THE MOON SHARK ("PHANTOM SHARK")

APPEARANCE - SPECIAL ABILITIES - TERRITORY
HABITAT/BEHAVIOUR - DIET - MATING - USAGES - MYTH/LORE - RESEARCHERS

The Moon Shark, or "Phantom Shark", as they are sometimes called, is one of the most numerous predators in the Scattersand Shoals. They inhabit the warm, shallow waters near the shores of the islands by day, and disappear when night falls, much like the ghostly apparitions for which they are named. The pure, white beauty and relatively small size of the animal belies it's natural inclination for bloodlust, so one should take care not to be fooled. The Moon Shark is a very capable and deadly predator, with both intelligence, speed, and, if required, number on their side.

The Moon Sharks

View picture in full size Picture description. Phantom sharks approaching -a feared sight out in the deeper waters surrounding the Scattersand Shoals. Image drawn by Seeker.

Appearance. The first thing that strikes one when seeing a Moon Shark for the first time is the colour, a pure iridescent white, which is one of the reasons for its namesake. This makes them very easy to see in the water, though this is no problem for the Moon Shark. They have no need to rely on camouflage, their speed and highly protected bodies being enough to overcome most predators. The skin, though it looks to be smooth and almost rubbery, is in fact made up of thousands of tiny little scales. These scales are curved away from the animal, almost tooth-shaped in appearance, and very strong and resistant. The texture of the skin is also not as it appears. If one was to stroke a hand gently over the creatures body, they would find that the texture is rough, and can actually break through the skin if the pressure is too firm.

The body is streamlined, to allow the animal to reach its top speed of 80 strals an hour, and fairly slim in build. Moon Sharks grow to a maximum of just over a ped, and just under two fores in girth at the widest part of the body. Beginning at the nose, which is long and pointed, the body curves outwards, becoming widest at the ribcage. At the point where the larger of the two dorsal fins begin, it then begins to curve in again, ending in another point at the tail.

The dorsal and tail fins are another reason for the name Moon Shark. The main dorsal fin is shaped like half a crescent moon, up to a fore in height and curved right over, the point almost facing the body. It is also very hard, and sharp, almost blade like, and easily capable of cutting through all but the toughest skin. It is not used while hunting however, so it is thought to be solely used for the purpose of protecting the animal. A second smaller dorsal fin is located around a fore behind the first, and is the same shape, but constructed entirely of bone. It too is sharp, and thought to be for protection from potential predators. The tail fins together are shaped like a full crescent moon, and are strong but flexible, aiding the animal in its powerful swimming ability. There are also two fins located low at the animals sides, which are long and slightly curved. They are each a fore and a half in length and are used to propel the Moon Shark through the water.

The eyes are situated around two palmspans from the end of the nose, on the sides of the head, and are black, with a flat, lifeless expression. When the shark is in the middle of a kill, the eyes are rolled back into the head to protect them from damage from the flailing prey, as was discovered by Genani Ra'anouf and Tenrans Jorek. The following is taken from the journals of Tenrans Jorek:

"I watched Genani's expression as she studied the Sapphire anemones, gently touching the delicate tentacles with a finger, feeling the tiny prickle of its defensive barbs, which over the past few weeks had taken hold of her fascination. On the occasions when we had ventured into the ocean to observe various creatures, her eye was often drawn to their jewel-like beauty, and she had become convinced of something. She was sure that the anemone could move around, and was intent on proving it. Hence the day's activities.

I looked on as she picked up the long slice of rock, which she taken with her for the purpose of her euxperi, and gently pressed it between a groove in the reef. Her plans were for us to return to the same spot a week later, to see if the rock-slice was inhabited by any anemones, and if so we would remove them from the sea, and would be able to observe them at more close quarters, and for longer periods of time. But the rock-slice wouldn't sit in the groove solidly, it needed something to hold it in place. I could see her looking around for something, until her eyes landed on my belt. She reached out, grabbed my knife from it's scabbard, and jammed the blade into the reef, so that it held the slice of rock firmly in place. As she did so, she cut her finger on the blade, breaking through the skin, and causing a small amount of blood to pour forth, though she hardly seemed to notice it. The whole thing was done within just a few minutes, and she turned to me and smiled, gesturing that we return to the surface.

The Moon Shark came out of nowhere, slicing past me, grazing my arm as it did so, and made straight for Genani. I turned, and saw that it's jaws were clasped around her left forearm, ragging it around, trying to rip away the flesh. Without thinking about my own safety, I rushed to help her. I reached to grab my knife, only to remember that Genani had used it to hold that damn rock in place. Blood filled the water around us, and I knew it was only a matter of time before more of the sharks appeared, so I had to think quickly. Knowing that the eyes were a sensitive area, I reached up, planning to push my thumbs into the animal's eye sockets to make it let go, and hopefully give us enough time to get back to the boat. But instead of the soft eyeballs, I found myself pressing against what felt like solid bone. The black, unfeeling eyes had gone, and had been replaced by a bony, white protrusion.

My shock at the discovery was short lived, as it was overcome by my fears for my wife's safety. I scanned the area for a possible weapon, and my eyes fell of a jagged piece of rock, jutting out of the reef, some two fores away from the shark. With all of the strength I could muster, I shoved the beast forcefully against the rock, feeling it's toothed hide pierce through my skin, and it instantly let go of Genani, as clouds of it's own blood filled the water around it. We wasted no time, and made for the surface, the boat, and safety.

We broke through the surface of the water, gasping for breath, as we had been under considerably longer than either of us had anticipated. Genani was exhausted, and I had to shove her into the boat, before I got in myself, and held her as she sobbed into my shoulder. After a few minutes, I looked at her blood-covered arm, to check just how bad the damage was. Surprisingly, it was not as bad as I thought it would be, the skin having been shredded in a few places, but no chunks of flesh missing. Though it would scar, I was sure it would be okay. I looked down at my own palms, which were dotted with tiny puncture marks, where I had touched the shark's spiky skin..."

It is believed that the Moon Shark does not rely on it's sense of sight as much as it sense of smell and possibly hearing, though they can see perfectly well.

Beneath the snout are two sets of small holes, like nostrils, and it is believed that this is how the Moon Shark is able to smell. In each set, one hole is located very close to the tip of the snout, with the second being around twp nailbreadths behind. It is thought that water is drawn in through the front holes, and exits through the rear ones, though this is just speculation. Though it is not know exactly how the creature detects the scent while in the water, investigations have shown that they can track blood to its source from great distances, possibly as far as three or four dashes.

The mouth is wide and almost grinning in shape. The open maw of a Moon Shark is slightly less than a fore in width, and about the same in height, with three rows of teeth. These are shaped much like a R'unorian commoners dagger, long, smooth-edged and curved, and each exceeding the size of a baby Brownie's entire body, making them perfect for ripping huge great chunks of flesh from its unfortunate victims. The instance before an attack, the lips are pulled back, exposing the creatures gums, which are black as onyx stone, as is the whole of the inside of the mouth. If the shark loses one of its teeth, a new one will grow in it's place, and they will continue to be reproduced throughout the sharks lifetime of around 30 years.
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Special Abilities. As previously mentioned, the Moon Shark has an extraordinary sense of smell. An euxperi conducted by Genani Ra'anouf and recorded by her husband Tenrans Jorek showed just how powerful it truly is. The following is taken from a journal entry made by Tenrans:

"As Genani lent over the side, I, sat more firmly in the centre of the boat, held her waist to steady her. Though the sea was calm, the little boat still rocked enough to possibly tip her out over the side. I watched as she scanned the water for the sharks, using the oil lamp we'd brought with us for the purpose. They were absent, just as they always were at sunset. We had started to notice a few weeks before how they seemed to vacate the shallow waters around the shoals in the early evening. As such, it was the perfect time to try out Genani's investigation. Since we had pulled the dead Phantom shark out of the water a month previous, she had been obsessing about the animals sense of smell, after noticing what looked like nostrils beneath it's snout. She had also observed how quickly they seemed to appear when blood had been spilt in the water. Her euxperi was to see if they could detect it from long distance, and this was a perfect opportunity. The Phantoms resided in the deeper waters of the Burning sea at night, and as such were well over a dash away from our present location.

Genani, satisfied that the shallow waters were free of sharks, took the vial of blood, her own, from her pocket. She removed the stopper, and tipped the contents into the water. Then she sat back in the boat, placing the oil lamp on the floor between us, and we waited.

It was not even an hour later that we heard the first indication of their presence, the light splashing of a tail slicing through the surface of the ocean. I saw Genani grin excitedly, as she lifted the lamp, and held it out over the water. We both gasped and glanced at each, a look of awe and slight fear etched on both our faces. The waters around our little boat were full of long white bodies, which glinted eerily in the lamp-light, showing exactly why they were nicknamed Phantoms. There must have been near 100 sharks, and all from less than a sip of blood..."

Also previously mentioned is their speed in the water. They have been known to reach 80 strals an hour, but it is possible that they are capable of even greater speeds. They can only perform such speeds, however, in short bursts, usually over distances of no more than 15 to 20 peds at a time. They recover their strength reasonably quickly however, usually with just a few short minutes.

They are also well protected against potential predators, and are very difficult to actually harm in any way. Their whole bodies are built like a weapon, with the combination of their coarse skin, blade-like dorsal fins, powerfully muscled body, and razor-sharp teeth. In fact, the only creature that has been know to attack them and be unaffected is the adult aquani, who have extra tough, rubbery skin. They are also one of the few able to inflict damage upon the Moon Shark, making them an enemy to be avoided.
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Territory. The Moon Shark resides in the Burning Sea, particularly in the warm, shallow waters around the Scattersand Shoals, where there are plenty of smaller animals for it to feed on. At night, it moves out to the slightly deeper waters, around two to three dashes from the shore.
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Habitat/Behaviour. Moon Sharks will swim in the shallows around the coast of the Shoals during the daylight hours, often within 20 peds of the shore, where the water is at its warmest. They also hunt around the reefs, looking for the smaller species of fish that make up the majority of their diet.

When the evening draws in, and it begins to get dark, the Moon Shark will retreat to slightly deeper waters, some two to three dashes away. They will swim out to this new domain, and remain in the deepest part of the water, where they cannot be seen. It isn't known why they do this, as the water temperature veers towards the opposite of their daytime preference, being quite cool. Even when shining a lamp over the water, their usually luminous bodies are not visible, and it is only known that they are there are all because some very brave individuals have ventured into the water to explore. It has been reported back that the Moon Sharks, while in these deeper waters, are not physically active, seeming to languish on the sea bed, as though sapped of energy. It is believed that they gain energy from heat, and at night when the seas cool, they venture out to where it is even more so, and stay pretty much stationary all night to conserve their energy. If this is the case, it is also when the Moon Shark is at its most vulnerable, and most in need of its protective body. They have been known, on rare occasions, to stray from their dark domain and venture to the surface, usually if there is the possibility of food.

Moon Sharks tend to hunt alone much of the time, usually only banding together to make a larger kill. But despite the solitary nature of their hunting habits, it doesn't seem to bother them to be amongst great numbers of their own kind. Over a hundred sharks have been seen in an area, all at the same time, though it usually less than half that amount, and they have not been seen to show aggression to one another. They have, however, been know to eat one of their own, if it is injured and bleeding profusely. The blood seems to send them into a vicious killing frenzy, turning them to cannibalism, before the animal is even dead. Such acts provide proof of the often seemingly placid animal's true nature.
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Diet. The Moon Shark is a relatively small predator when compared to other sharks, such as the dark stryke and the ancythrian, both of which can exceed four peds. A lone shark therefore doesn't normally try to take on larger prey, settling for smaller fish, and the occasional butterfly ray. Even though they are unable to take on the adults of larger species, they will sometimes try to get to the young. Baby dolpholk and aquani, are both in danger of becoming the shark's next meal. At these times, the usually solitary hunter will join together with between five to ten other Moon Sharks, to better their chances of success, though even then they very rarely capture their prize. Both aquani and dolpholk live in large pods, and will defend their young aggressively. Male aquani in particular, are a threat that the Moon Shark are not often willing to take on.

Moon Sharks will also use their incredible speed to leap out of the water, to capture an unsuspecting sarvonia gull, or other sea bird, in their jaws. These leaps are not usually particularly high, tending to be around two peds, but they work well enough for the purpose of hunting.

Moon Sharks have been known to eat people on occasion, using the same method as when they are trying to snare a young dolpholk or aquani. A group of four sharks or more will join forces to bring down the larger prey, using their speed to lunge at the unfortunate person, and rip off chunks of flesh piece by piece. Much of the prey is consumed while still alive, creating a slow and painful death.
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Mating. Despite the Moon Sharks numbers, and their close vicinity to the shore during the daylight hours, the mating rituals of the animal have never been observed. Even more surprising is that every recorded capture, or finding of a dead shark, has found them all to be female. There are no tell-tale difference between sexes that could help to establish which are males, or even if there are any. It is widely thought amongst researchers, that the Moon Shark quite possibly reproduces asexually, which would account for the lack of males. But this is all speculation, and the truth remains unknown.

The Moon Sharks lay egg sacks, containing a single young, which will be laid in batches of around four to five each year. They will never be laid together, instead being distributed throughout mass beds of seaweed, so as to give the young sharks a better chance of survival. The egg sacks are about a palmspan long, and spiral-shaped, and are a favourite food of the area's population of clawfish. It is likely that only one to two of the brood will survive to hatching, and, at that point, survival doesn't get any easier. The newly hatched sharks are a palmspan and a half in length, a mottled grey in colour, and, despite having the new found ability to swim away from predators, there are far more of them to get away from. A whole host of hungry carnivores are quite happy to gobble up a young shark as a meal, including adult Moon Sharks.

The young who survive will reach their full grown size within two years of hatching. Once they reach two fores in length, they begin to change colour from the easily camouflaged grey mottle, to their adult skin of shimmering white. It is at this time also, that the bone dorsal fin begins to appear, sprouting from the back, and growing rapidly over the following six months.
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Usages. The reasonably small size of the Moon Shark makes them fairly easy to capture, and their almost ethereal beauty makes them desirable in a number of ways. Their skin is the thing that is most sought after, the shimmering iridescence of the white scales being very attractive to the eye. The skin itself is sometimes used to make clothing for special occasions, or the scales alone are used in the same way as beads to decorate other materials.

The teeth can be strung to make necklaces, and the bone fin is used to carve pendants for jewellery or figurines to decorate one's home. Vanity aside, both are also used in weaponry, such as for spears or arrowheads.

The flesh of the Moon Shark has been found to be very tasty, and is much sought after by the nobility of Caelereth. The flesh is very meaty, and could easily be mistaken for not being a fish at all, tasting more like pork.

Lastly, the Moon Shark is, on occasion, requested to be captured alive so that they can be kept as pets. They are kept in enormous metal tanks, which are dotted with windows of thick glass, so that the animal can be viewed to maximum effect. Not for those who want something to cuddle up to, of course, what with them being likely to relieve you of one of your limbs. But they are beautiful to look upon, as they go about their business in their underwater world. The price to capture such a violent creature is high, due to the risk involved, so only the most wealthy are able to own a Moon Shark as a pet. The investment itself is also a risky one, as most Moon Sharks don't survive the journey to their new home.
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Myth/Lore. Their occasional ghostly appearance at night has unsettled many a sailor over the years, contributing greatly to the Moon Sharks gaining their other name of Phantoms. The following is a tale told by a young deckhand, while sailing aboard the ship Aurora:

"The brawl had begun over nothing. The two of them had simply snapped, and before the rest of us knew it, the deck was a mess. Broken bottles everywhere, their contents, mostly stingo, lay in large puddles all over the deck. And guess who was left to clean it up? That's right, yours truly. I walked around the deserted deck, everyone else having returned below, with the brawlers frog-marched along with them. I could hear the buzz of activity below, as they continued in their merriment as though nothing had happened. I picked up the larger pieces of glass as I wandered, telling myself the the mop would have to do for the rest. I knew the Captain would think differently, but I would deal with that in the morning, along with any leftover mess.

Suddenly, my feet gave way beneath me, as I skidded on the slick deck. I fell, my hand landing on a shard of glass, and I howled in pain as it pierced through my flesh. No one heard me, their drunken ruckus drowning out all other sound. I cursed loudly, as I removed the shard from my hand with one quick, steady movement. The glass had near made a hole in my hand, and blood ran freely from the gaping wound. I scanned the deck, searching for something to bind my hand with. I could see nothing, but my eyes did fall on a half-filled, unbroken bottle of stingo, which rolled around near the starboard side. I lurched over to it, pulled out the stopper with my teeth, and, holding my hand over the side of the Aurora, I emptied the contents over my wound. I grimaced, as the liquid touched the angry gash, and fell into the ocean below. Even with only the dim moonlight, I could see that the stingo had turned dark from the blood. Even when the last drop had left the bottle, it still continued to bleed, the thick droplets falling, making ripples appears on the ocean surface.

Seeing no other options, I ripped off one of my shirt sleeves, and bound it tightly around my hand. I decided that it would have to do, until cook had sobered up enough to take a look. I leaned over the railings, and took a deep breath of the night air to calm my frazzled nerves. As I looked down, I saw a shape moving through the water. I strained my eyes to get a better look, but it was gone as quickly as it had appeared. Then I saw it again, almost like a white shadow moving through the gentle waves, then like the first, it disappeared.

An oil lamp burned nearby, and I took it up and held it out over the water, and the sight before me made me gasp. Hundreds of long, seemingly shapeless bodies floated through the water, brushing against the side of the Aurora. I remembered the tales I had heard from my shipmates, as we had entertained ourselves on stormy nights below deck. Tales of the spirits of those who drowned at sea, who would sometimes return, foretelling bad fortune to those who laid eyes upon them. I had thought it just a story, told to unnerve us youngsters, but there I was, and there they were, mindless phantoms floating through their neverending afterlife, and passing on misery to all they would meet.

I let out a cry, and backed away from the rail. My breath came in short, terrified bursts, as I contemplated what bad fortune might befall me, what vengeance the resentful dead might wreak upon my living body. I vomited on the deck, but did not stay to clean it up, though I knew the Captain might order that I be whipped on the morrow. I ran to my quarters, and remained there all night, awake, sweating and crying, as I dwelled on the potential fates that might befall me.

The next day, I told cook, as he took a look at my hand. He told me I had imagined it after drinking too much stingo, and sent me away, even though I insisted I hadn't touched the stuff. Two weeks later I lost my hand to gangrene..."
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Researchers. The main research on these creatures has been conducted by Genani 'Tallclimber' Ra'anouf, a highly respected Eyelian researcher, who settled on the Scattersand Shoals with her husband Tenrans Jorek, and has vowed to make it her life's mission to discover the untold flora and fauna of the islands. Return to the top

 Date of last edit 9th Passing Clouds 1670 a.S.

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