This article was reprinted in the May/June 2012 issue of Freelance Traveller.
The damnthing is a solitary tropical-zone coastal fish that lives and hunts in coral "forests" and under rocky coastal shelving, waiting for prey above it to be silhouetted against the light of the surface. Then it darts out of its lair and up at the prey item. To kill, it slashes at the underside of the prey with a whip that has razor sharp crests of bone running along the last 20cm of the 4meter tail. The damnthing then waits till the prey weakens or dies before moving in to eat it. Damnthings have dislocating jaws and large sharp, rasping teeth on a prehensile tongue. This is used to quickly gouge out massive chunks of meat out of the prey as fast as possible before other predators (including other damnthings) come to contest the food supply or territory. A damnthing will defend itself with either the tail or tongue depending on the range to the threat. But when hunting it will only strike with the whip.
Damnthings are highly territorial, and one will control an area of several square kilometers of coastline. A damnthing will live its entire life in the same territory, only venturing out to make quick frantic dashes out in search of a mate, or prey if poaching along the edge of another’s territory. They are hermaphroditic and bear live young. The young are capable of fleeing for their lives from the hungry parent within seconds of being born. Typically a damnthing will have up to 10 young at once, once a year. After mating the sperm can be stored and provide fertilization of 3 -4 batches of ova.
Damnthings are slender and eel-like in shape and contour, flaring to a flat broad head that looks snake-like. The head has 2 sets of paired eyes; one set is highly developed and situated on either side of the head. These distinguish color, shape, depth perception, and all the usual things eyes do. They are small for an animal this size, and fairly short range – the animal can only really see clearly out to approx. 10 meters even in the crystal clear shallow waters they live in. The other set are directly on top of the head and are simple eyes capable only of light and shadow detection. These are the ones which spot the prey on the surface as the animal sticks its head out of its hole.
The hide is iridescent blues and greens, with a bright splash of fluorescence around the gills and along the jaw line. The three pairs of fins set bilaterally along the body are orange to bright red. Damnthings can mate about once every 3-4 months. When ready to mate, the damnthings display a spectacular fluorescence and color pattern that runs all along its body. Biologists believe this helps the animal find the scarce mates along the coasts, and by displaying its readiness to mate avoids an attack by another damnthing protecting its territory. It is popular among the tourists to take out glass-bottomed boats as the sun sets to watch one damnthing after another during mating displays.
Sport fishing of the damnthing is done by divers using themselves as “lures” to tempt the animal out of its hole and then spear it with explosive-tipped bolts. The divers equip their suits with various color bands, vibrators, frills, and reflective bits to attract the interest of the near-sighted animal. The suits are named after the lure style, i.e., “Wurgling Bugle Worm”, or “Humming Nimble Tosser”, and while novices wear armor to protect themselves, professionals often do not – instead relying on experience and reflexes to know when the fish will attack with tail whip or rasp.
Classic Traveller Statistics:
|COASTAL OCEAN Terrain
|Standard world, standard or dense atmosphere, 50%+ hydrographics