Welcome to the Flaming Faggot

Callovia is called "the boundless empire" yet you have managed to find its northern border - a notorious roadhouse deep within the Madrasan Marches on the edge of the wilds of Llanvirnesse. The sign above the door reads "Flaming Faggot," which would suggest a cozy, homey inn with fresh biscuits served at teatime if not for the severed troll heads mounted on pikes at the gate.

As you cross the threshold the raucous din quiets momentarily as all eyes dart to the door and calloused hands drop instinctively to well-worn sword hilts. The threat, instantly assessed, is dismissed and roadhouse patrons go about their business hardly missing a beat.

Grim, hard-eyed men huddle around tables in close conversation thick with conspiracy; caravan guards gamble away their earnings; Caemric rangers sit close to the fireplace cooking the damp of the Black Annis from their clothes as they warm their innards with Red Dragon Ale; minstrels play and buxom wenches dance for the pleasure of men who pay them little attention - until they need a companion to warm their bed.

As you approach the bar, a huge, bald barman with a greatsword slung across his back slides a mug of freshly-pulled ale towards you, its frothy head dripping over the rim.

"Pull up a seat, lad," he says, "and let me tell you a tale of high adventure."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Weird Wonder Wednesday: Sea Spiders

The Pycnogonida, commonly known as sea spiders, are not actually arachnids but a class of marine chelicerates, which crawl along the sea floor on long, spider-like legs.  These odd looking creatures, which bear strong resemblance to the 'face-hugger' reproductive life-cycle stage from the Aliens movies, consist of little more than legs and a digestive system.  Indeed, female pycnogonids even carry their eggs within their legs as shown by the following illustration:
Pycnogonids are mainly predatory carnivores, feeding on hydroids, soft corals, anemones, bryozoans, and sponges.  Many species apply their proboscis to the prey and use it to suck up tissue, while others cut off pieces of food with their chelicerae and pass them to the mouth at the tip of the proboscis.

During reproduction, the male hangs beneath the female and fertilizes the eggs as she emits them  from the gonopores in her legs.  The male gathers the fertilized eggs into his legs and cements as many as 1,000 eggs into an adhesive mass, which he broods until they hatch.

Sea spiders are only rarely found as fossils, but are known as far back as the Late Cambrian Period.  Sea spiders are near and dear to my heart; the specimen shown below is a fossil pycnogonid that was found during my field season in the summer of 2008 by palaeontologists from the Manitoba Museum, the Royal Ontario Museum, and the University of Saskatchewan from the Late Ordovician of Manitoba.  It is the oldest adult sea spider known from North America.


FASERIP said...

Allow me to present "The Chelicerata" (sung to the tune of "Hakuna Matata"):

Umm, actually there are no other words to the song. Sorry.

Sean Robson said...

Damn. Don't get my hopes up like that :)

Malcolm said...

Why am I here?