Lost Desert Exploration – Dune Fauna
Once more I, Lillooh the White Xweetok, am going to lead an expedition to uncover the mysteries of wildlife roaming around us every day that we don’t usually notice. Life’s cleverness might be quite impressive sometimes. Walking in the path of my mentor, Lilian Fairweather, I invite you to join me by reading my reportage on the field, one day at a time. This week, we are going to explore the Lost Desert fauna. I can already hear you complaining: “There is nothing interesting to see in the desert!” Well, I’ll prove you wrong!
Please note: This article is following the Mystery Island Exploration – Aquatic Fauna article. I suggest you begin by reading the other article before continuing with this one.
Day 1, Month of Gathering 14th
After exploring an environment so... wet, I’m going directly to the Lost Desert for a new adventure! I am currently in the City of Sakhmet. This city is very lively. A lot of merchants on the market place are advertising their products. Crystacats are strolling around and are stealing a fruit or two here and there. However, no one really tries to stop them. Crystacats are Petpets that are worshiped by the inhabitants of the Lost Desert. In fact, Crystacats naturally prey on the small Petpets and Petpetpets that could ruin all their precious food. They also hunt the poisonous Petpets that could harm the inhabitants of the village. That is why the Crystacats cannot be harmed or killed. I buy some food and water for my trip and then continue my road through the city.
I arrive at a small pasturage. Since there’s no Babaas in the desert, the Nuk provides them with milk, skin and meat. Those Petpets are harder to tame than Babaas. They tend to be aggressive with each other, especially males. However, this turns out to be an advantage, since Nuks cannot be easily stolen or killed by wild Petpets. Their horns serve them well when they need to protect their offspring.
I walk to the small house next to the pasturage. A group of Apis is peacefully grazing next to it. Apis are useful Petpets in the desert. They can store water in their hump on their back. Because of that characteristic, they can endure hot temperature and work hard without drinking for days. They are often used for haulage and transportation of travelers in the desert. I buy one, load my bags on it and walk outside the city.
Since the sun is already setting, I set my camp near a dune and fall asleep.
Day 2, Month of Hiding 15th
I wake up when the sun is already high in the sky. I jump on my Apis and ride my way through the desert. At first sight, there’s not much to see in the desert. But I know there are some interesting phenomena hidden somewhere. I continue my road under the hard sun.
Horuses are watching the area perched on a dead shrub branch. Horuses are bird Petpets that eat carcasses of dead Petpets that they find. Without them, the desert would be encumbered with rotting flesh in the sun. How inconvenient it would be! Horuses are the desert sweepers.
Suddenly, my Apis slips and falls on the sand. I fall too and end up with a handful of sand in the mouth. Not really tasty. I can’t believe the locals are using it as seasoning. I check what happened and if my mount is wounded. It seems to be fine. I search what made it fall and I find a little Turtmid buried in the sand. The Apis must have walked on it. The hard shell of the Turtmid protects it from its predators. Just like the Flippy in Mystery Island, it walks really slowly and hides in its shell when scared. It remains buried in the sand waiting for its prey (usually Grackle Bugs and Selkets) and snatches them when they come nearby. It seems like the shape of the Turtmid carapace has inspired the Neopets from long long ago, even before Year 1, to build the pyramids.
I continue my road, walking west of Sakhmet. I reach the Peophiaro River, the longest river of Neopia. This is the only place in the Lost Desert that has a great quantity of water. I let my Apis refresh itself and sit under a tree next to the river.
Two big brown hands take me from behind and grab me. I can barely breathe. The hands finally release me. What’s that!? I run a little further to escape from it. I turn around and look at what seized me. It isn’t really a tree. It’s a Taweret. Those Petpets like to hug everything that surrounds them. They need a lot of water to grow, so they can often be seen near the Peophiaro River. Tawerets have several adaptations that help them retain the water they absorb. Their leaves are covered with a thick cuticle that keeps the water inside. Also, their leaves are folded during the day and only open at night, when the sun is not threatening.
I set my camp a little further from the Taweret and fall asleep.
Day 3, Month of Hiding 16th
When I wake up, I take my Apis and ride along the river. There’s a bridge that goes over it a little further. Along the path, something spills water on me (I’ll never be able to stay dry, it seems). An Ettaphant is playing in the river. This two-headed Petpet sometimes can’t get along with itself. It would probably be even worse if they were living in groups. However, always having someone else by your side no matter what must be quite comforting.
I finally reach the bridge. I carefully cross it and reach the other side. It seems like this side of the desert is even more deserted.
I can hear a loud humming noise in the air. It’s coming nearer and nearer. I can see a strange cloud coming really fast, too. It temporarily hides the sun and continues towards me. When it is over me, I realize it’s not a cloud. It’s a swarm of Scarabugs. Those flying Petpets are probably going to attack Sakhmet and devastate every field they’ll find. Every year, the same thing happens. The Scarabugs annihilate the efforts the locals made growing their food. That’s sad, but there’s not much we can do.
I continue my exploration. I take a break near a pile of rocks. Something gets out from under one of the rocks and approaches me. Startled, I move back. It’s a Pyon. The Pyon might look inoffensive, but it isn’t. Its sting contains a great poison that is uses to kill its prey and attack its predators. The hotter the desert, the more concentrated the poison and the more dangerous the sting is. However, it isn’t aggressive and doesn’t usually attack unless really threatened. During the day, it stays hidden from the sun under rocks or buried in the sand and only comes out at night to hunt. It eats little Petpets like Grackle Bugs and Selkets. Pyons track their prey by their odour and can even smell things buried at over ten yards into the sand. I leave the pile of rocks, carefully looking where I’m walking, and continue on my travel.
A little while later, I reach an oasis. An oasis is an isolated area where water could accumulate and vegetation grows. Contrary to what most people think, the desert isn’t completely sterile. If you can provide water to the land, some fruit bushes can grow. An oasis carries a great biodiversity compared to the rest of the desert, since it provides habitat and food to a lot of Petpets and Petpetpets. Also, when it rains (which is quite rare), the seeds contained in the soil germinate. Those species of plants have evolved so that they germinate, grow and produce seeds really fast, while there is water available. And then, their seeds can stay in dry soil in a state of dormancy for years... until the next rain.
I set my camp there and get some rest. I fall asleep listening to the soft sound of the wind in the leaves.
Day 4, Month of Hiding 17th
When I wake up, everything is still calm. A group of Mastixies are quietly dwelling on rocks near the lake in the middle of the oasis. Mastixies are quiet Petpets. They mostly sleep alternatively in the shade and in the sun to regulate their temperature. Like all the other reptiles, the environment is controlling their body temperature. Their thick skin protects them from dehydration. I continue to explore the oasis.
I see a Scamander on a palm tree. Scamanders are arboreal Petpets, which means that they live in trees. However, their skin isn’t as thick as the skin of the Mastixies so they also need water to refresh themselves once in a while. Because of that, they cannot live far from a source of water. Scamanders have a lot of predators. They developed a mechanism that makes them harder to catch. If a predator seizes a Scamander tail, it will detach itself from its body and while the predator is surprised, the Scamander will escape. It will only take five days to regenerate a new tail. The Scamander on the palm tree captures a Flankin and eats it.
Flankins are little Petpetpets that are literally burning. They aren’t affected by the high temperature of the desert. In fact, they love it. They secrete a flammable substance on their exoskeleton (the bones of most Petpetpets are external and called exoskeleton) that the sunlight ignites. That protects them from most predators (but not from Scamanders that like spicy meals).
A stomping noise interrupts my exploration. I turn my head towards the sound and see and dust cloud coming my way. As it approaches, I distinguish many dark silhouettes. It seems like a huge pack of Setis. Those Petpets are the great predators of the desert. They move in packs of twenty to over fifty individuals. Their long slender legs make them able to run at 65 miles per hour. They obey to complicated hierarchical system among their group. The leader is always at the front, steering the group. The pack runs through the oasis without stopping and continues its road further in the desert. This is weird. Usually, they should have stopped to drink a little bit.
Suddenly, I clearly hear the roar of the wind. All the trees are bending because of its strength. A sandstorm is nearly there. That must be the reason why the Setis didn’t stop. I pack my bags and search somewhere to hide. I find a big hole in a rock and hide in it, sheltered from the wind. It seems like the night outside because of the sand covering the sun. As the sandstorm rages on, I can hear the Petpets running around and hiding.
Right in front of me, there is a little Petpet that comes up from under the sand. It’s a Lyins. It’s probably the only Petpet out there happy in the sandstorm. The Lyins lives under the sand. It eats the remains of dead trees and such, and only dares uncover itself when there’s a sandstorm. Even though a hard shell protects its body, the Lyins is still vulnerable to predators because it is nearly blind.
I wait for the end of the storm, looking at the Lyins carelessly playing outside. I think I’ll go back to Sakhmet, now. Don’t miss my next article!