Fridays in AEthrem sneaks upon you again, with a splash and a sibilant hiss, dauntless reader! This week, we bring our series on the beasts of the world to a close, and take a look at a prominent example of the unique threat provided by the fauna of the Menric Sea. Today, we dare to look the buentratuk directly in its fearsome maw!
To the casual observer, the spitting crocodile - or buentratuk, as it is called by local pramadi - is not particularly remarkable. Members of the species are native to the rivers and standing bodies of either fresh or brackish water within the Menric Sea. They have short limbs, powerful jaws, a grey-green scaled hide, and average about two meters long at their full, adult size - none of which would make them stand out from any other crocodile found throughout the world.
Any close observer of the spitting crocodile should easily notice the large bulges to either side of the beast's throat. It is these protuberances that actually give the creature its common name. Each contains a large gland that produces an acidic compound, and a muscular sac to store it. A spitting crocodile may open its mouth and project its acidic spray forward at whatever it faces through a muscular contraction of these sacs.
The acidic spray of an adult spitting crocodile will cause intense pain, burns, and even temporary blindness for those targets unfortunately struck in the eyes. Spitting crocodiles use this as an aide in hunting - first spraying its prey, then rushing in to seize it in its jaws while the victim is confused and in pain. They also have been known to spray potential dangers when they feel pursued or threatened.
Intelligent species such as humans are not the typical prey of the spitting crocodile - these creatures prefer to feed on water fowl and small mammals. This isn't to say that explorers have nothing to fear from the creatures - spitting crocodiles are known to frequently be threatened by passing boats, spraying the side of approaching craft before quickly fleeing. The buentratuk is also an opportunistic predator, and will rush for a lone swimmer (especially one in distress). At the site of a shipwreck in the Menric Sea, expect several local spitting crocodiles to congregate in search of easy prey.
In addition to shipwrecks, these creatures seem to enjoy the shelter provided by recent settlements, and have been known to gather in abandoned human buildings and mining tunnels near sea level that have flooded in the wet season. The spitting crocodile is semi-social - anywhere from one to twenty have been discovered living in close proximity in the wild. Larger gatherings of the species are allegedly more aggressive, leading most savvy guides to avoid groups larger than a handful.
As a side note, all recorded attempts to domesticate the spitting crocodile have ended in expected disaster. This has not stopped the truly eccentric or careless prospectors of the Menric Sea to continue attempting to do so.
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