Friday, May 29, 2009

Cynocephalus omnivorus (redux)

Armored colugo broods are fairly large, and a mother with few resources will prioritize feeding her more robust children. Neglected or underfed babies will experience stress-bred metabolic alterations, leading to increased aggressive behavior. If the mother then provides adequate attention to such infants, they will revert to normal — but in cases where she is unable or unwilling to do so, they will attain the full-blown gregarious traits and depart the family unit.

Visitors to Sulepawak are advised to avoid gregarious armored colugos at all costs. Though quite rare, they are easy to identify: Their fur is silver to snow white, their scutes burnt orange, their gums and tongues dark purple. They are no longer purely nocturnal, but sleep erratically. They spend little time on high branches, and usually climb only for the purpose of gliding downward and rolling along the ground: their preferred method of travel. They stay together in groups and behave with extreme hostility to anything alive that is not one of them. Their bites are usually very painful and for hygienic purposes alone should receive immediate medical treatment.

From: H. Viveam Constanelle, Known Wildlife of Sulepawak: A Field Guide, Mandaroeb & Sons, 1955: p. 206.

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.