Speculative Biology Sunday: Painted Ramph

10 Oct

It is set within my unpublished future evolution project. I use the term project uselessly. Its mostly something I ponder vaguely when procrastinating and all the work I’ve got towards it is a phylogenetic tree of my greenworms (Veriscoriftia) which is pretty much what it is solely based around.

During the Great Killback the only decapods crustacean group to survive was the Infraorder Anomura. The niche space opened up was divided mostly between the forementioned Anomurans and the Amphipods, with a smaller portion of the vacant niche space being colonized by the Isopods.
The Painted Ramph is representative of the group of Amphipods that took up the niche space left by lobsters, as well as being one of the larger. In ecology however, it is somewhat of an oddity.

Physiologically the Ramphestera are very similar to their amphipod ancestors, simply scaled up. The main difference is in the arrangement of their legs. The first pair of gnathopods are relatively smaller and are used solely for feeding while the second have been been scaled up with the rest of the animal if not more and are used as the main tools for interacting with their world, however they are articulated more like that of a mantis’ claws than that of a lobsters. The middle pereopods are the primary crawling appendages, while the rearmost pereopods have been adapted for swimming much like the rearmost legs of the extinct Eurypterids. However they are often secondarily used for crawling, especially on dry land.
The Pleopods are much atrophied in Ramphestra and in some cases are completely absent. The Uropods however are flattened and spread in a way akin to the ramus of many of the decaopod groups. The telson is often enlarged and used as a secondary defensive mechanism.

The Painted Ramph is one of the larger species of Ramphestera, reaching sixty centimeters in length, though there are species that can reach eighty-five centimeters. When young they are opportunistic omnivorous scavengers, becoming more and more predatory as they grow; They are completely carnivorous by the time they reach maturity. Mostly dwelling on the sea floor, but often swimming up into the water column in pursuit of food or to escape predators.

In the Painted Ramph the telson provides a second function which is the key to its unusual ecology. It is used in a way similar to an ovipositor, to pierce the trophosome of the Verifossus species that it’s life history revolves around. This dependence of course means that the distribution of the Painted Ramph is restricted to the clear and relatively shallow marine environments in which Verifossus prosper.
During the mating season the males will fight over territories amoung the fields of Verifossus, the biggest and best males claiming the densest patches of the greenworms. The females will then swim down to court the worthy suitors who will then lay her eggs on the epidermis of a selected greenworm to be fertilised by the male. The male will then puncture the greenworm and sweep the eggs into its trophosome before sealing the hole with a sticky secretion to stop scavengers swimming in after them before the puncture heals. Females judge males on the quality of their patch, and by how many of his greenworms are already occupied. It is rare for females to mate with any less than 4 males.
The eggs then hatch inside the trophosome and the young feed on the inner layer of the trophosome being mainly soft, highly vascularised flesh as well as its symbiotic algae. This puts a lot of stress on the worm of course, which then puts all of its resources into reproducing as a last ditch effort to get in as many extra progeny as possible. After a remarkable three weeks the young Ramphs are usually around two thirds the adult size and large enough to take care of themselves. By this time they greenworms are usually dead and the remains are devoured by the emerging Ramphs.
So intrinsically linked are these two organisms that Verifossus will bloom their gametes even if they aren’t infected with the young amphipods, though not to an extant which seals their fate.

I should probably post up the different greenworm groups that I’ve come up with at some point. I will probably update the art when I have more time also.



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