Tour to Neocene


27. Land of thousand disasters




In Neocene the area of the seas has considerably increased. It has caused changes of the Earth climate - the amount of rains has increased, the areas of savannas and deserts have strongly decreased. But some areas began to receive so plentiful precipitations, that it began to turn to annual disasters for inhabitants of such places. In East Asia the result of rains is the strongest flooding which becomes test for durability for all live beings. Ground in these places is formed by loess - easily washed away bed. Because of it the relief is very changeable, the rivers frequently change the channel, changing area up to unrecognizability.
Plains of East Asia are covered by numerous lakes and the rivers. Winds from Pacific ocean carry regular rains, but mountain ridges do not pass the most part of clouds to areas of the Central Asia. Mountains force them to spill plentiful rains from which the rivers overflow banks and spread to many kilometers.
Probably, animals and plants from other areas of the Earth could not exist in such conditions more than one year, but plains of East Asia are inhabited with the live beings which have adapted to annual flooding. River valleys are covered with rich forests which easily tolerate flooding. Trees form large plank-buttress roots serving as props at natural disasters. And some figs form the special shape named "banyan" - from branches the air roots growing into ground and serving as though by additional trunks grow down. Such tree grows more wide, than high, covering alone the huge area. It is easier to drown than to overturn such forest giant. However water does not rise highly and quickly falls down, therefore figs can grow and fructify normally.
Large juicy infructescenses of figs, similar to violet-brown pears, ripen right on the trunk and large branches. Here they are the easiest for finding to seed carriers - large herbivorous vertebrates. Such animals live in flooded forests. One of them, the mighty bulldeer, the descendant of tiny barking deer, tears off ripe infructescenses. By velvety lips the animal reaches up to fruits, tears off it and chews. Juice flows down on its lips, attracting numerous fruit flies. They are so importunate, that sometimes the bulldeer is compelled to sneeze and to shake head when especially annoying insect gets into its nostril.
On the bottom part of trunk ripe fruits had been eaten a long time ago by other herbivores, therefore the bulldeer should rear to regale itself with them. Its large growth allows it, but nevertheless few appetizing fruits will stay inaccessible for this massive animal. And especially the bulldeer can not gather the crop from branches of fig tree. However ripened fruits will hang on the tree not so long time - there are animals easily gathering them.
The hoot, squeal and shrill cries force the bulldeer to shudder intently. Noisily having inhaled air, the animal departs from the tree and by one eye looks in thicket of branches. Noise has rather disturbed, than frightened it: real enemies walk and attack silently. And on the tree some creatures with grey wool, tenacious paws and naked red faces appear. At some of them the face is decorated with white-colored beard and moustaches. They are barbed macaques - masters of forest crones. Dexterously snatching by all paws, they easily move among branches, gathering ripe fruits in all forest. They spend a lot of time on the ground if find there enough food. However now they are attracted by fig fruits. The clan of macaques quickly strips all fruits which can be gathered. Monkeys are rather prodigal - if it is a lot of food, they will take a bite and will throw out more fruits, than will eat. And the bulldeer perfectly knows it, therefore it does not leave from the noisy neighbourhood in wood thicket. Soon the patience of the bulldeer appears recompensed: one by one cores of fig fruits plop down on the ground. While the bulldeer gathers them, one half-eaten fruit falls to it on the back. Because of unexpectedness the bulldeer stirs up the head and loudly grunts. If it has guessed to look upward, it would see that from foliage one and half ten curious red faces of monkeys look at him. But at him obviously does not suffice mind to do it. Having snorted, the animal again starts to gather cores of fruits and loudly champs, chewing them. And at the most improper moment when the horned giant had ate especially juicy core, the fruit falls to it right on the head. It is obvious not accident - when the bulldeer began to grunt discontentedly, monkeys in branches have burst out exulting cries. The huge animal had become for them simply the subject of entertainments. When the bulldeer had bent down for the next fruit, as on it from branches the branch or the piece of bark fell - monkeys have to found food not only for stomach, but also for thought. At last the patience of the bulldeer was terminated, and forest giant walked in bushes. And when its head had already hided in branches, almost in its back the fig fruit neatly thrown by the monkey has hit. To the accompaniment of loud shouts of monkeys the giant bulldeer had quickened its pace to gallop, and soon its tread was muffled by other forest sounds.
The forest of China territory does not form the continuous area - it is cut by set of rivers and lakes, edged by bushes and high reeds. And in the forest it is possible to find shallow ponds, lakes and bogs - the former river-beds and hollows of lakes. Lakes and rivers serve as watering places for different animals, and it is the native house for some species of live beings.
Near the coast of lake it is possible to see the different inhabitants of forest. Cautious bulldeer, the female and her spotty calf, approach to lake searching of watering place. The female with the cub is especially cautious - she tries to watch everything, that can be dangerous to her calf. Therefore she departs from water when the group of barbed macaques is noisily run out of bushes. Large monkeys at all do not pay attention to bulldeer: they go to water. One young monkey with curiosity approaches close to bulldeer, and the female quietly bellows. The calf is immediately hidden behind her side, and mum warningly stamps the leg and snorts. The curious monkey on the spot departs, fairly being afraid of strong hoofs of the bulldeer.
Macaques drink water, scooping it by hand and bringing to the mouth. Thus under water the loud splash is spreading, informing all inhabitants of lake that on the coast there is someone. This noise frightens some animals, and for one lake inhabitant there are no more attractive sounds than this one is.
At the bottom of lake the layer of rotten leaves has begun to stir, and from it the head covered with large scutes has seemed. In the beam of sunlight two small eyes have coldly flashed, then light has slipped on the figured back of large creature covered with scales. The monster similar to the tree-trunk come to life, has quietly waved by wide tail and has slipped in greenish dregs of lake, having left after itself the rests of leaves turned in water. The most terrible inhabitant of lake, the giant dalag, has going for hunting. It is the terrible predator, only a little yield to crocodiles of Holocene epoch in gluttony and force. And in its menu ground animals take a fair place.
The giant dalag is swimming to the favorite hunting area - to the flat coast where animals frequently gather for watering. The huge fish applies special tactics to come nearer to catch: it picks up by muzzle or the back thicket of floating water plants and comes nearer to the chosen prey at the distance of exact throw under their covering.
Macaques have slaked their thirst and now their noisy group made to the forest. When at the coast it became quieter, bulldeer mother and the calf directed their steps to water. Having looked around and once again having smelt air, the bulldeer female has begun to drink. And few steps far from her the calf had come to water. It has not paid attention that right to it the whole thicket of floating plants is coming nearer. At the next second it cost to the calf its short life.
The huge fish, as if the killer whale, has jumped out almost on the coast and has seized the bulldeer calf’s muzzle. By sharp jerk aside the giant dalag has wringed the neck of the calf and, having bent, has dragged prey in water. Bulldeer female at the first second has recoiled aside, but then, having lowered horns, has rushed in water after the monster has dragged off her cub. However the fish, as against it, was nevertheless in the native habitat, and soon spotty side of the bulldeer calf and huge fin of the giant dalag were seen already in middle of lake whereas the bulldeer female was helplessly staying down in the shallow water and plaintively lowed. The spot of roiled silt gradually dissolved in water, and soon nothing reminded of the drama played at the coast. Only the bulldeer female some time had wandered along the coast, calling up to itself by quiet grunt the lost calf.
In large lakes and rivers tens monstrous fishes share coast, gathering bloody tribute from ground animals. But in lakes and rivers other animals live also, despite of such neighbourhood.
In shallow water where the way for the monstrous fish is closed, reeds and other marsh graminoids plentifully expand. Here and there among them it is possible to see constructions of branches and grass similar to small tents sticking up on small islets. And not far from them it is possible to notice their builders and tenants - large ginger-brown mammals. Sitting on hinder legs, they pull out roots of marsh grasses from soft silt and with appetite eat them. Thus rich whiskers at their short muzzles shiver, when the animal hasty chews sappy root. Animals are similar to beavers of Holocene epoch, but they have more long and narrow tails and not such massive muzzles as beavers. They are beaverats - water rodents, descendants of the musk rat. They are not so skilful builders as beavers; they are not able to fell trees and to build dams. And it is not so important: in conditions of annual strong flooding it is better to live without luggage and to be the nomad, than the homebody. Tents are the temporary shelter of the beaverat using before the first flooding.
Beaverats are the peaceful herbivores able to swim quickly with the help of webby hinder legs. But they share the lake with dexterous and ruthless fisher predator. And from time to time animals are compelled to divide territory, though it is most likely simple demonstration, rather than the serious competition: they at all do not encroach on food resources of each other.
Family of beaverats, the female and four grown up cubs, are fed with rhizomes of the arrowhead. The young growth recently has ceased to suck milk and has passed to vegetative forage, therefore cubs while only observe of mother and elicit at her tubers and leaves of edible plants, cheeping thin. Mother at times succeeds to have eaten only one tuber from three ones, other cubs get. While they study, mother has had a hard time - some days she will go to sleep hungry. And she makes an effort to have a little to eat for itself. And when she succeeds at last to sink incisors to the large sweetish tuber, at the shallow water the splash is hearing, and the neighbour of beaverats, the fishing shrew, gets to the coast. The long-bodied animal with short paws and flat head sits down on the coast and starts to put itself in order. The fishing shrew is long cleaning by claws of forepaws, combing rich fur. At the end of toilet it right like the cat “washes” by forepaw. Rather pleased with itself, the shrew sprawls on the coast and has a rest. However it is short to indulge in pleasure to it: the family of beaverats walks absolutely nearby. The large female tries to keep between cubs and the fishing shrew: sometimes fishing shrews attack young growth of beaverats.
The affinity of the beaverat female disturbs the shrew’s short condition of mental equilibrium: the animal jumps up on short paws, curves back, raises tail above the ground and starts to grin. This animal has something to show: in the mouth of the fishing shrew forty two peaked teeth stick up, and canines differ by remarkable length and acuteness. Thus the shrew loudly chirps, constantly keeping head-on to the beaverat and slightly jumping up on all four paws because of excitation. Besides, the shrew sprinkles from anal glands stinky musk liquid on sand. In reply to threat the beaverat female simply turns a head to the shrew and abruptly growls, showing the yellow incisors ready to fight. Then she leaves by measured step, knowing, that the shrew simply has no need to rush on her.
Under water the fishing shrew is the mobile and dexterous creature. It swims, bending by whole body, as if the fish. Hinder legs with swimming membranes between fingers serve as rudders when the animal makes sharp turn in water. Such way of swimming allows the fishing shrew to feel like in water almost as freely, as to a fish.
The body of the shrew under water seems silvery: the fur is covered with special water-repellent greasing which interferes with wetting of hair by water and by that protects an animal from overcooling. When the fishing shrew emerges and gets to the coast, it is enough for it only to stir up well to remain completely dry.
Under water the fishing shrew searches for forage - crayfishes and fishes. Small catch, such as shrimps and small fishes, is eating right in water, and the large fish is pulling out on the coast, but preliminary the shrew kill it by bite in head.
Having felt the approach of the fishing shrew, underwater inhabitants rush in all sides or, on the contrary, gather to dense shoals. The shrew almost does not pay attention to tiny fishes: it is unprofitable to catch such prey, energy consumptions for catching are not compensated by quantity of had preyed food. But large fishes and crayfishes are compelled to be cautious.
The young giant dalag weighting about one kilogram, yet not replaced juvenile cross-striped colouring to “adult” pattern, is hidden from the fishing shrew in thickets of underwater plants. Its vertical strips help to mask, hiding fish among stalks. Having hidden in thicket of greenery, the fish stands motionlessly. But the shrew has one more “secret weapon” - sharp sense of smell. Its muzzle is extended to the small mobile proboscis, capable to catch odorous substances in water. And it literally “is hot on the trail” of fish, as if the bloodhound. The flat head of the shrew starts to smell in thickets of plants, moving stalks apart. Until the last second the young dalag hopes for cryptic colouring but when the fishing shrew’s proboscis slightly touches its body, it like an arrow takes off from thickets, and the shrew rushes in chase. The dalag has important advantages: it quickly swims and can not emerge for respire air. And the shrew is compelled to rise on the surface of lake, having given the fish chance to swim away and hide. But the shrew, as against the dalag, can chase prey a long time, and the predatory fish, as a rule, "is spread" in one throw and after that has the long rest. The shrew drives the chosen prey from shelter to shelter, from time to time rising for air. And at last, when the fish is already appreciably tired and is swimming more slowly, the fishing shrew makes solving throw. Having caught up the dalag, it seizes it for the tail by forepaws and puts in fish’s side strong bite by sharp canine. However the dalag obviously is not going to surrender so simply: having gathered last forces, the fish tears itself away from paws of the predator and hides under driftwood. Not wishing to miss delicious catch, the fishing shrew tries to turn driftwood, approach to the dalag that from one or from the other side. But a result of this hunting is not so desired for the shrew. When once again it carelessly pokes the nose under the driftwood, the hidden dalag bites the mammal to the paw and again hides in the refuge. The bitten shrew jumps out from water and starts to lick bleeding wound.
But also the dalag is not too lucky. The wound put by the shrew, appeared very deep. The fish has lost a lot of blood and feels like bad - it starts to choke. To facilitate somehow the condition, the dalag rises to the water surface and hides among floating plants. Due to special suprabranchial organ the dalag can endure lack of oxygen of water, breathing air. Therefore at the asphyxia the fish has instinctively risen from the saving bottom to the water surface concealing of many dangers. The fish turns among crowns of floating plants, involuntarily betraying itself to the predator observing from above.
The brown - white creature promptly rushed above the water surface. Only one splash was listened - and the dalag is already in air, seized in ruthless sharpest claws. It has fallen the prey to the fishing warbler - the large songbird, the big expert in fishing. Hardly flapping wings, the bird carries catch to the eyrie, to food two hungry nestlings.
Eyrie of fishing warblers is the big construction plaited of rods, arranged in forked crown of tree. The middle of eyrie is covered by grass and feathers among which fish bones are generously scattered. In eyrie two nestlings had eaten that fishes brought by parents sit. They have already begun to see clearly, but while they are covered by down. Feathers only few days ago had appeared in their wings and tail, that’s why chicks look ragged. However these creatures are remarkable by very good appetite. While mother preserves eyrie, nestlings sit quietly. But when the father with the weighty dalag in claws has flied to them, the tree crone is resounded with hysterical peep of hungry offsprings. The female meets the male at the edge of eyrie. Both birds constantly twirl by tails, expressing the excitation. At nestlings tails have not grown yet to full size, therefore they, having stood up, clap by underdeveloped wings and pull by rump with yet not developed tail feathers.
The male pins the fish body to the sharp twig which is sticking up above the eyrie. He tears off the piece of meat and shoves it in the mouth of the nestling peeping more loudly than the brother. Other piece the second nestling gets, then again the first one, and again the second... Nestlings had eaten almost one third part of body of the dalag and have calmed down, completely absorbed by pleasant feeling of satiation. And their parents would not mind having the nourishing meal: usually they should eat by fits, in breaks between nestling feedings. Now large catch partly will fall also to theirs lot. Soon from the dalag body only large head, ridge and tail remain, which one bird dumps under the eyrie to the big pleasure of flies and bugs.
The season of rains begins: the nature arranges annual test for durability to all inhabitants of lake-land. In the beginning all the day from Pacific ocean the fresh breeze blows, then at the evening the sky becomes clouded, and the rain at night begins. It proceeds, not stopping in the morning, next day, one week later. Many days from ocean the wind carries clouds, and it is rainy further and further to the west, in foothills.
Normal life of forest inhabitants is broken during the rain season. The family group of barbed macaques is hidden from rain in crone of deciduous tree. Monkeys bunch, nestling to each other and covering cubs from rain. They obviously are not glad for the rain: their faces look sad, animals are emotionally suppressed. The large bulldeer tries to hide from bad weather too, having chosen rather dry place under the sprawling crone of huge banyan. And on the eyrie of butcherbirds parents protect posterity from the rain by opened wings, replacing in turn each other on the eyrie. The bird free from watch is occupied with food searching: fishing is good during the rain. Fishes catch insects falling in water, and their schools rise to the surface of water.
Consequences of a rain start to have an effect in the life of the forest even more when in foothills rivers overflow banks because of strong downpours. Water gradually floods lowlands, filling ponds and lakes and transforming them to common boundless mirror-like water surface. From water trees stick up by groups and one by one. They are connected with the lianas, therefore to climbing forest inhabitants movement in the forest almost is complicated with nothing. And ground animals have rather hard time. Two bulldeer, mother and the calf, are swimming across flooded forest. Animals move, pulling water by wide hoofs. Near to animals few objects made of grass and twigs similar to carelessly plaited baskets float – they are the rests of beaverat settlement. Sometimes bulldeer mother pushes the swimming calf, helping it to move. Bulldeer are swimming to the small island which in dry season looks as hill overgrown with forest. There they hope to wait any time, eating poor grass and branches of bushes then to cross to the next island. However it is not too easy to make it: in water near to them the monstrous fin of the giant dalag appears. For it the flooding is the time of feasts and easy catch. During flooding dalags are fattened, eating small animals had expelled from holes and shelters by flooding. The adult bulldeer is too big for the dalag, and the fish can not attack it. However the bulldeer calf is the desired catch. Both the dalag, and the bulldeer mother feel it. The female tries to swim in that way, that to stay between the huge fish and the calf. Thus the female tries to push the calf that it will reach as soon as possible saving shallow where from water branches of bushes stick up. At last bulldeer reach the small island and go to the firm ground. The calf slips on the wet grass and also falls, but mother helps it to stand. Both animals leave under the nearest tree, shivering with cold. They are hungry and have strongly got wet, therefore mother at once shakes itself and starts to browse leaves, and the calf begins to suck her milk, contentedly wagging tail.
Family group of barbed macaques is not so lucky: flooding has cut off group of trees on which they were fed, from other forest. Before flooding macaques had come in searches of food to the peninsula deeply pressing in lake and overgrown by large trees. But when water in lake has risen, the peninsula had turned to island, and then the land has disappeared at all, having retained only trees sticking up from water and the wet monkeys sitting on them shivering with cold.
Macaques like to bathe; sometimes they search for food in water, and if it would be necessary, they can reach the forest easily. However they can not make it: in water the huge body of the giant dalag moves. This fish terrifies monkeys, which at approach of fish only seize branches more strongly, shrilly crying with fear. And this monster is not the unique problem which monkeys have faced. For some days they had eaten all in the slightest degree eatable fruits and had puck off from under bark practically all edible insects. And now they should chew twigs and rigid leaves somehow to alleviate colic in stomach.
Two days more had passed. The dalag appears in this place less often, therefore monkeys dare to swim some hundreds meters up to the nearest small island. They cautiously go down by the trunk to water, encouraging each other by quiet hoot. The large white-barbed dominant comes into water the first, lets off the tree trunk and swims. After him young males and youngsters, then females with cubs and old females go down in water. Cubs sit on backs of mothers to allow them to swim more freely. Monkeys swim silently, trying to draw by nothing the attention of huge dalags. When one young female starts to get tired, the old female, her aunt, takes away the cub from her back and swims beside that the cub constantly sees mother and does not cry.
The group of monkeys successfully had crossed water space and soon had got out to the firm ground. Absolutely exhausted macaques get out of water and lie down on the grass. Many of them almost on the spot fall asleep, only the dominant male does not sleep: at the small island there can be predators, and he had to warn clan about danger in time. Clouds gradually dissipate also the ground gets warm under the sun. Tired monkeys doze, and the dominant male gradually is sleepy. Having basked in the sun, he gradually starts to breathe regularly, and his eyes are closed.
On this small island there are no large predators, and the clan is in full safety. Monkeys sleep whole day and the most part of night, and early in the morning they wake up, as famine has an effect in full force. And on this small island it is possible to find a lot of food: here there are not other monkeys, and rich tree crones promise the true feast. One by one grey monkeys hide in thickets of trees, from time to time calling to the neighbours sitting on the near tree. Barbed macaques move on trees, running along horizontal branches on all four paws. Also they can swarm up lianas on hands and jump from tree to tree, but large adult animals obviously are rather heavy for this purpose.
On trees monkeys find many fruits, edible mushrooms and leaves. In thickets of epiphytic plants fat cockroaches, beetles and crickets hide, and macaques catch them by fingers, rummaging around crowns of plants. If to bark a tree, it is possible to find larvae of beetles, soft delicate termites or sourish ants.
In the hollow of one tree it is found the true treasure – the colony of wild bees with the combs full of honey. This is rare dainty, and macaques are able to get it. The monkey had found the bee nidus, notifies clan about the valuable find by loud abrupt shouts. It can seem strange, you see that usually monkeys willingly use “the right of strong” to appropriate another’s find. But here the advanced social connections of barbed macaques nevertheless outweigh the brute force. The social role in clan at the monkey had found the bee nidus, will appreciably raise, therefore for the sake of such benefit it is possible to sustain not so pleasant necessity to share the found honey with neighbours.
Involved with shouts, the clan gathers near to the nidus. Monkeys prepare to regale themselves well, but hide excitation overflowing them. Many of them by own experience are known, how hurt the annoyed bees sting, therefore monkeys do everything to not anger insects. They cautiously clean twigs, by teeth and hands removing from them bark. Then the most courageous and skilled macaques creep to the nidus and start to immerse cautiously twigs in honeycombs. They transfer twigs with honey to expecting it members of clan, obviously not depriving thus friends and relatives. And especially plentifully honey portion they extract to favorite itself. The members of clan crowding behind, at times enter small fights for especially seductive honey twig. And at the edge of the tree-trunk hollow bees gradually gather, and they drone not so peacefully, as earlier... And when one cub had begun to squeal, when above its head the bee has begun to hover, the patience of nidus protectors had appeared filled. More and more bees had shot upwards in air and were hovered above monkeys while, at last, four-handed robbers were frightened. Squealing and hooting they have rushed off along the branches, pursued by wild bees, have not left yet from their hollow. And one monkey had run away, providently had seized in teeth the twig covered with honey. Appearing in safety, she has quickly licked off precious dainties and has thrown out this twig before it was seen by neighbours.
Not only bee combs are the favourite object for the monkey robbery, but also the bird's nests are. In them it is possible to find tasty eggs or nestlings. And one such nidus monkeys had noticed in forked branches of the large tree. The leader male and his friend were going to check up the contents of this nest. This tree trunk is thick, therefore they get on lianas, squeezing them not only by hands, but also by tenacious feet. They climb on the tree higher and higher, and soon they reach the nest. Unequivocally it is impossible to tell, are they lucky, whether or not. The nest appeared completely not empty: in it there are the female and two nestlings. But they are fishing warblers, and they are ready to repulse any enemy.
When above the edge of the eyrie the red face with white beard of the leader of macaques clan had appeared, the fishing warbler female has immediately stood to threat posture: having fluffed up feathers, she has opened wings and had began to cry shrilly, approaching to the monkey. Her tail thus had began tremble from side to side. Nestlings too had started to peep by rasping unpleasant voices, having risen in full growth and clapping by wings. And when the leader of monkeys had stretched hand to nestlings, the fishing warbler female had seized it and had sharply jerked out, having inflicted the deep wound. Indignantly roaring, the bearded male began to get to the eyrie, pushing away the female by hand. Suddenly behind his back the flapping of wings had been heard, and from air on him the fishing warbler male has dived, had flied on disturbing signals of the female. He had seized the head of the robber and had began to peck it to forehead and crown, clapping by wings. The female, seeing, that forces have become equal, had attacked the second macaque, showering his shoulders and back by strong pecks. Monkeys obviously did not expect so fierce repulse. Closing the head covered with wounds by one hand, the leader of clan went down on the liana, and after him his friend, on which back there were some bleeding wounds, moved. Pair of fishing warblers, sitting on edge of the eyrie, saw off unsuccessful hunters with loud shouts. They have succeeded to defend the right to live.
Among the animals undergoing calamity during flooding, there are also beaverats. Their shelters in reed thickets at the first day of flooding had been washed off by streams of water. But they are much luckier, than other small animals – beaverats are good swimmers, and during flooding they even have opportunity to expanse the living area. But young beaverats nevertheless suffer from flooding - being able to swim well, they can become prey of water predators.
Pack of beaverats - five cubs and their mother - are swimming in yellowish muddy water. Fur of the beaverat is not such dense as at the fishing shrew, and fatty greasing does not protect it from getting wet. But hypodermic fat layer gives to their bodies additional buoyancy and protects against cold water. The suspension of clay and silt hides swimming beaverats from the predators observing from below. But the waves spreading from them at movements of webby hinder legs, allow fishes like the dalag to feel from afar the presence of mammals, not seeing them. And the huge fish is already aiming at catch, cautiously creeping to the pack of beaverats from behind. At the surface of water the edge of back fin of the predator has flashed only - beaverats have noticed of nothing and continue swimming. The beaverat mother feels that cubs already get tired, and turns off to the flooded bushes. Here, at the bush, it is possible to have a rest some time, having hooked by paws for branches. But not all plans will be realized…
When beaverats had to swim only ten meters up to thickets, water behind the back of the female literally blows up. The huge head of the dalag, coldly shining by scales, had shown from water, hooking by the bottom jaw the beaverat cub, swimming last. The small brown lump, spinning, flies some meters in air and plops down in water. Being stun, it swims by rounds, and at this moment huge jaws snap it from under water. The family of beaverats in fear is hiding deep into bushes, and cubs hide under the belly of mother, having buried noses in her wool and tremble with fear. A long time after this case the family of rodents does not get out from bush, even when the surface of water becomes quiet.
Not only water predators, but also air ones deprive benefit from flooding. Using flooding, the fishing warbler diversifies the diet with animals undergoing calamity. Sweeping past by above water, the bird snatches out by claws small mammals crossing water from tree to tree. Having sat down on the favorite branch, the fishing warbler presses catch by claws to the bark and tears off pieces of meat. The bird gorges on: the most part of catch is eaten by eternally hungry young birds in eyrie. Using the short period of prey abundance, adult butcherbirds restore the shape: parental cares are the hard duty of predatory birds.
Gradually flooding comes to an end, and the ground dries out. The water level in rivers decreases, leaving on the flood-land set of ponds, lakes and pools. Some of them will quickly dry up, and some can exist right up to the next flooding. Inhabitants of the river and lakes, received a short opportunity to swim freely, come back to more habitual places of inhabiting together with water receding. But some of them get in the real traps, appearing in temporary reservoirs. Then their life will stop when the reservoir will dry up. However not all inhabitants of water accept freak of chance as something inevitable.
The giant dalag about three and half meters long appeared among trapped ones: it had appeared closed in small forest pond. Quickly having finished with several frogs had the misfortune to appear in this pond together with it, the dalag began to search for an opportunity of runaway. One of pond coasts appeared too abrupt, but at the other coast it is possible to find the place to get away. And at night the fish dares to abandon this temporary refuge and to search for the big water.
In moonlight from water the huge flat head covered with large scutes is shown. The mouth of fish is convulsively opening - for such giant movement overland appears not so easy problem. The fish gets out to the coast, bending the body, clinging for the ground by spikes of anal fin and pushing by pectoral fins. The monster creeps slowly, moving aside by muzzle driftwood and the wood dust brought by the river.
Life of forest inhabitants is gradually returning to the habitual rhythm. The bulldeer browses bush foliage, pulling ears - midges do not allow it to calm. And barbed macaques have arranged noisy fishing at the river bank: in the hole which had stayed from roots of the tree uprooted by streams of water, there is a whole flight of small fishes. Monkeys try to catch them by hands, however not every one succeeds to seize quick slippery catch. In the next shallow pool besides fishes some translucent shrimps swim, visible only when they lift from the bottom little cloud of silt, touching by thin legs. Adult macaques try to catch small fishes in the hole, and youngsters not unsuccessfully hunt in puddle. Fishes and crustaceans, which they catch, together with insects are protein food, vital to monkeys.
Macaque youngsters have a good time, driving fishes from one end of pool to another. And the fishing warbler unexpectedly relieves the monotony of their game: the bird is promptly swept past above the pool, by dexterous movement of paw having snatched out from water the small fish. Frightened of unexpected flight of predator, young monkeys run up to the sides with loud squeal. This bird will represent threat for macaques only when it will not manage to avoid facing with them. On the hand of the dominant male the long scar, put by the fishing warbler female after attempt to plunder the eyrie of these birds, will stay forever. But other inhabitants of this world of forests and waters represent at times serious threat for monkeys.
The creature covered with stuck leaves and stinky dried ooze creeps out from the forest with rustling. It is the giant dalag finishing the way across the forest. The smell of the river gives additional might to the exhausted fish, forcing it to take heart and to finish struggle for life. But the group of macaques has noticed the monster, and now can recoup at the fish for that horror which this fish was inspired to them during the flooding. One of cubs pokes the dalag’s side by dry branch, and the large fish is convulsively bent, trying to crawl away faster. And when other branch is poked to the side of the dalag, the fish opens the mouth widely, trying to frighten off unexpected and undesirable gapers. And it serves as a signal to the attack. Not daring to approach close to the creeping fish, monkeys bespatter the dalag with lumps of dirt and the uprooted bunches of grass. It is an important moment for of macaque cubs: they study at adults the receptions of protection, and in the future it will rescue life to somebody of them.
Bending the body, the dalag tries to rescue from so powerful attack. The fish already crawls to the river literally by jumps and soon hardly slips from the coast in water. Following to it the lump of dirt flies, blurring in river water as the mud cloud. The lesson for macaque cubs is finished. In the native habitat the giant dalag from the toy and object of mockeries turns to terrible danger. And now not each macaque will risk to climb in water if the fin of this huge fish has flashed somewhere far away.
Beaverats have constructed to themselves new tents in reeds among shallow waters, and the fishing shrew again hunts crayfishes and small fishes in the channel of the river. Life proceeds... up to the next flooding.


Giant dalag (Megachanna augustus)
Order: Percoid fishes (Perciformes)
Family: Snakeheads (Channidae)

In Holocene the role of large water predators was played by crocodiles. But after climatic cataclysms of boundary of Holocene and Neocene their area was sharply reduced. And after global ecological crisis they had been replaced by other animals: in Africa and North America - by turtles, and in Asia and South America – by giant predatory fishes.
The giant dalag is the huge fish of dalag family (Channidae): it is up to 4 meters long, weights over 300 kg. The huge head is covered with bone scutes, and accounts for 1/5 of common fish length. Mouth is wide. Eyes are shifted to forward part of head. Coloring of young and adult fishes is different: at young growth the body is covered with the vertical brown strips divided by narrow white irregular-shaped intervals, the adult fish has black back, white stomach and sides covered with pattern of green and brown spots. Back fin of adult fish is brightly yellow, at males on edge of soft part of fin the black border passes. At young growth unpaired fins are entirely black. On forehead of adult males there is rounded yellow spot which size depends on physical condition of fish. In spawning season conflicts at fishes are solved for the benefit of the individual at whom this spot is larger.
The fish is well adapted to seasonal changes of water level: it can stay some time at the land. For this purpose at the giant dalag as at all relative species, the suprabranchial organ of air breath is developed. On land the fish moves, bending the body and pushing by spikes of anal fin. For night the fish can creep up to 500 meters. The fish defines the direction of movement from the contents of water vapor in air. On air the body becomes covered by special viscous slime with the big per cent of protein preventing the loss of moisture.
This is the active predator, eating fishes and ground vertebrates weighting up to 20 kg which can be caught up and drowned.
During the spawning season the male spawns with one or two females. Fishes build large nidus of floating plants where they spawn up to 100 thousands small grains of roe. The young growth hatches after 2 days, at week age larvae turn to fry. The male protects young growth within first two weeks of life. Life expectancy is up to 50 - 60 years, at three-year age the fish has length about 0,5 m, the seven-year old fish is capable to spawn.

Fishing warbler (Dolicholanius piscatorius)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Shrikes (Laniidae)

Bird of butcherbird family (Laniidae). After extinction of significant part of predatory birds species (order Falconiformes) other species of predating birds have occupied the free ecological niches. Basically they were representatives of passerine birds - corvine birds and butcherbirds though among carnivorous birds in tropics it is possible to meet even parrots.
The fishing warbler has occupied the ecological niche earlier belonging to ospreys (Pandion) and see eagles (Haliaetus) - it became the specialized feathered fisher. The shape of bird has also accordingly changed: the fishing warbler is large bird (body length is up to 50 cm, wingspan is about 100 cm). At it there are long legs and sharp claws, allowing to snatch out from water fishes swimming near the surface. To keep such slippery catch, on the bottom side of toes corneous spikes had developed. The long hooked beak serves for fast catch killing. Coloring of bird is motley and contrast: the top part of body is dark, ochre red color, stomach is white. Around of eyes and from eyes up to the beak there is the area of naked yellow skin. Beak at adult birds is colored white, at nestlings it is black. Wings are reddish brown with black cross strips; oar feathers are black with white tips. Long tail is colored black.
It eats fishes and small vertebrates (frogs, water reptiles) snatching them out from water. The bird eats catch, pinning it on the dry branch. Usually near the reservoir where the bird hunts, it has favorite place for catch watching - tree with the broken off branch where catch is eaten. Near the nest also there are few branches where the catch brought by birds is usually pinning.
Monodin bird, both parents care of nestlings, though the male more often flies to hunting. The nest build of branches is arranged in forked crown of the large tree. In clutch there are 2 - 3 eggs, both parents hatch it. Nestlings hatch naked and blind, begin to see at the age of one week, and later start to fledge. The young growth spends 2 months in nest, flying off later, but other 2 weeks young birds are feeding by parents. Sexual maturity comes at 1 year, to this time beak changes coloring from black to white. Life expectancy is up to 8 - 10 years.

Fishing shrew (Aquasorex planicephala)
Order: Soricomorpha
Family: Natarosoricidae

Large species of mammals are more vulnerable in case of the changes taking place in the ecosystem. As a result of ecological accident at the border of Holocene and Neocene efficiency of many ecosystems had fallen also the majority of large predatory mammals had died out. Extinction had affected also some water animals, in particular otters - they had disappeared forever, when many large species of fishes have died out. Later when the situation had stabilized, the place of otters insectivores have occupied - fishing shrew is one of them.
The fishing shrew is the descendant of one of species of the Asiatic water shrews (Chimarrogale), dwelt in Holocene at banks of mountain streams in the Central Asia.
Length of the body at this mammal is about 40 cm; tail is up to 50 cm. The shape of this animal shows to observer the good swimmer: flat head, long brawny trunk, flattened tail, hinder legs with membranes between fingers. Ears are very short, eyes are shifted to the forward third of head. Brain cavity is low and long, brain is small. The nose of this animal extends to short mobile proboscis. Teeth are sharp, at molars there are 2 - 3 sharp tops, canines are large, slightly jutting out from the closed mouth. The body and tail of the animal is covered with rich fur; fat glands are advanced for greasing hair. Coloring of fur is ochre - red, on the head, tail and paws it is darker, on throat and chest there is white irregular-shaped spot. The mammal spends a lot of time, clearing and greasing fur. Except for fat glands, at an animal also large anal glands are advanced, producing unpleasantly smelling musk secret for protection. On forepaws the thumb has the special "toilet" claw for combing out dust from fur.
The fisher shrew eats fishes and small water vertebrates, large water insects (beetles, larvae of dragonflies). It is solitary animal, only the female and its cubs (up to 5 cubs in one pack) live together. Seasonal prevalence in breeding is not present. For cub rearing the female digs in river bank the burrow with exits at the surface and under water. The young growth spends the first 3 weeks of life in burrow, then starts to get out from home and study to swim. Two-month old cubs leave the home for few days, and at the age of three months they live independently. At the age of half-year young animals are already capable to breeding. Life expectancy is up to 6 - 7 years.

In South America ecological niche of aquatic fish-eater had been occupied by otterodent, the descendant of piscivorous rodent Ichthyomys.

Beaverat (Pseudocastor moschatus)
Order: Rodents (Rodentia)
Family: Hamsters (Cricetidae)
Habitat: wetlands, lakes, slowly flowing rivers.

Picture by Lambert

Initial image by Pavel Volkov

Numerous lakes overgrown by reed and reed mace represent the fine habitat for water herbivores. One of such species is the large rodent, the descendant of musk rat, living on lakes of China. Before occurrence of people at the Earth the musk rat lived in Northern America. Basically, if connection of Northern America and northeast Asia will once again be restored, as it was more than once during the Cenozoic, musk rats and other species of animals from New Light easily can get to the territory of China. However occurrence of musk rats in China has taken place absolutely differently - it has come from the west, from Europe where it has been acclimatized by people and has got accustomed. Therefore existence of the beaverat, the descendant of the musk rat, at the territory of China is one of consequences of people activity. And it has outlived the original cause at least by 25 million years.
The beaverat is large rodent: it weighs up to 20 kg, body length is about half meter, the tail is approximately twice shorter. The beaverat is perfectly adapted to water habit of life: it has webbed hinder legs and wide tail, allowing this animal to swim fast. Fur has dense short ochre-brown underfur, throat, chest and stomach are yellowish white. At different animals figure of white spots on chest varies: sometimes spot spreads even to sides, and sometimes it absolutely is not present. The muzzle at the animal is wide and short - the beaverat has strong jaw muscles though it is not able to gnaw and to fell trees, similarly to beavers. Fingers on forepaws are separate, with long claws, the animal can catch by them different objects and take food to the mouth, and also put fur in order. The beaverat eats basically roots and tubers of different water plants, digging them out from silt by forepaws. It willingly eats soft greenery, snails, crayfishes and frogs. For food search the animal uses long rich whiskers which help to grope for food in muddy water during flooding.
The beaverat is the quite good builder. If the animal settles on river bank, as the refuge to it the big hole dug in soft ground of river precipice is served. At lakes the beaverat builds of grass lodges in reeds. Here, in shallow waters in the middle of lake, it is much more safely, than in deep water - huge predatory fishes like the giant dalag can not reach dwelling of the rodent. The beaverat strengthens walls of grass tent with the help of silt and branches which the animal brings from the coast. Usually lodge is constructed for one season (as against beaver's lodge which can exist by decades) - they simply do not maintain a long time because of regular flooding.
In the lodge pair of beaverats and their posterity - 4 - 6 cubs before the age of half-year live. Older cubs start to live independently, and at the age of 2 years they already can birth posterity. Life expectancy is up to 13 - 15 years.

Barbed macaque (Neopongo leucobarbus)
Order: Primates (Primates)
Family: Old World monkeys (Cercopithecidae)
Habitat: Eastern Asia, tropical forests in basins of large rivers.

Mass extinction at the border of Holocene and Neocene had caused the disappearance of apes. In Neocene their ecological niches had been occupied by large descendants of Old World monkeys. This large primate is one of such analogues of apes inhabiting the Asian rainforests. It is sizable primate: the adult male growth is about 1,5 m, its weight is up to 50 kg. The female is approximately 15 % lighter than male. Constitution is massive, tail is short. Hands are little bit longer than legs and very mobile, the thumb is opposed to other fingers. It allows the primate to make exact actions and to manipulate by elementary instruments - sticks and stones. Face skin is naked and red. At females buttocks are covered with naked pink skin, to breeding season they swell and become bright red. Wool on the body is grey, on the back it is darker; mature males have rich white "moustaches" and beard. Wool of cubs is darker, than at adults – they are almost black.
This ape-like monkey lives in forest, spending a lot of time on the ground, in case of need it is able to swim. It keeps by groups of 8 - 12 individuals with the advanced social connections and strict hierarchy. In each group there is the dominant pair. Dominants show the superiority with the help of loud sounds and gestures. The special form of dominant behavior is the participation in education of cubs of group members when during games dominants show their superiority. Primates differ by high intelligence: they are able to use primitive instruments and quickly study, observing of neighbours. The system of sound dialogue is advanced - in "dictionary" of them more than 30 sounds, expressing emotions, requests, other signals and the information on environmental objects, are totaled.
These monkeys eat basically plants, fruits and seeds; approximately 30 % of the diet the food of an animal origin accounts - insects, crustaceans and fishes.
Once in two years the female gives rise to one cub (occasionally twins may be born). Except for mother, some her close relatives or friends look after newborn cub. About one year the young macaque remains near to mother, being trained in the basic skills of communication and survival, however even after its mother has other cub, this connection does not interrupt. Young females study to look after cubs, playing with own younger brothers and sisters. At the age of 4 years young macaques can give posterity. Having become adult, the animal can remain in group or form own one, including the forming with participation of animals of the next groups. Life expectancy is about 20 years.

Bulldeer (Cervibos robustus)
Order: Even-toed ungulates (Artiodactyla)
Family: Deer (Cervidae)

Mass extinction of species at the border of Holocene and Neocene has resulted in disappearance of many species of large hoofed mammals - elephants, rhinoceroses, bulls, antelopes, hippopotamuses, deer. However some small and ecologically plastic species of hoofed mammals nevertheless had managed to survive. They also became ancestors of not numerous hoofed mammals of Neocene. In Neocene hoofed mammals represent rather relic group among herbivores: they are rather not numerous in comparison with other herbivores, and areas of them are strongly breaking up.
The bulldeer is the descendant of small barking deer (Muntiacus), dwelt in Holocene in forests of Southern and South-Eastern Asia. These species are well adapted to inhabiting in damp, periodically flooded areas. This animal is very large: length of the body is up to 2 meters, height at a shoulder is about 1,7 m. Neck is rather short. By the constitution the bulldeer resembles the Asian nilghai antelope (Boselaphus tragocamelus) of Holocene epoch, but is a little bit larger than the antelope. Wide hoofs of this mammal give the big foot-hold; they can move apart, allowing walking on marshy ground. And between fingers there is also the small skin area due to which the animal can swim.
At this animal it is the massive head and wide forehead. Horns grow on highly lifted bases, changing, as at all deer, annually. Each horn consists of very thick basic antler and short, departing forward and inside, lateral antler. The basic antlers grow upwards and back, further they are slightly bent forward. Stumps in the basis of horns are covered with the rich long hair forming "forelock". At females horns are not present, they have only hair crests. In breeding season bulldeer males have continuous duels during which they butt and try to tumble down the contender. Thus animals collide by foreheads, and horns are used mainly for demonstration: they contact only by ends. On the muzzle there are longitudinal bone combs from edge of a muzzle along nose bridge to stumps of horns. They protect eyes of the animal from branches during movement in forest. At the bulldeer there are canines strongly jutting out from closed mouth. They are used for courtship demonstrations, and also for protection against large predators. Wool on the body is dark-brown, legs are covered by cross ochre yellow strips. "Forelock" at males is gray-white, at females - brown - this attribute is used by animals for sexing of the neighbour.
This species is solitary animal, supporting contact with neighbours with the help of voice. The voice of calm animal is similar to silent grunt, the calf quietly lows. An alarm signal is loud barking, hearing at the distance of some hundreds meters.
Usually this mammal browses leaves, eats also soft grasses and tree fruits. It often feeds together with monkeys, eating fruits had fallen on the ground.
Once a year the female gives rise to one or two calves. The calf is covered with brown wool with rounded white spots. In process of growth spots on legs merge in cross strips, and on trunk they disappear. At the first year of life on the head of the cub there are small crests and basements of the future horns. At the second year of its life horns start to grow, in the beginning without antlers, then with more and more appreciable antler. The young animal becomes independent approximately at 8 months after birth, at the age of 3 years the young female can bring posterity. Life expectancy is 17-20 years.


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