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TAURAFFES

by Chris Wayan, 2005

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A tauraffe picking fruit in a sunny clearing in dense woods. Giraffe-like legs and body, but instead of a long neck, a tall fore-torso with two small arms. Tail, head and mane are somewhat more equine than giraffe-like.

SPECIES

Tauraffes are a very big people, nearly rivaling the elaffes of Troisleons. Like them, tauraffes are herbivores of the forest floor, who strip leaves, buds, and fruit from trees up to 6 meters up. As the name suggests, they resemble giraffes except for a pair of extra arms up near the head, originally used to grasp and strip branches and pick fruit, much like a giraffe's prehensile tongue or an elephant's trunk. They're more dextrous than the prehensile-trunked elaffes (literally, if you consider the root of "dextrous": right-handed! Tauraffes HAVE a right hand, at least; elaffes have only one large central "hand". What IS the sound of one nose clapping?) Tauraffe tails, heads and manes are more equine than giraffish, and coloring varies widely.

HABITAT

Tauraffes evolved in the tropical rainforests of Lannach, and spread through the nearby lands of the Diomedes Cluster via crude sailing-rafts. This wasn't as risky as it sounds, as winged koreens and sphinxes told them what was over the blue horizon; indeed, tauraffe pioneers had detailed maps and friends waiting. Even so, they haven't spread far. Diomedes, though huge, is an isolated continent-cluster; no one's fool enough to try rafting across five to eight thousand kilometers of deep sea.

A small colony of tauraffes does live on the island of Arinnian in Oronesia, having shipped halfway round the world to serve on the board of the Trade Institute, which standardizes the trade-language, issues dictionaries, and serves as a sort of informal United Nations. A map of Lyr, a large water world with small scattered continents. The limited range of tauraffes (tall, giraffe-like centauroids) is marked in yellow.

Oh, and a few generations ago, a couple of scholarly families en route got shipwrecked halfway to Oronesia. They found the jungles of Gaiila suited them, and asked not to be "rescued"--that is, stuffed back on a cramped boat built for much smaller travelers, to resume a risky voyage longer than Magellan's; you can't really blame them.

These two tiny groups are the only non-Diomedean tauraffes, and it's likely to stay that way. A two-story rainforest: tauraffes in tall conical huts on the forest floor, and treetop villages of koreens, like tiny winged monkeys. Typical scene in equatorial Diomedes on Lyr, a model of a huge wet planet.

While tauraffes broadly resemble the elaffes of Troisleons, they're quite unrelated; the reason two nonflying land animals 25,000 km apart have such similar sizes, habits, and general shapes is simply that they fill exactly the same niche and to do so they found similar solutions.

But elaffes were descended (like more large native land animals on that continent) from a quadrupedal ancestor; they had no choice but to adopt an elephantine path. Tauraffes, like many vertebrates in the Diomedes Cluster, had a hexapodal ancestor. The extra limb-pair came in, well, handy.

Proof that this Lyran forest niche favors big giraffelike browsers comes from chilly Altai, in the far south, where a third utterly unrelated giraffish species grows larger still. Shaggy, stocky, clearly adapted for cold weather, using a half-meter-long tongue to browse trees, the altaffe isn't listed in this table of Lyran peoples. It's a bright animal with a long lifespan and complex social structure, but no more--its brain is about 600 grams, comparable to a chimp's, about a third the size of a human brain. Maybe in ten million years... or maybe not! Evolution seems to proceed slowly on Altai, possibly because it's so isolated; the altaffe faces few challenges.

Maybe misery is the mother of intelligence.

BEHAVIOR

Tauraffes resemble giraffes more than physically: they're the sweetest-tempered people on Lyr, since, like giraffes, they never had natural enemies. Slow to anger and nearly impossible to frighten, they exude calm. This is partly due to their slower perception of time (possibly a function of their size; like elephants, whales and elaffes, they're very long-lived). They gravitate naturally to positions of authority, judgment and public safety in mixed communities.

They're also much sought after as builders, especially by the many flying species who are too delicate for serious lifting.

But the majority of tauraffes live among their own kind, not from any bias against others--tauraffes find it hard to dislike anyone--but simply because of their habitat. Most Lyrans are fliers; the few who aren't are nearly all grazers or runners on the open savannas. Only the giraffoid species are comfortable on the gloomy floors of Lyr's rainforests.

There's also the little matter of their size. At your next party, you try seating a twenty-foot-tall guest!

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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