The Grobian Beetle -- Duruslamna Volucris. (Durus "hard," lamna "shell," volucris "winged creature.")
Species: Duruslamna Volucris.
Indigenous to the desert lands of Tynan, the Grobian beetles are the sentinel protectors of the land. Roaming quietly within their own territories, they travel in packs of five or six males with any single female. Their smooth, impenetrable black shells stand as beacons on the uninhabitable horizon, giving them the status of a deity with the local tribes.
The males are the sleek, agile hunters and gatherers of the species, and the defenders of the female: with an average height of six feet, they can leap over 40 feet into the air and are armed with powerful jaws, large fore-pincers, and a venomous scorpion-like stinger that causes temporary paralysis in their prey. The females are much more docile, standing up to fifteen feet above the desert plain. Their large, rounded abdominal shells are hollow, and open enough to allow two adult human males to fit comfortably inside.
Grobians are ectothermic creatures. Their shells have grown through evolution to provide them with protection from the intense heat of the Tynan deserts. The males are frenetic, actively and aggressively hunting for food. The females are torporific, moving more slowly and carefully to keep the young safe.
There are several insect species that can be compared to the Grobian beetle. The males are much like the praying mantis (Iris Oratoria) in their head construction, forearms and hunting/eating habits. The females, on the other hand, hold more similarities with the common Ladybug (Coccinella Septempunctata) than an actual beetle. Their classification as a "beetle" species comes from the hardness of their outer shell, as well as their general inability to fly, despite the presence of wing shells on the female. The carrying of the young is reflected in certain species of scorpion (such as Pandinus Imperator), as well as the stinger located on the rear of the males.
The male Grobians are faculative hexapods. While moving, they use all six legs for extra stability and speed. In combat, they are perfectly capable of maintaining their stance using only their four rear legs. The males are also able to jump over 30 feet in the air with incredible precision to strike their target from above. The females, meanwhile, are obligate hexapods: they are required to stay on six legs at all times to remain balanced.
The Grobian beetles do not have the ability for cognitive thought. Their brains are nothing more than ganglion nerve centers, allowing for only the most basic and primitive of actions. Evolution has taught them the importance of survival, and as such they have adopted many behavior patterns which focus on the preservation of the females, giving them a slight "hive" mentality even with the absence of a mass population. Beyond that, they are nowhere more intelligent than the average insect.
Social Interactivity & Communication
The Grobian beetles do not have any means of playing, as they do not possess the brain power required for cognitive thought. Their instincts are primal and raw, limited mostly to the basics: hunting, self-defense, and reproduction. The only advanced form of behavior they display is in their maternal care; they will actually protect their young with their lives if the carrying females are threatened.
Grobians lack any form of vocal cords, so they create sounds two different ways. Neither is a true means of communication, but rather, they are thought to be a general alert sound for any other beetles that may be nearby. First, they can make a loud clicking noise by gnashing their jaw. A single click -- repeated once every 3 seconds or so -- will alert the others to the presence of a source of food.
Likewise they can use this same technique to make a softer, more rapid series of clicks, which is only used as a means of intimidation in combat. The second form of sound is through a whistle: although the male Grobians have no lungs, they can suck in a small amount of air through the pharynx and channel it back out, creating a short, loud whistle. This is primarily used for mating rituals and is a very rare occurrence.
The Grobian social hierarchy is entirely based around the females. The two or three females in a community will remain close together, while the males will work to give them protection and comfort. A group will claim their territory only temporarily; the Grobians are instinctively nomadic and will move from their home within mere weeks of claiming it. If two groups collide, either in their pursuit of a nesting ground or during a hunt, they will fight over the rights for the land or kill. This form of fighting is usually just a display of dominance, without any real threat of injury to the combatants... unless one of the females is threatened during the process, in which case it can quickly become deadly when the other males jump in to defend her.
Hunting and Eating
The females have no methods for acquiring their own food; this is why the males' role in their survival is so vital. Five to six males will accompany a single female on a hunting trip, protecting her and feeding her along with their young. The Grobian are carnivorous and will eat anything, from cows and deer to larger prey (it was even reported that they were seen bringing down a full-grown bull elephant). The males' front legs and claws are serrated and much more adapted towards killing prey. Their claws can slice through bone and tenderize their prey for easier consumption. Their hind legs are powerful and grant them several abilities, from a running speed of over 25 miles per hour to the ability to jump over 30 feet in the air. The jaws of the male are compound, with a lower jaw that can be split into two parts to allow a greater capacity for holding and gripping raw meat. When the hunt begins, the males will fan out and cover a wide area, searching the surroundings for any sign of life. When one finds a target, it will click its jaw loudly and release a pheromone for the other males to follow. The attack is swift and usually over within a couple minutes. After killing, they will bring the carcass back to the female's position, where each male will take turns feeding her directly before feeding himself; if the female is carrying young, she will open her shell and allow the males to place food directly into the cavity for the young to feed. This form of parenting is remarkable, considering their usually primitive patterns of behavior.
In terms of metabolism, the males require much less sustenance in a single sitting than the female, but also need to eat much more frequently. The actions for hunting, killing and defending the group cause them to burn through their internal supply of hemolymph at an astonishing rate. The female, on the other hand, can stockpile this supply of energy and last for up to a couple weeks at a time off of a single meal. Granted, each male usually donates food to the female in a portion equal to their own, so she gets a good amount during each kill. It's also common for males to come across smaller kills (rabbits, gophers, etc.) and simply devour them on-the-spot for a quick refuel (and sometimes males will even fight over the rights for a particular kill if it is not large enough to work cooperatively for the good of the female).
Grooming and Hygiene
The Grobians have no need for grooming, as their shells are hard enough to resist penetration from parasites. In damper areas, they sometimes will grow a thin layer of moss on their shells (especially the females), but since most of the land is a desert wasteland, this isn't a common problem for them.
Mating and Birthing
The female knows when she is ready to mate: upon producing eggs, her body releases a pheromone which alerts the males of the group that she is ready to mate. The males will then respond with a whistling noise to compete for her attention, and if the female decides to pair up, she will respond by lowering her abdomen to the ground in front of them and opening her rear shell.
The females will accept multiple mates during a single mating session. After accepting a male, she creates a low rumbling noise through the vibration of her shell. The exact purpose of this is unknown, but it is thought to be a means of ensuring that the male's deposit reaches the eggs within her much larger body, much like shaking a drink to make sure it is well-mixed.
The mating habits take place once every three years. The females have an opening within their abdominal cavity through which the eggs are laid directly into the female's holding area. This same opening is used as a receptacle for the male deposit. When the female opens her rear shell, the male crawls inside and turns around, positioning himself for penetration. The process is over rather quickly, and afterwards the male hops out, while the remaining males wait to see if the female will choose one of them next.
The female generates eggs within her uteran sack, which is contained in the rearmost part of her abdomen. Unlike other insects, though, she does not lay these eggs; they remain in her body and are fertilized by the males during a mating ritual that occurs once every three years. After fertilization, they are laid within her abdominal cavity and protected from the elements by her wings. After hatching, the soft, gel-like shells are the young's first meal. Immediately afterwards, the adult males will usually provide them with a fresh kill every few days. The young will remain within the mother's shell until their own shells begin to harden -- usually within their first year -- at which point they will exit the protective covering and strike out on their own as a new group. There is no central "hive" of the Grobian beetle; each group is their own nomadic community, with 10-15 males and 2-3 females bonding and growing up together. Since it is rare for a Grobian to leave its community, most of these colonies remain together from birth, and are incestuous in their mating habits.
In terms of genetics, the incestuous mating would lead to a problem in genetic flushing with most species. In the case of the Grobian females, evolution has taken another route. The females are chimeric, in that their reproductive organs carry a mutated version of their own DNA. This means that each female essentially has two complete sets of DNA: one for their main body and pheromones, and a secondary set for reproductive purposes. This also explains why each newly-hatched group of Grobian beetles do not react favorably to their own parents after setting out on their own: the mutated secondary DNA creates a new pheromone in the young and makes it seem, to them, that the parents are not related.
Native Environment and Territory
The majority (65% or so) of the land of Tynan is covered in a barren desert. This part of the land is covered primarily by dunes, dust and sand. Once a month it will rain, which brings about a temporary flood and cooler temperatures, but this quickly fades and returns to the hostile conditions to which the Grobians have become well-adapted. Towards the edge of the country, the deserts begin to recede and plant and animal life blossoms. This is the area where the local nomadic tribes erect villages and farms.
The males will mark their territory through the release of a special pheromone which tells beetles of other groups to stay away. Through birth, each male shares the same genetic scent, which is why the beetles tend to band together once they are strong enough to strike out on their own. Beetles from a different mother will have a different scent, and will know to stay away from anything that smells different from their own brethren.
Local Lore & Mythology
The natives of Tynan have a high level of respect for the Grobian beetles. Their impenetrable shells and ability to survive in the barren central deserts of Tynan earn them a god-like status with local tribes, who see them as silent guardian sentinels of the landscape. The 15-foot-tall female Grobian, with her hollow abdominal cavity, is revered as a motherly figure and worshipped as a bringer of life. If a child is born with a female Grobian standing on the horizon, it is considered a prophecy of good fortune and a promise of prosperity for his/her life.
Upon seeing a troupe of Grobian beetles in the distance, native Tynic nomadic farmers will oftentimes leave a piece of livestock (usually a cow) in the path of the beetles as a sacrifice to the Gods.
Grobian beetles have an average life span of 15-20 years. After dying, the internal organs and muscles quickly decay, leaving behind a large, hollowed-out shell. In a true testament to their instinctual dedication to one another, the Grobians will choose to die in mass numbers rather than individually. If one of them dies of old age, the others will remain by the body of the deceased and await their final moments as well. This results in large groups of makeshift Grobian graveyards littering the landscape of Tynan, where the black shells gradually change to a sun-bleached brown, blending in with the sandy terrain before eventually being covered and swallowed by the dunes.
Preliminary female construction sketches.
Preliminary male construction sketches.
Preliminary male action sketches.
Internal claw anatomy of the female Grobian.
Internal anatomy of the female body.
Details of male Grobian dentition, including the compound lower jaw.
Jumping attack cycle of the male Grobian.
Threatening pose of the male.
Male attacking a sacrificial cow.
Female with open rear shell.
The Grobian beetle mating ritual.
Maquette of the female Grobian beetle, with observable muscle structure on the left side.
Maquette of the male Grobian beetle, with observable muscle structure on the left side.
The male and female maquettes, not to scale with each other. The male is actually 1/3 the size of the female.
Finished rendering of the male Grobian beetles in an attack sequence.
All content and artwork ©2006 by Jon Ponikvar.