Friday, May 29, 2009

Cynocephalus omnivorus

The varied diet and namesake plate-mail of the
Armored colugo set it apart from all others of its order. As expected for a tree-gliding mammal, its frame is light and efficient, without an ounce of excess ballast — thus the thin scales of horn covering its spine from nape to tail are flimsier than the Ceylonese pangolin’s scutes that they most resemble. In fact, this scant protection serves not to deflect a predator’s blows, but simply to absorb the impact of the colugo’s landing — for when this species takes to the air, it is as likely to desert its lofty branch for the hard earth as for another tree.

Using its keen eyes to scan the forest floor, the armored colugo can detect a CARBUNCLE SCARAB (its favorite meal) from more than thirty feet away, and as that ground-dwelling insect never tarries when scuttling from one sanctuary to another, the mammal cannot afford to waste time breaking its fall. Moments before it touches the earth, the colugo assumes a near-globular shape (curling inward like an enormous wood louse) and hits the ground rolling with undiminished speed. Instead of crushing its prey as one might expect, the colugo usually manages to swerve in front of the beetle and snatch it while unraveling. This operation can take less than a second.

From: H. Viveam Constanelle, Known Wildlife of Sulepawak: A Field Guide, Mandaroeb & Sons, 1955: p. 205.