Ebony Crestbuck

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The Ebony Crestbuck is a large relative of the Reaching Whitejaw. They have migrated south to further avoid competition and predators. To suit their new climate, they have grown much larger. At 4.5 meters long, they are as large as an elephant. Their large size and wider body has led to a condition known as gigantothermy, where the sheer size of the creature helps to retain the heat that its body produces, even though they are technically cold-blooded. Their large bodies also make them immune to most predators, even though there is hardly any in their area. They retain large eyes on the side for watching for predators, but these are mostly just a holdover from earlier generations. Unlike their eyes, their spines are somewhat vestiged in order to avoid spending excess energy growing. Due to a lack of trees that reach their size, they have developed long, muscular arms to reach down and uproot small flora. Along with their pillar-like, elephantine legs, they also use their long arms to support their immense weight. This makes them facultative quadrupeds, their main gait being hexapedal. Due to the cold winters of the Glicker taiga, the southernmost members of their species often migrate northwards to avoid the frost.

They have a more developed digestive system, to allow the digestion of smaller, abrasive plants. This more complex digestion contributes to their larger size. They sport a longer digestive tract to absorb more nutrition, as well as a novel gizzard-like organ to help grind down food. They eat and swallow gastroliths to help digestion, sometimes intentionally but usually just from the rocks that stick to the roots of uprooted flora. The radula-like surface of the inner mouth has also changed to better suit grinding down tough plants. The central teeth are mostly gone, being replaced by a coarse, sandpaper-like, warty surface. The edge teeth have become larger and square-shaped, in order to more easily grind down plants.

Crestbucks also demonstrate a more complex system of sexual displays, mainly derived from their ancestral behavior of preferring highly symmetrical individuals. Their necks are mostly white, with a black ring on them. This neck pattern is a sexual display, and females prefer more symmetrical necks with higher contrast. This high-contrast selection has led to the white-and-black patterning of the neck. The large head crest, which gives the Crestbucks their name, is also a mating display. It is used similarly to the antlers of deers on earth, where males will compete in battles over females. These battles consist mainly of two males headbutting each other to assert dominance over each other. Sometimes, males may also try to appear larger to intimidate their foe, by lifting their arms off the ground and rearing up. These battles do not usually result in death, but can result in significant injuries, especially for the losing individual. Because of these headbutting battles, the antennae are bent backwards to prevent permanent damage. Females also prefer males’ crests to be large and symmetrical. Females themselves show some different features from males. Notably, a light-colored, smaller crest, darker neck, and necessary differences in the reproductive organs. The females’ cloaca is over 6 times wider than the males’ at the tip, to allow birth of well-developed babies. They also retain the lid-like covering of their ancestors. The last segment of both sexes has become more maneuverable, being able to rotate more in order to facilitate reproduction.