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STAR-NOSED DOLPHINS

by Chris Wayan, 2006

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A star-nosed dolphin, a native of the reefs and coastal waters of Lyr, a large sea-world.

SPECIES

The star-nosed dolphin looks much like a porpoise with an octopus stuck to its nose. This is more than a hood ornament! It's a small, boneless but quite useful hand. The six tendrils can stretch into quite long feelers, augmenting sonar in muddy river waters, or they can contract to stubby, muscular fingers to carry objects and use tools.

When not in use, the star curls into a rubbery "fist." Terran science has only learned in the last few decades that a bulbous in-line prow, as opposed to off-center bumps and fins, adds no drag at all--in fact, it streamlines compared to a simple wedge or needle nose. This was discovered when a bulbous observation chamber was added to the bow of a research vessel; the most they hoped was that the knob wouldn't add too much drag. But speed and fuel efficiency went up! The knob reduced turbulence. So it is with the starnose--they're capable of incredible speed, and by changing the shape of the "hand," they can turn on a dime.

Aside from the star, they could almost pass for Terran dolphins; air-breathing, streamlined creatures 2-3 meters long, with a huge brain, a bulging forehead housing a sonar organ, and a toothy "beak." But since they evolved from a six-limbed land animal, starnoses have two small pair of pectoral fins, not one.

One other slight difference is clear evidence of Perverse Design: only a Creator out to annoy Terran biologists would have invented critters who are unmistakably mammalian --warm-blooded, feeding their young an equivalent of milk... and scaly. Just when the public finally gets it through its thick skull that Terran dolphins aren't fish... A map of Lyr, a large water world with small scattered continents. The range of the star-nosed dolphin is marked in yellow: reefs and coastal waters.

HABITAT

Reefs, coastal waters, and large rivers and lakes around Lyr. The salinity of Lyr's seas is relatively low, so individuals can wander freely between lake, river and sea without serious problems. This has probably prevented full speciation; while lake subspecies do vary from the stem-race hunting Lyr's reefs, they are all cross-fertile. Equatorial subspecies are smaller than subpolar ones, but again, the differences are not huge.

BEHAVIOR

The perceptual world of the starnose isn't quite as much of a pure sonarscape as Terran cetaceans experience, for starnoses have five remote senses: sight, hearing, sonar, chemical (smell/taste) and electrical. The first three are quite cetacean, but the latter two are more reminiscent of sharks in their acuity. And remember, vision is generally more useful to sealife on Lyr, since most of its seas are crystal-clear--there's so little land to add sediment!

Communication with starnoses is limited, due to the difference in perspective. A few starnoses do speak some Trade (our even sketchier knowledge of krakens comes through them, for example). While starnoses are friendly and social sea-people, and the most integrated into Lyr's civilization, this isn't saying much. Starnoses probably have more to do with hexanauts than with all the land peoples put together.


Map of Lyr, a world-building experiment. Click a feature to go there.

Gazetteer: index of places, with descriptions. Or...

TOUR LYR! Climb volcanoes, swim seas, meet weird creatures. First: survival tips! Then, pick a region:
Ythri -- Polesotechnic Chain -- Troisleons -- Roland -- Oronesia -- Gaiila -- Flandry -- Diomedes -- Ak'hai'i -- Averorn

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