Pitfall Asterplent

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The Pitfall Asterplent split from its ancestor and developed carnivory. For part of the year, its reproductive organ is transformed into a pitfall. It mimics the scents of detritus and Twistworm pheromones, attracting male Twistworms and hungry Wortopedes and tricking them into climbing onto it. The area around its reproductive organ is slippery, so these organisms easily slip and fall in; their struggles trigger it to close its jaws, trapping them inside where they are then digested. This allows the Pitfall Asterplent to get by with less nutrients from the soil. Symbiotic Flying Melter Detritis help it to break down the hard exoskeletons so that no undigested waste will be left inside the organ. It stores energy from this in the form of fat; when it comes time to reproduce, it will use the fat stores to survive while it focuses on producing gametes and eventually giving birth. It is slightly smaller than its ancestor, making it easier for its prey to climb.

Juvenile Pitfall Asterplents have notably lost the ability to be carried by wind. Although they are still launched into the air at birth, their pappi fall off soon after and they live terrestrially instead. They retain the ability to consume microbes through their roots, but with the root hood in place their roots are specializing more and more for passive respiration instead. To compensate, like the adult members of their species they have the ability to eat using their reproductive organ; they can do this at any time of year, as they do not need to reproduce until adulthood. However, instead of lying in wait for something to jump right into their mouths, they have the ability to actively hunt.

The juvenile Pitfall Asterplent’s eyes have developed further. Instead of a simple pigment cup, the eyes consist of a spherical fluid-filled chamber which has photoreceptors in the back. Each eye has a transparent section on the outside serving as the pupil, which is shaped like a keyhole. This allows it to see four rough images—one for each eye—with a 360 degree view around itself and binocular vision in four different directions. Its image-forming ability isn’t perfect, however; it relies strongly on motion to detect potential food, and thus like the adults it mainly feeds on Wortopedes and juvenile Twistworms. When it sees potential food, it lunges with a tackling motion and snatches it with its jaws. It then returns to its feet and uses gravity to get the squirming meal deeper into its mouth to be digested. If the prey is struggling especially hard, it may snap at it a few extra times with its jaws to injure or kill it, but it will otherwise digest its prey alive. Due to the advantages of consuming comparatively large prey, juveniles can get significantly larger before they settle down to take root and reach sexual maturity. The main limiter to their mature juvenile size is now their soft muscular limbs, with which the juveniles can never exceed 30 centimeters in height before they collapse under their own weight, which forces them to take root where they stand if they haven’t already.

Like its ancestor, the Pitfall Asterplent has a woody endoskeleton which resembles a woven basket. It makes use of fluid sacs at the base of each jaw to open and close it; in adults this is done slowly and passively, but in juveniles they are bound in muscles which can squeeze them to push the jaws open or closed, making them hydrostatic muscles which push instead of pull. To support its large juvenile size, the Pitfall Asterplent has blood utilizing hemocyanin, which is pumped by a central heart-like organ between its roots and mouth; this is lost in adulthood, being replaced with a more typical plant-like vascular system. The main purpose of the blood is to carry oxygen, which is necessary to support an active lifestyle; being able to perform photosynthesis, the Pitfall Asterplent does of course produce a lot of its own oxygen, and this in combination with its passive respiration and inefficient blood pigment mean that it simultaneously has little pressure to improve its respiratory system and strong pressure to never lose photosynthesis.