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Bunyip - Neocene Project

By electreel
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My rendition of Alexey Tatarinov's picture in color.


Bunyip (Teratoceratodus bunyip)
Order Australian lungfishes (Ceratodiformes)
Family Barramundas (Ceratodidae)
Habitat: rivers of Eastern Australia to the north up to Carpentaria Lake.
The bunyip is a mythical predatory aquatic monster from Australian rivers. In Neocene the legend about this creature had been unexpectedly embodied in reality. Crocodiles had died out in an ice age, but to change them in their ecological niche the new predator had come, quite suitable by its habits to the image of legendary monster.
Ancestor of this creature is not a reptile, but fish, the amazing Australian barramunda (Neoceratodus forsteri). As it is paradoxical, this creature had got advantage in survival because of human activity: in XX century of human epoch this fish had been widely settled by people at the continent for the purpose of preservation of this species. It was successful act, and the small population of barramunda had survived in lakes at bottom of Great Dividing Ridge. To survive, these fishes had starting to master other food sources, than were at their ancestors. Rather large animals, mainly vertebrates, are including to ration of Neocenic bunyip. This fish had replaced the extinct crocodiles at top of food pyramid.
It is strictly freshwater fish. Bunyip does not come to Carpentaria Lake far from coast because of residual salinity of depths (this lake represents a former sea gulf), moving only along coast and is settling in swamps surrounding this lake. Bunyip does not live in Arafura Lake at all: it is even more salt, and here one of relic species of crocodiles replaces it. But bunyips live in the rivers running into these lakes, and in circuit of channels and bogs of tropical rainforest.
Bunyip not so strongly differs from the ancestor: it had kept features of structure characteristic for the barramunda – flipper-like fins, large scale and one lung. But it had appreciably increased its size: it is a huge predatory fish up to 4 meters long and weighting over 400 kg. The female is larger and paler than male, but at the male head is larger. The tail of bunyip is short, rounded and expanded in comparison with the lengthened peaked tail of barramunda. It is used only for sharp throws for catch, and not hunting fish swims with the help of movements of wide flipper-like paired fins.
The head of bunyip had turned to true ram: the cartilaginous skull is considerably strengthened by shell scutes. Corneous plates, with which help fish grasps and dismembers catch, have peaked cutting outgrowths. They can split half-and-half seized catch: fish, lizard, bird or mammal. Bunyip avoids only attacks on the adult turtles protected by firm carapace, but this fish swallows the young growth of turtles entirely and exterminates it in plenty.
At the bunyip there are small eyes and bad sense of sight, but sharp sense of smell and sensitive lateral line. Even in darkness this fish can easily find and seize small frog swimming several meters far from predator.
Bunyip is bad swimmer, but it is the master of camouflage: its colouring – brown with dark speckles – makes it badly seen among river dust: driftwood, trunks of trees and layer of fallen leaves. Having masked, the fish passively expects catch, attacking it by fast throw. About two - three times at hour bunyip emerges for air, though in case of necessity and in fresh water, rich in oxygen, it can make it only once per hour, and even less often. At breath the fish utters loud groaning sound especially far heard in silent night. Each fish protects territory from neighbours, and this sound distributing under water, warns neighbours of territorial claims of bunyip.
The bunyip tolerantly concerns to life in pond with muddy stinky slush to which water turns during a drought: it respires by air, and the zero contents of oxygen in such water is indifferent to it. However this fish does not live in completely drying up reservoirs, because it has no special mechanisms promoting preservation of water in body. When the drought begins, bunyips leave inundated reservoirs and migrate to the central channel of river, or stay in deepest ponds. When in river channel many fishes of this species swim together at once, between them there are fights and many borders of territories are reconsidered. Though in inundated reservoirs there are young and weaker fishes, and in the main channel the strongest individuals live, some young applicants had “grown up” till the rain season, more often succeed to win at older individuals a place to themselves. Fight is accompanied by demonstration of forces, pushes by sides and impacts by head. When forces are equal and any contender does not concede, jaws are used for fight. Some old individuals have characteristic traces of stings on back and sides – four deep V-shaped small holes placed in corners of rectangular, staying from the pointed ends of cutting plates.
The spawning of bunyips occurs once a year in rain season: at this time many fishes leave the basic channel, and the competition is reduced. The unitary fast spawning is a consequence of very short period favorable for spawning at ancestors of bunyip during the ice age (at the barramunda spawning is portional and dragged out to some months). For spawning the male chooses underwater small-leaved plants, clears them of silt by movements of fins, carries off stones and dust, and starts to invite the female to the prepared breeding bottom. It pushes the female by head, swims around of chosen bush of water plants, emerges and specially “sings”, exhaling air with all its might.
In clutch of bunyips there is up to thousand of very large grains of roe (their diameter is about 2 cm). Fishes spawn eggs in plants prepared by male, and he stays to protect territory around of clutch, not caring special way about eggs.
Egg incubation lasts about 2 weeks, and then approximately equal time the larva passively lives at the bottom, hiding from enemies, not eating and digesting the rests of contents of yolk sac. Later it passes to feeding by small water invertebrates and fry of fishes. At one-year-old age the bunyip reaches length about 10 cm. Further, having transited to feeding by fish, fish strongly accelerates the growth rate, and at ten years' age, at length about two meters, the fish already can take part in spawning. The maximal life expectancy of bunyips may exceed 150 years.
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© 2010 - 2021 electreel
Comments8
anonymous's avatar
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Amplion's avatar
Cool colorization!!! I love it!
Cephlaken's avatar
So this critter is a Neocene equivalent of large predatory fish like Nile Perches in Australia?
indigomagpie's avatar
Great creature, but I've never heard the word "barramunda" before and the ancestor's usually called "Australian lungfish" (barramundI are something entirely different, teleosts I think)
electreel's avatar
Some Australian lungfishes are called barramunda [link] , I don´t know if other types fishes are so called.
godofwarlover's avatar
Did a nice job on this
electreel's avatar
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anonymous's avatar
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