Black Sapsuckers: Family Dryadae


I. Biology

The Dryadae are native to the planet Zeta 4 and were first studied by Dendrology Research Corporation.

Members of the Family Dryadae resemble Terrestrial butterflies and moths in that their body plans are similar. Dryadae have a head with two, movable, compound eyes, sensory eyelashes, a thorax with six legs, an abdomen, and two pairs of wings. They fly with the same fluttering gait. For this reason, they are often referred to as flutterbys (rhymes with butterflies.) Many are also of similar size to butterflies and moths, although some, especially the carnivorous ones, are considerably larger.

Dryadae also resemble Terrestrial mammals -- they have internal skeletons, a leathery skin, hair, mammary glands, and are homeothermic.

Dryadae are generally social creatures, living in large flocks. The young tend to stay with the parents at least until the seventh molt, when their wings develop.

Both males and females have a sharp, retractable thorn on their forewings which may be used in combat, in obtaining food, and in excavating their nests. Males are generally larger than females. Adult females possess a pair of human-like breasts on their thorax containing the mammary glands used for feeding the young until they are old enough to feed themselves.

Young are born singly or in pairs and resemble miniature adults, although wingless. They go through several molts of their skin as they mature. They reach adult size with their sixth molt, wings develop at the seventh, and they become sexually mature at the eighth molt. Female breasts appear at this molt. The molts occur at intervals of about seven months, stimulated by the unusual brightness which occurs at the conjunction of the planet’s three moons. Mature Dryadae live to an indeterminate age, but apparently for many decades.

The wings of the Dryadae resemble butterfly and moth wings superficially in appearance. They are of similar shape and are usually seen in the full extended conformation. However, their shape is determined by their internal skeleton and musculature. The wings can be furled to wrap around the body and there is some mobility which allows the wing thorns to be used for digging to make their nests.

Most Dryadae recognize potential mates, family members, and members of their social group primarily by smell, secondarily by sight. They have a number of scent glands, the primary species scent being produced by a large patch extending across the wings.

There are three main Genera: the Carnivora, the Herbivora, and the Saccharivora. As may be obvious from the names, Carnivora are meat eaters. They eat other Dryadae and other small animals and "insects". Some attack larger prey in packs. Herbivora eat primarily plant and/or fungal tissue. Most Saccharivora drink the sweet juices from flowers, fruits, and tree saps. Some will drink blood or other fluids, such as perspiration, from animals (sweet or not.)

Trittcha is a member of Saccharivora hamadryada. "Hamadryada" is derived from "hamadryad" — wood nymphs who lived in trees. The hamadryada live mainly in the temperate forests. They exist as populations of various colors and color patterns. Trittcha’s population is an entirely black variety, hamadryada walenda, ranging over much of the Walenda Prefecture. Trittcha's Flock (analogous to a tribe) is the Chittinttas.

Although technically the same species, the various color variants seldom interbreed because of distinctly different scents and colors. However, several years ago a hurricane carried a large number of a yellow costal variety (of the Flock Gillitt) inland to the Walenda Prefecture. The yellow hamadryada are a more aggressive variety and did interbreed with the locals. The main result of this interbreeding is an occasional walenda with a yellow patch on the wings and the odor characteristic of the yellow variety if there is mating of two individuals which carry these recessive genes. The black walendas generally will not breed with or tolerate these obvious hybrids.

The Dryadae have some sort of psychic ability. The humanoid natives of the Walenda Prefecture report that, although they have never been bred for this purpose, the hamadryada walendas sometimes make good pets. The natives were not aware of the psychic aspects of these relationships. The existence of these relationships suggests that the psychic abilities probably play a role in friend/foe relationships.

The rejection of Trittcha by other walendas resulted in her spending an unusual amount of time in the presence of the researcher, Tom. Some sort of bond was established and she was able to use the mental faculties of this human to think, analogous to a virus which, although not living, is able to utilize the genetic machinery of a host to reproduce. There is no telepathic communication between them, but she seems to understand Tom’s speech and attempts to communicate by her actions, a sort of pantomime. For instance, Trittcha expressed approval of a potential crew mate, the Adondi, Tahiti, by flying in very tight circles around Tom and Tahiti.

The distance to which this psychic bond can be stretched is unknown.

II. Communication

The dryadae communicate by scent(fear, anger, personal identification, predator alarm, etc.) and sounds (alarms, all-clear) produced by rasping their wings together.

The hamadryadae, at least, also communicate, mostly symbolically, by telepathy, their "prickle" speech, so called because of the feeling in the mind that accompanies reception.

Communication of more precise concepts is by vocalizations which sound like some sort of "chitter" to humans. Their chitter communication has a simple grammar:

1. Simple present, past and future tenses

2. Simple declarative, interrogative, and imperative.

Because of their limited intelligence, their vocabulary is limited, and sometimes reflects their almost "digital" good/bad point of view. "Not-" is sometimes used as a prefix rather than having a specific word for an alternative or opposite. For instance, even though they have words for "good" and "bad", a flutterby might either be "Chittintta" (implying a good individual) or "not-Chittintta" (implying a bad individual). They also have a "meadow" (an open area which is large) or a "not-meadow" (an open area which is small, but without a specific word to name it.)


Page updated: 14 June 2019
Page created: 18 January 2012