Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fauna of Dark•Heritage

Keen-eyed and nitpicky observers may have noticed a flaw--or at least bizarre little nugget--in my last post, which makes reference to the Juugashi in Kurushat--hyena-headed magically designed super-soldiers.  The post also made casual reference to hyenas.  But I've said many times before that DARK•HERITAGE features a North American Rancholabrean fauna--and there ain't no hyenas in that faunal assemblange.  This isn't actually a flaw so much as a design decision that I've not really talked much about before.  And besides, if anyone of my readers is paying enough attention to pick that nit, then I'd be really surprised.  But for my own benefit--and to document the fact that I've thought this through on the off-chance that some future DARK•HERITAGE novel becomes a best-seller and people on the internet start dissecting my blog posts, here's the real scoop.

When I say that the Rancholabrean fauna from North America is common in DARK•HERITAGE, what I really mean specifically is the northern shores of the Mezzovian Sea.  On the southern shores, we really start getting into Pleistocene Europe, with animals as seen in caves like Lascaux or Altamira.  A late Villafranchian fauna, mostly.  Many of the animals are quite similar (mammoths, wolves, brown bears, elk vs. red deer, cave lions vs. American lions, cave bears vs. short-faced bears, wisent vs. bison, aurochs, Merck's rhino and wooly rhino, etc.) although there are obviously some differences.  Many of them are also part of the faunas of a greater Eurasia or Africa... and in fact, the spotted hyena was a Pleistocene component of the fauna prior to the Holocene extinction event, which limited their range to sub-Saharan Africa.  In Europe, they were called cave hyenas, and appear to be a much larger subspecies than is present in Africa today.  Not only are they present in fossil and cave art form from southern Europe, but they also appear in fossil form as far away as the Russian far east.

When you get to Kurushat, you really are talking more about a classical African and ancient Near East fauna altogether, with maybe a few Pleistocene animals which are now extinct, or other animals which were extant historically but are not any longer.  Syrian elephants, or Elephas recki being a great example.  For the most part, Africa today retains its Pleistocene megafauna, which is why it feels so exotic and adventurous to Europeans or Americans, who's megafaunas are impoverished.

In real life, North America, Europe and Africa are not, of course, close to each other geographically, and haven't been since the very earliest Jurassic--long before the time of any recognizably modern fauna (heck, the dinosaurs were still just coming into their own back then.)  So, what keeps my faunal populations separate?  Well, nothing.  Author fiat, I suppose.  And the concept of extant species keeping expansion of another species in the same ecological niche from expanding into new territory.  You don't have small terrestrial/arboreal omnivores like Old World monkeys wandering into the northern territories because raccoons are already well-established, for instance. But it gives me the possibility of adding unusual elements into the fauna.  North America didn't have any primates, for example, but if I want baboons roaming the savana with my bison--well, it wouldn't be hard to justify it, since there are baboons not that far away in the Kurushat region.

Other than Kurushat being more overtly African, the southern Mezzovian being more Pleistocene Europe (including being the homeland of the Cavusto, or Neanderthal population, so not surprising!) and the northern area being more southwestern Pleistocene North America, what else have we got that's unusual?  Gigantic anthropomorphic apes up in the Lakama jungles.  These apes aren't exactly equivalent to anything known today.  Gorilla-like, but not gorillas--maybe they're more like the apes of Tarzan fame.  Feral cattle similar to the Texas longhorn probably wander much of the territory on both sides of the Mezzovian.  A few other primates might be seen in areas where you wouldn't expect them--mandrill-like terrestrial Old World monkeys up north, for example, or completely fantastical carnivorous langurs, etc. Just for the fun of it.

Does this make my geography a little bit nonsensical?  If this is supposed to be the southern hemisphere, why do I have an essentially tropical megafaunal assemblance in the far southeastern region, south of a temperate megafauna associated with Pleistocene southern Europe?

I'm not explaining it.  Honestly, it isn't that big a deal.  The entire region of the Mezzovian Sea is southern Europe like in terms of climate, or southwestern US-like.  This is subtropical or warm temperate, so if a large region is more tropical--even on the latitudinal extreme of the area, well that's probably related to elevation, or the jet stream, or other climatic factors.  It's not worth it to me to worry too much about it.  Much like the southern hemisphere in our own world, the climate here is not continental except in patchy areas of high elevation and particular distance from a sea, so in general it's much more mild and even in any case.  I think it works if one assumes (and I haven't really thought about it one way or another until now) that the Cavusto steppes are particularly higher elevation plains that are wind-swept and much cooler than the areas around them (barring mountain ranges, of course.)  If they're high enough, the climate can even be alpine or subalpine, and therefore correspond in every meaningful way with being subpolar--therefore the more tundra-like animals of the European Ice Ages can have a presence here.  Otherwise, the areas south of the Mezzovian Sea would remain more like the southern areas of ice free Europe, like the Iberian peninsula, for instance.  Or perhaps North Africa.  This means my climate model can work after all--I just need to decide that the Cavusto Steppes are pretty high elevation.  That actually works quite well with the sketched map that I have.

Which reminds me--I really need to get to work on creating a digital map of the setting, don't I?  Talking about it would be quite a bit easier if I could refer readers to such a document.

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