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PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2009 7:19 pm 
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Our second contest was to design a creature for Torn World. We got two more entries than we did for our last contest, and they were again of top notch quality. With only a few minor edits, all of them will be accepted into our canon wiki.

Our winners for the fauna contest are: Deirdre Murphy and Ruth Steinback!

Winning in the category of writing:

Image

Animal Name(s): Wing-Back Marsh Deer (and Swamp Doves) by Ruth Steinback

Description: The wing-back marsh deer is perhaps most remarkable for its relationship with the rather unremarkable swamp doves that are found in the same region. The striking silhouette of the marsh deer when seen in the distance appears as though it has multiple small “wings” along its back. Upon closer observation it is now known that these wing-like appendages are actually from perched or nesting swamp doves as they fan their wings out to catch the breeze and seemingly send signals to other birds and perhaps the deer as well.

The marsh deer rely on the doves to help locate their preferred food of choice which is the stalks and tuber style roots of a partially submerged plant. This localized plant can be distinguished by its unique seedpods that form as bulbs at the base of the stalk just above mud level. These seedpods happen to be the swamp doves’ favourite diet though they can only access it with the help of the marsh deer. It is theorized that when the greater habitat turned to swamp the seedpods that then grew at ground level adapted to being submerged. This caused the doves to follow the marsh deer in order to scavenge the seeds when the deer dug the plant up from the mud to get at the roots. The deer may have started following the doves to find crops of this plant throughout the marshland. It is theorized that over time the two species became more dependent on each other until their habits are now very much interlinked. The swamp doves nest in the coarse fur of the deer’s backs, eat pest insects, signal the location of the edible plants or warn of enemies and hazardous sections of swamp. The deer protect the birds from predators, carry their nests to steady supplies of food, provide nesting material in the form of their thick coats, and provide the doves with access to the otherwise inaccessible seedpods of the marsh plant they prefer to eat.

The marsh deer have thick fur coats that cover their main body, neck and upper head. As they adapted to swamp life and rooting around in the muck the fur eventually wore off their nose and legs leaving instead tough leathery skin that is most often caked with mud up to at least their knees. Their skin is generally a mid to dark brown colour, slightly darker than the colour of their fur. Their fur is generally neutral toned brown but has been occasionally noted to have darker flecked variances to the fur or small white patches on some individual deer. The coarse fur of their backs is wonderfully suited to building sturdy matted nests by the swamp doves. Much like seals the deer’s’ noses can be pinched shut if they are rooting underwater. As herbivores their teeth are best for grinding plants but are also aptly suited to splitting open seedpods or tearing grasses free.

The marsh deer have split hooves (somewhat similar to those of goats or camels) that help them root around in the mud and navigate safely on the unstable swamp muck. There are two solid hooves as the front of each foot and two softer almost thumb-like toes at the back of each foot that allow them to have a wider or smaller footprint as needed. The orientation of these toes on their feet also let them partially grasp submerged objects to better root them out to the surface.

Habitat: The marsh deer have several known colonies that range through the extended wetland region but only seem to have adapted in that localized area and live almost exclusively within the swamps. Their thick coats allow them to tolerate both warm and cool temperatures that the marsh is affected by seasonally but they are not exposed to temperatures very much outside of the swamps moderate range of just below freezing to warm with high humidity. It is believed that the region which the marsh deer and swamp doves inhabit was once a temperate forest range before climactic shifts turned it to wetland swamps. It is thought that the species may have adapted from other completely furred deer-like animals that live in parallel ranges outside of the isolated swamp area.

Breeding Habits and Family Units: The swamp deer colonies are large and seem to be made of several extended family groups that will occasionally split off into smaller temporary clans or merge with other groups. It generally takes 2-3 years for a juvenile to mature into adulthood and the adolescents will stay with their parents during for the first year or two of that time. Adult marsh deer seem to be semi-monogamous in their pairings. Some pairs will mate for life; some individuals seem to mate at random, but most form temporary bonds that will last for 4-6 years in order to bring two to three offspring to maturity before choosing new mates. Selection of mates is remarkably casual with little to no aggression between individuals. Competition mostly seems to be in attempting to attract the most number of swamp doves to themselves in order to show their competency in finding food and ability to defend themselves and the birds. Having multiple nests or resident doves therefore will denote the most attractive mates to the wing-back marsh deer. They are warm blooded, have live births, and suckle their young for the first year. When near to each other the deer rely mostly on body language and their resident doves to communicate with each other though they will use soft bugling calls to communicate over distance. Newborn deer also will use soft bugles and chuckles to talk to their families for the first year or so before they accumulate resident swamp doves of their own.

Interaction with Humans: Wing-back marsh deer are edible to humans but are not often hunted. The deer are very shy but tolerant of individuals that are non-aggressive and keep their distance. Humans can follow the deer in order to travel the safer paths of the swamp and find sources of fresh water therein though due to the unpredictable nature of the swampland this is generally cautioned against. Some deer have been tamed as a source of fur or just as pets but due to their adaptation to the swamp conditions and diet this is a rare occurrence. Their companion doves can also be quite messy outside of the marsh environment and can be quite irritating if they attempt to nest on the humans that have tamed the deer they live on.

Lore: Before humans were able to get close enough to study the marsh deer they had attained a somewhat mythical status as a strange winged monster of the swamps. The silhouette of the deer with the spread wings of the doves seen through low lying fog was very haunting as they faded in and out of distant view. Their soft lowing bugles only amplified their mysterious atmosphere. This somewhat mystic association remains and the sighting of a wing-back marsh deer is a sign of good luck to those humans unfortunate enough to get lost in the swamp.

.....

Winning in the category of artwork:

Image

Name: Rose Butterfly by Deirdre Murphy

Description: The Rose Butterfly has a body, head, and legs like a normal butterfly, but has five to seven pairs of wings on each side. It is richly colored in hues of red, pink, and orange, with deep, iridescent black markings. There are very sharp spines all along the outer edges of each wing. The butterfly has a very limited ability to fly, because the extra wings get in the way. However, they do make it essentially impossible for a predator to reach the body or head of the butterfly without first running afoul of the wings.

Torn World scientists are divided as to whether this creature evolved from a monarch butterfly or a swallowtail butterfly, though the majority opinion is that they must have evolved from monarch butterflies due to their diet, and that the mutation that caused the multiplicity of wings also caused the lower wing to elongate. The caterpillar eats milkweed, and is substantially longer than a standard monarch caterpillar.

This creature evolved in an odd-shaped torn region—very long and winding. Based on the twisted shapes of the trees the first explorers found, this region was constantly subject to very high winds, which scientists theorize could have thrown normal butterflies into areas of time instability, killing them or causing mutations in their offspring. Perhaps this is why the adult butterfly has such a heavy and cumbersome form, and can hardly fly at all except in high winds.

As a defense against the small mammals that dominated that patch of the world during the upheaval, the butterfly developed sharp, fragile spines along the edges of its wings, and glands that produce a chemical substance that causes stinging and swelling when it pierces the skin.

Similar to normal butterflies, the Rose Butterfly’s wings are fragile, and it can lose parts of any of its wings without appearing to suffer. Indeed, if one of the butterflies loses half or more of its wings on both sides, it becomes better able to fly.

The butterfly is typically shades of red and orange inside the black markings, though some varieties are paler, ranging into either pink or yellow. In addition, breeders have been attempting to breed Rose Butterflies into yellow, near-white, purple, and black strains.


Habitat: Outside of the area where they evolved, the butterflies spread very slowly on their own, however, they can breed anywhere there is milkweed, and the family of their original discoverer eventually achieved fame and wealth breeding and exporting them.



Breeding Habits and Family Units: Rose Butterflies lay eggs that are indistinguishable, to the eye, from monarch butterfly eggs, though the Rose Butterflies lay five to ten times the number of eggs a monarch does. These hatch into caterpillars, which, other than being longer than monarch butterfly caterpillars, have similar looks and life cycle. The caterpillars are voracious, and get rather plump immediately before forming the chrysalis. The Rose Butterfly chrysalis is bulky, almost spherical.

Some of the animals of that area developed partial immunity to the alkaloids derived from the milkweed, so the caterpillars are subject to predation, though they are obviously not a preferred food. However, the added protection of the spines means that an animal will rarely attempt to eat a mature butterfly more than once.

Consequently, caterpillars seem to have a tropism for any adult butterfly of their species, which appears to get stronger as they get closer to the age of forming a chrysalis. You frequently find a new chrysalis hanging from the milkweed stem near leaves that have eggs on them, and similarly, a newly-emerging butterfly in the vicinity of hatching eggs.


Interaction with Humans: The Rose Butterflies were initially sold as part of the exotic flower trade, and so have spread widely in inhabited areas, so long as one or another variety of milkweed is available.

The Rose Butterfly concentrates the akaloids from the milkweed away from its exoskeleton, in its spines, causing a higher concentration in the spines than that found in monarchs. In addition, the Rose Butterfly has glands that excrete chemicals that cause swelling and a stinging, itching sensation; these chemicals cover the wings and body of the butterfly, and can be sprayed into the air if the butterfly is alarmed. It is not recommended that someone lean in to sniff the butterfly, as in sniffing a rose, as the chemicals are quite painful if gotten in the eyes, and a sufficient amount can cause scarring.

However, the adult butterfly has a limited ability to create more of these chemicals, so it is unlikely to use its spray unless it feels threatened.

The alkaloids in the spines of the wings affect heart function. They can be used, in moderation, as medicine to treat heart flutters and palpitations, however, the toxicity is a serious problem. Too much can depress heart function and can even cause death. However, the beneficial uses are sufficient to make this butterfly a staple in every apothecary’s garden and on farms that specialize in providing herbs to apothecaries.

Side effects of using the medications from the butterfly’s spines can include blurred vision, fainting, slowed heartbeat, headache, lethargy, loss of appetite, low blood pressure, rash, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, weakness, and drowsiness. Overdose or chronic use can cause confusion, depression, disorientation, hallucinations, seeing pale halos around objects, stomach pain, severe vomiting and diarrhea, fainting, and more severe forms of the other side effects. Some of the more popular formulations prepared by the apothecaries include herbs intended to ameliorate one or more of these toxic side-effects.

The caustic chemical in the butterfly’s glands has some anti-fungal properties, however, for the most part, this treatment is avoided except as a last resort, since the chemical is so hard on the skin.


Lore: The Birai family were skilled marketers, and made many claims about the Rose Butterfly as they traveled from place to place, cannily not straying far from the truth about the creatures and the properties of the chemicals found on their wings. However, subsequent breeders were often not so careful, and claims of the efficacy of the butterfly sting have included curing impotence, migraines, arthritis, swamp fever, heart palpitations, gangrene, and many other ailments.

The apothecaries’ guild periodically attempts to provide education regarding the things that the butterfly’s spines cannot effectively treat, however, since the medicines that they prepare for those ailments are invariably costly, their efforts are usually met with skepticism.

Luck: In addition to medical claims, there are claims that a Rose Butterfly brings blessings into a house; the type of blessing varying with the dominant color of the butterfly. Red is associated with love, orange is associated variously with luck and wealth. Pink is most often associated with respect, health, and fertility. In some cities, primarily to the west, very dark intense colors are seen as more lucky, while in most eastern cities, it is the paler varieties that are assumed to be stronger. There is no particular cultural association that correlates well with these varying beliefs, so it is assumed that they arose from marketing claims, which may have been based solely on what variety a salesman had on hand and the needs of potential customers at that time.

Religion: There is a cult in the extreme south that believes the Rose Butterflies can carry healing prayers to the Gods. The butterflies to be used for this purpose are placed in a time field, and tools are used to remove all but the two most perfect sets of wings on each side. The removed wings are crushed and added to makeup, which is used to mark the face and arms of the priest who is praying and the person being prayed over. At the height of the ritual, the butterfly or butterflies (depending on the wealth of the sick person’s family) are released and the priest makes note of their flight, attempting to divine what else can be done to make the sick person well. Witnesses say the butterflies’ flights are often jerky and erratic, especially at first. An acolyte with a full face mask is sometimes employed to keep the butterflies in the air.

Milkweed Varieties: It should be noted that there are a number of varieties of milkweed. The milkweed in the corridor where these butterflies evolved is a very strong source of alkaloids; other southern milkweeds range from strong to moderate, and northern milkweeds range from moderate to weak. In addition to this general guideline, different species of milkweed have variations on the specific chemicals they produce. As a consequence, regional differences in lore as to the exact properties of medicines made from a rose butterfly’s spines and glands may actually be based in observation of the local conditions, rather than superstition.


History: The Birai family proudly displays the first record of the Rose Butterfly in a time-field in their business headquarters. It is a letter from the discoverer of the Rose Butterfly, on creamy parchment. Although the letter mentions more than one picture, only a single picture is on display for the public, one showing a butterfly and a single, large caterpillar sharing a leaf.


Dear Mom,
I know I don’t write often, but there’s a lot of work to do in this newly open strip, surveying the plants and animals. Some things look alike, but aren’t (there’s a variety of mulberries here that works very nicely as an emetic, for instance).
So, I was going through a meadow, cataloging the different plants. Most of the plants are similar to those on Grandmother’s land, but we have to check each for lingering effects of the upheaval. I walked around some raspberry bushes and saw a clump of milkweed with several beautiful, red, orange and black roses mixed in. Or at least I thought they were roses.
I got up close and reached my hand out to touch, and I ended up with a dozen shallow scratches on my fingers! And the cuts stung! The petals of the rose were stiff and had jagged edges. Up close, I could see no stems or rose leaves, so I cautiously bent in to get a better look. The rose moved along the milkweed leaf, and I realized the little line of white dots behind it was a line of eggs.
Mom, it was some kind of multi-winged, swallow-tailed butterfly!
I tried to startle them into flying, but all they did was crawl along, happily laying their eggs. My supervisor managed to capture one in one of our specimen jars, by the simple expedient of putting the jar over a whole milkweed stalk, bending it sideways, and then cutting the milkweed stem.
As an experiment, he went up to another, wearing heavy leather gloves, and reached for it; it swatted him with its wings. He did manage to pick it up, but the poor thing lost a bunch of bits from its wings, and doesn’t look as pretty now. However, it doesn’t seem at all distressed.
As for my fingers, we washed them carefully and bandaged them, and the cuts are stinging less now, and the swelling subsided as soon as we washed the cuts. But I can certainly imagine that no critter that tried to take a bite out of one of these bugs would try it again. I wouldn’t want to imagine how those cuts would feel on my tongue! I’m also feeling rather tired; but then, it’s been a very long week.
So how are things going back home? Are you still wrangling with the licensing bureau about the exotics you’ve been growing in your greenhouses? I know you’d love to see these butterflies, they’re gorgeous, but it’s probably best if we don’t stir things up when you might have an inspector drop by. You’ll have to content yourself with the pictures I am enclosing.
Your loving daughter,
Jeressa Birai


Links for the writer:
Milkweed contains cardenolide alkaloids in the leaves and stems. When Monarch larvae ingest milkweed, they also ingest the plants' toxins, called cardiac glycosides. http://www.monarchwatch.org/milkweed/index.htm


Some information about cardiac glycosides http://www.people.vcu.edu/~urdesai/car.htm


Cardiac glycosides are chemicals that has effects on the heart, stomach, intestines, and nervous system. http://www.people.vcu.edu/~urdesai/car.htm

....

Congratulations to brightling and wyld_dandelyon! They each win goodies from our prize pool as well as $10 in Credits at Torn World. All entrants will be receiving Torn World karma.

Our next contest will be to design a landmark for Torn World, and will be guest-judged by Ursula Vernon. Prize options include $10 Michael's gift cards, custom portraits, prints and limited edition books!


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 16, 2009 3:11 am 
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Great work, Deirdre and Ruth! :mrgreen: I'll be adding your fauna entries into the Torn World wiki as soon as I'm able. Please allow a few days for this.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 16, 2009 8:47 am 
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Congratulations to the winners! Again, all the entries looked fabulous. We're doing a great job of populating the world.


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