In the northernmost geyland of Ashlesa live the Polar Piglets. The 35 cm long, waddling creatures are highly social in nature, spending as much time as possible in close proximity to several other individuals.
They mineral-rich water flowing up from below forms large, bulging rocks wherever vents open to the surface. These rocks are filled with microfauna — there being no true “plants” on Ashlesa — that eat the inside of the rocks, expanding colonially and through the underground streams and rivers. They’re the primary food of the polar piglets, who look for the rare tiny holes in the rocks where the microfauna dig too far. When they see such a hole, they waddle up to it and insert their 20 cm prehensile radula, rasping the microfauna off the interior walls of the hollow rock.
Once the piglet has been satisfied, it stops completely digesting its food, forming it into little balls in a crop and mixing it with packets of its own genetic material.
When a piglet sees another up against a rock, it will amble up and attach itself by its soft mouth to the cloaca of the grazing individual. It will stimulate the grazing individual with its radula, receiving the balls of semi-digested food and genetic material. Chains are made this way as much as four individuals long, each receiving the passed-up food and genetic material of all the individuals ahead of it. Past four, there is little nutrition and the genes are too jumbled to be much use. The last in line lays eggs of all the combinations of genetic material, with each individual’s material being combined with the material of each and every of those behind it in all possible ways.
Consumptive and procreative purposes aside, the piglets spend much of their time so attached. They travel around in chains of two or three, and when groups meet another, they’ll often form rings and knots in an ecstatic, wiggling, chirping pile.
Do you have questions for the researchers on Ashlesa? Please ask them in the comments below.
Please keep comments polite and scientific. HAB members, this means you.
(please see the thread on the previous Ashlesa post for questions and answers there.)