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Unos

Lovely art by Mike Transfiguracion!

A Kuol is a large levosteoid mammalian predator native to Bodue

Physiology

At its tallest posture (legs extended, neck retracted in threat fear response), a Kuol stands up to 4m tall to the shoulder. At a normal standing posture, they measure about 2.5m to the shoulder, with the limbs arching about 0.5m higher than that.

The Kuol has six muscular spiderlike legs. Between the legs are patagia which allow the Kuol to soar by extending them taut. They catch enough wind resistance to allow the Kuol to soar from any height, a favored tactic to ambush prey. Its long semi-prehensile clawed digits default to a powerful grasp and thus require exertion to open rather than to close. This is an adaptation for climbing and hunting, but makes their locomotion on flat surfaces somewhat ungainly. However, it allows them to maintain a supporting grip effortlessly, which they use to await prey or sleep suspended. And for a hunter, a powerful crushing grip makes a great addition to its arsenal. Its trunk is long, somewhat slender and very muscular on the top. The underbelly is soft and vulnerable1. It has a thin prehensile tail used for rapid balancing, measuring about 3m long. The Kuol is covered in long, coarse, dry, usually black hair, giving it a woolly appearance. When huddled against the cold, the long bristled fur can give the Kuol a vague appearance that helps it blend into the darkness. 

The Kuol's neck is about 2m long, very muscular and prehensile, and gives the creature a surprising grace of form. Kuol have large fanged mouths similar to a Tiger (8cm canines, shearing carnassians, small incisors for precision work). The tongue is covered with papillae, giving it a rasping texture to strip fur from meat, meat from bones, and when in starvation mold from bark. The eyes are large and very light-sensitive - Kuol will generally avoid the Middle Canopy and Emergent Layer, preferring to hunt in the Lower Canopy, The Void, and Rootlands. The ears are long, pointed and very sensitive to directionality. 

Variations

Fur color and texture varies according to climate and season. I dunno, go crazy.

Behavior

Territory

Adult Kuol lead semi-solitary lives. They establish and maintain dens most frequently in Lomoi Maws or empty Geophore Follicles, but have much wider home ranges within which they roam. Resident adults of either sex generally confine their movements to their home ranges, within which they satisfy their needs and those of their growing cubs. Individuals sharing the same area are aware of each other's movements and activities, but do not hunt cooperatively. 

Young Kuol establish their first territories close to their parents', drifting away over time. Males migrate further and earlier, acquiring territory by absence of competitors or by challenging an existing resident for it. If not ready for a challenge, a young male may migrate a long way as a transient in others' territory, but this is a risky way to survive. Transient Kuol are identified by a greater frequency of injuries and scarring, more poorly-maintained coats, disguised musk, and increased (sometimes suicidal) aggression.

Kuol mark their territory with feces in trails, claw marks on bark, and some of the foulest urine ever discovered. Kuol are not always aggressively territorial. Though they hunt individually without exception, they are known to share kills even with others not related to them. In the case of a Transient Kuol, sharing is often preferable to risking injury from combat. Nevertheless, males are less tolerant of competitors in their territory than females. 

Combat between Kuol never takes the form of their normal predator ambush, and is normally resolved by display of intimidation or submission. Males will tolerate a submissive male in their territory if they do not encroach. If the competitive display is between males and a nearby female is in estrus, or one or more of the competitors has nearby young, it may develop into combat. Females with young will not accept another female's submission display.

Kuol are frighteningly fast climbers and only passable swimmers, usually avoiding bodies of water water except in the hottest climates. 

Hunting & Diet

Kuol are apex predators save for the civilized Haaru. Gheheshmat are a favored prey and relatively defenseless. Kuol who hunt the Middle Canopy can afford to eat smaller prey like Pesh. Those who drop from the Lower Canopy or Trunk to the Rootlands are investing much more energy in the hunt, and as such will ignore most creatures smaller than a Gheheshmat2. A Kuol can kill prey much larger than itself, such as the Sina. Selecting for the young and infirm reduces the chance of injury. 

The most common hunting method is to drop a short distance within the middle canopy on another creature. If a chase follows, Kuol are terrifyingly fast at climbing and traversing treelimbs, and their prehensile neck makes some evasive maneuvers pointless. If sick, starving or injured, one may simply stalk the forest floor.

They kill much like the predators of earth, preferring to knock prey down with gliding momentum or brute strength, and kill with strangulation by a bite to the throat. Their talons are used to grip prey, tear tendons or disembowel. After a kill, Kuol often conceal it in vegetation. 

Reproduction & Lifecycle

Kuol identify each other primarily by sight, and when necessary by scent. Their musk and urine convey information about age, identity, and reproductive status. During estrus their skin increases secretion of an oil that gives their fur a sheen and strong scent. Estrual Kuol Oil is a common ingredient in Haaru perfumes, diluted to a faintly sweet and musky scent with a slight edge of bitterness. 

Kuol females attract mates with a specialized shriek loud enough to echo throughout the Void into other territories, generally from a perch that would be suitable for hunting. Males compete for mates by aggression display or combat, and it's very toxic on all accounts. 

Like most mammalians on Bodue, Kuol are oviparous. Upon mating, the pair will find a den - most commonly in a Boduan Maw or emptied Geophore follicle. Male Kuol stay to rear and feed their young, so that's nice.

Transient Kuol will kill unrelated cubs to make the female receptive. The mortality rate of Kuol cubs is about 50% in the first two years. Apart from Haaru and other Kuol, common causes of cub mortality are starvation, freezing, and accidents. The generation length of the Kuol is about seven years. The oldest recorded captive Kuol lived for 24 years.

Footnotes

  1. They would like bellyrubs if they were domesticated. But alas, they are not.
  2. If you're reading this, you're larger than a Gheheshmat.

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