Splitting from its ancestor, the helmethead scylla has come to dominate the predatory niche on Mason's sole landmass, Euminides Island. It hunts its prey via a combination of smells, vibrations, heat signatures, and sounds, the lattermost sense giving it a major advantage over its prey, which lack the ability. A layer of fat provides it with warmth during the colder months, while fat stores in its tail provide with energy during times of little. A pair of spines on its back provide it with protection, while young, from older helmetheads, while the "helmet" itself, actually the horns of its ancestor thickened and modified, covers its back and provides it with adequate protection throughout its life.
Like its close cousin, the spineback scylla, its respiratory system has also become more advanced, though not by as much. Partially internalized for protection from both predators and the cold, a series of opening runs along it that work in groups of two, one in front taking in oxygen while the next one releases carbon dioxide. Their is, however, one modification to this system that the spineback lacks. A part of the respiratory system branches off into an opening in the side covered by a membrane. The helmethead can force air through this, creating a range of sounds from short "coughs" to echoing bellows. Now with the adaption of the ability to produce sound, helmetheads can communicate with one another, mark territories, and fight one another without resorting to violence.
In terms of hunting capabilities, the helmethead scylla has several adaptions. Its strong jaws can easily render the toughest of fleshes with relative ease. Its forelegs end in armored "boots" which allows it to crush prey or pound away aggressors. Its middle limbs have evolved spear-like blades for both spearing small prey, wounding larger, and digging up underground organisms. This pair is also the most delicate as it can use both limbs in conjunction to lift small items gently off the ground without damaging them.
Like it ancestor, the helmethead scylla still produces eggs. However, unlike them, the eggs hatch internally in order to protect them from the cold that would otherwise freeze them. Once the eggs hatch, the young are birthed in a secure area. They are still too immature to survive on their own, so they follow scent trails in order to enter the "mother's" newly evolved pouch. There they will stay for several weeks, warm and feeding on fatty secretions that help build up their fat layer. After this, they will leave their parent and set off into the world during the warmer months in order to give enough time to hunt and prepare for winter.
The helmethead scylla, while primarily terrestrial, will enter the water from time to time. Kept warm by its fat, it enters the shallows in order to feed on the abundance of life there. It rarely ventures far as it is physically unable to hold its breath, though it is buoyant enough to be able to swim briefly. Ultimately, though, it sticks rather close to shore.
Shading by Mnidjm.
Living Relatives (click to expand/collapse)
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