Margakrida Name meaning: derives from the greek words margaritari (pearl) and akrida (locust)
These marmot sized herbivores are close relatives of the Loutroteras. Both aliens belong to a class of animals that are partially armored, usually below the waist-line. To protect their vulnerable fleshy bodies, they always live close to the shoreline and regularly bathe themselves to stay hydrated.
Margakrida doesn't have a bathtub shaped shell to collect water so it needs to make regular trips between the land and the sea. This would leave it very vulneable to predators who could easily crush its soft body in their clamps. The Margakrida's solution to this problem is unique. Just like oysters do on Earth, Margakrida can create pearls if a grain of sand finds itself in its tail shell and ends up accumulating layers of nacre. But instead of creating spheres, Margakrida can alter the shape of its shell, which is actually a collection of plates bound together by small muscles and tendons. With time, this allows it to create magnificent sculptures that the animal eventually drops out of their bodies via a large opening running along its back.
The animals are social and can live in large colonies of up to 300 individuals. Together, they arrange their structures to create foretresses that reach from the ocean to the nearest plants. They can even weld their creations together by secreting an enzyme. Over the generations, these "pearl castles" become rather large in surface area and height, making really difficult for predator to cross. Pointed edges also make it dangerous for soft bodied areas (such as the true mouths) to come in contact with as they could tear. Margakridas are not at risk of tearing themselves because their soft bodies are coated with mucus.
However, the pearl castles are not invincible and require constant maintenance. Some large herbivores can actually crush the castle under their weight if they happen to walk right through. Also, like pearls on Earth, the Margakrida's pearls can wear out after being exposed to different elements and start losing their efficiency. Creating replacement "towers" can take a considerable amount of time so the group must work constantly.
"The idea for this creature came when my sister started litteraly taking over the house with her own art projects. She is working on a Full Metal Alchemist cosplay of Alphonse Elric and is making a replica of the suite of armor. So there are lots of scraps of paper of the different armor pieces laying around, and to walk around without stepping on anything was becoming a pain. Then I thought, what if an animal that could actually shape its environment to make it difficult for predators to move around? Margakrida was my answer."