|Terrain||Deserts, Mountains, Subterranean|
|Locomotion||Walking, Climbing, Tunneling, Jumping/Gliding|
|Size||up to 1,000 kg|
|Speed||fast, up to 60kph|
|Strength||very strong, can carry twice their mass|
|Social Structure||colonial, hives, burrows, and tunnels|
|Weapons||+2 teeth (acid saliva) and tentacle/claws as adults, stingers with HNO3 under 20kg|
|Homeworld||Fitl (Ziafrplians 2331)|
|Reference||Author: Ronald B. Kline, Jr.|
The Shard Gargoyle is a species has evolved to use silica compounds for its structures and uses a bizzare nitrogen based biochemistry to survive an oxygen starved, dry world.
Physiology & Ecology
They display varieties of radial symmetry. They are poikilothermic, heterotrophic consumers. Their dermis is composed of long filaments of silicon dioxide spines suspended in thick lipid gels. They use a hydraulic, muscular system of pumped lipids in fibrous silica tubing.
Their ventral mouth parts are razor sharp shards like obsidian, and their salvia has a high concentration of pH 1 nitric acid for pre-digestion. The tentacles facilitate movements and end in claws that allow climbing sheer surfaces. They can even hang upside down to wait for prey. When food is scarce the tower can break up into individuals. Usually the older, larger individuals buried too deep in the structure die, leavening behind vast networks of crystalline tunnels. The fluids, lubricants and nutrients of the doomed gargoyles are divided among the others before they depart the network. Any organic materials in the local ecosystem can be used for food. If food arrives they spiral in from above and consume it en masse. There are tumble weed type plants, air microbe photosynthesizers, and large static producers, optimized for desert climates. When these food species are not available, they form the crystal tower, wind trap, collect moisture from the air and wait. The tower exterior surfaces tend to attract colonies of microscopic producers, and the central well shaft, with its lower temperatures can attract moisture seeking prey, which can fall into pits and follow the tunnels deeper into the interior of the living hive. The smaller swarming and stinging young recover these and when the colony networks the nutrients are circulated between individuals of the colony organism. Their shapes vary like snow flakes, the gargoyle's radial pattern crystal lattice work are often multi-faceted and can be quite beautiful. The larger specimens dig and tunnel.
They create deep pits in the desert; often large colonies have shafts 600m deep and 30m in diameter. These pits serve a few functions. Above ground they build tall towers up to 100m above ground or higher. This mound and central shaft act as a wind trap for moisture. The temperature gradient also acts as a thermocouple for the generation of a weak voltage along the semi-conductor fibers in their networked bodies. They use a weak electrolysis to free gases from water. The planet has only a 20% hydrosphere so they must be very efficient with the water they have. When the adults detect prey, scouts leap from positions in the lattice work tower/hive. The walls of the complex are formed by the resting bodies of the adults. They attach, connect and intertwine to form a larger organic network. The tinier 2-5kg young clean the tower and maintain the structure.
Life Cycle & Reproduction
They demonstrate a highly integrated, colonial social structure which is unusual for organisms that can get as big as they are. There is a single gender adult which can produce spores once it reaches 50kg or larger. The networked adults can share 'genetic' information for the next annual spore release. They grow slowly over their lives and stop when they get to the maximum size of 1,000kg. Above this size the shells' weight precludes movement.
Their reproduction is by windblown spores which are released once a year during their world's perihelion. These spores drift until they come in contact with a living host, usually a large photosynthetic producer. They parasitically feed until they hatch and emerge as a young 100gram hunter, armed with a stinger.
If the body cavity is broken open to the point where a high percentage of the body fluids evaporate,the individual will not survive the desiccation.
Diet & Trophics
The exotic atmosphere of their homeworld Fitl (world), necessitates that they are anerobic, as free oxygen is hard to come by and gargoyle metabolism depends on the reduction of various nitrate compounds. The hatchlings have a stinger with nitric acid which is a by product of their nitrogen cycle metabolism. They exhale excess methane as a waste product. The hatchlings add layers of what amounts to organically created fiber-glass as they grow. The central body structure is rigid, crystalline and somewhat random in its geometric construction. The limbs appear on demand from the seals along the edges. There is a dorsal, shell half, and a ventral shell half. The dorsal surface is coated in sensors and optical emitters and EM radiation detectors. The ventral surface has a centralized mouth with radially arranged crystalline teeth. The olfactory sensors and methane emitters are in the tentacle/legs when they are extruded. Or from the seam, between the inflexible shell pieces. The dorsal surface has the fibrous, spiral wings, this membraneous corkscrew has support spars along its length. This can be unhurled like a spiral shaped umbrella.
The nitrate esters polymerize and combine with silica fibers. The organism's skin has prismatic effects which help it camouflage by bending light. They can shade the texture and color of their body covering to match environmental conditions. Its nervous system uses a combination of biolumenessence and fiber optic strands. They can communicate with light. Their "optics" detect a variety of frequencies across the entire EMS, they function like a passive EMS array. The helicopter wing array helps with RF reception. As a consequence of the materials they are built from, gargoyles are not vulnerable to ionizing radiation in the same way carbon based forms are. Their light emitters can be used in conjunction with reflected and parabolically focused sunlight for a crude, extremely low power LADAR and laser range finding. They can detect bio-electric fields, are sensitive to their planet's magnetic field for navigation. They have specialized olfactory sensors for sampling air for the presence of chemicals needed to live.
They have and can deploy broad filamentous air foil surfaces, which can dramatically increase their volume/surface ratio relative to their mass to lower their overall density. The fins create a spiral pattern. Once they leap into the air they auto-rotate in a fluttering spiral pattern. They have been observed to resemble large seed pods from certain plants, except these are made from living glass. Once they land, numerous long flexible, fibrous tentacles are pump inflated with body fluids and lubricants. The hydrostatic pressures force these to extrude from points along the edge of their massive flattened bodies.
History & Background (Dossier)
At first these deadly predators posed a threat to early colonial efforts. Eventually the Zhodani decided they were a great resource and began harvesting them. They can be processed to make extremely efficient and inexpensive fiber optic computer back-ups. Several classes of Zhodani naval vessels have naturally grown back-ups as opposed to synthetically manufactured ones, especially in the providences surrounding the gargoyle's homeworld. Gargoyle's are now an important economic resource.
Travellers' Aid Society Advisory
Their methane plumes were a give-away that colonists could harvest and use to detect the camouflaged colonies. They grew to recognize the gargoyle mounds and towers from similar natural formations in the landscape. Natives can easily tell the difference, visitors however, are at great risk. The adults can strike very quickly in great numbers. Colonists found that prismatic aerosols were necessary to fool their emitted light sensors in order to escape the large 1,000kg, and extremely dangerous hunting adults. Concentrated spores constitute a respiratory risk to humans if exposed over time without a filter mask. Spores can parasitize humans and have been known to hatch dramatically from hosts if not detected early enough. Humans and their colonial species are seen as great sources of water and nutrients.