Sweet Water Snapper
|Sweet Water Snapper|
|Official Name||Sweet Water Snapper|
|Common Nicknames||Essan Croc, Snappagator|
|Habitat||Freshwater rivers and swamps of the north, central and eastern Essalonia|
The Sweet Water Snapper is a large species of reptile and a medium-sized crocodilian native to the wildlands of Essalonia. They have been known to the region’s colonists since the earliest days, but unlike the Kelp and Maerrow, similarly reptilian predators of the region, the Sweet Water Snapper has an intrinsic value that is easy to access. Its meat is fine and even tasty when consumed, while its pelt is useful, and according to Ithanians, “stylish.” They have remained relatively populous as a result, hunted out of the major waterways used for regional transportation, but allowed to dominate the shady, out of way swamps and rivers that crisscross Essalonia.
Sweet Water Snappers went unencountered for centuries, existing within the murky swamps of Essalonia and the region’s rivers. By the time Ailor penetrated into the areas of Essalonia that the creature lived, it was the beginning of the region’s colonization. In the 250s AC, talk of “lethal floating trees from the then frontier of the expanding colonies caused proper Imperial authorized expeditions to go out and investigate. They found the Sweet Water Snapper and quickly alerted the colonists of this danger, and soon after, the other horrors of the water: the Kelp and the Maerrow. However, unlike those creatures, Sweet Water Snappers appeared to be dominant in the food chain. Their continuous presence forced the locals to actively hunt and kill the creatures, along with the local Maerrow. However, unlike the Maerrow who suffered heavy population decline, the Sweet Water Snapper’s range was much wider, and the animals were also eventually seen as a local delicacy. Snapper meat and hides were highly sought out, especially in the Ithanian dominated colony of Sonjamb, and so hunters eventually turned to fully focus on Maerrow, driving them to the outskirts of their former extensive range which they had shared with the Sweet Water Snapper. In the modern-day this crocodilia remains populous and a common food source on the ever-expanding frontier of the various New Ceardian Colonies. Additionally, their hides sell well on the coastline and while the major rivers have largely been cleared of their presence, hunters still allow the reptiles to lurk in dark watering holes as future sources of nutrition and income.
Sweet Water Snappers are large reptiles, reaching anywhere from nine to fourteen feet long with a wide range of weights based on diet and other factors, however most weigh above 500 pounds. Their heads possess long and often broad snouts filled with anywhere from 74 to 80 teeth, many of which can be seen, white and pearly, due to the design of the animal’s mouth. Their eyes are situated just after the mouth and are slit with a green or brown coloration possible. From here a thickly muscled neck attaches them to a body built for swimming and killing. Their limbs are generally short, though they possess powerful, five-toed, and clawed feet on each limb, with a powerful pointed tail extending out behind their body. Their backs are covered in small ridges, though they grow larger and more prominent on the animal’s tail. Their bodies are also covered in black scales, though their underbellies are a pale, off-yellow color.
Sweet Water Snappers have little external diversity in appearance, though size difference does matter in their society. The species possesses sexual dimorphism, with females often slightly smaller and a lot less heavy when compared to males. Additionally, Sweet Water Snapper “Titans” are unique members of the species who break the animal’s normal size profile, with most of such specimens reaching sixteen to nineteen feet long.
Life Span and Development
Sweet Water Snappers succeeded when the Maerrow suffered due to another reason: their high reproductive ability. During the spring and most commonly at night, groups of Snappers gather and engage in “waterdancing”, elaborate mating rituals that are used to decide partners. Females are then capable of laying as many as 50 eggs in a shelter near the water’s edge, which is made from mud, grasses, and other local materials. The temperature then determines the sex of the children, as higher temperatures produce males, while lower temperatures produce females. Unlike in other reptilian species where the eggs are abandoned, the mother then stays with her nest, though often lurking a subtle distance away. Within eight weeks, the eggs will begin to hatch, chirping and calling before the babies break out of the egg. At this stage she will then pick some up in her mouth and carry them to the water.
At this point they appear very similar to their parents, though their teeth are more needle-like and will develop as they grow older. Additionally, they possess a series of thin orange-yellow bands around their body. Over the following months the hatchings will form into pods that follow their mother, and communicate via yelps and other vocalizations. They take some time to mature, and by the two-year mark, mothers will actively grow aggressive to their young, pushing them away. Their bodies ultimately reach physical maturity between seven to nine years, though they are capable of growing larger and of living up to 50 years.
Sweet Water Snappers display a surprising level of intelligence for reptiles, which some scholars have tied into a general trait of reptilian species native to Essalonia. Regardless, while they are brutal carnivores, hunting and feeding as needed on a variety of food sources, they do possess tricks and skills that demonstrate this advanced intelligence. For example, they are one of the only reptiles to make use of “tools” though their tools are stray sticks, small wood pieces, and so on. These the animal employs as a lure for birds in nesting season, balancing the object on their snouts as bait before, when the bird arrives, snapping up with their jaws, killing the animal. Sweet Water Snappers, despite their carnivorous diets and intelligence, generally do not hunt Humans on purpose. They lack the same aggressive tendencies as other crocodilian species have toward Humans, and so most attacks are a result of hunters disturbing Snappers, or likely the reptiles mistaking some part of swimming humans as a fish or other form of life that they consume. However, some particularly hungry Snappers may prey on humans purposefully, while the Titans of the species would appear to care little about avoiding Humans, perhaps even actively hunting them.
Territory and Groupings
Sweet Water Snappers exist in various freshwater rivers and swamps within Essalonia, often living in areas known as Croc Holes. These wetland dens are excavated areas of the wild, with open spaces cleared and dirt dumped on the surface and around the Hole, creating, in essence, a small cradle of life. When dry periods hit, these Holes often retain large amounts of water and various animals seek refuge in them, helping regional wildlife at all levels survive. This also demonstrates an additional level of intellect on the part of the Snapper, due to their altering of the environment for their own usage. Snappers mostly do not exist in groups, though mothers tend to pods until they mature, and the reptile does group up to bask, and during the mating season. At all other times, the species possesses a general indifference towards other members around them, though personal space is important and Snappers will get aggressive and pushy if something should violate their personal territory.
- Sweet Water Snapper meat is said to taste like chicken, though more refined paletted people have elaborated that it has perhaps a mildly fishy flavor, and is often chewy based on how it is prepared.
- The Snapper Titan “Kelp Feaster” is the only Sweet Water Snapper known to have actively killed and taken over the territory of a Kelp group in inner Essalonia. When finally killed by Ailor colonists, he was found to be seventeen feet long.