Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Creature Designs

I love creature design. Here's some of my past work.

This is a hybrid of a crocodile and a hippopotamus, done for the Daily Sketch Group activity on
The Warty River Dragolope. I like the design, but the text is pasted all over the image with no design. Aargh.
A critter called the Sauromander, done for the Creature of the Week activity on Here's a description that I wrote for it.

Now a legally protected species and a successful tourist attraction, the Sauromander is in many ways a flagship species for Pogonoro. Tens of thousands of tourists flock to the small nation at the beginning of its Summer rainy season to see the baby Sauromanders wriggle out of the ground almost at the same moment in one of the great spectacles of nature. The Sauromander was not always so well-loved, however, as indicated by its local, colloquial name: araroco, the "Summer Plague."
Sauromanders are small (two feet in length when fully grown) herbivores, adapted for moist and heavily-vegetated environments. Though included with frogs and salamanders in the amphibian class, Sauromanders are of an evolutionarily distinct lineage and are not closely related to any extant species. This evolutionary distance is expressed in the large claws and hard beak, both unique among amphibians. As both an avid burrower and a generalist vegetarian, eating everything from leaves to fruits to nuts, both of these unique adaptations are put to good use. In addition to the beak and claws, the Sauromander has several other noticeable features. Its brightly-colored skin is mostly a ploy, an attempt to convince predators that it is poisonous and not good eating. In fact, the flesh of infant Sauromanders is slightly toxic, but all that remains in the adult sauromander is a slightly sour taste to the flesh, and poses no actual danger to hungry predators. The Sauromander's head features a noticeable bulge, which houses its large olfactory organs, and several antenna-like feelers, useful for feeling around in dark burrows or underbrush.
One of the most notable characteristics of the Sauromander, and what earned it the ire of Pogonoran farmers, is its strange life-cycle. During the Winter, Pogonoro's climate cools and dries, becoming inhospitable to the Sauromander. To ensure the survival of the species, the Sauromanders mate and bury huge numbers of eggs, and then most perish. When spring comes around and the soil begins to warm, the eggs hatch, and the infant Sauromanders begin the larval, burrowing phase of their existence. In this form, they pose a threat to the root systems of crops. With the onset of Summer and the rains, however, the young Sauromanders emerge from the ground en masse. Open air and sunlight cause the release of growth hormones, and the Sauromanders reach their full adult size in just a few weeks, with a corresponding increase in appetite. In the past, this spelled disaster for Pogonoran farmers, who would sometimes loose their entire crops to the ravenous creatures. So, in an effort to save their livelihoods, the farmers ran an extermination campaign against the Sauromanders, nearly driving the unique creatures to extinction.
What the farmers did not understand is that each species plays a part in the infinitely complex check-and-balance system of nature. Without the Sauromanders to eat them, weeds flourished, causing just as much damage to the crops as the Sauromanders themselves. Just before the species vanished altogether, it was placed under protective legislation, and the populations slowly recovered. A number of techniques were invented to protect crops from the hungry little beasts. One of the most successful was to place large piles of bitterfruit between the rows of crops. Sauromanders are typically not picky eaters, but the bitterfruit, which ripens around the same time the creatures emerge from the ground and is nigh inedible to humans, seems to be an irresistible treat to the small amphibians. With the Sauromanders glutted on bitterfruit, damage to crops went down sharply. This, and the incoming tourist dollars from rich Americans and Europeans, ensured the Sauromander's survival.
A yellow blood sucker, also done for's Creature of the Week (CoW) activity. The description:

Dromaenovacula infernis is a creature that goes by many names. It has been called the hell ram, the devil trident, the rushing blade, and its scientific name, which roughly translates as "running blade from hell." Perhaps its most widely-used, if ineloquent, names is the yellow blood sucker, as it was called by the various primitive peoples of Pre-Ascension Earth. For the purposes of this brief essay, it shall henceforth be referred to simply as Dromaenovacula.
Originally from the colony-world Trantosia, Dromaenovacula is a liquivore, as are many predators on that planet. As one naturalist vividly put it, Dromaenovacula can be imagined as "a charging bull crossed with a racing cheetah, and given the feeding mechanism of a spider" (those unfamiliar with Earth-fauna, please follow the links at the bottom of the article). A powerful quadruped, Dromaenovacula is a creature designed for both speed and strength. Its main killing mechanism is its trio of cranial prongs. Using its head as a battering ram, its collides with its prey, snapping bones and piercing deep into its prey's flesh. Given its large mass of up to 150 kilograms and its maximum speed of 80 kilometers per hour (about 50 miles per hour), the impact of predator and prey causes a large risk of harm to booth. Dromaenovacula has evolved a number of adaptations to lessen its risk of injury. Its three prongs are sheathed in enamel, keratin, and tough, leathery skin, and the bone core has an interior latticed structure undiscovered in any other species, which lends the bone incredible structural strength. Its sensitive eyes can be retracted deep within their sockets to lessen the risk of being gouged or punctured by snapped bone. Dromaenovacula's spinal column, in particular, is a marvel of evolutionary engineering. It can be highly flexible to aid in speedy movement, but at the critical moment it can straighten and lock to give the collision with prey battering ram force. Interspersed between the vertebrae are packets of fluid which efficiently absorb impact. Because Dromaenovacula's head can be buried deep within the body cavity of its prey, its breathing orifices are located on its back, negating the risk of suffocation. As a side-effect of this adaptation, Dromaenovacula drowns easily and is hesitant to swim, a weakness capitalized on by its prey (including Pre-Ascension humans). Dromaenovacula aims for its prey's ribcage just behind the first set of limbs, where it can cause maximum damage to vital organs and cause the quick death of its prey, as any struggle while the creature is lodged shoulder-deep inside its prey carries a high risk of injury.
As already stated, Dromaenovacula is a liquivore. Under normal conditions on its homeworld, once its prey is dead, it pumps gastric juices into the dead body and then slurps up the resulting soup with an extendable proboscis. However, for the populations that existed on Earth, this was not the case. As any student of history will know, in the 24th and 25th century, Earth was recovering with devastating bouts of disease and warfare, and its population of only a few million lived in primitive savagery. A tiny fraction of that population, however, was an ultra-rich elite, including a hunting-enthusiast quadrillionaire who imported a small number of Dromaenovacula to Earth for his sport. The creatures escaped, multiplied, and caused legendary havoc amongst the poor Earthlings. Dromaenovacula is a highly intelligent, problem-solving organism, capable of communication, cooperation, and planned action. It proved quite the equal for those sad bands of Pre-Ascension humans. Anyway, Dromaenovacula's method of injecting its gastric fluids and waiting for its dead prey to dissolve proved impractical, as its enzymes were incompatible with Earth-animal tissues. So, Dromaenovacula simply drank up the vital fluid that already existed in its prey: blood. Its status as a vampire ensured its infamy in Pre-Ascension Earth history.

Here's a redesign of a Bulbasaur. It's basically a Dicynodont with a generic bulb plant on its back. An old image, but people seem to like it.

For the 100th round of CoW, the task was to create 100 creature thumbnails in one month. It was quite a challenge, alternately fun and frustrating. In this activity I learned that you can always come up with more ideas, even if you seem to have exhausted your creativity.

This was done for Father's Day, I do believe. My dad likes sharks, and I like creature design, so I combined those two interests. As far as the creature concept goes, it is a future shark that is in the early stages of evolving to live on land after a mass extinction has taken out all current land megafauna.
If you like helicoprion and you know it, clap your hands.

Another CoW. The topic this time around was Sound Eater. The description:

It has been known sense prehistory that sound, especially voice, holds special powers in our world. Indeed, many scholars believe that our ability to manipulate sound at a high level of complexity is what allowed our race, when it was young, to triumph over all other species of animal and attain civilization. Through sound, we not only communicate and use language, but also cast spells, charms, incantations, and make use of any number of other Vocal Powers.
In early days, it was believed that man alone had the use of the Vocal Powers. However, in this new age of science and exploration, it has been discovered that many other creatures have magical abilities, though few are as well-developed in their use of these powers as man. One creature with surprising magic abilities is the Sonagama. Lean, quick-moving reptiles as large as a small man, the Sonagama has developed an ability similar to the magical power known as soundleeching. Using this power, it draws all sound in its environment towards itself, just as a powerful magnet attracts metal objects. Using its fantastically enlarged cheek-flaps, this sound is funneled into its mouth, and through a number of both physiological and magical adaptations this sound is converted is converted into pure energy, and it is this energy on which the Sonagama lives. The creature literally eats sound.
Now, let us discuss the natural history of the Sonagama, as far as our current state of knowledge allows. As mentioned, the Sonagama is a reptile, specifically a lizard related to the agamas, hence its name. It is large, with long, muscular limbs that allow it to both run at great speed as well as rear up on its hind limbs to nearly the hight of a man. Its skull is highly modified, with long quadrate bones allowing it to achieve a terrific gape when opening its mouth--the large the mouth, the better ability to consume sound, apparently. Its enormous cheek flaps--the most remarkable physical characteristic of the species--are supported by highly modified palate and hyoid bones, which swing outward from the jaws to hold the flaps rigid. When the mouth is closed, these bones are folded against the sides of the head and neck, with the cheek flaps hanging like curtains around the throat and shoulders. The cheek flaps themselves serve two functions. Firstly, they assist with funneling sound into the creature's throat, much like our ears funnel sound into the skull. Secondly, they make the creatures seem tremendously larger and more intimidating than they actually are, a useful tactic both for establishing dominance within the species and for frightening away potential predators. The Sonagama shares its habitat with a number of species that have rudimentary Vocal Powers. These creatures seem to be the preferred "prey" of the Sonagama, for magical sound obviously contains more energy than normal sound. However, in a pinch, any form of sound will sustain the Sonagama. When the Sonagama deploys its soundleeching powers, the world around it grows suddenly silent, with even the loudest noises seeming to become muffled and distant. Vocal Powers become useless when in the presence of a Sonagama, for the sound is absorbed before it can have any magical effect. For this reason, tamed Sonagamas have become popular guard animals for those who wish to protect themselves from malicious Vocal attacks.

My take on the legendary Cockatrice. It's basically just a strange theropod. The image itself was an exercise in textures, both hand painted and from photo overlays.
In folklore, the Cockatrice and Basilisk are pretty much synonymous, but in modern fantasy, the Basilisk is more of a reptilian, earthy creature, while the Cockatrice is more of a lizard-chicken.

Here's a creature called the Narakan Snapper. It has jointed mouthparts and can give a nasty bite. Being the creature design and biology geek that I am, I expounded at length on its natural history, evolution, and life cycle in my DeviantArt gallery. Check it out if you want: a link.


Katy Hargrove said...

I like all of these, especially the sound eater. :)

Parka said...

Wow. These creature designs are very cool. They have very nice form. It's like almost like those creatures from the book The World of Kong. Fantastic writeup.

Moai said...

Katy Hargrove- Thanks! I've been a fan of your creature designs for some time.:)

Parka- Thank you! The World of Kong is one of my favorite books. It's one of the things I look at to see creature rendering done right.

Fuzzy Duck said...

These are phenomenal! Gorgeous artwork!

Moai said...

Thanks, Fuzzy Duck!