Speculative Biology Sunday: Lowland Panidaru

14 Nov

The Lowland Panidaru is both the largest and most widespread species of Panidaru. They inhabit most lowland areas in and around the Indo-Papuan Plateau. They reach their densest populations in riverine areas where forests meet the floodplains of the North Eastern Australia.
They are descendant from the subfamily of New Guinea Spiny Bandicoots and since then have evolved and atrophied scansoriality and arboreality and become strictly herbivorous.
The maximum size of a male Panidaru can be over 2500 kilograms, though females rarely exceed a weight of 1800 kilograms. They are knuckle walkers and use their hands to manipulate and collect food, with their syndactyl second and third digits opposing the forth and fifth digit with the first digit being atrophied into obscurity. Their coats are a dark shade of brown with lighter undersides, males often black. The sport modified hair which form a spiney barricade across their hindquarters, often with stray pieces of litter that get lodged there when an individual squats down to feed.
Their domed head mistakenly suggests a large braincase, however this is merely due to a pronounced sagittal crest and attached jaw muscles which allows the Panidaru to grind up tough vegetation with ease.
They prefer feeding mainly on soft browse, leaves, shoots and fallen fruit, though are not unknown to take tougher vegetation or dig for tubers. Occasionally when deficient in certain minerals or salts they can be observed eating leaf litter and soil. The floodplain Panidaru have a particular daily migration and feeding behaviour. Spending the night in the forested areas they forage around the jungle they spend their mornings foraging through the forest, mostly searching out their favourite fruits. One particular fruit is so favoured by them it has earned their namesake, Panidaru apples.
After spending their mornings foraging in the forest they will move out into the wet floodplains to graze on the lush grasslands. They also take part in all social interaction in the grassland, such as females strengthening social bonds with other females, searching for mates and males settling territory and mating disputes. They also excrete the now inoculated and scarified seeds of the Panidaru apple, which are important for the colonisers for the forest ecologies.
Panidaru have two key adaptations which have allowed them to outcompete placental analogues.
The first being that they taste terrible, which deters predators. On their necks and running down their chest they have two large modified sweat glands that secrete a mild toxin which tastes terrible and induces vomiting when injested and occasionally death in smaller carnivores.
The second being that they can have different sets of offspring in development. At the same time a single female can simultaneously be raising one almost independent offspring out of the pouch which still may be suckling, one suckling “jellybean” neonate young sucking and one fertilized egg developmentally halted until the “jellybean” young has started to leave the pouch. Which means that populations can bounce back from hard times faster than their placental competitors.
It is colloquially known as the Marsupial Gorilla, though ecologically more analogous to the modern Indian rhinoceros.



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