale underwater predators hide or swim away at all. Therefore the ghostly wanderer only should be cautious, wandering near to massive and clumsy sea bird. The huge bird raises head, stirs beak up to move the fish from sharp teeth-like outgrowths, and swallows it entirely. Then bird creeps out to have a rest on seaweed, raking by powerful flippers. It is the bachelor male which has not reached the age permitting to form a breeding pair yet. It has snow-white feathering, and black feathers grow only at edges of flipper-like wings. It is not burdened with family cares; therefore it spends in sea all the day, not coming back to the coast. Some individuals of gannetwhales can even spend the night on carpets of seaweed, especially out of the nesting period. But they should be cautious – in sea there are giants hunting for gannetwhales. The huge fish, the spermwhale shark, lives in North Atlantic – it is a monster up to 25 meters long. This fish has very sensitive sense of smell, and can seize from under water sleeping bird, if it will feel its presence. In the afternoon the spermwhale shark keeps at the depth, but at night it oftenly emerges to the surface of water, chasing squids and large fishes making its catch. This fish attacks gannetwhales sleeping among seaweed by crushing impact of head from below. Its attack kills immediately – the impact of strong shark’s rostrum breaks pectoral cage of bird, or breaks its backbone. The only rescue of gannetwhale spending the night in ocean is that seaweed at least has anyway disguised its smell: shark hunts with the help of smell sense, and it has bad sight. However, hunting with the help of sight among seaweed is useless – in dense seaweed thickets even such large catch, as gannetwhale, can hide easily. In the afternoon the part of gannetwhales comes back to the coast – they replace the partner watching for the nestling, and feed it and the nestling. With the surf wave bird creeps out on coast, and at once turns to sluggish creature. Raking sand by flippers and pushing by paws, gannetwhale creeps out to the coast. Some birds should crawl through another's territories, and if any owner of territory is at home, the beach is resounded by its displeased cry. But the infringer of borders does not pay attention to it – the voice of its breeding partner to which the cry of hungry offspring is added, worries it more. First of all it is necessary to feed posterity, and bird arrived from hunting, belches the caught prey, and accurately moves it closer to white spot on the tip of beak. At nestling of gannetwhales the the feature of behaviour similar to one characteristic for gull nestlings was developed – eliciting food, it touches by beak the white spot on the pareent’s beak. It is the stimulus for the parent to belch a part of food and to share it with nestling. Belched catch is placed closer to this spot, and nestling takes it from the beak of the parent. At growing nestling there is great appetite – for one feeding it is able to swallow up to five kgs of fish and squids, and for day it devours about fifteen kgs of food. It easily swallows entirely fishes up to twenty centimeters long. Such appetite is the vital necessity for nestling – the young bird must grow and gain weight not less than two thirds of weight of adult bird during the period of parental care. Then at the end of breeding season young bird can leave beaches of New Azora and migrate with parents in ocean in searches of food. New Azora is an ideal place for large population of tropical gannetwhales: efficiency of ocean is especially high here due to meeting of two currents, and also due to the rise of deep waters rich in nutrients.
When the nestling fills its stomach, its parents replac each other on the guard of posterity, and other bird leaves in sea. One by one gannetwhales, free from parental duties, slip in water. When the wave covers these birds, they remain in shallow water for some time, feeling pleasure from sea cool. Then by resolute movement of wings gannetwhales leave a surf zone and direct in sea. Huge birds swim above shallow water areas, looking like winged dirigible balloons. They do not search for forage here, but for other birds from colonies of New Azora fodder areas stretch here. Laughterloons, the reduced similarity of gannetwhales, hunt small fishes, octopuses and crabs settling in shallow water. New Azorean subspecies of this bird is smaller, than continental one living at the Atlantic coast of Old World. These birds colored black and white, are territorial and intolerant of congeners – the pair of these birds in common controls a site of coast, expelling from it other birds of this species. The ocean is generous, and it gives enough food as to plesioloons, and also to gannetwhales. But the laughterloon searches for food in shallow water, which is not indefinite. Therefore New Azorean birds of this species are smaller, than continental ones – the size is sacrificed to number of population, providing the reproduction.
Plesioloons and gannetwhales swim, flapping wings transformed into flippers. The laughterloon moves on land and under water with the help of paws. Simultaneously pushing by paws under water, the bird develops speed, sufficient for chasing of shallow water inhabitants. Its catch does not distinguish in quickness and propensity to swim far – usually shallow water inhabitants prefer to hide from predator at the sea bottom. The couple of laughterloons swims above the bottom, surveying it. From time to time both birds synchronously emerge for air, and dive again. They notice many things hidden from sights of uninitiated ones – the cloud of dregs at the place where fish or shrimp is hidden in sand, or the movement of octopus masking among seaweed thickets. When thrickets of floating seaweed are cast ashore, these birds search for food among them. Sharp beaks tear apart the thicket, and birds catch small animals seeking safety in flight one by one. Usually these birds survey the bottom in searches of food. Swimming above the bottom, one bird has frightened away small fish belong to gobies – usual inhabitants of coastal waters of Old World. The fish has jumped out of sand, having caused a cloud of silt, has swum some meters, and has dived into sand at full speed. One loon turned back, and has swum up to this place. It began to sound sand, sticking beak in it. Some attempts were unsuccessful, but when the bird has thrust beak in sand once again, the goby has jumped out of sand. It has swum about one meter, and has dived into sand … but literally on the spot it was pierced by sharp beak of laughterloon. The bird has instantly killed the goby, has taken it from sand and hasty swallowed. Having finished with catch, the laughterloon has emerged for air. It was put out from water, has made some breaths, and has dived again. Intensively moving by paws, bird has rushed follow the breeding partner.
Shallow water is rather safe part of sea. Huge orcine squids and spermwhale sharks do not swim here. Only their dead bodies are occasionally cast ashore for the pleasure of inhabitants of New Azora, not squeamishing to eat carrion. In shallow water young gannetwhales receive the first lessons of diving before they will dip into the world full of dangers located in high sea. The bird colony on the coast is a place where they can feel like in safety from huge predatory fishes and cephalopods, and also from ground inhabitants of New Azora, coming sometimes to the coast of island.
In prehistoric times there had been no terrestrial mammals at Azores, except for bats settled to islands by natural way. In Neocene in woods of island various terrestrial mammals live – it is a result of human activity, one of many signs of existence of species, which could change areas of other species, thoughtlessly settle and equally madly destroy them. After the extinction of people mammals introduced by them had evolved, becoming a part of new ecosystem of islands. Amplification of volcanic activity, which had resulted in transformation of archipelago to unite island, has destroyed a part of primaly appeared species. But mammals all the same meet in woods and mountains of island, and some species regularly visit the coast and disturb colonies of sea birds.
The prickly animal with the big head waddlingly walks on coast, keeping aside of surf. Waves wash off a chain of its five-toed footprints with deep holes of long sharp claws. Its ancestor was small insectivorous mammal, and the descendant had turned to animal like badger in size. It is azogalerix – the omnivorous mammal of New Azora, the descendant of European hedgehog and one more species appeared not where it should be due to people. Spikes of azogalerix became long and strong: it has the reason to protect itself against – these woods are rich in various live creatures, and some of them eat other animals. Azogalerix is similar to the porcupine, but it is omnivorous, as against this rodent. This animal is not squeamish any food; however it especially likes meat and fish. Sense of smell prompts the azogalerix, that it is possible to find something edible at the coast. Therefore animals of this species living near the sea, oftently wander in coastal zone, especially after storm. But this azogalerix walks directly to the colony of gannetwhales. It knows, that near the colony of birds it is possible to find food – dead nestlings casually knocked down by adult birds, or fish belched by adult birds. But the breeding season at gannetwhales already comes to an end, and now it has nothing to profit by – nestlings of gannetwhales do not suffer absence of appetite, therefore all forage is devouring by them completely. All nestlings that could die of natural reasons, are already dead a long time ago, and staying ones, healthy and having all chances of survival, are protected by adult birds. When the azogalerix approaches to the edge of gannetwhales colony, some adult birds pay attention to it. Azogalerix has approached to colony openly, and its approach was not sudden for them. Therefore gannetwhales did not begin to be afraid of it – it is obviously not the enemy attacking secretly and killing silently. Nevertheless, presence of young birds in colony forces adult gannetwhales to show to the azogalerix menacing signals. One bird turns towards to prickly stranger, and some times clicks long red beak. Replying to it, azogalerix bends head down and stirs it up. The bitter sound is heard – spikes on its head knock against each other, and it is its menacing signal. Answering to demonstration of azogalerix, some adult birds having a rest at some distance have slightly risen on wings and have started to cry loudly. The young growth has joined them, and soon cries of huge birds became completely intolerable. The adult gannetwhale layed on sand closer to this animal has risen on wings and has made a step towards to azogalerix. It began to shake head asides, showing bright beak to the azogalerix. But replying to it the animal has bristled up and trembled by all body finely. Hollow spikes have cluttered out, as if a huge rattle. The azogalerix obviously was not going to recede. And then the adult gannetwhale has used the weapon which rescueed these birds from various ground predators for a long time. It has opened mouth widely, and has cast out aside the azogalerix a stinky fountain of fish oil and semidigested fish. After that the gannetwhale has turned out and has creeped aside the colony. Any animal having keen sense of smell would run away at once from disgusting smell emitting from this pulp. But the azogalerix has only departed to some steps aside, and has snuffed. It obviously did not hasten to go out, as according its concepts this pulp of bird’s belch smelled quite appetizing. Azogalerix is not fastidious in feeding, and for it such non-appetizing “entertainment” is quite to taste. The beast has approached closer to lumps of stinking pulp, licked one of them, has taken therefrom the semidigested fish, and has swallowed it. The attack of gannetwhales has conceived the effect, but is obviously was not needed one. The azogalerix not only has to have eaten everything cast by gannetwhale out in it, but even has tried to lick the sand impregnated with fish oil. When everything edible had ended, azogalerix has vanished in bushes.
When the sun comes to sunset, beaches of New Azora gradually come to life. Adult tropical gannetwhales come back from fishing, carrying in stomach about 25 – 30 kgs of a fish. Creeping out on coast, gannetwhale goes slowly. It bases on wings and pushes by paws, leaving a characteristic trace - as if a heavy bag is dragged on sand. The significant part of catch will be had eaten by young birds needed to grow up in time, while parents care of them. Evening feeding occurs noisily and roughly. Adult birds open beaks wide and belch caught fish; that’s why above the colony the specific smell is clearly sensing. Young birds greedy pull food out from beaks of parents, and hasty swallow it, pulling by neck – sometimes the quick nestling has time not only to eat its share of forage, but also to rob less quick neighbour. It is the last opportunity for today to have a meal for young birds. Till the morning they will receive nothing more from parents. Adult birds during the feeding of young growth live half-starving but after parental cares will be finished and young birds will become independent, they will restore the physical form easily in rich in fish areas at the edge of algal fields.
Plesioloons, coming back from distant fishing, also leave sea and search for comfortable place at the beach to spend the night. These birds keep aside of gannetwhales – if the plesioloon will creep to their territory, the gannetwhale can easily kill this bird, having mistaked it for the infringer of borders. Therefore plesioloons keep in small, but close groups in “neutral” territory. Gannetwhales preserve the territory against neighbours, but at life by such close colonies conflicts are simply inevitable, and grow literally from nothing.
One female of tropical gannetwhale comes back from fishing to the male. She has successfully hunted in thickets of floating seaweed, and carries to nestling several small octopuses, squid and a lot of fish in stomach. Her territory is spreaded rather far from surf line – almost near the sickly bushes bordering the beach. The bird hardly creeps, pushing from sand by flippers. From time to time she has a rest, panting. Her male has soon noticed her among set of birds creeping out to the coast, and welcomed her by loud single cry. The female has risen on wings, and has answered his appeal. But she has made it at the wrong time: she was late in territory where the pair of birds has already reunited, and male was engaged in feeding of nestling. His female has apprehended shout of another's female in the territory as a call, and has rushed to offenderess. She crept as quickly, as could, and heaps of sand flied up from under her wings. By several movements of wings she has reached the female coming back from fishing, and her beak has loudly clicked near the paw of this female. The owneress of territory has terribly cried – her voice similar to croak, has forced all environmental birds to turn back, and even her male has distracted from feeding of nestling, having raised head. He has noticed the border trespasseress too, and has hastened to the aid of female.
Involuntary border trespasseress did not begin to enter the conflict - she has noticed, that the male has joined to the female tried to attack her, and forces became unequal. Therefore she has faster spread to her territory, calling to the male, and follow it the couple of birds which territory borders she has trespassed. Her male has answered her cry. Coming nearer to him, the pursued gannetwhale female has sured for herself much more, and her persecutors did not seem to her such dangerous any more. Having reached the edge of the territory, she turned back, and in common with the male has crawled towards to offenders, having risen between them and the nestling. Her persecutors, having reached the invisible border of territory, did not dare to move further any more – at once two beaks has turned towards them, and two birds ready to protect their own territory became their opponents. And they have turned to infringers of another's borders.
The conflict gradually expands: having been late on another's territory, the pair of gannetwhales has drawn attention of some more birds. And the male of female offended by them, protecting territory, began impressive demonstrations of force. He has raised forward part of body, basing on wings, and has loudly cried, having directed head upwards. Then the same movement was repeated by the female. Both birds, slightly curving a neck, spread flipper-like wings to seem larger, and clap them on sand, scattering it in sides. These actions are accompanied by loud cries. Physical contacts at sorting of relationships at these giants are shown to minimum: massive birds can wound each other to death, because their sharp beaks are supplied with teeth-like outgrowths. And at unsuccessful coincidence of circumstances the bird can break jaws and to die of famine unavoidably. Pair of birds conceived the prosecution understands that it is in loss. They are in another's territory, and besides have drawn attention of some more birds. But other birds do not wish to continue useless demonstrations of forces indefinitely too. All birds gradually start to avoid the conflict: they threaten “aside”, gradually turn away from the contender, and show force less actively. From exemptied territory the cry of the underfed nestling is heared, and parental instinct takes top above aggression. Infringers of borders crawl away to the territory, and the conflict gradually dies away, being replaced by calmness and rest. When huge birds have a rest on the coast, other creatures start to work. Beach soilprobers scurry between bodies of gannetwhales, pecking out parasites. Huge birds do not pay attention to their sanitaries, though soilprobers make the necessary and important work. The soilprober perches on head of the gannetwhale having a rest. The giant bird does not shake it out, and only cautiously closes eye when its small cleaner accurately examines by beak feathers on its head. The beach soilprober searches for parasitic crustaceans often settling on skin of gannetwhales between feathers – the bird can not clean parasites off on head herself, and they quietly could suck its blood if there were no soilprobers. To evening only separate birds stay in sea near to island and the majority of sea birds gathers at coast. Nearby to colony of tropical gannetwhales ghostly wanderers walk. They highly lift legs with long toes and accurately put them on ground, as if being afraid to stumble about own toes. On sandy coast these birds appear seldom, and they will not stay to spend the night on the beach – gannetwhales are rather massive, and may knock down sleeping bird. And the affinity of wood does not promise to small birds of anything good at all. Therefore ghostly wanderers will fly out to spend the night on rocky coast – this night ocean will be quiet, and it is safer on rocks. Predators also infrequently appear in rocky sites of coast. Some birds, not having eaten plenty in the sea, feed on coast. They catch insects, picking the rotten tree trunk lying on coast and cast ashore some months ago during the storm. Except for insects, they find small snails and even crustaceans belong to scuds, settling in holes bored by insects. One of birds does not peck mouldering wood, and cautiously rakes away by toes sand from under the tree trunk. And on the spot by exact impact of beak it catches small crab hidden in wet sand.
The high trunk of huge olive tree serves as a place of spending the night for sea birds too. Many years ago storm had broken out one branch, and the tree began to rot from within. The top of this tree is quite alive and covered with glossy greenery, but trunk is hollow and has rotted through almost at half. In the evening fog swifts come back from feeding to this tree. Flocks of these longwing birds gather in sea. When they are going for spending the night, from apart it seems, that the tree soaks up a jet of smoke. Fog swifts precisely fly in tree-trunk hollow at the place of broken out branch, and direct along the hollow trunk right to the place where they are expected by nestlings. Nestlings of fog swifts are perfectly adapted to eat seldom: for day parents visit them only two or three times, and young bird receives the basic portion of forage in the evening. Nestlings of fog swifts all day hung in vertical position, having seized by claws against walls of tree-trunk hollow and having run to original catalepsy. The arrival of adult birds removes them from this condition. Flying in tree-trunk hollow, the adult bird utters the special sound resembling click – it is a signal for nestling. Having heard a familiar voice, nestling quickens and starts to peep, demanding food from the parent. By voice of nestling the parent easily finds it, and perches beside on wall of tree-trunk hollow. It belches the “package” of special rich saliva, in which the caught insects – algal midges – are “stuck”. In first days of life nestling could not swallow insects brought thus completely, and the parent tore apart this “package” to some parts. But the posterity of fog swifts has already grown up and almost became independent, therefore the caught insects disappear in stomach of nestling at once. Due to unactive behaviour young birds save and fuller use the food resources delivered by parents. But they need to be on parental care not for long time: soon at them primary feathers will completely develop. Then young birds will creep out from tree-trunk hollow outside and will fly out in common with adult birds to sea to feeding. They will return to tree-trunk hollow only to spend the night, or will search for other refuge to themselves. Among fog swifts there are the “wanderers” changing shelter of once in some days, and “homebodies” spending all life in one shelter, and leaving it only as a last resort. Ghostly wanderers gather to spending the night. Some birds hover above the coast, and birds searching for forage near the colony of gannetwhales, are going to join them. They clumsily run and fly up, clapping wings. In first seconds of their flight it seems, that they just about will fall back on sand, but after several waves of wings clumsy legs direct back, neck is extended forward, and the bird becomes similar to tiny crane. Ghostly wanderers fly by small flocks to several rocky islets. These islets stick up from the water approximately in two hundred meters from the coast. At them coast is too abrupt for gannetwhales to live, but other birds willingly lodge there. These islets are topped with caps of bushes and grasses, and voices of various birds are audible there. Plants perfectly expand on such small islands - they are fertilized plentifully with dung of sea birds of various species. Ghostly wanderers hover above tops of islands, choosing a place for landing, and cautiously land. Plesioloons are their neighbours. These birds are not able to fly, but swarm up rocks well. The majority of birds of this species lodges and nests on such unapproachable small islands, and only few birds spend the night at New Azora, side by side with gannetwhales. The colony of plesioloons is denser, rather than at gannetwhales – on small islands there is not enough places, and birds hardly not nestling to each other, lying there. On backs of these birds beach soilprobers run, clearing plesioloons from parasites. On these birds the less number of ectoparasites settles – plesioloons are more high-speed, rather than gannetwhales; it is harder to larvae of parasitic crustaceans to attach to their bodies. But all the same at soilprobers there is a lot of work in colony of these birds.
Ghostly wanderers do not like the neighbourhood of clumsy plesioloons which besides are armed with pointed beaks and have lightning reaction. Therefore ghostly wanderers find some stones, on which plesioloon simply can not climb up, and perch on them, nestling to each other. Birds are going to sleep – they hide long beak under wing, and blink. Those one, which has had time to perch in the middle of group, is in advantageous position – nights at New Azora may be rather cool because of influence cold Anti-Gulf Stream. Behaviour of these birds is the original prognosis of weather for forthcoming night. In storm ghostly wanderers would prefer to hide at New Azora mainland, in forest. But at good weather birds perch on stones opened to wind and sun. Plesioloons do not leave such small islands in any weather conditions, and appear at coast of island less often. In whole gale waves almost cover a colony of plesioloons had nestled to each other, but birds keep for rock by paws and flipper-like wings, and survive in storm.
Nights at New Azora are not similar against each other. If the wind blows from the west, night is warm – wind drives the warm air formed above Gulf Stream. But east and northeast winds bring to the island cold air masses accompanying Anty-Gulf Stream, current from polar latitudes. Cold nights are more dewy and foggy. But in any case and under any weather conditions night is the time of other creatures. The night forest is full of singing of crickets and cicadas, snails creep on leaves, and various nocturnal animals catch them – lizards, bats and small rodents.
Gannetwhales sleep on the coast by whole colony. Occasionally one or two birds wake up of unfamiliar noise. They raise heads, look round, and fall asleep again. Plesioloons spend the night among a colony of gannetwhales, gathered. The sleep of birds is sensitive, and there is an explanation to it. Those ones, who steal silently and attack noiselessly, live in woods of New Azora.
In historical epoch people had introduced predators to islands – they were least weasel and ferret. These animals had successfully survived, and their presence had changed the usual for islands direction of evolution. Descendants of least weasels had developed tree habitats, and the descendant of ferret had turned to the largest and successfullest predator of New Azora – martilla. Martillas live almost at whole island, avoiding only mountain tops lack of wood vegetation. These animals similar to huge ground martens prefer to live under the forest canopy. Besides the size, martillas differ in one more feature: they are pack predators. Males of this species are singles, but the clan including several adult females is a great force.
When the sun is setting, martillas quicken. They spent the hottest time of day in large common hole where the whole clan of females lives – half-dozen adult animals and three young females. In one hole, which is wider and deeper, rather then others, the posterity of clan – some cubs – grows up. One female does not leave from young growth, and does not go far from hole. She does not take part in hunting, and expects only for meat which is brought to her by other animals of clan. The female looking after posterity should protect young growth from encroachments of adult martilla males – these animals may simply eat cubs. Therefore at night only five adult females and three young ones will go hunting.
While the sun has not set, martillas play – females somersault among fern thickets and struggle with each other, slightly biting each other’s skin on neck and nape. Animals stretch, kneading muscles, and one of young martillas recollects skills from near childhood: it runs up and climbs up tree trunk, hangs on bark till some seconds, having clinged by claws, and jumps off, making graceful long jump. Adult females are too heavy for such exercises, but they are main support of clan during the hunting.
When the sun has set, and stars have begun to shine in sky, martillas have gone for hunting. Usually they hunt in wood, but within several nights in succession the clan came back to the lair being half-starved. Females constantly felt the smell of the male in forest – this animal had overlapped all their territorial labels by its own secretions, and occasionally even had pursued the clan. This night the clan will not hunt in forest. Having formed the characteristic line, the clan of martillas directed there, where the noise of waves is audible. The forest gradually thinned along the way of clan, then trees were replaced by bushes, and soon martillas have left on coast of ocean. They hunt at the coast of island seldom, and young females never left forest at all. The magnificent show stretched before eyes of predators - a clear firmament studded with bright stars above rustling ocean. But these animals are lack of aesthetic feeling. They are occupied with the unique goal – to hunt successfully.
One female in clan is the leader. The success in hunting depends on it, and it estimates an opportunity of hunting. The main female smells air, trying to sense a smell of catch. And the wind has delivered to it the characteristic smell of colony of gannetwhales. Martillas do not see birds – there is the distance about some hundreds meters up to the colony, and bush thickets prevent to see sleeping birds. But martillas are cautious, and do not give themselves out by noise. Besides they perfectly see at night.
The clan of martillas steals to the beach where the colony of gannetwhales is located, having formed a line – such feature of behaviour characteristic for cubs of mustelids, is kept at this species. Young martillas had never taking part in such hunting diligently copy movements of adult animals. It will be the important lesson of life for them: if any female will be lucky to be the main female of clan, it will use these skills in hunting. Having overcome bushes separating them from colony of gannetwhales, martillas go to the beach where huge birds sleep. Now the main task is to choose prey correctly.
Martillas hunt nestlings of gannetwhales, but they also can kill adult birds, if the clan is strong, and catch is sick or is simply weakened. At night adult gannetwhales see badly, and such hunting passes rather safely. In day time any gannetwhale can repulse the attack of the adult martilla alone, and the colony can drive off even the whole clan of these predators. But night is the time of fear when night rustle may equally probably belong to harmless beetle creeping on tree trunk, or to sneaking up predator. And night equalizes predator and prey in opportunities.
The prey in colony of gannetwhales is chosen by main female of clan. It is rather simple to do: one young bird has crawled away from adults, and sleeps at some distance from the main colony. That’s why to attack it is much easier task. But the prey needs not only to be chosen – it must be killed. Killing prey, the predator is exposed to considerable danger itself – the prey, protecting itself, may seriously injure the predator. If the gannetwhale will have time to wake up and to meet an attacking predator by “toothed” beak, martilla may receive deep wound, which will fester easily in hot climate. Therefore predators act cautiously and resolutely, trying to kill prey at the first attack. Attack is headed by the dominant female of clan, and the second in force adult female of clan goes shoulder to shoulder with it. Other martillas do not take part in hunting yet.
The pair of predators comes nearer to chosen prey. Some seasons of joint hunting had perfected tactics of predators, and they operate according the checked up script. When it is about two meters up to sleeping gannetwhale, both females attack it simultaneously. The main female grips throat of gannetwhale, trying not to get under impact of beak of bird. Simultaneously other female makes throw on the back of bird, bites its nape and by one movement of canines bites through the basis of skull. The body of gannetwhale convulses – the bird had died almost on the spot, even not trying to cry. Its flipper-like wings scattered sand, and paws pulled, while martillas kept its head, not unclenching teeth. Hunting had passed perfectly: not any adult bird of colony has woken up, and even plesioloons sleeping at the other edge of colony, had not felt danger.
When spasmes of the gannetwhale had stopped and the body had become soft, martillas started to drag the catch from colony. At first hunting females operated together, but then other martillas had cautiously joined them and had dragged the carcass of gannetwhale away from colony together. It is dangerous to eat such plentiful catch at the open place – the smell will involve other animals, and it may simply remain nothing to the share of hunters. But famine takes top, and martillas start meal right on the beach, having dragged killed bird aside from peacefully sleeping colony of its congeners.
Under cover of night martillas begin the feast. Usually these animals hunt smaller prey, and catch of large gannetwhale is rare luck for them. On the carcass of bird there are many fleshy parts which will be eaten by animals, but all the same the prey is too large, and after the feast of martillas on remains of gannetwhale there will be many edible parts for the pleasure of other carnivorous inhabitants of New Azora. By pointed canines females tear the skin covered with dense short feathering, and greedy start meal. First of all they eat large pectoral muscles of bird, and then tear off the abdominal cavity and eat heart and liver. Each martilla should eat about three kgs of meat per day. The carcass of gannetwhale is great enough for them to be full and to carry away a part of catch to the lair, where the female with cubs waits for the returning of clan from hunting. Martillas eat silently enough, and the colony of gannetwhales continues sleeping, not worrying about destiny of bird killed by predators. The clan of martillas greedy eats away the most tasty and fleshy parts of carcass. When animals will return to the lair, the part of meat will be received by the female looking after cubs, and a little of meat even will remain for cubs. They already finish suckling the female, and show the interest to food of adult animals. But in nature predator of small and medium size seldom succeeds to eat up catch to the end – the larger predator taking away their catch is always found. At New Azora there are only few species of predators – the ecosystem of island simply will not support some highly specialized species of various weight categories. But all the same females of martilla have the reason to be afraid. The smell of blood and meat of gannetwhale had involved one more predator which kept in territory of martilla female’s clan within last some days. This animal is the male of the same species. He is much larger, rather than females: the adult male weighs half more, than the largest and tallest female. While martilla females hasty snatched meat of catch, bush branches have begun to stir, and their persecutor, the adult male, has came on the beach. The animal sure in its forces directed right to the carcass of gannetwhale, greedy inhaling smell of warm meat teasing its sense of smell. When the distance became too short, martilla females bared their teeth, trying to drive him off, and one of females had hissed to the male, as if the angry cat. At the occurrence of the male young martillas at once have scaredly receded from catch - the male can easily bite to death any of them, if they will decide to fight against it. Almost all adult females had stopped eating and had departed the catch. Only the main female was late near the carcass of gannetwhale. Having torn off hasty a piece of meat, it had run off to others, and began to observe of the male intently.
The male is not disturbed with alarm among females – he was never afraid of attack from their side. Having lowered muzzle in warm carcass of gannetwhale, he started to tear off pieces of meat and to swallow them. From time to time he looked estimatingly at clan of females crowded nearby. The male obviously does not hasten – he realizes the force, and uses the right of priority at catch sharing even not taking part in hunting. Gradually he is sated, and his sight frightens females less, rather then before the meal. The sated male began less aggressive: he only has unwillingly torn off last piece from carcass, and more chewed meat, rather than swallowed it. Thus he attentively looked at females which did not dare to come nearer to the lawful prey at his presence. To fix the prevailing position, the male has lifted tail up, and has emitted from anal glands some drops of strongly smelling liquid on sand. Having made it, he walked slowly back to bushes.
After the male had disappeared in darkness, females have cautiously come nearer to catch. The main female has sniffed around the sand where the male has left odorous labels. Though the male is already not present near the rests of catch, its smell influences animals, especially young martillas – they are still afraid to approach to catch, lower heads and silently snort, feeling the smell frightening them. Adult females are quieter, and one of them simply covers the odorous label of the male with sand. Only after that the clan of martillas gathers near the carcass of gannetwhale with its full complement.
The sun rises again above New Azora. Its beams shine result of night hunting of martillas: near the colony of gannetwhales lacerated and eaten round body of their neighbour lays. The birds not becoming prey of night hunting are disturbed with the view of dead neighbour. They cautiously look aside remains of bird and utter disturbing calls. On remains of gannetwhale hundreds flies are already gathered. But other creatures also have found out such source of food. Some beach soilprobers, not having enmity to each other, suited a feast to themselves too. Soilprobers are not specialized eaters of meat, but they do not miss a case to peck nourishing and accessible food. After storm these birds peck fishes and squids cast ashore the same way. But nevertheless not they, but azogalerixes are main garbage searchers of the coast. One of these animals walks on the coast, searching for sea animals cast ashore. But instead of them it finds something much greater – remains of gannetwhale. Near to it the colony of these birds rustles, but no one of them will prevent the azogalerix to feast in plenty. The animal sniffs at remains of gannetwhale, and greedy sinks into in them. After the meal of martillas on bones and between ribs of bird there is a lot of meat, and azogalerix gnaws it off by sharp teeth. Gristles and ligaments also vanish in mouth of this omnivorous animal.
Trying to reach meat, azogalerix overturns remains of gannetwhale. It became its involuntary mistake: one of birds has seen it, and has apprehended the movement of dead bird as signs of life, and attempt of azogalerix to reach meat as an attack to the neighbour. Its reaction was instant: it has uttered menacing call, and has quickly crawled aside azogalerix. The bird is adjusted very bellicose: it loudly cries and clicks by long red beak. Azogalerix is also well armed, and it may answer its attack with stings of long spikes or with bite. When the gannetwhale has come too near to it, azogalerix has turned to menacing pose: it has turned to huge bird, has bent head down and started to shake it. At this moment its spikes have loudly cracked, as if a rattle.
Azogalerix is smaller, rather than gannetwhale and its spikes are shorter, than beak of huge sea bird. Its quickness will not rescue it from brute force of attacking gannetwhale; therefore it recedes from remains of bird killed at night. The gannetwhale moving by instinct does not admit it to dead neighbour. But the killed bird does not move, and gradually the attention of its guard starts to weaken. The gannetwhale gradually crawls away far from remains of neighbour, and pays less attention to azogalerix. But azogalerix is not going to recede from so seductive find promising dense and nourishing breakfast without any efforts. It wanders on the beach at some distance from dead bird, and glances at its guard. When the gannetwhale has crawled away aside, azogalerix has decided to take advantage of chance. The animal rushed to remains of bird, gripped by teeth its paw, and had dragged the carcass away from restless place. Azogalerix is very strong; therefore it managed to drag the carcass of gannetwhale out to some tens meters without the special efforts. It has dragged catch far from colony of birds, but … closer to its neighbour. Azogalerixes seldom search for meetings with each other. It occurs only in breeding season, and during the other time adult animals of this species are strict singles. Usually they concern to neighbours indifferently, but such seductive catch as semi-eaten carcass of gannetwhale is the occasion for determining of relationships. Another azogalerix, also involved with smell of blood and meat, wandered in bushes, not daring to come nearer to the carcass while it lied near the colony of gannetwhales. Therefore its more courageous neighbour involuntarily rendered the big service to it. When the stranger has left shelter and was directed to the carcass of bird, the azogalerix preied it at once has warned it about unwillingness to share food. It has risen on all paws, has curved back like a cat, and has shaken spikes. The staccato rattle has not stopped another animal, and that one has come nearer to the carcass of bird. From its side such behaviour is like an obvious call. The owner of catch has decided to show the mood more obviously: it reared up, has grinned and has shown claws on forepaws to the opponent. The contender also was not in debt: it has opened mouth wide and has begun to roar. The same roar was the answer to it. Animals bored each other by hating sight and curved backs, as if cats, strolling near remains of gannetwhale. The owner of catch has decided to deprive the opponent of the opportunity to reach the carcass. It has stepped over the catch, and has come nearer to the applicant. The next moment both azogalerixes already rolled on the ground, having grappled each other. They furiously put to each other bites to neck and shoulders not protected by spikes.
At last, one of contenders has felt, that loses the battle. It was an animal which has come to catch the second. It hardly freed from bite of the lawful owner of catch, and rushed back to bushes. As a sign of submission it presses spikes to skin, trying to look as less awful, as possible. The unlucky applicant limps – its opponent has put to it deep wound in shoulder. When this animal was started up in flight, the owner of catch pursued it only as a matter of form: having run some steps, it turned back and come nearer to its lawful catch. In some seconds gristles and vertebrae of bird killed by martillas were cracked in teeth of azogalerix. Probably, sometime it will make any fatal mistake in its life, and this mistake becomes last one for it. The nature does not forgive losers, and in it only the one most adapted to habitat survives. It may be a great variety of adaptations – it creates variety of life.
New Azora is one of many original worlds of Neocene epoch. Consequences of human activity and millions years of evolution had resulted in occurrence of unique flora and fauna living in balance under their own laws at this island.
helminthocrusta (Helminthocrusta aviphila)
Order: Copepods (Copepoda)
Family: Lerneaids (Lerneaidae)
Habitat: North Atlantic, New Azora.
The most part of plankton in Holocene epoch was made by copepod crustaceans. At the boundary of Holocene and Neocene their variability of species had considerably reduced, but in Neocene they had partly returned the lost positions due to speed of evolution. However the majority of species of copepod crustaceans is the parasitic animals living on various water invertebrates, fishes and cetaceans. In Neocene one species of parasitic copepods had made original “break” in development of new ecological niches: this animal began to parasitize at water birds – gannetwhales. These birds had replaced pinnipeds dyed out in epoch of ecological crisis. With occurrence of new lifeforms among large animals new opportunities for evolution of parasitic animals had appeared.
On neck and sides of gannetwhales living in tropical zone of Atlantic, one representative of parasitic copepod crustaceans, bird helminthocrusta, settles often enough. The name of this creature literally means “helminth-crustacean”. This creature resembles parasitic worms by appearance and way of life very strongly, though it belongs to the number of crustaceans. It is the common feature of many parasitic copepods, which often lose typical features of crustaceans.
The adult form of helminthocrusta exists, having “taken roots” into underskin tissue of gannetwhale, and forms a tumour about 5 cm in diameter. The tumour opens at top by small aperture. Inside the tumour there is a body of crustacean curled as tight spiral. The head part of helminthocrusta is immersed in tissue of host bird, and the back part of body adjoins to aperture by which the tumour opens. The bird helminthocrusta is the largest species of copepod crustaceans of Neocene: the general length of animal makes about half meter at the width of band-shaped body about 1 cm and thickness up to 2 mm.
Similarly to the majority of relatives, bird helminthocrusta has lost many features of crustaceans. Its head is transformed to root-looking irregular-shaped outgrowths braiding blood vessels adjoining to tumour. The length of these outgrowths may reach 10 cm. The animal receives feed using them, soaking up nutrients from blood of bird through the thin epithelium covering these outgrowths. The digestive system of helminthocrusta is reduced.
The body of crustacean has completely lost segmentation, but it seems segmented because of features of sexual system of animal. The most part of body of helminthocrusta is made with ovaries. In them egg sacks continuously ripen, which move along the ovaries till the process of development, leave oviducts and drop outside from aperture, with which the tumour opens. The female of helminthocrusta has such shape.
The male of this species is dwarf; it lives very short time and fertilizes the female just before she will find the final host. The male actually represents the larva able to breed. Its penis is very long, exceeding some times the total length of the male. The male clings by mouth feet to back part of body of the female and makes to it the “injection” by penis right through body covers. The penis gets into oviduct of female, and the male fertilizes developing ovocites. After fertilisation ovocites start dividing, and do not lose this ability up to the end of life of the female.
The body of adult female of this crustacean represents the egg-producing “conveyor”. Each two days it forms the egg sack containing up to 20 million of small eggs in thin cover. If it drops out of tumour aperture when the bird has a rest on land, egg sack quickly dries up, and eggs perish. In water eggs develop very quickly and from them larvae – nauplii typical for crustaceans – hatch. In life cycle this crustacean changes the host animal twice. First time nauplii penetrate into gastropods living in floating seaweed, and develop in them. In body of mollusk the crustacean larva undergoes a metamorphosis: it dumps larval shell and turns similar to the bubble of parasitic worm Echinococcus. In snail body it additionally breeds by asexual way – in its body actively floating larvae of second generation about 3 mm long supplied in two swimming legs are formed. In body of one snail it may be formed more, than 5 – 6 thousand ones of them. The larva of first generation, in which body the second generation of larvae develops, starts to grow and actually turns to sack filled with larvae. Because of growth of the parasite the mollusk perishes, and through break in body of perishing mollusc larvae of second generation leave outside and start to search for the host bird. This is the weak spot in life cycle of crustacean: term of search of definitive host is very much limited. Having swum till some hours, larva perishes, and more often it is eaten by other inhabitants of ocean. Besides at this moment males search for females and fertilize them. The non-fertilized female lives some hours longer comparing to fertilized one. Developing fertilized ovocites start to spend limited vital resources of female larva, and it necessarily should find the host animal. Otherwise it quickly perishes. And the female, too long former not fertilized, can not accept sperm liquid of the male: its ovocites lose ability to fertilisation.
If the larva of second generation managed to find the host bird, it attaches to skin of bird and undergoes the metamorphosis. Oral organs of of the second generation larva of helminthocrusta are supplied with pointed proboscis. With the help of this proboscis it is stuck in skin of bird, and through proboscis as through the syringe needle young crustacean penetrates into underskin tissue of bird as poorly differentiated lump of cellular mass in thin environment. Empty larval skin is cast away, and young helminthocrusta begins the parasitic life. At first at its head side of the body root-looking outgrowths develop, and then it starts to form tumour on the body of bird. First egg sacks are formed at young female at the age of one month. At this time it reaches the length about 5 cm. The body length of growing up female is increased, and the amount of egg sacks formed by it increases. The female of bird helminthocrusta may live over 7 years.
midge (Algophtora minuta)
Order: Two-winged flies (Diptera)
Family: incertae sedis
Habitat: algal fields near New Azora.
Insects are one of the most successful classes of live creatures on the Earth. During the process of evolution species adapted to the diversified inhabitancy appeared among them. Even in hot springs and oil lakes separate species of insects live. Fast rate of evolution permits them to occupy the strictest ecological niches and to develop for short term high specialization to the inhabitancy. Therefore there is no wonder in fact, that in Neocene insects had developed the special food source – seaweed forming floating “carpets” near to volcanic island New Azora in Atlantic ocean. Above the continuous cover of seaweed the whole swarms of tiny algal midges fly the year round. It is the special species living only in Atlantic. It is the close relative of the continental species living in salt Mediterranean swamps and at the Atlantic coast of Europe and Africa. Obviously, ancestors of New Azorean algal midge had got in the middle of ocean from continent by means of wind. It is not known, how many generations of these insects did not get accustomed and perished while among them the individuals able to survive and to breed on seaweed had appeared. But such specialization has brought to obvious success this species: the number of algal midges is very stable both high and some inhabitants of New Azora eat basically this species of insects.
Macroalgae are the plentiful and quickly renewing source of food. But sea water creates the certain difficulties for life of algal midge. The secretory system of insects would not cope with the removing from an organism of the big amount of salts; therefore during the life cycle algal midge skilfully avoids the contact to sea water. Legless worm-like larvae of this insect live inside thalli of seaweed, moving in friable connecting tissue. Larvae of advanced age cease to wander in the plant. They live in pneumatophore bladders and receive oxygen due to photosynthesis of algae. Development of larva proceeds about 3 weeks. Larva ready to metamorphosis bores the environment of pneumatophore, having exposed the head end of body outside. At the last molt the skin is not shed from the forward end of its body, and forms a dense environment which serves as a cover. When the metamorphosis is completed, the adult insect opens the cover by push of head and leaves outside.
Length of the body of adult algal midge is about three millimeters. The male of this species is a little smaller, rather than female, but differs in special secondary sexual attributes. Colouring of body of the female is black with metal shine, and the male has thin indumentum of golden hairs on abdomen. Also at it there are longer feather-like antennas.
Courtship ritual at algal midges occurs in the afternoon, when the sun shines brightly and warms up well the air above algal fields. In hot damp air males arrange demonstration flight, gathering to spherical swarm. From time to time females fly in this swarm, and the fast pairing takes place. From apart the swarm of males resembles grey cloud with golden shade.
Adult insects live not for long time – no more than one week. For this time the female has time to make up to five clutches – about one thousand eggs in total. Adult algal midges eat juice of rotting seaweed pneumatophores. As against the blood-sucking midges living on continents, mouth parts of algal midge are licking, adapted to absorption of liquid food. Algal midges frequently meet near birds feeding or having a rest on algal fields. Blood of birds is not needed for them: they drink their plaintive liquid. Especially frequently it is made by females needed to lay the next portion of eggs.
wanderer (Jacanodactylus algodromus)
Order: Plovers (Charadriiformes)
Family: False cranes (Pseudogruidae)
Habitat: New Azora and nearby islands.
“Plankton accident” at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene had destroyed the majority of species of animals spending in plankton community even a part of life cycle. After them the set of species of sea mammals and birds had died out. In Neocene descendants of few survived species had started to develop gradually formed productive ecosystems again. On coasts of Europe rather large bird similar to stork wanders – it is the large-billed crabstork (Charadrogrus magnirostris), the descendant of the plover, small coastal bird. By its massive beak this bird splits shells of molluscs and carapaces of crabs and sea urchins. It is not a unique bird in its taxon: far from coast of Europe, at New Azora Island its close relative, the ghostly wanderer, lives. Such name perfectly describes this interesting bird, and indicates both its appearance and habits. Ghostly wanderer is similar to large jacana: it is the bird of young hen size, but having considerably more graceful and fragile constitution. The adult ghostly wanderer weighs about 1 kg and is similar to short-necked heron.
The feathering of this bird is colored monophonic bluish-grey. The beak of this bird is black color, and around of eyes there is a thin ring of yellow featherless skin. Thin long toes make the appearance of bird awkward a little, but this is the adaptation to the habit of life habitual to this bird. On land these toes as if prevent this bird to walk: ghostly wanderer walks, ceremoniously lifting legs and accurately putting them, trying not to step on its own toes.
Beak of this bird is pointed and slightly bent downwards. It is weaker, rathere than at the crabstork, but this bird does not suffer from it – it eats absolutely other kind of food. Ghostly wanderer flies well. In early morning, when the mist is rising at coasts of New Azora, ghostly wanderers fly up and hasten to feeding. These birds feed far from the coast, at the distance of several kilometers from island. Near the coast of New Azora the true fields of floating brown seaweed expand, and there various fishes and invertebrates live. Ghostly wanderers eat them. Long thin toes permit these birds to wander on seaweed, not failing down, in searches of forage. From time to time the bird immerses beak in water, groping the small animals hidden among seaweed thalli. On edges of the top jaw sensitive organs are located (ones similar to them are known at geese of Holocene epoch), with which help the bird distinguishes movement of small animals among seaweed thickets. By fast movement of head ghostly wanderer snatches out the hidden animal from seaweed, throws it up, catches and swallows. Ghostly wanderers feed in groups. Each bird keeps at some distance from neighbours, and from time to time gives signals, showing that there is no danger around – bird extends neck vertically and utters short peep. In case of danger the bird cries the loud hoarse voice. Having heard an alarm signal, birds try to fly up – usually they are attacked by fishes hidden in seaweed, and occasionally they are attacked even by large cephalopods. Flying up, ghostly wanderer runs up, slaping by toes on surface of seaweed carpet.
For nesting these birds choose a site on coast in mouth of the river with thickets of water plants. Nest of ghostly wanderers is a simple small hole in the ground among high marsh plants. The female lays two – three large eggs with shell of white color. The laying is hatched only by the female, it also looks at posterity. At this time the male protects nesting site. From time to time he gives the female sound signals depending on environmental stuation. In nesting season the male of ghostly wanderer is very aggressive. It attacks on small animals, driving them away from nest, and in case of necessity it also can attack even larger animals. Warning about the intention to protect the nest, ghostly wanderer male inclines body forward, opens wings like fans and demonstrates the beak. If the newcomer does not go away, the bird rushes on it, trying to peck in eye (usually the bird aims to any contrastly colored spot on the body of stranger).
The incubating lasts about four weeks. Chicks of ghostly wanderers are well advanced, able to walk and to run in one hour after the hatching. Before they will learn to fly, these birds feed by whole families in wood bogs and reeds. One bird of pair is constantly near the hatch, and the second one at this time may fly out to whole day to algal fields for feeding. Having returned from sea feeding, this bird feeds the partner and chicks, belching to them swallowed animals. Getting plentiful feeding up, chicks of ghostly wanderers develop very quickly. At the age of three months young bird is already completely advanced and is able to fly well. Feathering of young bird is not dove-coloured, but simply grey. Also young birds do not have yellow “glasses” around of eyes – they appear only to one-year-old age when the young bird becomes able to nesting. Young birds at first feed at the coast of island, keeping near to colonies of gannetwhales, and then start to fly to algal fields following for adult birds. Chicks at the birds of this species living on small islands, where there are no rivers and bogs, at once start to feed at sea coast.
Order: Loons (Gaviiformes)
Family: Huge loons (Gravigaviidae)
Habitat: Atlantic, European coast, islands of Atlantic Ocean, eastern coast of North America.
Picture by Tim Morris
Initial image - picture made by Arseny Zolotnikov
As a result of hunting and destruction of habitats number of
the majority of sea mammal species was sharply reduced, and some species had
disappeared completely to the end of human era. “plankton accident” which became
the result of catastrophic changes in biosphere, had destroyed practically all
species of sea mammals which had escaped after hunting of people. Populations
of sea animals became too rarefied to have an opportunity to restore and to
self-maintain. Therefore till several millions years after people disappearance
all sea pinnipeds and cetaceans have gradually died out.
The ecological niche of large sea fish-eating animals remained empty not for long time: descendants of species were at supporting parts in ecosystems earlier had gradually started to fill it. In Northern hemisphere a plenty of the water birds partly replacing seals and dolphins in sea ecosystems has appeared. At northern coast of Pacific ocean herbivorous algal geese and flightless guillemots hatchetbills, eating sea invertebrates, coexist. Huge gannetwhales inhabit Arctic Ocean and Atlantic, and at the Atlantic coast of Europe in areas of temperate climate the large flightless laughterloon lives. This species of loons does not swim far from coast, but it has the relative preferring life at open ocean. When these birds emerge on ocean surface, it seems that on Earth plesiosauri have appeared again – long flexible necks of these birds make them similar to prehistoric sea reptiles. And these birds are named plesioloons because of it.
This bird is rather large – it weighs about 10 kg. The plesioloon had lost the ability to fly, but it had mastered water. Wings of this bird had turned to long strong flippers with which help it accelerates high speed under water. Muscled body of plesioloon is streamline-shaped; pectoral muscles are advanced almost as well as at flying birds, and are attached to strong pectoral bone.
Feathering of bird is short, colored dark grey with silvery shade on sides. On sides of bird feathering forms pattern like dim cross strips. On stomach the feathering is short and light. Feathering densely adjoins to skin and isolates body from cold. In addition the bird is protected from cold by thick fat layer. Paws have palamas between toes and are shifted far to the back part of body (therefore bird can not stand on them). It can move on the ground, only laying on stomach and pushing by paws. Under water paws serve as rudders, and to a lesser degree participate in movement. Tail of bird is short and wide; with its help plesioloon can make sharp turns under water, chasing shoals of smaller animals.
Plesioloon spends the most part of time in sea, leaving on a coast only for rest and nesting. Having lost ability to flight completely, this bird is excellent swimmer comparable to penguins – it quickly swims in thickness of water and can stay under water foor a long time. Bird “flies” under water, flapping by wings, as by flippers. This bird also uses wings to move on stony coast.
At the plesioloon there is very long neck, that’s why the bird is partly similar to swans or fossil sea reptiles, plesiosauri. But plesioloon differs from them in jaw anatomy. This bird successfully hunts pelagic fish and herring squids by means of thin narrow beak supplied on edges with small denticles. The anatomy of bird is adapted to feeding by such kind of catch – at hunting for small animals force of throw is not as important, as accuracy. When plesioloon overtakes a school of fishes or squids, it can simply swim in parallel it, simultaneously snatching out catch from shoal by mobile head. Massive body serves as a support for head and neck at throws. At this bird there is lightning reaction – for one throw it can seize and swallow one by one up to three preys in succession.
The lonely hunter is less successful, than the whole flight, especially at open ocean where catch has opportunity to escape from chasing in any direction. During the evolution plesioloons had mastered group hunting for schooling sea animals. During it birds surround school of animals, and, swimming around of it, push catch to the surface of water and force down the school of animals to dense congestion. After that birds simply snatch surrounded animals one by one.
Plesioloons spend the most part of time at the ocean far from coast. Due to this they partly avoid a competition to other sea birds. Especially frequently they meet in places where there are small rocky small islands far from continent coast. Plesioloon appears on land infrequently – basically it makes it during nesting. At this time aggression of birds in relation to other species strongly increases – on land bird is clumsy, and instinctively distinguishes threat for itself in each stranger.
Plesioloon is monogamous bird, and pairs are formed only for one nesting season. Courtship displays of these birds which begin in the spring at open ocean look effectively – on sea surface the set of bent necks appears, as if the swan flock is swimming. Males hardly differ from females: they have only larger crest on head. They gather in groups, and loudly cry calling females. To strengthen impression about itself, each male thrusts out from water as far as possible, and accompanies cries with flapping of flipper-like wings, as if trying to fly up. Lingering courtship call of this bird resembles a sound of pipe and spreads far above ocean. After the formation of pairs and pairing (it occurs in water) birds leave on a coast and arrange nests.
Because plesioloons are rather vulnerable on land, they choose coasts protected from predators, or the removed islands for nesting. This bird nests on coast rather far from the surf line. Its neighbours, gannetwhales, “hatch” an egg, holding it on paws, therefore at approach of storm they can simply creep away from coast. But plesioloon is not as large, as they are, therefore it nests by traditional for birds way – it arranges simple nest like small hole among stones, or chooses suitable deepening in ledges of rocks. Birds nest in dense groups – it is easier to defend so from possible predators, or to drive away the massive gannetwhales armed with powerful beak. Driving strangers away from nest, birds fearlessly peck them by sharp beaks, putting deep wounds. Fast reaction, speed and force of impact make them dangerous opponents even for gannetwhale. Only at the Atlantic coast of Europe laughterloons can ravage nests of plesioloons – they are armed equally, but are more massive and stronger.
In clutch usually there are two white shell eggs. Only female hatches and male only feeds her. The incubating lasts about 40 days. Nestlings are covered with down and have opened eyes. They at once leave nest and independently study to catch small animals. Parents feed them first three weeks of life, and later their care is reduced mainly to protection of nestlings. The young bird becomes fully fledged at the age of about two weeks. From now young growth gathers in “kindergartens”, and adult birds feed posterity, finding nestlings out by voice.
Young birds grow quickly, and to the first winter they reach the weight about 7 – 8 kg. Before sexual maturity the feathering of birds has no characteristic silvery pattern. Young birds nest first time at the age of 2 years.
This species forms three well defined populations between which the continuous communication is supported due to joining and separating of flocks of birds migrating at ocean. Atlantic, or European, population is the smallest one: it forms some congestions at the European coast. Laughterloon, the closest and competing to plesioloon species, lives here. European plesioloons spend winter to the south of all others – in cool Antigulf Stream current they reach to the south up to coast of Northern Africa. North-American population is more numerous – it inhabits eastern coast of North America up to Greenland and almost anywhere it does not migrate – Gulf Stream makes places of their inhabiting rather warm. Only birds from Greenland migrate to the south. Macaronesian population is the most numerous. It lives on islands in middle part of Atlantic and each year migrates between New Azora and Iceland.
This species of birds had been discovered by Arseny Zolotnikov, the forum member.
Tropical gannetwhale (Delphisula midatlantica)
Order: Pelecaniforms (Pelecaniformes)
Family: Gannetwhales (Cetornitidae)
Habitat: islands of Mid-Atlantic Ridge, New Azora, Canary Islands, occasionally African coast. Separate individuals during the migration can reach Iceland at the north and up to Great Antigua at the west.
Picture by Tim Morris
In human epoch ecosystems of planet had considerably grown
poor, and large species inhabiting them, appeared at the edge of extinction
because of impoverishment of natural resources and irrational wildlife management.
Changes in planet ecology marked process of transition from Holocene to Neocene
had provoked mass extinction of large species of animals. There were not only
terrestrial, but also sea species among them. In glacial epoch finished Holocene
epoch, there were no cetaceans and pinnipeds in seas any more. But their place
was quickly occupied by representatives of animals, managed to keep rather high
number – the gannetwhales, descended from sea birds. These giant birds similar
to seals with long beak, hatched posterity at Atlantic coast of Eurasia and
on islands of Atlantic and Arctic ocean. When the ice age was finished, large
gannetwhales adapted to cold climate, had died out or had receded to the north,
to cold polar waters. But southern populations of gannetwhales from islands
of Atlantic, distinguished in smaller size, had adapted to life in conditions
of subtropical climate and had formed separate species. At New Azora the medium-sized
relative of northern gannetwhales, the tropical gannetwhale lives. The inhabitant
of polar seas reaches three-meter length at weight about half ton, and its tropical
congener is much smaller – it is a bird about 2 meters long, which weighs about
Body proportions of tropical gannetwhale are almost same, as at its polar colleague. At this bird there are lengthened streamline-shaped body and rather small paws with large toes connected by palama. Wings modified in flippers, at this bird are longer, rather than at polar species. Under water tropical gannetwhale moves, making waves by flipper-like wings. Wide rigid tail serves as a rudder of depth, and paws are used for turns.
General colouring of the tropical gannetwhale is more contrasted, than at polar one. The basic colouring of this bird is white, around of eyes there are black spots – “glasses”. Wings and shoulders are also black; at separate individuals black areas merge on back in “saddle” figure. Long red beak with white spot on the tip is the bright spot in colouring of this bird. On edges of beak the corneous cover forms teeth-like outgrowths, assisting to keep catch. Paws at this bird have grey color, but during the hatching they get an appreciable pink shade because of blood vessels dilation.
As against the polar gannetwhale, the tropical gannetwhale is settled species. It constantly lives at New Azora and several nearby islands. Out of breeding season groups of these birds can reach Canary Islands, and separate birds swim even to the coast of Africa. But breeding of this species takes place only at New Azora. Birds feed on fish and invertebrates, catching them in depth. They also hunt near the edge of floating islands of brown seaweed, which grow in water near New Azora.
For such large birds the problem of egg incubating is very difficult: the egg can not be too big, and weight and anatomy of the body do not permit this bird to hatch eggs like usual birds do it. All gannetwhales “hatch” the sole large egg, keeping it in webby paws. At tropical gannetwhale the volume of extended eggs reaches three litres. Usually it is incubated by female, which stays at the coast within many days (the incubating lasts about 6 weeks). All this time the male provides her with food. To do it possible, at birds the strictly monogamic family is formed, which is not breaking up for many years. Breeding at these birds begins approximately in February, and at the end of March or in the beginning of April nestlings hatch.
When the nestling hatches, female and male replace each other, protecting it, and feed it by turns. The nestling hatches with opened eyes, covered with thin down. First days of life it is not able to move independently, and spends all time on paws of one of parents. When it becomes covered by rich black down (it occurs at the second week of life), parents leave it on a coast, and in common search for food for it. At the coast nestlings group to “kindergartens”, and some adult birds not nesting the present year, protect them against predators. The period of nestlings feeding lasts about 4 months. To the end of this period young bird changes the down order for juvenile white feathering without black spots, reaches the weight about 150 kgs and is ready to independent life. To the end of third year of life it will be able to nesting, but the most part of young birds takes part in breeding at the fourth year of life. At that time the majority of breeding pairs is formed.
The idea about existence of present group of birds belongs to Dougal Dixon.
swift (Azorapus caligus)
Order: Apodiforms (Apodiformes)
Family: Swifts (Apodidae)
Habitat: New Azora Island, woods and coastal waters of the ocean.
The majority of swifts do not like crude weather, because in this time midges and mosquitos, their basic food, hide. At algal “islands” to the south of New Azora after morning fogs insects hover in true swarms. Larvae of midges eat parts of seaweed drying up in sunlight. Seaweed grow very quickly, therefore larvae of insects are provided with forage plentifully. Fields of seaweed even soften ferocity of storms; therefore larvae are almost not threatened with danger to sink in salt water. Dipters differ in big abilities to adaptation, and the tiny size involuntarily permits them to settle with the help of wind. It is no wonder, that midges from algal fields of New Azora are related to species from salt swamps of the Mediterranean. The abundance of insects, the accessible and nutritious forage, usually involves various insectivorous vertebrates. But fields of seaweed are places similar to swamps. Therefore large ground animals simply will not appear here, but flying animals prosper here. But the distance up to the nearest land permits to fly here not to everybody, therefore only few elite species can enjoy such abundance. Among them there is the separate species of swifts, able to hunt above the sea, at the distance of several kilometers from the nearest land. In the afternoon these birds feed above algal fields in the sea, and in the evening when at the sea fog falls, they come back home. These birds are named fog swifts.
The nearest land and place of inhabiting of this bird is the New Azora Island located in the middle of Atlantic ocean, halfway between Old and New World. By features of anatomy fog swift does not differ from the relatives – it also has long narrow wings, short wedge-shaped tail and very short paws. Feathering of fog swift is colored grey, and these birds are poorly appreciable from afar on the background of sky and sea surface. Their presence can be distinguished by sharp shrill calls of these birds faster, rather than it may be possible to see them.
At fog swift there are big eyes, small beak and wide cut of mouth. This bird has kept a characteristic diet for swifts, and eats numerous midges breeding at algal fields of Atlantic. Also these birds eat insects brought by wind from continents or from nearby New Azora Island.
New Azora is located at the border of two currents: warm Gulf Stream flowing to the north, and cold Antygulf Stream, current towards to it along the coast of Europe. At the border of these currents weather is very astable: a jet of cold water from the west or warm air from the east result in occurrence of plentiful fogs. At this time insects sit on water or on seaweed: their wings become wet. And swifts are compelled to fly home in continuous fog. In these conditions their main feature is shown: flying in fog, swift hopes not for sight, but for echolocation. In flight it utters sound signals – frequent clicks – and listens to an echo. Accuracy of echolocation at the fog swift is lower, than at bats, but it is quite enough to distinguish objects like neighbours or larger by size, and to change direction of flight in due time. Occurrence of echolot at swifts does not look something surprising: in Holocene epoch at Earth the salangana swift lived, which actively used this feature. Sight at fog swift, certainly, is too well advanced, but it is practically useless at flight in fog.
Besides fog swift has one more interesting feature: at it the coccygeal gland is strongly advanced. Bird plentifully greases feathers with its secretions; therefore it does not become wet at flight in fog.
Fog swift nests in trunk hollows of trees, growing at the coast of New Azora. This bird forms large colonies numbering hundreds of birds. Especially often fog swifts occupy cavities in trunks of thick old trees at the bottom of which the thick layer of their dung and feathers in due course is gathered. In clutch there is only one egg, but seasonal prevalence in nesting of fog swift is not present, and birds can make up to four clutches per year. The female lays egg on ledge of suitable shape. Nestling hatches from eggs naked, blind and covered with thin down. But it at once seizes “nest” in death grip. Parents distinguish it from set of similar nestlings by voice. They feed nestling with insects “packed” into the capsule of viscous saliva. Pair of birds bringing up the nestling, feeds near to coast, and comes back to posterity some times per day. Young swift grows quickly – already at the age of five weeks it completely develops and leaves nest. Young birds feed in common with the adult swifts not nesting at that time – far away from the coast. From distant fodder sites birds come back to the coast only to the night, spending all day in flight.
This species of birds had been discovered by Simon, the forum member.
Long-spiked azogalerix (Azogalerix longispinus)
Order: Insectivors (Insectivora)
Family: Hedgehogs (Ericidae)
Habitat: New Azora, woods and coasts of island.
Picture by Amplion
Azores never had connections with continent. Therefore before
human appearing terrestrial animals were presented only by bats, numerous birds
and insects which could get to islands independently. But in epoch of historical
colonization of islands due to people in fauna of Azores many ground four-footed
animals had appeared – rodents, rabbits and predatory mammals. European hedgehog
was also among the species introduced to islands.
The settling of aliens had affected the direction of evolution of indigenous island fauna. A lot of species of island animals had died out, and the part of ecological niches appeared occupied by mammal. For millions years of evolution after human disappearance among them original species had appeared. One of them is large prickly beast azogalerix. In late Miocene – Pliocene at Gargano Island in Mediterranean very large carnivorous hedgehog Deinogalerix dwelled. The giant from New Azora had actually repeated this course of evolution, though it appreciablly differs from the fossil relative in structure and habits.
As against fossil Deinogalerix, azogalerix is an omnivore. It is large sluggish animal similar to porcupine, living in woods and bushes. Azogalerix is badger-sized animal, but it seems larger because of rather long paws. Claws of hinder legs are rather short, thick and strong. On forepaws claws are long and pointed – using them, azogalerix searches for food, and renders the repulse to enemies in case of necessity. The body of animal is covered with dark grey wool; on sides it is edged by narrow white strip, which borders the area covered with spikes.
Spikes of azogalerix partly reminiscent the porcupine ones. They are rather long – up to 10 – 15 cm long. Each spike is dark, almost black, in the basis, with white tip. Spikes of animal are thicker and hollow in middle part; in their basis the special muscle is located, with which help animal can lift and lower spike. On the head of azogalerix spikes are thicker, rather than on the body. At rubbing against each other they produce a sound similar to rattle, which is audible some meters far from the beast. Usually azogalerixes use this sound for establishing of relationships with neighbours, but it also serves for the warning of predators. The angry animal stirs head up, warning about readiness to fight. Thus azogalerix rears on hinder legs, showing to aggressor white strip on side, which is perfectly visible on the background of dark wool of animal. Spikes are not unique protection of azogalerix: in close combat this animal bites the opponent strongly and makes deep wounds by claws of forepaws. Protecting itself, the animal even can rise on hinder legs to seem larger.
Azogalerix is omnivorous: it equally willingly eats fruits dropping from trees, small animals and carrion. In the morning these animals often wander at the coast of island, searching for dead sea animals cast ashore in the night. At this animal there is weak sight, but sense of smell is perfectly advanced – olfactory ducts of azogalerix are wide, with numerous plicas of mucous membrane. Large jaws, making more, than half of skull length, and wide knobby teeth permit this animal to crush bones of vertebrate animals and to chew nuts easily. But the flattened skull with rather small brain box indicates that the behaviour of this animal differs in primitiveness. Azogalerix is solitary animal, active in twilight. In hottest day time and approximately since midnight till early morning this animal sleeps. It does not arrange the constant refuge, confining to using of temporary shelters. Each animal carefully marks the individual territory, biting roots of trees and pouring gnawer places by urine and musk liquid from glands located near the anal aperture.
Once a year the female nevertheless shows bases of building art: it constructs in bushes a simple shelter with friable roof of branches and grass litter. In shelter it gives rise to posterity: 3 – 4 rather large cubs. The first weeks of life they are blind and deaf, and also completely defenceless at first hours after birth: their spikes are soft. Spikes harden and grow very quickly: at two-day age the cub already can put painful stings to the opponent. The hearing at cubs appears at the age of 10 – 12 days, at the third week of life at young growth eyes open, and animals start to investigate the world around actively, leaving the shelter. At the fifth week of life the female withdraws them from shelter, and cubs follow mother, which teaches them to search for food and protects if necessary. Sexual maturity at young animals comes at the age of three years. Up to this time no more the one tenth part of young growth survives. The majority of azogalerixes perishes in first weeks of independent life. Life expectancy of this species makes about 20 years.
martilla (Martilla mortalis)
Order: Carnivors (Carnivora)
Family Mustelids (Mustelidae)
Habitat: New Azora – woods and coasts.
Picture by Amplion, colorization by Lambert.
Initial picture by Amplion
Usually islands never had connections with continents are a
safe place. Azores and their derivative, New Azora, belong to such islands.
Birds living at such islands quickly lose ability to fly and become less cautious.
It is the result of absence of terrestrial predators at such islands. But nevertheless
at Neocenic fauna of this island there is a large terrestrial predator. It is
the result of activity of people dyed out millions years ago. In historical
epoch people had introduced to islands least weasel (Mustela nivalis) and ferret
(M. furo), and it had determined the destiny of island fauna in many respects.
Two species of predators had got accustomed at Azores, and their descendants
had gone through the burst of volcanic activity which had caused the occurrence
of unite island instead of Azorean archipelago.
Large marten of New Azora, the main predator of island is the descendant of ferret named martilla. This ground animal looks like huge hybrid of marten and glutton. Body of martilla on short strong legs is long and muscled. Body length of adult individual is about one and half meters; length of tail is up to 20 cm. Males of martilla are larger, than females: height of adult male at a shoulder is about 40 cm; the female is little bit smaller. At this animal there are acute non-retracting claws. The body of martilla is covered with short fur of brown color with dim cross strips; on tail strips become more contrast, and its tip is white. The head of martilla is colored lighter, than body, and around of eyes there is the area of black wool similar to “mask” characteristic for ferret.
Head of martilla is based on flexible and mobile neck; it is rounded, with short wide muzzle and strong jaws. This animal is well adapted to killing of prey larger, than its own size. Canines of animal are rather long, slightly jut out from mouth. Molars resemble cat’s ones – they have sharp cutting edge. The mouth of martilla can be opened very widely – up to the corner of about 120 degrees.
At hunting martilla mainly uses sight and hearing. Eyes of this animal are very sensitive – in retina there is layer of cells containing guanine (as at cats). Due to this feature martilla’s eyes “shine” in darkness. Ears of animal are short, but wide and sensitive.
Martilla is large animal living on the ground. Adult animals hunt for ground prey, preferring to attack colonies of large sea birds at the coast, or local ground mammals. Young animals are much quicker than adults – they swarm up trees well and can hunt even flying birds.
This is twilight and night animal having constant shelter. The lair represents an extensive hole dug out by animals in the ground, or tree trunk with rotten out wood, lying on the ground. Females live in small groups, and larger males are solitary ones. Females of clan mark the border of territory in common, using for this purpose trunks of trees and stones. They peel bark on trunks and roots of trees and mark such places with sharply smelling secretions of anal glands. The interesting feature of this species is completely different smell of males and females. When the smell of female secretions is to a greater extent unpleasant, the male of martilla, on the contrary, smells very refined – his secretions are rich in musk. The male uses this smell for courtship, when it is necessary to weaken the aggression of females. The male constantly examines the smell of dung and marks left by females, trying to determine in time, where there is a female ready to pairing.
Making court to the female, martilla male sprays secretions of anal glands on tail, and at meeting with the female waves it in sides like a dog, creating in air the cloud of its aroma. The female ready to pairing, having felt such smell, comes nearer to the male, showing signs of submission – she lowers head and almost steals to the male, touching ground by stomach.
Usually relations of male and females have the expressed antagonistic character. Oftenly male eats catch of females, driving them away from just killed prey, while females had not time to have rest after hunting and can not render to him the essential resistance. It can turn to any time to social parasite: male simply follows the clan of females, and drives them off from catch, using the superiority over force. But consequences of such way of life of males can have negative effect even at the reproduction of species. Martilla females arrange the collective lair and in common look after the litter of each female. The male may show the aggression relatively to posterity: for martillas the cannibalism is characteristic, and usually about one third of cubs had not reached the age of independence, may fall victims of the male in which territory the clan of females lives. The cannibalism is an original way of restraint of number of species at the island. The similar phenomenon was observed in Holocene at huge Comodo monitor lizard (Varanus comodoensis) Other mechanism of restraint of species number is strict aggression of males relatively to each other. Each male lives in territory occupied by some clans of females, and marks its borders. If in its territory the other maleappears, between them the severe fight may take place, and it oftenly comes to an end with severe injuries or fatal outcome.