This is the Appendix I spoke about in the previous chapter. As before, I have respectfully extended Applegate's conception of the Vanarx into new territory here.
And a huge thanks to all my reviewers! Truth be told, I didn't think a fic written like this, dry and scientific, with no action, none of the characters, etc., would get two or three if I was really lucky!
Appendix A: Notes on the Abundance and Natural History of the Vanarx (Puniceus cerebellogliemizelatro)
According to the Yeerks, Vanarxes were once fairly common on their planet, and a terrible menace to any member of their race inside a Gedd host. Later, after the Yeerks stole and adapted advanced weapons technology, they systematically exterminated their former natural enemies, both from the air and from foot, in a fashion reminiscent of cougars and wolves in America.
Although Yeerk Dracon beams could easily have driven them to extinction, just enough of the Yeerkbanes, as they are also known, were left alive to maintain the species. This restraint on the Yeerk's part was apparently in selfish anticipation of the day when the Andalites would be conquered, with morphing technology/ morph-capable Andalite bodies among the Yeerk spoils, and high-ranking Yeerks would then be able to use the threat of death by a Vanarx they could morph at any time as an effective method of subduing and encouraging faster results from subordinates.
This massive decimation of their former population, the highly cautious behavior understandably exhibited by survivors, and a mostly nocturnal lifestyle all come together to make the xenobiologist who gets even a quick glimpse of a wild Vanarx a fortunate person or alien indeed. All the same, some aspects of the behavior of these enigmatic beasts have been observed, documented, and painstakingly pieced together.
Looking like an eight foot long combination between a seahorse and a bear, Vanarxes have partly translucent body tissues, and are covered in a soft, pliable, pebbled armor, very like that of an armadillo's. Adult males are royal purple in color, while adult females, roughly 25 percent smaller and having a pouch for carrying several large eggs, are an emerald green, both sexes being solitary.
Like the Andalites, Vanarxes have four eyes on their heads. Green-orange in color with vertical pupils, the main two are large and forward facing, like a cat's. The other two are smaller, more sensitive to movement than detail, and located on the sides of the head, containing rectangular pupils. They help the Vanarx to detect any potential prey its main pair may've missed or scan for more potential victims while the beast is still occupied with feeding on a captured Controller-or more accurately, extracting the Yeerk from inside its head.
On Earth, some creatures have become highly specialized feeders on the parasites that infest other animals, such as red-billed and yellow-billed oxpeckers on the African plains, and cleaner wrasse or cleaner shrimp on coral reefs. Others will eat parasites on an opportunistic basis, like pond turtles in Africa that pluck ticks from the nostrils and groins of wallowing hippos and Cape buffalo, or snow monkeys that groom the coats of deer and cattle in Japan for ticks and fleas.
Almost always, these interactions benefit both the animal feeding on the parasites and the one having them removed. One gets a meal, while the other's discomfort is reduced and its physical condition is better for it.
The Vanarx though, is disturbingly different, and entirely selfish in its mode of feeding on the Yeerk parasites that completely compose its diet. Although its main target is the Yeerk in the host's skull, the Controller host dies as well within seconds of the Yeerk being removed.
The tubular mouth of a Vanarx is expandable, like that of a snake, and lined with rubbery suckers very like those of an octopus. The suction generated by an octopod's suckers is so strong in fact, that if an object is forcibly taken away from one, the suckers will actually be ripped off the tentacle and remain stuck on! A Vanarx's oral suckers are thought to be at least as powerful.
During the act of feeding, remarkably large throat and facial muscles are used to generate an amazing amount of sucking force by rapidly inhaling air. It has been demonstrated in the lab that a subadult female Varnax, tempted by the contents of an ostrich egg, can generate a sucking force 55 times that of a household vacuum cleaner! The implications of the force that an adult male could potentially generate certainly give one pause.
As reported and witnessed, a Vanarx will first locate a Gedd-Controller at a distance (often asleep, for Gedds are diurnal) by smell, confirming the presence of a Yeerk solely by the miniscule amounts of scent leaking out from the host's earholes. Drawing a bead on the Controller with its phenomenal night vision, it then makes a stalking approach on all fours, never taking its eyes off the victim. When close enough, it rushes the infested Gedd on all fours, the alien beast rearing up and jabbing its long, retractable claws deep into the Controller's upper torso, pinning and restraining it.
Engulfing one side of the Gedd's head with its yawning, sucker-lined mouth, the Vanarx then sucks in air over the host's ear canal, so hard that it rips out the eardrum, splits the inner ear bones, and eventually dislodges the Yeerk from its grip on the brain cortex. The doomed parasite has no way to go but down the exploded, shredded, ear canal-and into the stomach of the Vanarx.
Unfortunately, the suction force also inadvertently bursts and ruptures veins and arteries in the inner ear and brain, and pints of blood are drawn into the Vanarx's mouth along with the Yeerk, not to mention portions of the fat-rich brain tissue itself. Unsurprisingly, the host becomes collateral damage, dying a swift, nightmarish death.
Perhaps partly due to their nocturnal habits, no one has ever witnessed Vanarxes in the act of mating. Apparent courtship behavior though, has been witnessed on three different occasions. In each case, the male was seen to approach the female in a head-up, relaxed manner, producing a sort of growling buzz. The female answered with a sort of grunting bark before going up to the male, turning sideways, and sliding her tail under his chin. At this point, the male Vanarx placed his chin on the female's rump, and she broke into a fast trot, the male continuing to keep his chin on her body.
Unfortunately, observers failed to see anything more at this point. In the first case, the female abruptly became annoyed with the male and lashed out at her suitor, driving him away with spitting cries. In the second instance, both aliens caught the observer's scent and fled from the area. Perhaps most irksome of all, in the last sighting the courting pair was seen to trot over a ridge and out of view, making it impossible for the observer to record what took place next!
In spite of this lack of direct knowledge, it is presumed that the Vanarx pair continues to jog along for perhaps a mile or so, until a combination of the impressive stamina shown by a male that is able to keep up, and hormones from his chin glands which the female absorbs through her skin eventually cause her to come to a stop and accept her suitor as a sexual partner. The deed done, both Vanarxes go their separate ways.
It is known that during the breeding season, the shoulder and forearm muscles of adult males become dramatically larger, in preparation for battling other males. These fights have been witnessed several times, during which a pair of males was seen to rear up and grab each other with their forelegs, attempting to topple and throw their opponent to the ground in a manner similar to that shown by male monitor lizards.
Vanarx males also develop a pad of sharp, hedgehog-like prickles on the upper surface of their snout at this time, which they attempt to rake their opponent's throat, armpits, and other sensitive areas with. A male can end the mating season sporting some raw, nasty-looking abrasions.
The female undergoes some physical changes too. Her backward facing pouch, normally small and wrinkled, becomes large and sleek in preparation to receive and accommodate eggs.
Just like with mating, nobody has ever documented a female Vanarx in the act of laying a clutch. It's thought that around an Earthly week after being mated, the female finds a hillside, hollow, or other gentle incline. Then, bottlelike head facing downward and laying on her back, she lays several large, thin-shelled eggs, cream in color and roughly the size and shape of an orange. As each one is laid, she uses a combination of gravity and her hind feet to manipulate the egg into her pouch.
A female Vanarx's pouch contains from 3 to 7 of these eggs, with older females generally producing more. Secure and warm, they are incubated for somewhere around 15 to 20 days-again, our knowledge is sketchy-before hatching.
When the young first hatch, they stay in their mother's pouch for several days, feeding on a special type of skin that lines the inside, and is rich in both protein and fat. After around a week's time or so though, the young Vanarxes become too large to stay in the pouch.
At this point, they take up position on their mother's tail and hind legs, using their strong feet and hands to hold on while she travels and hunts. During this time the growing young live off both a fat-rich secretion produced by a gland at the base of the female's tail, and the pureed Yeerk which she gently regurgitates into their mouths.
It seems that this stage of life lasts for about an Earthly month, evidence suggesting as the growing young Vanarxes become too big to cling to their mother and more independent, she now lingers extensively around large Yeerk pools. One by one, the juvenile Varnaxes decide to leave their mother to live independent lives of their own, their instincts and smarts guiding them along the path to maturity.
As with so much else about them, it is unknown exactly how long Vanarxes live, although we do know females seem to live noticeably longer than males, and may possibly live into their late 30s if allowed to do so. Certainly, only a handful of observers have ever come across the body of a Vanarx which seemed to have died a natural death.
Little more can be said about the habits of these rare, extraordinary, specialized predators, except that xenobiologists constantly strive and hope to solve the many puzzles which still remain. Thankfully, a slow, post-persecution increase in Vanarx numbers makes this goal potentially achievable.
As before, R & R! The scientific name I gave to the Vanarx here, by the way, means "purple brain-slug thief" in Latin.