|Future of The World|
|This is a part of Future of The World: a collaborative project about our planet's future|
Temporal range: 28 - 91 MyF
|Families & Genera|
The gubernatoroids, descendants of the aerovaranids, are a clade of large, dragon-like, flying reptiles, similar in apperance to pterosaurs. Their closest modern relatives are monitor lizards.
Like the aerovaranids, the gubernatoroids are commonly known as draaks, though to distinguish the two groups, the name 'gubernator' is also used. Compared to the aerovaranids however, gubernators are often far more aerially adapted and are not as good at walking. Mountains are their prefered habitat, as predators on land can't easily get at the colony. In particular, one species, Gorgonopteryx vulcanus, is specialised for living on volcanoes, and can sense volcanic tremors to such a degree that any sight of this species away from a volcano probably means that said volcano is erupting.
Gubernatorid gubernators are so well adapted to life on the wing that they may spend almost a week without landing. Some have winspans of almost 12 metres, making them tied with some pterosaurs. Gubernators have hinged upper teeth, similar to the fangs of vipers, and can be folded to close the mouth. This causes many species have significantly longer teeth than the size of their mouth would suggest. Gubernatorids are most commonly found in Eurasia and North America, flying over the massive plains that are the main habitat.
Assurgodraconid gubernators are oceanic specialists, hunting fish and cephaloods in the massive southern ocean basin south of Antarctica. This group contains the largest ever volant tetrapod, with the largest specimens having wingspans of 15 metres. Most species, however, average in the 6 - 9 meter wingspan range. This group is also characterised by their long narrow wings, teeth that face forward and that they are ovoviviparous.
The Volgaraptoria split off from the common ancestors of all gubernatoroidea relatively early, and unlike their relatives, did not become large pterosaur-like apex predators, but became small (usually) and often poorly flighted creatures, many of which live on islands. Most volgaraptors are small, between 0.5 and 4 kilograms, still bigger than the majority of birds that exist at the time, but small nonetheless. In many ways they are similar to rhamphorynchoid pterosaurs in appearance, though without the long pointy teeth, as they are mostly terrestrial in their habits. Many species are capable of bipedal movement, and some species are almost entirely bipedal.
Ambulodraconid volgaraptors, which are a common sight on the plains, are primarily terrestrial. Some ambulodraconids are big game hunters, and gang up on the large herbivorous reptiles that dominate the fauna of the Neocene. Others are waders that eat fish and other water animals. The body form of ambulodraconids is surprisingly different between the two genera, Ambulodraco is a primarily bipedal form, giving it the odd appearance of a mix between a bipedal dinosaur and a small pterosaur. Ungulogubernator is a small, wading, piscivorous, and almost flightless animal that walks on all fours and has a hoof-like claw on its free front finger. Both are exclusively found in the Old World.
Venatorexids are very large volgaraptors that are closely related to Ambulodraconids. Unlike them, they are only found in the New World. There are several species of venatorexids, all in the genus Venatorex. Ranging in size from 2 - 8 metres tall and 3 - 10 metres long counting the tail, they are powerful apex predators, and are able to hunt almost anything they come across. Unlike other gubernators, venatorexids are essentially flightless, with all species losing the ability to fly before adulthood. All venatorexids roughly resemble a strange fusion of an azdharchid and a dimorphodont, although with smaller wing membranes than either, and a long flag-like tail. Venatorexids still retain venom, but only seem to use it after already killing something, presumably as a way of breaking down tough muscles.
The Postocene-Calderan extinction, also known as the P-Ca extinction, around 32 MyF caused widespread extinctions of large mammalian megafauna, and around as much among birds, with just a little more than half of bird species alive in the Postocene going extinct. Smaller mammals and more adaptable birds survived, but reptiles were given the edge that they needed, and took over. The Aerovaranids, which specialised in mammalian prey, were forced to adapt to the new megafauna, and in the process evolved several new adaptations.
Gubernators are active, top of the line carnivores, well equipped to hunt all but the largest prey of the Neocene. Some species have a covering of keratin on their snout, possibly the precursor of a beak, but most species, particularily the largest predatory ones, have powerful teeth and jaws. Most species also have large claws on their feet and a free finger which also bears a claw, which enables them to get a hold on prey and deliver the weakly venomous bite.
The venom of gubernatoroids is unusual compared to that of most animals. Most other venomous reptiles use the venom to kill their prey, however, instead of relying on the venom to kill their prey, gubernators use their venom to break down the tissues of their prey after it is already dead. The venom is strongly corrosive, and though not particularly toxic, is almost always fatal to smaller animals. The venom itself is very similar to gastric acid, and is a mixture of hydrochloric acid, sodium and potassium chlorides, and peptide enzymes, and is secreted from modified salivary glands below the tongue. To avoid damage, the inside of the mouth and esophagus is coated in acid resistant cells similar to those lining the stomach. Exactly how this venom evolved is almost completely unknown. Not all gubernators have this feature, and only larger species have fully adapted it for hunting.