Spotlight on an Original Nonsentient Species – Malostrea
Malostrea were fun to create.
For the E2 stories, I wanted the Amity planet to not have any life on it which had developed a backbone.
The procul, to be sure, are not the sharpest knives in the drawer. But the malostrea (pronounced mal-oh-STRAY-uh) were meant to be smarter than all that.
If procul are prey (and they’re too dumb to be anything else), they needed to have predators.
The malostrea (the name is Latin for evil oysters, and the same word is used for both singular and plural) were meant to be almost the Amity invertebrate equivalent of wolf packs.
When they first get onto Amity, the MACOs spot a number of perfectly circular holes in squishy, swampy ground. The holes are too perfectly round to have just gotten there by accident. Something had to have made the holes.
They see the procul first, and then see the malostrea clambering out of their little dens. The dens are interconnected underground, much like mole tunnels.
The first time these animals are seen, they are out to hunt procul. The procul are several times larger than they are, but the malostrea have a secret weapon. They are able to naturally secrete a substance known as tricoulamine. This nerve toxin acts fast, and if a procul is “bitten” (since these animals don’t have teeth or jaws, the poison is delivered by means of having a shell clamp down on a leg), the big beast goes down, stone dead, nearly immediately.
Once the prey is dead, the malostrea set upon it and tear it apart with their little clapping shells. Procul legs can more or less fit inside malostrea den holes, but the bigger parts of a procul have to be torn apart. The malostrea don’t really have any means of slicing straightly and perfectly, so the aftermath of hunting is a bit messy as the game is torn apart for transport.
Two malostrea are captured and brought to Sick Bay for study. Andrew Miller and Diana Jones spend the most time with them. In order to tell them apart (they are virtually identical hermaphrodites), the two malostrea are spray-painted with a blue 1 and a fuchsia 2 and are dubbed Thing One and Thing Two (a reference to Dr. Seuss‘s The Cat in the Hat). It’s difficult for Diana and Andy to really study the malostrea as they are poisonous and unpredictable. However, there is a great deal of clapping and chattering going on. The two researchers surmise that it’s a primitive form of communications for, after all, these creatures hunt in a pack. There has to be some form of planning going on there.
The problem with E2 details is that most of them can’t, by definition, follow through to the correct timeline. But the malostrea do. In the last of the E2 stories, I reveal that, on a planet called Archer’s Planet (the correct name for Amity), Eska hunters call them hard devils.
I like them. I’d like to use them again somewhere, but I’m a bit stumped as to where.