Island in the ocean

 

Tour to Neocene

 

4. Island in the ocean

 

 

 

Indian ocean of times of a Neocene is in the most initial stage of changes which in the radical image will affect its climatic mode. East Africa began to break away from other continent, and Antarctica and Australia move to the north. Australia and New Guinea have already begun approach to islands of Indonesia, and Antarctica deflects further to the north a branch of cold Current of the Western winds, doing(making) a climate at coast of Australia is more cool. But this cold current has time to get warm, passing to the north along the western coast of Australia, and leaves in the centre of Indian ocean already very warm, mixing up with waters of Southern Passat current, which else will penetrate from Pacific ocean.
The surface of extensive shallow waters of the western part of Indian ocean, near to the African coast is covered with numerous islands. The part of islands has a volcanic origin, and the part is constructed by alive organisms. In historical time coral polyps were engaged in it, but in Neocaenic waters of their activity it is not visible - reef-building corals have not gone through cataclysms of the end of a Holocene. Now in fine waters there were only wretched rests of past coral magnificence - actinias and some species of soft corals. Reef-building organisms of a Neocene are sponges, molluscs and limy seaweed.
The surface of these small islands occupies a rich wood. As islands never incorporated to continent, overland animals on them are not present. Inhabitants of these isolated worlds occupied new places of an inhabiting from two directions: from the sea and from air.
One of the first on these islands appeared insects. They can reach with a fair wind a new place of an inhabiting, and their adaptive ability and flexibility allows to master new sources of food easily. And on this island the set of different insects lives.
Now it is the dawn. The sun appears because of ocean, throwing slanting beams on plants of a tropical island wood. And the many-voiced chorus welcomes a source of life by a deafening chirr. It is possible to think, that it is hundreds crickets have arranged a concert. But these hexapod musicians are not crickets. Songs are output by the beetle, the large island fiddlerbeetle. It rubs a head about the first pectoral segment, thus distributes a sound similar to singing of a cricket. Such sounds are issued by males for attraction of females. Females of these species too can sound, but more silent. Males for marriage appeals occupy the heights which are sticking up upwards stalks and knots, where arrange a morning concert. The female flies on an appeal of the most vociferous male and sits near to him. After pairing the male is necessary to call new females, and the fertilized female searches for suitable wood for a laying of eggs. She bores an ovipositor the small channel in dead wood and lays a portion of eggs in an aperture. After that she covers an aperture by special glue and bores new one, for a new portion of eggs, already in the other place. Eggs are left with larvas which live in wood till three years, eating the funguses, rot wood and own fineer relatives. For transformation into the adult beetle the larva is dug in ground. But before there will be its transformation, the larva should avoid many dangers.
Someone's antennas which have been put out from under wide leaves, feel an old wood trunk. In one place they become transfixed, and in mouldering wood short strong pincers pierce. They reject a moss in the sides, break out large chips and slices of a tree. This ground crustacean, the crayhunter, extracts to itself dinner. Its pincers fail in a course made by a larva of the fiddlerbeetle. It is a little having rummaged around in an aperture, the crayfish takes outside a fat wriggling larva and slowly starts to absorb it, tearing off pincers and mouth feet small slices of meat.
This crayfish is the male, its pincers wide also are painted from below in bright pink color. Due to cryptic colouring of a body it is swept poorly up from air. This crayfish will spend a lot of time on trees, eating insects and their larvas. And now this male, having finished with a larva of the beetle, searches for new catch. Accurately crossing and clinging legs, it climbs on the big branch. For its way there is a thricket of orchids.
Orchids are usual visitors on islands, their microscopic seeds easily overcome the big distances, allowing plants to settle even on the small islands removed from continents. But here it is possible to face shortage of water: sources of fresh water on islands can be absent. But a rain is an inexhaustible source of a moisture. And some epiphytic orchids have adapted to collect a moisture in dense crowns of leaves, similarly to South-American bromelias of a Holocene. The island orchids of these species too have developed the similar adaptation. In crowns of orchids larvas of mosquitoes - excellent, though also fine dainties for ground carnivores frequently lodge. The crayfish is able to survey crowns of plants and expects for a new portion of meal. But something has lodged in the crown the greater, than a mosquito larva.
To the crayfishes even living on land, water nevertheless is necessary: in water eggs develops and young crustaceans are output. The crown of orchids was occupied with the female of the crayhunter. Taking into account that she is larger and it is not inclined to peace outcome of a meeting, the male recedes and disappears in thickets of epiphytic ferns. The female is in « interesting position »: she bears eggs on an abdomen. All last time she ate only those creatures which were casually dumped in the crown of leaves of orchids. Soon at her young crayfish youngsters - tiny translucent creatures will be raised. They will spend the first week in the crown of a plant, and then will crawl out on a tree. The few ones will survive, but at survived ones there will be few enemies. For now kids have not hatched from eggs, the female is ready to attack anyone who begins something to threaten her.
The branch is shaken - someone goes on it. She is a sizable bat. Though it still the cub, he is already in size with the small rabbit, and scope of his wings is about meter. He flies still poorly, but can flit from a tree on a tree. The kid wants to drink, and he searches for crowns of orchids - the most accessible source of water on island. Having put a muzzle in one crown, he quickly drinks from it water and further approaches to the crown where the crayfish female with eggs sits. As soon as the muzzle of a young bat has touched a surface of water, pair ruthless pincers has seized his lip. The kid desperately peeps and shakes a head, but the crayfish female keeps legs for leaves of orchids and not going to leave the house. At last the iron bite weakens, and the young bat runs away at full speed from so dangerous and courageous creature. Clumsily fliting with a branch on a branch, the young mammal comes nearer to a tree where the colony of adult bats settles down.
These large flying animals are gullbats. They eat a fish whom catch in the high sea, and eat prey at home. Under a tree chosen by a colony from several tens of large animals, the weight of the rests of a fish and a dung of bats wallows. This plentiful entertainment involves set of insects among which the goldenbeetle - the large, effectively appearing chafer is allocated. These beetles willingly eat the rests peep bats here again postpone eggs. The larva of the goldenbeetle rummages in ground, swallowing rich an organic substance a ground and acquiring from it all edible parts. Partly it replaces earthworms absent here: it is difficult for them to reach islands - salty water represents an insuperable barrier to these gentle animals. Larvas of goldenbeetles dig narrow courses under a colony of gullbats, sapping from below under the fallen rests of their meal. Sometimes it is possible to see, how under the fresh slice of the fish which have fallen from above, the ground moves, and then someone invisible outside, carries off it under the ground. It is work of larvas of beetles.
But these larvas can fail in much wider courses. It is a trap, and one more species of the crustaceans who have left the sea - the craymole have put it. It digs long horizontal courses and surveys them, searching fallen in them from the top layers of ground of larvas of insects.
Fallen on a bottom of the crayfish course of a larva of the goldenbeetle try to be dug, but not everyone are able to do it quickly. And some of them are overtaken nevertheless by the underground hunter. From darkness of a course long antennas, behind them - pincers similar to shovels and the reserved head are shown. Pincers snatch one larva and instantly destroy it. But antennas have groped the second, and the crayfish crawls further. The second larva has already prepared for defense: it bends an abdomen and throws a jet of a luminous liquid in a head of a crayfish. Eyes of a crayfish are insignificant, but distinguish light and darkness. The instinct of self-defense takes top above famine, and a crayfish crawls back, carrying off one preied larva. And survived larva, not losing time, is dug in in the ground and leaves dangerous courses.
The craymole crawls back, wriggling the worm-like body covered with a thin translucent armour. It drags catch in the house - the vertical underground shaft reaching a sea level. At the bottom the shaft forms the nidicolous chamber with pool of the saltish water filtering from a ground. Here the crayfish also will spend time, eating food. This crayfish is the female, and in water at the bottom of pool lives also posterity - a little bit enough large youngs. They are slipped on a smell by their brought mother of a larva of the beetle and eat its rests.
The larvas of beetles living in ground, endangered not only from below, but also from above. The mucous trace on fallen foliage gives out a site of one more creature conducting the family tree from ocean. She is the large splashsnail. It has replaced the sea with land for the sake of plentiful catch. Besides here it is more safe, than in the sea. The proboscis the snail feels the ground, as if smelling about. At last it finds that searches: a large larva of the goldenbeetle. The splashsnail digs a proboscis the ground, gropes a larva and injects to it the poison. This inheritance getting to it from ancestors - poisonous sea Conus snails. Through a proboscis the snail exhausts catch. But from the side it does not look somehow especially remarkable: the snail simply for a long time stops on a place. And under the ground at this time there is a drama.
The snail looks absolutely defenceless before crayhunters. The reserved swift-footed predator seems equipped better, than the moving spineless creature hiding in a shell is lazy. But this is deceptive impression.
Crayhunters scour not only in branches of a tree, but also on the ground. Surveying ground and plants, they eat insects both any carrion. And one crayfish leaves on a trace of a snail. It is easy for making - the snail is not hidden. The crayfish quickly finds a sluggish mollusc and seizes pincers its leg, not paying attention on bright red- black- and white-striped shell. Reaction of a snail is quite predicted: it is instantly involved in a shell , and the crayfish bumps a head against edge of a shell . But further the snail "treats" a crayfish with a jet of a burning foamy liquid directly in a head. The crayhunter runs off aside and feverishly starts to be cleaned, and the snail slowly crawls out. Some hours will need to be seen a crayfish, but it will remember an image of a bright striped shell for a long time, at all not having oustanding mind.
At the big height above the world of insects, crayfishs and snails the colony of gullbats conducts the usual life. These large chiropters will spend night on trees, and take off on fishing in the afternoon. But they have considerably improved a way of catching of a fish in comparison with fish-eating bats known to people. Not relying on a case, they catch catch on a bait. This art long should study, and young animals comprehend this skill, observing for adults. And now some bats have gone down in a wood to find suitable bait. For this role large and bright insects, or appetizing odorous crayfishes will approach. With an adult gullbat accompany young, observing for all actions of a skilled animal. The adult animal sniffs at bushes and soon catches the big fiddlerbeetle by exact throw. By a sting in a head the animal kills an insect, and then, having pressed it by a joint of a wing to the ground, starts to tear off at the beetle rigid elytrums and legs. Together with wings an adult gullbat takes a body of the beetle in a teeth and is sent on catching of a fish. Young animals fly after him. Bats fly up above trees, fly by above a wood and will pass a sandy beach. Towards to them the members of their colony carrying catch in teeth come across. In the distance, above ocean, bats hunting on a fish are visible. Some of them soar around above a shallow water, peering in water, and others promptly swoop on a surface of water and snatch out paws catch.
The shallow water is divided by reeves (but now not coral!) on numerous fine lagoons. On sea shallow waters life develops especially roughly: reeves give food and a refuge to many sea inhabitants. And this life involves the big fishes who for a long time remain on reeves for a feeding. They also serve as food to bats.
The adult gullbat accompanied with young growth, drops a bait in the middle of one of free lagoons. When the young bat directs behind her, the adult animal utters an advertisment sound, and the young bat flies up. The bait plops down in water, and all group of bats rises above it, making circles in air. Thus the adult animal attentively observes of a bait: at a gullbat fine sight, not worse, than at predatory birds. And ability to an echolocation at a gullbat is less, than at its wood relatives.
To the fallen bait, involved with its smell, fine small fishes and the translucent shrimps living on shallow waters gather. They start to pinch off slices from this "god-send", thus involving still a lot of any alive trifle. And it does not remain unnoticed both from above, and from below. Shining sideways, the large fish creeps to the catch which is keen tearing apart a bait. It is too absorbed by tracing of catch, and at all does not pay attention to the sky. And there one of bats left aside and now on full speed comes nearer sideways. To a predatory fish the winged hunter is not seen - the bat is closed with reeves for the fish’s eye. But the bat heads for a bait, foreseeing actions of a fish. And at the moment when the predatory fish makes a throw, a gullbat is carried by above a bait, immerses sharp-clawed hinder legs in water and snatches out the large fish from water. The smallness scatters in the sides and is hidden, but soon again gathers on a bait.
The successful winged hunter hardly to flaps wings: its catch weighs about three pounds. The fish beats in claws, and the bat stings it a in a head. The lesson is finished, food is caught. The adult animal departs on a coast, and young bats try to catch the first fish. They are carried by above a bait, trying to snatch out fishes from water. At one of them it has turned out: the teenager has caught the small fish. Two hungry companions pursue it, and in air the scrumble is fastened.
Bats live by big colonies on ocean islands. They have successfully mastered fishing and do not suffer from famine. But they have competitors: sea birds. After the mass extinction which has mentioned various groups of animals, their structure has a little changed, but the birds eating sea animals, have remained.
However birds do not risk to settle on the islands occupied by gullbats, and to this there is a reason. When above the sea there are sea birds, bats gather the big flight and amicably attack feathered newcomers. After such attack not every species of sea birds will venture to repeat attempt to lodge on the island occupied by winged fishing mammals.
Having got rid from large competitors, bats practically do not pay attention to small ones. Having thrown a bait in water, the bat expects occurrence of large fishes and does not rush on them before time. But one creature actively uses bat baits. It is a large sea dragonfly. The back pair of legs of this insect is lengthened and covered with hook-like thorns. Flying above a surface of water, the sea dragonfly holds it shipped in water. When on thorns the small fish or the shrimp will be pinned, the insect dexterously snatches out it from water and intercepts the others four legs. Hasty having to had eaten catch directly hurriedly, the insect unpunishedly continues "to trawl" catch in immediate proximity from baits of gullbats.
The larva of a sea dragonfly lives on shallow waters of reeves. It surveys the lower lip which has turned into prehensile body "mask", all cracks of a reef in searches of an edible trifle. Frequently the larva of sea dragonfly trades on shallow waters, digging out from sand by "mask" worms - numerous inhabitants of reeves. Worms stand in the beginning of one of the food chains connecting together inhabitants of a reef. And this community deserves the another story.

Bestiary

Crayhunter (Venatocancer terrestris)
Order: Decapods (Decapoda)
Family: Pezocancridae



Large species of decapods (Decapoda), adapted for ground life, a predator of an island ecosystem, analogue of ground crabs of our time.
Length of a body - up to 20 - 25 cm. A body in a cross is almost quadrangular, along a shell there pass two edges of rigidity; a cephalothorax is slightly flattish, an abdomen is short; legs are strong, adapted to a climbing and fast sprint. Pincers are strong, wide, but rather short, more similar to pincers of crabs. The bottom surface of pincers is painted in white-pink color (at males more brightly), the basic colouring of a body is dark brown with fine light speckles. Antennas are long. Eyes are large, on short stems.
Animal lives in a wood litter, digs small holes for shelter during daytime heat. It is especially active in the evening and at night. The crayhunter can swarm up trees. Eats little invertebrates, a carrion, the fruits of plants containing a lot of fats (nuts of palms). It is capable to break rotten wood in searches of larvas of capricorn beetles. Frequently selects the rests of catch in places of rest of gullbats.
Diecious animal, males are smaller than females. The female rears posterity in axils of leaves of plants, reserving water. She keeps near to a plant, feeds up young growth insects whom catches near to a nidus, if necessary actively protects a nidus from any enemy, including bats. After two moults the young growth leaves a nidus and crawls out in a wood litter.

Craymole (Cancerotalpa cryptobia)
Order: Decapods (Decapoda)
Family: Pezocancridae



Large species of decapods (Decapoda), adapted for digging way of life. The opportunity of such way of life for crustaceans is shown by the sea digging crayfish (Callianassa).
Length of a body - up to 30 cm. A body is extended, narrow, white - pink color. The armour of a cephalothorax is especially strong, serves for ramming of sand and the ground. Pincers are wide, carry out a role of shovels at digging a hole. Abdominal legs rake ground back, the back end of a body is wide, it pushes out the dug out ground from a hole when the crayfish goes back. Antennas are long - when the animal creeps on ready tunnels, they are extended forward, at digging holes develop back. Sight is advanced badly: the crayfish only distinguishes light from darkness and on close distance sees contours of object. Bright light frightens an animal, than use for protection of a larva of some species of beetles.
The hole represents the vertical shaft leaving on depth up to 3 - 4 meters (up to a level of ocean). The top end of a hole opens outside and serves for ventilation (it is usually covered with a lump of vegetative dust). In the bottom part the hole extends in the chamber serving for habitation and rearing of posterity. From vertical shaft on depth 15 - 20 cm lower than a level of ground the horizontal fodder courses serving for catching of catch depart in the sides. They are incorporated in system by ring courses.
The craymole is a predator, eats the larvas of the insects which have got in fodder courses.
Diecious, breeding is at any season of year. The female lays fine eggs (up to 250 - 300 ones) and bears it on abdominal legs. From eggs the young animals externally similar to adults are hatch. Some time they sit at the bottom of a parent hole in a pool of the sea water filtering through sand. The female the first time feeds young growth with the rests of catch. Later young craymoles crawl out from a parent hole and dig the own holes. Frequently they become victims of adult neighbours or live in their holes as parasites, eating the got catch earlier «the lawful owner».

Splashsnail (Terriconus jaculator)
Order: Stenoglossa
Family: Conidae

Large ground snail (length of a shell - up to 20 cm), the descendant of one of species of sea Conus snails (Conus). Occurrence of a plenty of islands (atolls) in Indian ocean has led evolution of some sea molluscs on a way of the adaptation to a ground way of life. The present species of snails is one of many former sea species who have adapted for life on land. The given adaptation has caused a plenty of changes in an organism of an animal.
The gill has turned in lung - organ of air breath. Such way of evolution is shown by a South-American marsh snail an apple snail (Ampullaria): one of its gills has turned in high-grade lung. Most interestingly that this snail goes to land... to lay eggs! Covers of a body of the splashsnail became stronger, slime became richer and rich proteins that interferes with losses of a moisture. The snail has reconstructed secretory system in such a manner that now fresh water of rains and pools does not harm to it. The splashsnail fills up stocks of a moisture in an organism, getting into pools or leave axils of plants where rain water accumulates.
The snail has a strong shell of a bright coloring: on a white background along curls pass red and black stripes. Their ornament is individual and varies at different individuals. This colouring is warning: the snail is capable to shoot at the enemy poison from the modified salivary glands on distance up to 1 meter.
The snail is a predator and the scavenger, eating any food of an animal origin, including scraps from catch of bats. It is the interesting adaptation of a snail to catching larvas of beetles: felt presence of a larva at the ground, it immerses a long proboscis in ground and a sting enters poison in a victim, and exhausts a larva, not digging out it from the ground later.
The hermaphrodite, carries the laid eggs in a special brood pouch in a shell . The posterity develops in tidal pools on a sea coast, passes to life in a wood litter later. Lives up to 5 - 6 years.

Sea dragonfly (Thalassagrion maritimus)
Order: Dragonflies (Odonata)
Family: Agrionidae

Picture by Amplion

Dragonflies are inhabitants of fresh waters. The adult insect is an air predator, larva develops in water.
Sea dragonfly is the unique representative of group Odonata who has mastered sea water. It concerns to damselflies (Family Agrionidae). An adult insect is large - length of an abdomen up to 10 cm, wingspan up to 18 cm. The body is blue-colored, on each wing there are 2 dark blue stains (on the end and at a root of a wing). Distinctive feature of an adult insect is pair of long back legs (up to 7 cm) with well developed claws. With their help the insect "trawls" a surface of water (similarly to modern aquatic birds Rynchops) in searches of shrimps and small fishes. Frequently hunts, using a bait of gullbats. Insect snatches out catch from water by back legs and them brings it to a mouth.
The larva in length up to 8 cm, lives on sea shallow waters. Eats shrimps and a benthonic fish, digs out sea worms from a bottom. In case of danger it is instantly dug in sand.

In Neocene various and numerous species of dragonflies inhabit Antarctic continent.

Goldenbeetle (Chrysocetonia lucens)
Order: Beetles (Coleoptera)
Family: Scarabeidae

The large, well flying beetle in length up to 5 cm, the representative of family lamellicorn beetles (Scarabeidae) subfamilies of chafers (Cetoniinae). Colouring of elytrums, prothoraxes and head is greenish-gold, a body from the bottom side is copper-red. The male differs from the female by small "horn" on a head. The larva in length up to 10 cm lives in a soil layer, eats rotting organic substance. The head is large, it is used for digging. On a back of a larva there is a bladder with a luminous liquid. In case of danger it splashes a portion of this liquid in the enemy, mixing it with sharply smelling secretions of special glands.

Fiddlerbeetle (Megacerambyx musicalis)
Order: Beetles (Coleoptera)
Family: Cerambycidae

The large representative of family of capricorn beetles (Cerambycidae), growing to length 15 cm (without antennae), antennae are 20 cm long at males, 10 cm at females. Elytrae are ash-grey with pattern of longitudinal lines of metallic brilliant bluish spots, legs and antennae are black, head and prothorax are white. On antennae of males there are rich "brushes" of red bristles. The male can utter loud sounds similar to singing of a cricket, rubing back edge of a head against front edge of prothorax. These sounds serve for attraction of females. Lays eggs in rotten wood in portions of 5 - 7 ones. The larva (up to 20 cm long) bores tunnels in wood, eats the fungi growing on walls of tunnels, then pupates in ground.

Gullbat (Pseudonoctilio laroides)
Order: Chiroptera
Family: Vespertilionidae

Picture by Sauron from FurNation

Huge bat (wingspan - up to 2 meters, weight - up to 4 kg), eating a fish. Lives on trees by big colonies, hunts in the afternoon with the help of sight. The body is covered with a rich wool of white color (white color reflects solar beams, preventing the overheat of animal), wings are grey - pink (numerous blood vessels give to them a pinkish shade), narrow, adapted for the fast prompt flight alternating to soaring. Hinder legs are given out from a flying membrane from knees, fingers on them are supplied with hooked claws.
Ears are small, outgrowths on a nose are reduced up to a small knob on a nose, passing in a vertical crest along nose bridge, and pairs the short chin outgrowths which are juting out in sides. Echolocation abilities are advanced poorly. Sight is excellent: by a structure of a retina (amount of cells perceiving light) the animal comes nearer to modern predatory birds. A voice is series of clicks of various frequency.
The gullbat eats fish, snatching out it from a surface of water claws of hinder legs. Well advanced intelligence has allowed to develop the special way of catching: the animal catches on a coast an insect or a crayfish, breaks off a head and legs, then throws this bait in water near to a reef and waits, soaring above a bait. In the beginning to a bait fine fishes and shrimps, then the large fishes involved with this edible trifle swim together. At this moment the bat swoops on catch and snatches out it from water. The young growth is trained in art of catching of a fish, observing for grown-ups (not necessarily it there will be their parents).
Lives by colonies of some tens of animals on small atolls, for hunting can leave on a shallow in 3 - 4 kms from a coast. Adult gullbats, not occupied with the cub rearing, freely move between colonies. In places of a settlement animals expel all sea birds. Spend the night on trees (frequently under leaves of palms), occupying day-to-day the same branch. For the period of storm bats are covered in a thicket of a wood on island, getting over closer to the basis of a trunk and keeping for a bark all paws.
Once a year the female gives rise to one large cub who in the beginning carries with itself, then leaves on a tree. The first 2 weeks the cub is fed with milk, further begins to eat fish: in the beginning semidigested, then chewed, further whole. In the age of 2,5 - 3 months cubs study to fly; since 14-th week of life start to be trained to fish, imitating the grown-up ones. Young and adult gullbats like to play, picking up from sand or from a surface of water of a stick and leaves.

Next

Main page of the project