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Siphonia:
Megaravens

also called Blue Ravens, Deep Ravens, or just Ravens

by Chris Wayan, 2009

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Giant, intelligent raven in the Agassiz Basin on Siphonia, a study of the Earth with 90% of its water drained away.


SPECIES

These long-billed omnivorous birds have wingspans over 3 meters and weigh up to 20 kilos (up to 4 m / 25 kg in the Pacific Deep)--including a compact, efficient 700-gram brain.

They're often called blue ravens to distinguish them from their little black ancestors, who still frequent Siphonia's uplands.

Megaravens don't; they can't. They're so large they need dense air under their wings, generally 1.2 atmospheres or more; that restricts them to the abysses.

That means hot weather! In the sweltering basins, black feathers are a sun-absorbing disadvantage; as ravens spread into the Deeps and grew in size, they bleached out, ending up with coloration more like their close cousins the jays: various jaunty mixtures of gray, blue, black and white.

Ravens themselves make no distinctions between the many color patterns; just a handy way to recognize friends at a distance, since otherwise, megaravens look very much alike. Flight, especially up near the maximum practical weight, imposes design limits. Humans can be fat, thin, muscled, delicate, crippled... Ravens can't.

Despite the color and size shifts, they're unmistakably still ravens: huge heads, rich but hoarse voices, the playfulness tinged with a dark irony... really, they haven't changed a bit.

A useful tonic to anyone grown tired of parrots' loud good cheer (punctuated by equally loud prima-donna tantrums).
Distribution map of an intelligent species called AAAA native to Siphonia, an alternate Earth with 90% of its water removed.

HABITAT

Ubiquitous in temperate (i.e. polar and subpolar) Deeps. Colonies can be found even in the torrid mid-latitudes, at higher elevations. Rare in the tropics; it's too hot. Temperatures are often right for ravens on the former continents or continental shelves, but air pressure is too low for comfortable flight.

So what does that leave? The newly fertile Arctic Basins and the valleys fringing the northern Atlantic Deep. Beringia and Kurile Deep in the northern Pacific, and the southern shores of the Agassiz Ocean, Mornington Sea, African Ocean, and the Davis Sea. But the largest coherent swatches of raven territory are the Scotia Basin and the huge ring of cool, fertile coast around Antarctica.

All told, it's widely distributed but not extensive or terribly fertile country. A people of the fringes, caught between altiplano and abyss.

BEHAVIOR

Curious, playful, acrobatic. Careers: anything but opera (though raven raps are unsurpassed). Sociable, outspoken, but low-maintenance friends, bearing solitude better than parrots. Ravens turn any task into play.

What tasks? They're cunning with tools--ravens always were. They serve communities as scouts, reporters, gossips, and couriers: outside the tropics, the postal guild is dominated by ravens (on Siphonia, all mail is airmail. Unless you mail a piano).

Long memories, precise recall and the ability to mimic, adn a sharp sense of who's who make ravens excellent oral historians, politicians, community activists and leaders...

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