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Animal Name(s): Paddlefish (English), erfaanirth (Torn Tongue)
Description: Paddlefish have a large body with a high dorsal hump but no fin, four clawed paddles for swimming, and a tail that tapers to a point instead of a paddle. The digits and claws on the paddles are clearly visible. The head is small at the end of a long neck, with small pointed teeth and a large, fleshy pink tongue. The mouth is enormous, extending far back behind the eyes. The dorsal area is blue-gray and the ventral area is white, separated by a smooth dark line in the manner of southern hemisphere sealife.
Paddlefish grow to 45-55 feet. They breathe air; they can dive to about 900 feet (about 275 meters) and hold their breath for 30-40 minutes. They can live a long time, 90 to 100 years. They resemble plesiosaurs.
Paddlefish are quite intelligent, about as smart as a dolphin. Curious and playful if approached peacefully, they turn wary and elusive if threatened. It is dangerous to chase them, as they learn their territory well and will lead a pursuer into deadly shoals or reefs. They are capable of cooperation in fishing or finding items, usually with other paddlefish but on at least one occasion with a human companion.
Habitat: A single known species lives in the southern hemisphere saltwaters, occasionally ranging as far north as the Rockfang islands. They have appeared at least in Shards #11, #12, #69, and the adjacent shard with small islands. Paddlefish enjoy coastal waters and can fare into central gulf, but rarely go into the deep water of the open ocean. They are shy and tend to avoid people or high-traffic areas, instead seeking out secluded territory.
Breeding Habits and Family Units: Paddlefish may be solitary or travel in small family groups, such as a mating pair or several siblings. They do not form large permanent pods as do dolphins, but are capable of maintaining long-term friendships.
After mating, the female crawls up a beach to lay about a dozen large eggs, much the way trapjaws and giant sea turtles do. The hatchlings are approximately the size of a housecat and well able to fend for themselves immediately. They may or may not return to the same beach to breed.
Ecological Niche: Paddlefish eat primarily fish. They also love fruit and other plants, scavenging from beaches and bays along with whatever washes into the water during stormy weather. Young paddlefish may be eaten by larger carnivores, but they are canny and difficult to catch.
Although they qualify as aquatic megafauna, paddlefish are not sea monsters. They exist largely outside the ecological web of the sea monsters, rarely conflicting with them. Sometimes deathfins will try to catch and eat mature paddlefish, but the paddlefish are much smarter and usually escape.
Interaction with Humans: After the Upheaval, paddlefish survived in several shards around the southern hemisphere. However, they were rare and it took a long time for their population to recover. They are still very rare in imperial territory, although there are more of them farther into the southern hemisphere.
Paddlefish do not pick fights with humans. Unfortunately the reverse is not true. Conditioned by conflict with sea monsters, most people assume that any aquatic marine life is necessarily hostile. They attack on sight. Paddlefish are usually mistaken for deformed deathfins, despite being a different color, having different head and tail shapes, and lacking a dorsal fin. They are intelligent enough to recognize humans as a potential threat; most paddlefish are shy and avoid people.
At least one human, Gludara, formed a lifelong bond with a paddlefish she called Stormy, as recounted in "Forbidden Love." When treated with kindness, paddlefish can be gentle and affectionate.
Lore: There have been a few rumors of people rescued from shipwrecks by sea monsters, which are actually paddlefish, but nobody takes these stories seriously.
Gludara and Stormy are responsible for the legends of the Mad Giant, a tall redhead who rides on the back of a deathfin (or occasionally other sea monsters) and admonishes people who break the laws of the sea.
Relatives: Paddlefish have no near relatives among known sea monsters. They are not closely related to deathfins; the resemblance comes from convergent evolution.
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Stories and poetry related to this article: Forbidden Love (1419.03.05)
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Sea Monsters; An Introduction: An overview of the sea monsters of Torn World.