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Danger Level: High
Likes: Easy meals, Being disguised
Dislikes: Drying out, Moving
Attack Method: Lies in wait for toxins to do their job.
Soft-bodied and ponderous, the caterputre is an eruciform fauna of approximately three feet diameter and ten feet in length. Lacking a solid skeleton to support its weight, much of its muck-green bulk remains perpetually immersed in and buoyed by the wetlands of Unity where it is native. The portion of its back which remains exposed is sparsely covered in glassy spines - two to six per segment, at most.
While the caterputre superficially resembles an enormous insectoid larva, the submerged parts of the fauna reveal its structure more analogous to a colonial cnidarian. The caterputre nominally has a front and a back, but no face or mouthparts; minuscule pairs of claws on each bodily segment are somehow used for locomotion. The true danger of this beast is beyond its sagging, unassuming core - a halo of threadlike, silicate hairs are extended by the caterputre into the surrounding water. Each hair seems to operate as a simple, independent organism, all of them tipped with a specialised cell known as an anaesthecyte.
The marsh-draggler is primarily an ambush predator and spends the majority of its life completely stationary. Individuals have been reported moving at a rate of several feet a day, most often due to insufficient food, or smaller individuals establishing distance between themselves and a larger caterputre.
Caterputre will seemingly ignore small creatures, including leaf-libraille, alighting on their backs. Even when the libraille load the caterputre up with moss, soil, and even young plants to better-disguise it, the caterputre is content.
Domestic: Libraille biologists report that when fed regular meals by neighboring leaf-libraille settlements, caterputres may reach length and girth approximating a felled tree trunk - considerably larger than sizes reported on distress signals by downed spacecraft. Too large to move, these specimens will spread their stinging fibers out to cover a range easily half a mile in diameter.
Anaesthecytes: Each "hair" on a caterputre is at most a few cells thick and encased in a glassy, silicate exoskeleton. Free-swimming in water, these hairs are tipped with a specialised cluster of cells called anaesthecytes, which inject a numbing venom into any edible matter which wanders into the caterputre's killzone.
The filament pierces the injection zone and beelines its way through the victim's musculature, repeatedly passing through the prey (potentially signalling other fibers as it emerges) in a weaving motion. A panic response in the victim triggers the rupturing of the now-embedded cells, releasing a secondary toxin which reacts with most biological matter in a manner which eliminates buoyancy. The pain from this secondary reaction is usually sufficient to down any upright victim, exposing more flesh to the piercing hairs. Once subdued, other specialised hairs with stingers containing digestive enzymes, release nutrients into the water for consumption.
• Lowland leaf-libraille populations farm the glassy, ultrafine filaments by tossing in processed meat for the caterputre to inject, then administering a toxin which induces the caterputre to shed all of its stinging cells. The meat cube is then left to be picked mostly-clean by insects, and the filaments soaked in a series of baths which draw out the poison and make the tubing less brittle. The resulting product is a valuable component for particular top-of-the-line electronics.
• The caterputre's complete life cycle remains unknown, as nobody's particularly willing to look too closely at the contents of caterputre-infested swamp. Neither this, nor Unity's strict quarantine and customs procedures, has stopped xenofauna enthusiasts from attempting to naturalise the species elsewhere in the universe.
• Merged libraille, particularly leaf-dominant individuals, commonly use the phrase "stitched up" when referring to an individual who has been forced to pay a high (but acceptable) price for wrongdoing.
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