The Springheel

Many species of Springheel exist across Trappist 1.3’s continents. Each specializes attracting particular species of Testiflora females and catches them in flight as their primary, and sometimes sole, food source.

Several distinguishing features are common across Springheel species. The first is its pair of legs. Each terminates in a foot of two maneuverable claws.

At the middle joint of each limb is a bulb containing a parabolic sonar organ. Each clicks and squeaks its signal, and each listens for the combined sound that gives it a complex understanding of the shapes of the space around them.

The limb joints of the Springheel are capable of rotation of nearly 180°. In order to run, individuals will lift their posterior bulb over their center of gravity, with their orifice facing down, and run short distances. Because the primary sensory organs are on the limbs, themselves, this costs them no ability to sense, and they can maintain this posture for some time.

Atop each individual is an “antler” unique to the individual. The primary function of this organ is to enable individuals to distinguish each other. They are social animals, building nests together and sharing information about food sources and even techniques with each other.

The iridescence common across species is, like all evolved features, a side effect. The common ancestor of all modern Springheels developed a hydrophobic surface to its shells that let water roll off, helping the individual maintain its body temperature. However, as the feature developed over time, the optical effects — invisible to the sonar-sensing Springheel — began to work as camouflage, hiding the Springheel’s body from Testiflora females in the air and highlighting only their flowerlike mouth.

On the Springheel’s ventral side is the spring that gives them their name. It can snap down with tremendous force, launching the creature high into the air to grab for Testiflora females on the wing or to escape from predators.

Underneath the armored spring, Springheels can, at will, secrete a “milk” that they feed each other. Most Springheel societies prioritize the young and infirm, but all members share with each other in this manner.

The front orifice of the Springheel has evolved a pattern that appears to the eye of Testiflora females like a Testiflora male “flower”. When the female descends to eat and absorb genetic material, the Springheel snaps its tail, vaulting after its prey.

A curious symbiosis has evolved in parallel in several ecosystems where Testiflora and Springheels coexist, where some species of Testiflora have evolved so that the females of their species are, in some proportion, indigestible. The Springheels consume the  indigestible Testiflora females, only to excrete them farther from their initial launch point than they could have flown. In many Testiflora species, the balance of digestible to indigestible females is calibrated by Springheels, themselves, so that Springheel communities are surrounded by perpetual “farms” of Testiflora.

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