Tour to Neocene
In Neocene the climate of the Western Europe is determined
by two factors: the sun and the sea. Actually, it was so always, but in Neocene
the situation became direct consequence of changes in world around. When Bering
strait had become closed, at Arctic ocean character of water circulation had
changed: now water passes along huge loop, bending around the pole. Partly it
promotes warming of the pole because water exchange between oceans had became
more active. Gulf Stream, the warm current from equator - had a little run low,
when the Panama strait between North and South Americas had opened. Besides
it has displaced to the west and its beneficial influence is felt now only at
the coast of New World. Atlantic ocean had became "window leaf" through
which in polar waters warm water comes... and also cold water leaves. The cold
current which had pressed Gulf Stream from the east, flows from the north to
the south along the European coast. If this situation was in Holocene, Europe
would become covered by ice like Greenland in Holocene. But in Neocene the climate
is much warmer, and it derivates sharp difference of temperatures between the
land and the sea.
Mediterranean sea, dried up during the last ice age, in Neocene had turned to the huge empire of salty bogs and lakes, whence there is weak water evaporation. It had dried up, when the Straits of Gibraltar had closed becoming nowadays a rocky isthmus. From the Tanganyica gulf and bogs of Northern Africa occasionally thunderclouds come to sprinkle Europe by rains. The territory of the Western Europe represents dry savannas alternating with woods like modern maquis: these woods are formed by oaks, strawberry tree, undersized palms and nut trees. At bottom of trees bushes grow, frequently they are very prickly. But significant areas, especially on hills, are occupied with thickets of grasses.
The sun heats ground, forcing air above a land to rise upwards. But from the sea in the mornings cold fogs come giving the moisture to many aboriginal grasses. And frequently from the north rains come also, especially in the winter when the temperature falls up to +10 °... +15°С. Many plants increase mass of greenery in winter and in the beginning of spring when there is enough moisture in ground. In the summer grasses literally can dry out standing, waiting summer heat in the condition of relative rest.
The fauna of Europe represents a fantastical mix of descendants of Central European, African and even polar species. It is possible to explain by undoubtedly African influence the presence of primates in Neocaenic fauna of Europe. In the beginning of summer in grass thickets it is possible to see big groups of black-handed guenons. These primates wander along grassy savanna, having left dry forests in which they had spent cool damp winter. They have definite purpose - groups of primates hasten to the sea coast. Transition together with the rest and feeding can be delayed for one week and more. During the transition guenons move on ground by the column in which head the dominant family group follows. Further there are families a rank below, and bachelors, old animals without pair and youngsters follow in the rear. From time to time one or another guenon rises on hinder legs and walks standing, keeping for the back of the next monkey. At this time it looks over vicinities, watching for predators or the tree where it is possible to have a rest and food. Monkeys move not strictly by the straight line - they pass from one group of trees to another one. Nevertheless they are monkeys, and they prefer to keep closely to trees. Predators living here, are not able to climb, therefore the tree is a way to escape for monkeys. Hot time of day too is more pleasant for spending not on the heated ground, and in the shadow of a tree. Therefore, when it becomes hot, the group of guenons hastens to the high oak which has stretched knotty branches above grass and bushes.
Monkeys are sat in shadow, some of them climb on the tree in searches of young acorns, other ones are sprawled on bottom branches and doze, having dangling paws. And the young growth finds forces and time for games: young monkeys start to frisk in grass and to rush one after another, having pulled up tails with white hairy brushes.
And from the bushes growing in one hundred meters from an oak, the predator observes for these hairy brushes. Brown eyes of the grass fox continuously watch tails of guenons. Having half-risen on graceful legs, the fox observes of young monkeys through bushes. The tip of its tail shivers from impatience, and wide ears catch each sound of possible catch. It is able to wait, because hunting at random is not the best way to be fed. And when young guenons start to play too far from an oak, the fox is solved to an attack. By short dashes from the bush to the bush it comes nearer to frisking guenons, and then makes solving throw. As if the lightning the striped greyish-yellow predator had jumped out of bushes and had rushed off like an arrow across to guenons, trying to cut off their way from the saving tree. But at the very same time, when it began drive, loud squeal of one monkey has notified that the fox is noticed. The young growth has on the spot rushed to an oak where all monkeys having a rest under it had jumped the same moment. But one young female was late, and the fox has paid the attention to it. Not reducing speed, the fox has turned across the way to this female, but the monkey had succeeded at last moment to skip over the fox and had appeared behind its back.
This fox is the excellent runner, but its long legs do not allow it to make maneuvers. But the short-legged monkey, losing in speed, is capable to exhaust the fox by jumps and loops on grass. The second jump was not required - the fox has lost balance and has tumbled in grass to shouts of guenons sitting on a tree. The just not caught monkey has instantly climbed up the tree and has joined neighbours. But second delay - and it never could see them any more.
Panting, the grass fox has approached to roots of an oak and has looked upwards. Catch is inaccessible, but monkeys have no place to get to from this oak - the nearest tree grows fifty meters far from it. And the fox decides to starve monkeys out - it simply lies down in the shadow of an oak and observes of monkeys.
The steadfast sight of the predator drives monkeys to distraction - they start to jump on branches and to shout loudly. But guenons are able to protect themselves from a persevering predator: they throw to the grass fox the broken branches of the tree, not allowing it to lay near to the tree trunk. And then monkeys apply “strong means”: near to the fox some little heaps of the monkey’s dung plop down. The pungent smell gives the fox to understand, that it is useless to wait for it, and the long-legged predatoress comes away, having cast the farewell sight at the tree with monkeys sitting on it. But today cautious monkeys are not solved to get down from the tree and to continue their way - they spend the night on the oak.
Monkeys hasten to the sea - they will spend summer at the original "resort" that has the salutary effect for their health. For other animals the sea is only house.
In the mouth of the wide shallow river overgrown with cane and reed thickets, there is the set of sandy islets. They are overgrown by marsh grasses richly and represent an ideal refuge from predators of the average sizes. Therefore in canes on the islet huge flightless birds, laughterloons, had made the nest in spring. They are descendants of polar birds, a heritage of glacial epoch. They absolutely are not able to fly, and their wings had turned to flippers. They can only crawl along the ground, therefore from the nest the path to water leads, similar to the trace of bag dragged on sand.
In the shallow water the acute-headed shadow is shown: the male has returned from fishing. It emerges (and from water its head with the sharp beak sticks up only), and quickly slides to the coast. Gathering the speed and having taken off on the flat coast of the islet, it immediately loses speed and grace, turning to the clumsy creature. Pushing the paws turned far back, the bird creeps out of water on its belly. The loon male helps itself by flipper-shaped wings, becoming in this moment similar to the penguin sliding on ice. The bird finds the well-known way and hides in reed thickets.
The loon male creeps to the nest rustling with dried up cane stalks. Today it is the significant day: not only the female, but also new members of family - three fluffy nestlings - meet it. The fourth egg appeared an addled one, but it is even better: it is more opportunities to survive to everyone if there are only few nestlings in the nest. The male had successfully hunted: in the mouth of the river it is a lot of fishes, and on the approach to the nest it succeeded to catch the huge frog. The female yet do not eat for last day, and nestlings in general never yet did see neither the rivers, nor fishes. Nestlings had already dried and are ready to leave the nest - and it is just in time.
The river is not only the house, but also the plentiful table for animals. On the islet where laughterloons nest, the strange creature with a long body, the huge extended head and fleshy mobile proboscis had appeared. From the mouth at it two yellowish canines jut out, being abruptly bent upwards, and the bottom jaw is more similar to the shovel. The strange newcomer utters the loud grunt - it is the flattooth, the descendant of the boar. It is the reason to be afraid of it to loons: this animal is omnivorous, and if in the nest there were eggs, it necessarily would get them, if the female would be alone. But nestlings had already hatched and had dried, and nothing keeps laughterloons at this islet. The female slips in water, behind it three nestlings creep, and the male follows in the rear. It sometimes pushes lagging behind nestlings by beak. Birds quickly reach the beach and hide in water. Nestlings show themselves as first-rate swimmers and divers since the first minutes of acquaintance to water. They are hungry, and immediately try to hunt fry of fishes and translucent shrimps scurrying near the coast.
And on the islet the flattooth is fed noisily: using incisors of the bottom jaw it undermines sappy rhizomes of cane and reed mace, and by lateral parts of wide trunk grasps them and put in the mouth. Destroying vegetation, the animal finds the nest of giant loons. The only thing, than here is possible to profit by - egg shells. They on the spot disappear in the mouth of the massive flattooth. The animal with pleasure chews it, and then continues to dig out canes.
The mouth of the river is not so rich in live beings as the ocean coast - few species of fishes can live here, and shrimps and crabs are not so numerous, as in sea water. Therefore the family of loons leaves this place and goes to the north, where cool current from Arctic ocean is flowing. But laughterloons are not the unique birds eating ocean food. At the sandy coast the bird similar to strong combined heron with strong legs and powerful beak wanders. It is the large-billed crabstork searching for coastal live beings. While loon chicks yet not so deeply dive and loon family keeps at the coast, they partly compete to the large-billed crabstork. But adult loons are unsurpassed divers and fishers. Where cliffs are rocky and lifeless, they will find a lot of fishes. But on shallows overgrown with seaweed and sea grass, there are not present the hunter better, than the large-billed crabstork is. It inspects thickets of sea grasses and cast ashore heaps of seaweed, finding crabs and dead fishes.
Pompous and sedate, the large-billed crabstork stirs by beak and legs the heap of seaweed. But when from under it the crab jumps out, the bird changes. It rushes behind a running crab like an arrow, trying to strike it by the beak. When it succeeds to do it and the crab is brought down, the large-billed crabstork presses it by leg to sand and pecks it out by several movements of beak.
Along the sea shallow water the large flattooth female wanders, and near her legs her cubs, pair of creatures in size already like the pig bustle and run one after another, having pulled up tails. At them teeth had already cut, and they try the forage which their mummy devours with pleasure - bunches of sea eelgrass (Zostera) with which the shallow water has plentifully overgrew. Together with grass in flattooth’s mouths numerous snails get being chewed with crush by animals. However rest of these giants appears broken seriously and for a long time: the hoot and squeal announce arrival of the group of black-handed guenons to the coast before they will appear from high grass.
And the herd of motley monkeys jumps out from high grass to the extensive sandy beach. Flattoothes turn to the direction of noise, some seconds observe of monkeys attentively, and then continue the meal. The large-billed crabstork has toss its head too when guenons had run out on the coast, and then has continued to rummage slowly in the heap of seaweed. And it is inexpressibly lucky: the large crab has jumped out of seaweed sideways and has run along the coast at a speed of the horse. Clapping wings, half-running, half-flying the crabstork was threw behind it. By impact of the beak it succeeded to overturn the crab, and the next moment the sharp beak had crashed his crust.
The success of the large-billed crabstork has not remained unnoticed, and soon the group of guenons scattered along the coast in searches of the sea food. Some of them come knee-deep into water and pull out edible brown tapes of seaweed, others are picked heaps of rotten seaweed in searches of small animals. On the back of one of females the cub sits, and when she draws out a bunch of seaweed from water, small hand has time to snatch the piece of it. But to kids many things are forgiven, therefore they taste gifts of the sea free, at the same time remembering how to search for them.
The young guenon male has found out the sea urchin in shallow water. But when it has tried to get this animal, it has got the sensitive prick in the palm and has squolen because of pain. However the natural ingenuity of monkeys has helped it to overcome this difficulty: using the tree branch found on the coast, the guenon male rolls out the sea urchin to the coast. But nevertheless it is not enough to have eaten it: the prickly ball remains unapproachable. The male rolls it by branch on the sand, but when it stretches the hand to catch then it gets the next prick. And soon it leaves the sea urchin. However the large-billed crabstork observed of all sufferings of the guenon It is not necessary to teach the crabstork how to operate in this case - by neat peck the bird breaks sea urchin’s shell near the mouth not protected by spikes, and quietly eats its pulp. And when the guenon male comes back to the had left catch, the large-billed crabstork shows it, that this catch any more does not belong to the monkey: having opened wings, the bird beats a tattoo by strong beak, and then jumps aside the monkey, who disappears as the wind blows off. Catch has got to the one knowing how to use it.
Other rather problematic catch for guenons is a crab. This creature not always seeks safety running away: sometimes the large crab itself takes the offensive. And when young guenons have dug out one such giant, that crustacean at once has lifted upwards the opened pincers and by that has shown, that it will not surrender without fight. And when one of guenons has stretched to it the hand, the crab has seized to its palm. Squealing, the guenon has rushed off along the beach on three paws, holding pressed to the chest the hand with the seized crab. But the case had helped to the monkey - having stumbled, it had fallen in water and the crab had immediately unhooked and had got away from the restless company. More cautious guenon hunts crabs with the help of stick – by the broken branch it picks open the heap of seaweed and when the crab seizes the branch, the monkey by sharp impact against the sand stuns it and finishes the catch by several impacts. But it is only half-trouble - about a half-dozen neighbours keen to another's catch rush to drive after the successful hunter. And the hunter is compelled to climb on curve small tree growing ten meters far from the coast, holding the crab in teeth. There, in relative safety, it can have a snack, from time to time snarling at less successful, but very persevering neighbours, trying to take away its trophy.
Black-handed guenons can not only gather food at the seacoast - they are quite good swimmers and divers. One of females cautiously removes the cub from the back and hands it to "aunts" on the spot beginning to clean and to groom the cub. The female, temporarily having declined from itself parent duties burden, comes to the sea for food search. It safely comes into water and when water reaches its chest, pushes by legs from the bottom and is swimming. The female dives having recovered breath. Its nostrils automatically close also water does not get in its nasopharynx. Under water some monkeys already are fed - they catch snails and gather edible seaweed. The monkey can hold its breath up to 20 - 25 seconds - it is enough to tear off a snail from the stone or to catch the large shrimp in shallow water. The monkey dexterously fumbles by hands under stones, and therefrom the scared sea crayfish jumps out like an arrow. Having fallen on a bottom, it spreads pincers wide and tries to protect itself. But the monkey snatches its body behind pincers, and the crayfish becomes completely helpless - it can not pinch fingers of the monkey holding it. Having pushed by legs from the bottom and paddling by free hand, the guenon rises on the surface. Having emerged, it kills the crayfish by bite and comes back to the coast. Not only its cub but some "aunts" too would like to get hold of the share meets are waiting this female. Therefore the monkey bites off a fleshy abdomen of the crayfish and hides it in the mouth. And rigid legs and pincers are got to numerous neighbours among whom fight on the spot is fastened.
Youngsters are the unluckiest members of the group. They can not expect for parent trusteeship any more, but they are still insufficiently strong to take away food at neighbours or to assert the share in fight. Therefore they keep by group and try to be in full view of adults as small as possible. Young monkeys study to search for food - they poke branches in heaps of cast ashore seaweed, fumble by hands in plants and try to battle with crabs. Youngsters study to swim and to dive - it will help them in the further life. But they yet do not have experience - they search under water at random, relying upon the case. Someone is lucky, and someone emerges without catch.
One of youngsters has decided to search for food in deeper water - it reaches a stone which is sticking up far from the coast, and dives from it into thickets of seaweed. There, where the majority of monkeys does not reach, nourishing dinner is waiting him: the numerous green seaweed which has overgrown the stone, and some insufficiently quick large shrimps. However it is not enough for the monkey, and the youngster dives once again. But this time dinner waits for other inhabitant of coast. One of reefs has begun to stir and has a little turned pale. Anything only one second ago seemed as the seaweed on its surface, from green became brown. Pale yellow eye has opened and began to watch the monkey swimming in water. Every time when the young guenon had emerged to the surface or had got out of water, "stone" crept over closely. At last the youngster, not having noticed anything suspicious, had dived once again. And when it swam near alive "stone", the long tentacle has seized its leg. Then another one has twisted its chest and hands, and the creature imitating the stone, has pulled catch downwards. The staying on a coast young guenons had heard only the shout which had suddenly interrupted. Animals being in water at this moment, hastily had started to get out on the coast. The main group of monkeys too heard a desperate horror cry, and the coast had quickly become empty.
Under water terrible creature, the huge stone cuttlerfish, has braided with tentacles the body of the young guenon. This creature, skillfully imitating the stone overgrown with seaweed, catches under water fishes, octopuses and the ground animals obtaining food in water. Young sea birds, and sometimes flattooth cubs frequently become prey of this mollusc. The mollusc accurately gnaws large catch by strong beak-looking jaws. One successful hunting suffices to it for one - two weeks.
When it is possible to meet under water such monster, it is better to have a rest on land. The family of laughterloons luxuriates in the shadow of coastal bushes near to water. Birds have a rest, having stretched wings and having slightly opened mouths. They frequently breathe – it is hot to natives of the north. On land it is rather safe, but also here predators are not asleep.
In grass the wide-eared muzzle on the flexible graceful neck has seemed - the grass fox too has gone at coast where it expects to profit by prey. It notices the family of loons having a rest on the coast, and decides to prey even one nestling. Main feature in hunting for such catch is to not give it to leave in the sea. Therefore the fox bypasses family of loons and attacks them from the side of shallow water. It unexpectedly appears from behind bushes, trying to cut off loon’s way to the sea. The fox is not afraid, that birds will escape - on land loons move slowly. But to battle to such birds is not so easy task. Loons are armed with sharp harpoon-like beaks and beat by them with terrible accuracy. The fox will not prey the adult loon, but the nestling is quite good prey for the predator. However both loons assiduously protect nestlings and do not leave them even at presence of large predators. When the fox approaches too close, it is met by the lunge of one of adult birds. Defending, both adults birds loudly and drawlingly shout. Nestlings echo them with the deafening peep though at the fox approach they try to hide behind sides of parents. The outcome of this conflict is quite predicted: the fox gets strong peck. Last second it has had time to jump aside, and it had rescued its life: it had got the superficial wound in the side. If the impact should be direct, probably, the loon would get to the fox up to heart and would kill the predatoress on the spot.
The fox comes away, and following it shout of pair of loons similar to mad laughter is heard.
Far from coast, at the open ocean where warm waters from equator and cold northern current mix up, event begins which involves numerous animals at coast every summer. In shallow waters where depth is not more 15 meters, thousand schools of tiny herring squids gather. Schools arrive more and more, gathering to congestions of one million squids and more. Huge shoals, being iridescent in the sunlight gather to rich spherical congestions or form figures like half moon, and even scatter and disappear then to gather in new shoals. Animals arrived here to do the last duty in the name of life - to breed.
Gradually pale colouring of animals turns to bright red and pink - congestions of squids become visible from the big height. Animals become colored to spawning livery and form pairs. Sometimes one female becomes an object of courtship of two males at once, and between them fight is fastened. Eventually the majority of animals finds to itself the breeding partner and starts breeding. The female lays on the bottom large egg pocket which is fast swelling in water and is increased in volume, and the male lets out on it liquid sperm, fertilizing eggs. Soon the bottom becomes littered with clutches of squids which wave under water, as if grasses on the meadow.
Having done the duty, animals become apathetic and languid - their life is completed. Red and pink coloring fades, on the body white spots appear. Animals full of life even in the morning, promptly grow old and perish. Density of their bodies is less then water one - in them plenty of fat necessary for maintenance of buoyancy collects, and because of spawned sexual products weight of animals decreases. Therefore the carpet of dead and dying animals covers water above breeding bottoms. In one week the larvae will hatch and will be carried away by current, and some days later the new shoal of squids will spawn on the same place. During first half of summer up to eight herds of tiny squids will replace each other at the same breeding bottom.
The morning breeze carries the congestion of dead squids to the coast. This moment is waited also by numerous animals. Once after night storm the coast appears littered with bodies of dead squids. And then for inhabitants of coast the holiday of the stomach begins. Guenons and large-billed crabstorks are overeaten with squids, not paying attention against each other. Crabs and shrimps drag dead squids, hasty pushing mouth feet to themselves in the mouth most fat slices. The grass fox gathers small squid bodies, and in water nearby family of laughterloons sates. Huge flattoothes, as if remembering about their pork origin, scoop dead squids by huge jaws, like by ladles. Guenons keep together again - an abundance of food has extinguished numerous unimportant conflicts in their group.
And above the water surface, having stretched long wings, the creature similar to the pterodactylus hovers as such phantom of the past. The huge nomade albatross had flown here from far Antarctic Region. On its native land winter now begins, and here it can enjoy the heat and food together with numerous neighbours. When the huge bird flies by above heads of black-handed guenons, those run up in sides squealing shrilly. But the nomade albatross does not pay attention to them: it dips the beak in water, and by dexterous movements picks up squids bodies covering the ocean surface.
After some days when these squids will decay and will sink, giving food to worms and bacteria, at the far shallow water courtship games will begin to seethe again. And again shore inhabitants are waited for abundance of food. But literally one - two days of the nomade albatross flight far from here to the west, behind young mountains and rather narrow plain the huge lowland is spread. For millions years up to Neocene, in distant Holocene it was Mediterranean sea, so rich food, as well as Atlantic ocean. Now it is almost lifeless and strong salted plain. Rains in a Neocene had a little diluted this salted world, having formed extensive salty bogs and having turned them to the house for some creatures. But all the same it is the poor and inclement world where live beings cling to any opportunity to survive.
Herring squid (Clupeotheuthis gregarius)
Picture by Timothy Morris
Initial image - picture by Pavel Volkov
Schooling pelagic species of cephalopods, ecological analogue
of herring. After “plancton accident” at the border of Holocene and Neocene
the mass extinction of the majority of plancton animal species and the species
completely dependent on them had taken place. Unnumerable shoals of herring
fishes had became extinct. Their place had been occupied by cephalopods – species
having short life cycle and breeding fast. The herring squid is one of such
The body of this cephalopod in rest is translucent, at the fright it turns pale, at irritation the squid becomes almost black. Length of the body is up to 8 - 9 cm, the male little bit smaller than female. Weight is up to 7 grams. The body density is a little bit less density of water because of fat plenty in digestive gland ("liver"). Animal eats large representatives of zooplancton, frequently – its own larvae. The length of tentacles makes up approximately 2/3 of length. It keeps by numerous shoals (hundreds thousands and millions individuals), makes migrations after zooplancton congestions. Mollusc prefers to keep in cool water, therefore in tropical latitudes it leaves on depths.
Sexual maturity comes at the age of 2 years. During courtship games males become red with white cross strips, females turn pink. Spawning occurs on the shelf among rocky areas. Mollusc lays eggs packed in small clusters, after spawning all animals perish and emerge on the ocean surface. After breeding season masses of bodies of this species are cast ashore.
Stone cuttlerfish (Terrosepia petrops)
Order: Cuttlerfishes (Sepiida)
Picture by Timothy Morris
The large representative of cephalopods, up to 1 meter long.
It is the solitary predator of coastal zone imitating the stone. The skin is
covered with set of knobs and outgrowths, simulating surface of stone, overgrown
by seaweed. Coloring is changeable, the animal is capable in fractions of second
to take the color of environmental stones, arranging an ambush. Tentacles are
up to 70 cm long, trap hands are capable to extend at 2 meters. On hands except
for suckers corneous hooks are available, allowing to keep large catch. These
species of cephalopods is not so good swimmer, moving only with the help of
waves of powerful wing-looking fins, swimming funnel have turned to attachment
organ, allowing to stick to stones to keep tearing away large catch. It eats
fishes, but can catch medium-sized ground vertebrates (for example, diving birds)
and cephalopods. Catch is killing by sting, in wound strong poison is injected
from salivary glands.
It breeds once a life, the female lays cluster of large eggs in a crevice of a rock and protects clutch about two months (before larvae hatching). Breeding rituals are accompanied by courtship of the male which becomes at this moment brightly colored - red with black tentacles and white spots on the body.
Large-billed crabstork (Charadrogrus magnirostris)
Picture by Alexey Tatarinov
Bird about 1 meter tall, having solid constitution outwardly
resembles the crane by thick strong legs and massive beak, but it is the descendant
of plovers (Charadrius). The top of the body is colored sandy yellow color,
stomach is white. From the mouth corner up to the nape wide black strip passes,
fascinating an eye. An iris of the eye is red, pupil is round. The beak is graphite-grey
colored, its tip is black. Paws are leaden-colored with white claws. Wings are
well developed, the bird flies quickly, but reluctantly. When the bird opens
wings, white secondary feathers with black tips are appreciable. In rest they
are latent behind the long primary feathers painted as the back.
It is remarkable by specialization in feed: eats living in surf zone crabs, molluscs and the animals cast ashore. The bird usually surveys the seaweed rests cast ashore, overturns stones and splits shells at coast by pecks. Bird can dig out holes crab, working by legs, as the hen. It easily catches up escaping crabs and kills them by strong peck then swallows catch as a whole. The bird regularly swallows small pebbles to crush in muscular stomach shells and carapaces of the had eaten animals, and its gastric juice corrodes chitin easily.
This bird keeps solitary or by small groups, in nesting season – by pairs. Both partners hatch and feed nestlings. Nest is a small hole in sand, in clutch there are 2 - 3 speckled (like color of sand) eggs by size like hen egg. The incubating lasts about 3 weeks. Nestlings are hatched with opened eyes and covered by down, colored cryptic "sand" color. They become fully fledged completely at the age of 3 weeks, but primary feathers grow earlier: already 10-day old nestlings can fly. Pair protects the posterity from ground and air predators actively, striking well-aimed and strong pecks. Voice of this bird in rest sounds as single drawling whistle, an alarm signal is the sharp shout similar to croak.
Laughterloon (Gaviophoca dementia)
Order: Loons (Gaviiformes)
The polar current washing coast of Neocenic Europe had made
some contribution to formation of the European fauna. One of northerner species
is the laughterloon had come to southern Europe with current. It is the flightless
loon living in lower reaches of rivers and at coast of seas at the Atlantic.
Bird differs in very large size (length of a body is up to 1,5 м); it can not
walk on the ground, but it perfectly swims; by the constitution it looks like
fossil bird Hesperornis from Cretaceous period: legs are turned far back. Because
of it the bird moves on the ground with the help of simultaneous pushes of legs,
laying on stomach and helping itself by short wings (as the seal). But in water
the bird gathers speed, working by paws. Wings serve it only for maintenance
of balance and sharp turns during pursuing of catch - small fishes and squids.
During pursuing the bird quite often jumps out of water, as if the dolphin.
Tail is short, wide and fan-shaped; feathers are rigid and wide - the bird uses
tail for turning under water. Body of the bird is rather heavy: the bird sitting
in water is immersed deeply, at the surface there are only head and part of
back. The head is armed with strict beak with recurved tooth-shaped outgrowths
on edge: it helps to keep slippery catch. The top of the bird body is colored
black, stomach is white, throat and chest are ochre red.
Bird nests by pairs on reed islets in estuaries, both birds protect territory from neighbours. Pairs join for all life, partners are very much attached to each other and constantly express the relation by mutual grooming, gifts (sometimes by symbolical ones like stick or the dead small fish) and by joint hunting. Only the female hatches clutch (4 - 5 eggs in size like goose’s ones), but the male protects territory and feeds the hatching female. Both parents care of nestlings. Fledglings remain with parents about half-year, then they become independent. Separate young birds in searches of free territory go against the river current and reach mountain lakes.
The voice of bird is similar to loud laughter, shout of alarm - drawn hoarse shout.
Flattooth (Belonoporcus dolichocephalus)
Order: Even-toed ungulates (Artiodactyla)
Picture by Tim Morris
Picture by Pavel Volkov - the initial image
In Cenozoic era water habitats had been developed by various
groups of mammals: carnivores (water families of predators more often are regarding
as the special order Pinnipedia), sirens (Sirenia), cetaceans (Cetacea), and
also extinct before occurrence of human order Desmostylia which representatives
by constitution was like hippopotamuses. But global ecological crisis of the
end of Holocene had obliterated water mammals of Holocene - whales, sirens and
pinnipeds. In Neocene their place was occupied by birds, but some mammals compete
with them for the habitat. The flattooth is one of such species.
The flattooth is the descendant of boars, adapted to search food at sea coast. But this species eats quite other kind of food, than huge sea birds of Neocene: judge by its constitution it is visible, that this beast is useless as the fisher. The flattooth eats basically vegetative food though it is not squeamish also inactive sea animals - the euryphagy is inherited by it from an ancestor, the boar widely inhabited Eurasia in Holocene. The animal is remarkable by massive large head (its length is up to 1,2 m). Incisors of the bottom jaw jut out forward like a scraper, allowing to tear off from stones seaweed, molluscs and sedentary crustaceans. The gristly snout, characteristic feature of pig appearance, has turned at this animal to fleshy and mobile organ of capture of the food, similar to the trunk of some mastodons (like Platybelodon on which the flattooth is convergent similar). Lateral parts of flattooth’s trunk are mobile and operate as thumbs of the mitten, allowing to grasp bunches of a grass dexterously and to put them in the mouth.
Body is low (1 meter at a shoulder), but long - up to 1,7 m not including head. Legs are short and strong, hand and foot of this animal differ by specialization: behind fingers the special fat pillow was developed (as at elephants), taking up weight of the body. It forms the “foot” of special sort, wide and round, allowing to go on the viscous ground, not failing through it. Hoofs are reduced and look more similar to nails. Tail is short, on the end of it there is hairy brush. Wool is thin, grey color. At mature animals on shoulders the large fat hump develops, and at males canines of the top jaw are bent as half rings upwards and back. At females canines are short and straight, jutting out from the mouth only a little.
This animal is solitary, but on extensive shallows and islands with the indented shore line it can keep by groups of 3 - 5 animals: the number of animals inhabiting any territory is limited with food resources. Animals can swim and dive, getting seaweed from depths up to 5 meters. In breeding season the male freely moves between foraging areas of several females. In northern part of an area cubs are born in the summer when water well gets warm. Too early born cubs risk to catch a cold and die. But at the south the seasonal prevalence in breeding of this species is not present, though the peak of birth rate falls to summer. In litter (1 time in 2 years) there are up to 3 - 4 cubs, as usual twins. They grow quickly, feeding first time with extremely fat milk, later pass to the forage of adult animals. At the age of 8 months they become independent though keep on mother’s territory.
Voice of an adult animal is the roar, amplifying by blown out nasal ducts, cubs grunt. The scared animal loudly squeals.
Grass fox (Dromovulpes herbincola)
Order: Carnivors (Carnivora)
Picture by Sauron from FurNation
During the ice age accompanied change from Holocene to Neocene,
wide areas of woods had disappeared, given up the place to grassy plains. It
promoted prosperity of plain species and transition of some wood predators to
life in plains. The destiny of the European fox (Vulpes vulpes) in particular
was such. This clever solitary predator had developed new habitats, rich in
animals of small and medium size. As against lions, hyenas, hunting dogs and
wolves hunting in Holocene plains, the grass fox is the solitary: hunting for
rather small animals does not require the organized actions in pack.
Grass fox is the long-legged running predator, similar by constitution to the cheetah and manned wolf - single running predators of Holocene plains. It has long legs - growth of this animal at a shoulder is up to 1 meter, length of a trunk is almost same. Claws are blunt, non-involving, their function is to improve cohesion with the ground during the run. The animal can accelerate momentum up to 80 - 90 kms per hour at the distance up to 50 meters or to pursue catch with speed 25 - 30 kms per hour within many hours. Head of this animal is small, on rather long and flexible neck, jaws are lengthened, canines are slightly jutting out from the closed mouth. Ears of the fox are large: at an animal there is keen hearing, that is important for the hunting in high and thick grass, in conditions of bad visibility. Besides large auricles improve the heat emission. A tail of the grass fox is thin - it does not prevent to pursue catch. The body is covered with short wool, to an autumn and winter cold spell the wool becomes thicker and covers even an external surface of auricles. Color of the wool is yellowish - grey with slight vertical strips across body and legs. Chin, throat, chest and the tip of a tail are white. Auricles are dark from within and light from outside: it allows an animal to distinguish neighbours and at the same time does not give away the predator to possible catch.
The grass fox eats basically any animals no more than 10 kg weight, which it can prey - rodents, other herbivores, birds and reptiles. Sometimes it can hunt large running herbivores. The predator catches prey pursuing it at the short distance, or chasing up to exhaustion by long pursuing. Sometimes the animal fishes in shallow water and gathers sea animals cast ashore by storms.
It breeds in the spring-and-summer period, giving birth in favorable, rich in food years up to 2 packs of 5 - 6 puppies. The lair is made in rich bush thickets, near to it animal does not hunt. Newborn cubs are blind and spotty. With age spots merge to vertical strips and turn pale. At the age of 1 month cubs start to leave the lair, in 3 months they start to accompany mother during the hunting. The young growth keeps near to mother the first half-year, training in hunting receptions. Animals become adult in 2 years (males a little bit later than females).
Black-handed (sea) guenon (Calypsopithecus melanopus)
Picture by Amplion
Among numerous and various group of primates there are no extremely
water animals, but in different time in different areas of the Earth various
species of primates not connected with each other by origin had adapted to water
habit of life. In Holocene such species were long-nosed monkey (Nasalis), the
crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis), rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta),
the Japanese macaque (Macaca fuscata) and the talapoin guenon (Miopithecus talapoin).
These primates spend a significant part of time in water searching for food.
They freely feel like in so alien to the majority of primates habitat: the case
when the long-nosed monkey was caught in the middle of South China sea is known.
Therefore it is possible to suppose, that some primates survived during Holocene-Neocaenic
extinction can develop water inhabitancy or even partialllly use resources given
by the sea.
The black-handed guenon is the primate adapted to semi-water habit of life. These animals spend cool winter in dry forests far from coast. But in the summer when water gets warm and at the coast there are many edible sea animals and seaweed, these monkeys go down from dry forests to the ocean and eat gifts of the sea. The monkey can swim perfectly, but this skill is not inborn - cubs study to swim at first two years of life.
These species of primates is large-sized one - weight of the adult male is up to 12 kg and more, females - up to 10 kg. It is remarkable by contrast coloring of the body: the wool at adult animals is white with brownish shade, on extremities it gradually darkens: hands and feet are covered with dark-brown wool. The tail (it is longer, than body and head) also darkens to the tip, but on its end there is the snow-white hairy brush of long hair, allowing an animal to distinguish neighbours in bushes and in high grass. Cubs are entirely covered with dark wool, with age their body brightens. At adult males the face skin is bright blue, at females and cubs the face is dark. At females there are large pink sciatic calluses. Males differ by long canines, at females canines are not longer than other teeth. Nostrils of monkeys are adapted to water habit of life - they are chink-shaped and can close at the diving.
Monkeys eat various kinds of forage: ground plants and roots, fruits of trees, insects. In the summer they practically completely pass to ration including sea animals and edible seaweed. They are able to apply sticks and stones to split crusts of crabs and snail shells.
Black-handed guenons keep in groups of 20 - 40 individuals, including some families (the male, the female and the youngster, and also newborn). Young animals before the second year of life keep near parents, after the formation of their own pairs connection with parents strongly weakens. Cubs (usually there is only one cub, twins are rarity) are born almost at any time of year (except for an autumn - winter season), but it is more often in the beginning of spring. At the age of half-year the young animal can search for food independently, but it still long time studies at adult members of group.