THE SCATTERSAND RAY ("BUTTERFLY RAY")

APPEARANCE - SPECIAL ABILITIES - TERRITORY - HABITAT/BEHAVIOUR - DIET - MATING

The Scattersand Butterfly Ray is a common inhabitant of the waters found in the inner seas of the Scattersand Shoals. Its appearance, although being mostly like that of a ray, differs from these in that this specimen possesses a carapace like growth on its back, which to observers appears to be butterfly shaped.

Appearance. These rays grow up to 2 fores and 1 palm-span from antennae down to the tip of the tail, and has a ‘wingspan’ of 1 ped from tip to tip. These measurements are averaged, and specimens often vary across the archipelago: Towards the borders of the isles, where the inland waters merge with the vast sea, the mantas have developed to be larger in size, while the ones further inland have become smaller as to be able to manoeuvre better inland in rivers and streams. As for its mass, most Butterfly Rays caught by the Stratanians are around 1 heb.

Its head is merely made up of two slim projections from the main body encasing eyes which have adapted to large amounts of light, thus making the Butterfly Ray a day time-hunter. These eyes are small ranging from about 3 grains to a nailsbreadth. Since these creatures spend as much time as possibly in bright areas of the Scattersand Shoals, their eyes have taken on bright hues such as yealm beige. The creature’s brains are expected to be divided into two segments, one in each ‘antennae’. Inbetween the two antennae facing downwards the ray has a mouth. This small and only slightly musculated region of the creature is lined with small sharp teeth which the ray uses to slowly devour small chunks of its prey. This creature propels itself in the water through the use of its two flap/wings, on either side. These ‘wings’ allow for rapid efficient movement in the shallow waters of the Scattersand Shoals. For even more efficient navigation this water creature uses its tail as a rudder. The approximately half a ped tail however also plays a role in its hunting habits.

Its overall skin is smooth and slippery and generally of brownish nature, the shell camouflaging in similar shades. There are exceptions though during mating season, during which the rays’ skin colour can alter to a more waterberry blue (males) and aeruillin red (female). These colour altering properties though, are very slight and do not always occur.

The Scattersand Butterfly Ray obtained its name though from its single special feature, a skeletal outcrop on its back. The ray’s back consists of the same skin that covers the rest of its body, but has a carapace like exoskeleton on its back, around which the skin grows. This shell covers the creature from its neck down to the beginning of what is its tail, spreading wide as far as the ‘wings’ still allowing for their unhindered movement. This carapace is often up to 3 nailsbreadths thick in adult specimens. This carapace at first seems to serve for mere protection. The skeletal formation however serves as a protection and multiplier of the damage created by the ray onto its prey. The sharp bone outcroppings and corals that grow over it pierce the animal from the bottom and inflict often lethal damage. The carapace being made of tough bone, often pierce carapaces and certainly soft skin of the smaller mammals that come down to the waters. However at closer inspection it was found that the carapace offered little sanctuary from the Stratanian fishing tools. This skeleton could easily be broken with a hard enough hit. This made many folk think of the Butterfly Ray as a sorry misfit, created by Baveras, Goddess of the Sea, only to serve as food for others. The carapace’s actual purpose was not discovered until later though: The Scattersand Butterfly Ray uses this exoskeleton for hunting. Return to the top

Special Abilities. The Butterfly Ray’s most special feat is its hunting habit. When in search of food, the rays often journey into more shallow waters where fish and smaller mammals come down to the water. The ray’s ‘wings’ and slim body allow it to move around swiftly and rapidly in shallow waters where other marine creatures would be stranded.

The ray swims close to the bottom, using its inconspicuous colouring to camouflage with the sand beneath it. Unlike most hunters the Butterfly Ray is a passive hunter: Once it has come close enough to the prey it will settle into the sand, and simply lay there. The creatures wait patiently for the prey to move around in the area unaware of the rays’ presence… Until the prey makes the grave mistake of moving over the ray. Once the unknowing animal has moved over the camouflaged ray, the predator uses its two ‘wings’ and muscular tail to force its central body upwards. This is where the purpose of the carapace was found out.

The rays are omnivores, and often, when killing larger prey such as smaller mammals, they only eat the softer, easily obtained flesh and then leave the rest to other predators. Next to this the rays also feed on algae and other sea plants.
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Territory. The Scattersand Butterfly Ray, as the name implies, resides in the Scattersand Shoals south of the Santharian kingdom. Due to its small size and relatively limited physical strength, the rays can be found commonly in the waters within the archipelago of the Scattersand Shoals. They rest and spend most of their time in shallow costal areas especially the golden beaches that dot this paradise. They can also be found in swampy lands further inland, however most specimens were found to be salt-water creatures. It is common that some of the rays wander off out into the seas but there they quickly fall prey to larger more apt predators such as the kaimun as well as the bonehead fish. As a result there are often clusterings of predators on the outside of the Scattersand isles, especially after hatching season, when the younger rays travel out into the deeper waters between the islands, and often get lost and wander out into the sea.
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Habitat/Behaviour. As mentioned before the Butterfly Ray is a passive sea creature. It spends most of its time in shallow water getting sunshine, and from time to time hunts. Hunting usually takes place three times a day, during which the rays become active and can terrorize entire crab colonies. Its movement is often tranquil as it glides silently through streams. When agitated or threatened though the rays can show speed and agility, although this is very tiring to the body and may result in exhaustion and eventual death of the animal if chased for long enough.
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Diet. As mentioned before, the Scattersand Ray feeds most commonly on crabs, but also insects and reptiles that occasionally wander into shallow water and fall prey to the ray’s natural trap. In seasons when feeding on these animals fails the rays resort to eating algae. Although their hunting technique is highly efficient and successful, the Butterfly Ray is in the lower ranks of the Scattersand food chain. Many other predators (including the Stratanians, until they realized the amount of eatable meat on the ray was too small in comparison to the effort of breaking them apart) end up devouring these creatures. This is partially the reason why these rays reproduce and breed in large numbers.
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Mating. In order to reproduce, the female rays swim up into the shallower areas where waters are about a ped and a bit, and there dig slightly into the soft sand. Waters in these areas are warmer than further out and also remain with constant temperatures making excellent conditions for the eggs laid by the female to grow and finally hatch. The female drops hundreds of eggs since a majority of them fail to grow to hatching. This is mainly due to water currents sometimes being strong enough to sift the sand away laying the eggs bare to the large waters where conditions are deadly. The eggs themselves are shell-less and are form of a jelly like substance. Once the females have placed their eggs, the males swim over the hatching grounds and fertilize the eggs. The two processes are kept separate though, and it has been observed that males who move in too soon, while the females are still laying the eggs, are instantly attacked and often even killed through exhaustion as the females cluster around the male and know it with their own carapaces. The dead body of the wrongdoer is then left to float as a warning to other male rays, but is often devoured by other animals, since most of the ray’s meat is muscular and nutritious.
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 Date of last edit 8th Falling Leaf 1666 a.S.

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