Thursday, April 30, 2009

Poromya hermilaqueus

A stationary bivalve mollusc, the carnivorous Kepat ketubinar thrives not on the coast, but on the dampest portion of the Coelobonese forest floor: the miniature swamp created by a patch of rainwater-hoarding GAMUBUK BOG MOSS. Affixing itself to a subterranean root or stone, a Kepat ketubinar will typically develop into a slender but dense vertical column of less than seventeen inches in height, surmounted by a large, tilted ovoid: this amounts to the outer double shell (dark blue to black) which appears as a single piece, the join and hinge being well concealed. A generous opening in the shaft invites the invasion of snakes, bugs and small mammals in search of meat — which they are unlikely to retrieve, as the entire apparatus is a highly efficient trap. A single muscular contraction will tighten the interior like a snare while the host’s vitals remain inaccessible behind a partition. Once caught, the intruder is digested at leisure by fleshy lobes equipped with mucilage-secreting glands.

Should the victim be an immature BOTIKTIKI (a diminutive ungulate once called the “Bald Malay muskrat” but now understood to be a close relative of the rhinoceros — see separate entry), a gruesome yet picturesque phenomenon will usually follow: The head of a young Botiktiki is just small enough to penetrate the upper cavity, yet just large enough that its snout will crack the shell once inside. This desperate maneuver will do it no good, nor will it harm the mollusc. A round panel will simply break cleanly away along the shell’s natural grooves — exposing the victim’s muzzle in a calcareous frame, as though it had donned a helmet. After the body is consumed, the decaying head can stay on as potent carrion bait.

On the rare but inevitable occasion that a pair of Kepat ketubinar grow together, columns intertwined, and ensnare two young Botiktiki in such a manner, the result becomes an object of the utmost veneration among devout natives. Removing the double-headed curio from its natural home, they preserve it in a resinous mixture and set it at the end of a scepter-like rod, called a tongamalap gandamukar, which is passed into the hands of a literate monk. Used wisely, the artifact is thought to protect whole communities from wicked spirits, foreign diseases, and the “bamboo-sliver-missiles” of popular superstition.

From: H. Viveam Constanelle, Known Wildlife of Sulepawak: A Field Guide, Mandaroeb & Sons, 1955: p. 123.