Tidal Tangleweb

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Although one of the tidal dangleweb's prey items, the violet knightworm, extended to Darwin's polar regions, the dangleweb had a difficult time extending its range southward. None of its floral hosts existed there, so their usual method for supporting their web was unavailable. Nonetheless, it wasn't too uncommon for danglewebs to wash into areas barren of hosts. They'd still gather together and grow, albeit stunted. Mortality was high, as their usual feeding strategies were ineffective; they couldn't drop onto prey, and they couldn't filter-feed food particles floating through with the tide. But this exerted a strong selective pressure.

The tidal tangleweb now forms its web flat against the ground surface in the tidal zone. Its form, therefore, has come to resemble its cousin, the carpetesta, though their feeding habits are certainly different. They've become much stickier, so that when a violet knightworm or frostrop crosses onto one, it'll become stuck and end up tangled within the web. The web can then creep up around its prey's outsides and secrete its digestive enzymes to absorb it entirely. Most of the time, however, the tidal tangleweb has to subsist on waterborne food particles. As it no longer extends vertically, it has had to shift from filter-feeding passing living organisms to digesting particles that fall on it from above. These are mostly dead cells, but living cells, like Darwinian photosagnia, may wash onto the web with the tide and become stuck, and some, like flying melter detritis, will blow onto the web with the wind.

The tidal dangleweb is otherwise similar to its ancestors. It consists of four-cell clumps in which each cell has a tentacle extending outward. These tentacles link with other clumps and can exchange nutrients; they also produce the sticky and digestive materials. In the water, the cell-clumps can swim easily, allowing them to find new areas to settle or to join existing webs. On land, they move much more slowly, by pulling themselves along with the tentacles. When linked together, the clumps hold each other far apart, so the web itself is very diffuse and hard to see. It tends to form long strands to spread from area to area, more thinly filled out between the strands. Cells absorb oxygen directly from their environment. They can communicate with each other through releasing chemicals into the water, allowing them to congregate, but they have no such ability to communicate on land.

As before, they reproduce on a cellular level by binary fission, which proceeds one clump at a time. Such new clumps may extend an existing web or leave to found or join a new one. Due to their new lifestyle, fragmentation is now much rarer, no longer a significant method of reproduction. They do retain their method of sexual reproduction, after a particularly large meal; they now, by preference, enact this in the late summer. The clumps contract toward each other until they are adjacent, forming a dense fruiting body. If it is on land, the fruiting body wrinkles to provide oxygen exposure throughout. The fruiting body forms a thick protective skin on the outside, while the inside cells burst, exchanging genetic material with each other. It then forms spores, which hold cell clumps inside.

Given the harshly seasonal climate, food is rare in the winter, leading to significant diebacks, though detrivory allows the webs to sometimes whether the harsh conditions. This is, however, why they tend to form fruiting bodies in late summer. This means that the fruiting bodies produce their spores as the winter sets in, and as the fruiting bodies die, the spores remain dormant throughout the winter. Once the spring comes, they release their cell clumps as the tide comes in, or the first rain washes them into the sea, and these clumps form new webs.