Puddleface Wormoss

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As the wormoss continued to live on land, it faced countless obstacles to its survival. As individuals were frequently knocked down by the wind, others adapted to negate the effects of their newfound foe. Some individuals began planting themselves in u-shaped burrows, which ultimately gave rise to the puddleface wormoss. The puddleface wormoss gets its name from having only the top of its head protruding from the ground on one side of their burrow, making them look like a puddle next to a wormoss stalk. Because of this burrowing behavior, the puddleface wormoss is not as easily knocked over by the wind.

The puddleface wormoss’ life cycle has become much more complex as a result of the adult form’s sedentary nature. Instead of producing gametes, the sporophyte will produce spores that will develop into simple, nematode-like gametozoons. Spores are released during heavy rain, giving the gametozoon time to swim to a sporophyte puddle, eating any microbe they find along the way. Upon reaching a sporophyte puddle, the gametozoons will all begin to mate with each other in a frenzy. The gametozoons are hermaphrodites, allowing them to mate with any gametozoon they find.

After mating en masse, the gametozoons will die of exhaustion. Their eggs will then hatch into larval sporophytes a few days later. The larvae will feast on any form of decaying matter they can find, starting with the mass of dead gametozoons they were born near. However, the larvae need far more food to mature than what their puddle can provide. As a result, they have developed the ability to survive on land. Their segments form overlapping plates that keep their exposed skin safe from desiccation. This combined with a high myoglobin content and photosynthesis allows them to survive outside of water for extended periods of time. However, they ultimately will need to get to a puddle to reoxygenate their hemolymph. Fortunately, they always have a reliable source of adults to return to when they are in need of oxygen. The larvae lack the thorns of their ancestor, as they are of little use to the heterotrophic larva. Their leaf-like antennae have been modified into mandibles, allowing them to eat through washed-up corpses and detritus.

When the larvae grow long enough, they will use their mandibles to dig a u-shaped burrow and assume a u-shaped posture. From there, they will metamorphose into their adult form. The metamorphosis involves the growth of their rain-catcher and leaf-thorns. The leaf-thorns are differentiated into two forms. The leaf-form exists above ground and looks much like the average leaf-thorn. The root-form is thicker and pale red in color, and serves to store nutrients and anchor the worm.