Creature concept

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worldtinkerer
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Creature concept

Post by worldtinkerer »

I've been kicking this around for awhile, but I can't quite get ahold of it.

I'm imagining a predator the size of an elephant bird that's as fast as a cheetah and hunts in packs. The trouble is, I can't picture a prey animal big enough and fast enough to require it...

It would seem to need to be elephant-sized; no elephant could be that fast...unless I introduce a magical element. (Since I have in mind a world where magic works, that's fine. [:D] )

The question, then: how big, and how fast, would the prey creature have to be, if it could produce a Slow spell (or similar effect)? Or would it be a herd animal? Could it be as small as an antelope? If it's a herd animal, how big are the herds likely to be?

The environment it lives in clearly plays a role; I'm thinking this would only work for steppe or desert, not forest.
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BarnacleHeretic
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Re: Creature concept

Post by BarnacleHeretic »

I don't think their prey would necessarily have to be elephant sized—or indeed, even as large as the predator in question. There can be evolutionary pressures that cause an animal to grow larger other than having large prey. If there is enough available food to support a large size, size can be selected for sexual reasons, due to competition within the species, or protection from other animals. Perhaps they practice a particularly aggressive form of sexual competition that encouraged massive growth. Or perhaps they share their region with another apex predator, and grew so as to become too large for that predator to hunt. Or, of course, the creature could be an opportunistic generalist that sometimes hunts large and slow prey and other times hunts smaller, faster prey. Maybe their nesting habits make migration unrealistic while most of the available prey migrates seasonally, and so it has adapted to hunt whatever animal happens to be around at the time. Your description reminds me of terror birds, and while we don't know what exactly they ate, the mere fact that they existed seems like good evidence that your creation is plausible.

However, if you wanted to have a single animal they prey upon that demanded them to be both large and fast simultaneously, I could see something horse-like or antelope-like (I'm thinking of giant elands, who are pretty fast) fitting the bill. It might not be realistic for either to grow as large as an elephant while still maintaining high speeds, but I think they could definitely be large enough to pressure your predator to grow to the sizes you described. However, I think the thing closest to what you're described are rhinos. Rhinos can run wicked fast, grow to huge sizes (check out how big some extinct relatives got!), and their thick skin would encourage predators to grow big simply so that they could support weapons capable of piercing it. I don't think we know how fast a paraceratherium could get, but looking at their body plan (and simply accounting for the size of their gait) I'm guessing it was pretty fast. If it were to get in a speed-based arms race with your predator, I could see it streamlining its body plan a bit (perhaps convergently developing some horse-like morphology) while still being pressured to maintain its large size. If these super-rhinos were social animals that displayed diversional tactics and were capable of sustaining high speeds, I could see your predator needing to use size, speed, and teamwork to pick one off, and a kill anywhere near the size of a paraceratherium would feed a whole pack of your predators for a while.

Hope some of that helps! I'd love to hear more about your creature, speculative evolution is one of my favorite subjects!
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sangi39
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Re: Creature concept

Post by sangi39 »

So from what I can remember of cheetahs, it's more or less that their top speeds are more of a "final phase" in a chase, whereas most of the rest of the time they run at lower speeds, accelerating quickly to catch up to prey, then running at about the same speed (presumably to a) run the prey down and, b) to plan the next phase), then a final burst off acceleration up to higher speeds

Looking at the speeds of other big cats, they almost all have top speeds higher than that of their prey (which makes sense, since they have to catch up to them initially, maintain that speed while the prey tries to outmanoeuvre the predator, and then they have to make up for any loss in distance due to, for example, being knocked back, tripping over unseen hazards, having to make sudden turns, etc.)

Looking at cheetah prey, it looks like most of them typically run at top speeds of between 60kph and 80kph, while a cheetahs top speed can reach about 120kph (presumably maxing out at that speed when chasing the higher speed prey rather than, say, something slower, where expending the energy needed to reach those speeds might not make as much sense)

So it might be that the larger prey could be something like a giraffe (top speed of around 60kph) where the bird, when hunting in a pack might initially reach a speed of around 80kph to catch up with it, drop down to 60 to run it down, and then jump up to 80-100 in that final phase. But then they might reach higher speeds when chasing smaller, faster prey, when hunting as individuals, using the same "meet, chase, bolt" strategy
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worldtinkerer
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Re: Creature concept

Post by worldtinkerer »

"There can be evolutionary pressures that cause an animal to grow larger other than having large prey"

True. I'm thinking, in part, of why something as large as an elephant bird would need to be a pack hunter. (Did I forget to mention that? [:'(] )

"the creature could be an opportunistic generalist that sometimes hunts large and slow prey and other times hunts smaller, faster prey"

That makes me think it might be possible for the pack to also be scavengers. I like the variety, though.

" I think the thing closest to what you're described are rhinos. Rhinos can run wicked fast, grow to huge sizes (check out how big some extinct relatives got!), and their thick skin would encourage predators to grow big simply so that they could support weapons capable of piercing it. I don't think we know how fast a paraceratherium could get, but looking at their body plan (and simply accounting for the size of their gait) I'm guessing it was pretty fast. If it were to get in a speed-based arms race with your predator, I could see it streamlining its body plan a bit (perhaps convergently developing some horse-like morphology) while still being pressured to maintain its large size. If these super-rhinos were social animals that displayed diversional tactics and were capable of sustaining high speeds, I could see your predator needing to use size, speed, and teamwork to pick one off, and a kill anywhere near the size of a paraceratherium would feed a whole pack of your predators for a while."

That's excellent! I'd completely forgotten about rhinos! They also have a reputation for being nasty, which could help explain the need for packs. (Thinking of that, a larger Cape buffalo, or something like, might serve, too.)

"what I can remember of cheetahs, it's more or less that their top speeds are more of a "final phase" in a chase"

That's true. They also demonstrate surprising agility in pursuit, which I wouldn't have expected. They function well (surprisingly well, IMO) in a scrub environment, where their speed seems to suggest savannah...which is something else I didn't take account of. The sprint isn't long (cheetahs aren't built for it); contrast wolves, which can (do) run prey to exhaustion.

The ability of prey to use cover suggests a high "sprint" speed might be useful, even necessary, to catch prey abruptly breaking cover, or when/if ambushes fail.

I wanted the high speed pack hunting simply for the novelty of it, but thinking a bit more, it occurs to me pack hunting implies intelligence. That also suggests the prey may be smarter than the average...

I imagined the prey being something like a large antelope, with the bounding gait, but only two (broad) legs (like a bicycle)... Go figure. [:P] I also do have a bison-like creature that could substitute for the Cape buffalo.

More detail? You've pretty much got it all now. [:P] Including this post, which is made up on the fly. [:P]

I started with the elephant bird because I think they're cool, and the cheetah speed the same, adding pack hunting because I liked the idea of a cheetah pack...and just melded them together because it seemed like a good idea. I then had to try and work backwards to explain it... [>_<]

As for the setting, if it's any help, that's more/less Venus, with Earth's atmospheric pressure, tilted at around 89deg: the day longer than the year, seasons lasting loooong... (Getting that right's been a challenge.)

You don't realize how much of your life revolves around a day/night cycle until you remove it...

Thx for the replies! It's been a help already.
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Torco
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Re: Creature concept

Post by Torco »

an obvious answer is: horses.

a cool answer is: dinosaurs.

there actually were two-meter tall predatory birds on earth at one point, and at least some of what they ate was horses: they call them terror birds. they also ate rhinos, elk, deer and probably smaller things too, but those don't require you to be that big, or to hunt in packs: any large herd animal, however, would make sense for its predator to hunt in packs as well. horses aren't small, they'll give you a couple hundred kilos of great food if you kill one: one can sate three or four of your dire chocobo cheetahs. Those things can really run fast, though, and perhaps your horses run faster than real horses. Even if they don't go 100kph it could be beneficial for your guys to reach those speeds: imagine if the plains are really flat and the grass is really low (for example, because the horses eat it all): then, it's a good thing to hide in a creek or a river or whatever and just sprint towards the pack when it ge
ts close, closing in from a hundred meters or so. sure, you'll be tired when you get there, but if you manage to get one you're golden. Another hiding place could be trees: the big bird climbs a baobab in the savanna, waits until the horses get close and, before it can be smelled, charges against them: if your speed is the same as your prey, this strategy won't work, so if your prey makes 60kph, you need to do more than that, and the faster you are, the more chances your group has to isolate and overwhelm the big guy. birds are also good at growing big muscles and at being light and aerodynamic, so it's not impossible for a carnivorous osterrich to get to really high speeds: they probably did.

the dinosaur part of more obvious, but belays a cool point: any very large hervibore can work as the prey for this animal: sure, not elephants cause those things are metal as fuck, they're not only strong and good at fighting predators off together, phalanxes and all, but also they're super aggro! but you could have gentler, weaker giants, and indeed natural history is full of them: giant sloths, giraffes, bison. in this role, the cheetah chocobo would need to protect itself from its prey, since an attack by an animal much bigger than you is still gonna hurt, but predators develop all kinds of strategies for that, most notably being terrifying: big claws, huge sharp painful beaks, loud vocalizations, neck feathers that ruffle, all permit your birbs to charge a pack, have the animals flee, and in the panic isolate, surround and overwhelm a specimen: once this dynamic is in place, it's very hard for the prey to evolve being the badass instinct to counter-charge or fight you off, since the guy who does that is the guy who's getting surrounded and eaten as all their pals leave.
You don't realize how much of your life revolves around a day/night cycle until you remove it...
oh maaan, don't I know it. 15 years ago probably I made a conworld (with sentient elephants lmao) where the day was something like a month and a half, and I still rack my brain around how things work there from time to time.
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