The Earth Eater, known also as the "Behemoth Worm", "Sand Serpent" or "Dune Shark", is a rare breed of worm, which has become accustomed to life deep within the scorching desert sands. These creatures can grow to a height of 3 peds, their lengths ranging from 2.5 peds to 3 peds, and the average Eater weighs over 8 pygges. Eaters are found mostly in southeastern Aeruillin, but they have been seen in the southwest as well. A group fo three Dune Sharks is often referred to as a "pod", young worms are commonly called "Desert Maggots".
The Earth Eater is one of the largest land animals in all of Aeruillin. It is
often seen as a mere myth to those of the northern port cities who have never
lived in the deserts. But to those tribes who have lived in the merciless
deserts they know that these creatures are powerful forces to be reckoned with.
They look almost exactly like leeches found in the fertile mud and
waters, except for the fact that they are
many times larger. Mature Eaters weigh anywhere from 8 to 10
and can be as tall as 3
Their length from the beginning of their bodies to their heavy, and dangerously
sharp tails is usually about 2.5
In 50 years it can grow to be more than 1.5
across. Eaters come in a variety of dull colours, from light grays to dark
blacks and there are dull brown Eaters as well.
Eaters have streamlined bodies that permit short bursts of movement through the hot sands at high speeds. Their long bodies diminish into a blunt or slightly pointed snout on one end, and a powerful tail on the other. This shape reduces drag in the sands, enabling Eaters to glide gracefully, expending minimal energy as they 'swim'.
Earth Eaters do not have tongues; instead they have tubes that act as filters. The tube is round and hollow in the inside and has a large, elastic hole in the opening and a hole at the end, which is where the Eater expels waste products. The rubbery tube can stretch to length of about 1 ped from the Eater's mouth. This tube sucks in sand and anything above the sand; humans, elves, and other animals alike. The tube then pushes the items into the eater's highly acidic digestive system. There it pulls out whatever nutrients, moisture, or victuals it needs. Then the wastes and the sand are dumped out of the eater's cloaca, located under the thickly armoured tail.
Any breathable air absorbed is sent down another smaller tube that is attached to the main tube. That small tube leads into the huge respiratory system of the Eater; slightly hazardous air is then spat out of the cloaca as well.
The Earth Eaters can use their massive tails to propel themselves forward. It takes a lot of energy to do this, so the Earth Eaters hardly move. But when they need to capture an unsuspecting creature or if they need air they can push their heavy body out of the sand. The tail is also used to dig into the sand. It moves both side-to-side and up-and-down, and can be used to swipe or swat at their prey. And if someone is unlucky enough to stand behind the Eater, the force of its tail will crush him or her. Despite their lack of legs, Behemoth Worms have several highly efficient methods of locomotion. The most common type of movement often referred to as serpentine movement. In this style of movement, it alternately tightens and relaxes a set of muscles along each side of its body to produce horizontal waves that travel down the body. At the same time, the Eater orients itself so that its tail pushes against the land.
Their mouths are perhaps the most spectacular part of the Sand Serpent's body. Embedded in their gigantic gums are multiple rows of powerfully sharp, triangular teeth, which they use to crush or tear pieces of flesh from their prey as it is sucked down their tube. The teeth are embedded in its gums; rather than firmly planted in the jaws, they can retract and extend these dangerous fangs at will. Eaters usually glide throughout the sands with their teeth retracted so they won't get in the way of cutting the digestive and respiratory tube.
These creatures have a very thick layer of skin, which has hardened and acts as
a protective armour. This makes the Eater very difficult to kill. It takes the
Tiraelhon many sharp axes to cut into this
The Behemoth Worms are also known for being able to hold their breaths for an immense amount of time. It is necessary for these creatures to be able to do this because they tend to dig very deep into the sand. Deep enough so that they can hide from the heat, which can usually be quite a few peds underneath the soil.
Earth Eaters are able to use a special attack against their foes, but this attack works only if their attacker is behind them. The Eater can spew its waste products at its enemies, plus the high amount of hazardous air they expel with their waste could cause dizziness, or could be terminal. With the waste come any bones, hair, claws, teeth, or other things that the Eaterís stomach was unable to digest. So being "spat at" by these creatures could be a very disgusting situation.
Behemoth Worms have a special way of sensing where their next prey is. Vision and the ability to detect vibrations are also important to the survival of most Eaters. They lack eardrums and external ear openings, but they have small bones in their heads that conduct sound. They are able to hear low-frequency sounds and to sense vibrations that travel through the ground. Their black, beady eyes detect very small movements and they can see in low-light conditions, making them effective hunters on dark nights and in dark sands.
Their sand digging is the most important feature of the Sand Serpent. Its tube plays a major role in how these Eaters are able to dig so deep into the soil. When an Eater has found an area that it finds suitable, it will extend its teeth and bit out chunks of the sand, allowing the chunks to be swallowed and expelled behind it. It will continue to do this until the Eater has dug itself "waist-deep". Then it will close its mouth and with its tail, it will begin to ram its armoured head into the sand, causing it to become loose. Then the process will begin again, biting and spewing for a few peds, then stopping and ramming. The Eater continues this process until it is comfortable with its depth.
Territory. Earth Eaters are only found in Aeruillin. These creatures have been seen in other places around Caelereth, but this is often because they have been brought there. They do not live in any bodies of water, preferring the feel of sand, although they can be found near sources of water. They often choose places with soft sand, or fertile areas, and Eaters will usually bury themselves no deeper than 6 to 7 peds under the sand. A sign that Earth Eaters live, or have lived in an area is to look at the soil. If the soil looks healthy, and plants grow without ail, then that may be the cause of the high amounts of plant-feeding air expelled by these creatures. Their waste products tend to contribute to making the soil very fertile.
Habitat/Behaviour. Earth Eaters are sluggish, massive powerhouses that soar through the sands. And when they move, they tend to move in short bursts of high speed. They spend most of their seven-hour days digging deep into the sand with their massive tails and feeding on the nutrients and any other animals in the sands.
These creatures are often found near bodies of water, or other moist areas. They do not need to drink daily in order to live, but it helps to keep them cool in the hot sands. Earth Eaters are highly territorial and often live in groups of no more than three. Those three that live together are often many peds apart and hardly ever come into contact unless they are all heading towards a source of water, food, or unless they are breeding. The female Eaters are often the ones who seem to lead the pod. It is rather difficult to study these subterranean Behemoths, but from what many researchers have gathered the largest female Eater will often emit a certain scent from her cloaca that will attract all the others towards her. This scent is generally used for mating but if the pod needs to move or come to a certain area the female will use it.
If the area in which a Sand Serpent lives becomes too dry, during its occupation, as though plagued with drought, they will dig their way to the top, which often takes a day or two. If they cannot make it in time and they have dehydrated, the Eater will die in a span of several bells. The mortality rate for Eaters that are trying to reach the surface is two out of nine.
Diet. The Sand Serpent eats practically any vegetable matter: leaves, grass, reeds, roots, flowers, fruits, bark and even soil if the mineral content is high. They do so through the tube that serves many purposes for this creature. Eaters have been known to catch large and small animals in their tubes and many have found the bones of elves or humans hidden tightly within the walls of the tube. The Earth Eater must eat up to twice its body weight in food each week. If they do not accomplish this then their body will start to digest their own muscles to make up for the loss in food.
Water is important for the Eaters concerning their health in the long run. They definitely need it to survive, but it's not too important when it comes to daily life. They can go up to two weeks without any water. After that point they must refill, often having to travel far to find a fresh source of water. These sources can even include the resources of humans and elves. Dead Behemoth Worms have been seen in the middle of settlements with water bins knocked over around them. Obviously these creatures were too late.
Mating. Mating behaviour in Eaters is complex, and very few people have observed it in detail. Unlike other animals, which may produce dozens of offspring each time they reproduce, Eaters generally do not reproduce in large numbers.
Female Eaters are sexually mature at 25 years of age. Once they reach maturity they often leave their pod in search of a mate and emit a scent along their path. This scent enhances a male Eater's sexual drive and causes them to follow that trail relentlessly until they find the female. A male may track down a female only to discover that other males are already nearby. Males tend to ignore rivals and continue with their courtship efforts, because the males are usually too tired to look for another, and too tired to fight.
Once the female is found the male moves towards her, his tail pushing him all the way. The male rubs the underside of his head along the female's back, stimulating her and orienting his body against hers. To enable copulation to occur, the male may lift the female's tail with his own tail. His sexual organ slides out of his cloaca under his tail and they copulate for a brief time.
Afterwards the female begins to fan the male away with her tail. She will check out all of her prospects before finally choosing a mate. A female eater usually goes through this five times for the next month, which is how long their breeding season is.
Gestation takes up to 5 months, the single egg growing in the female, creating a bubble on the inside of her cloaca. During this time the female is highly vulnerable, she is a lot more tired and moves around a lot less. She also does not go underground during this period. The roughness of the sand could rupture the sac and she would loose the egg and a lot of necessary body fluids.
At the end of the 5 months the sac is the size of a 5 years old human child balled up in a fetal position. The female forces the sac out of her cloaca and uses her tube to push her heavy upper body at an upward angle. She then uses it to scratch her sac against the sand, but she only does this just enough so that it creates a small tear on it. She then begins to push, first out come the thick fluids in the form of a watery bag. Soon after this comes out a tiny desert maggot, of a beautiful ivory color, which falls out onto the sands. Once the mother manages to turn and faces her offspring, she places it in her mouth by applying suction on it with her tube and then placing it in a once hollow, bone-like sac in its massive tube.
That part of the tube, which was once hollow, has begun to fill up with a thick, milk-like fluid, which the maggot will feed upon for 3 years. While it is feeding it has gills and the tail moves only horizontally, giving the young the ability to swim in its own food. Once the 3 years have passed the maggot is spat out and left to live alone. On average the Eaters are only a fourth of their size by this time. Only four out of seven of these abandoned Eaters make it to see adulthood. On average Earth Eaters will also live to be up to 135 years.
Information provided by Lady Tiaa