A kizinkorzik is a super-sized arachnid species endemic to Xilxixian. They are the top predator of the planet and are also considered Xilxixian’s largest animal. As the global apex predator, they strike fear into the hearts of all species, especially the vesankinystatheru, who are their prey of choice.
Biology and Physiology
A kizinkorzik, or Mosaic Kizinkorzik, is effectively an enormous arachnid. It boasts six mandibles: four pointed downward and two pointed upward. Their teeth are jagged formations of chitin attached to each mandible. Attached to the bottom and two middle upper mandibles are long spines upon which are a plethora of little hairs. These slender spines are sensory organs that detect changes in the environment. On either side of the arachnid’s massive head are five tiny black eyes that appear circular or oblong. The tough exoskeleton of the head, thorax, legs, and spines are stone brown in color. The legs and spinal plates and spines are a slightly darker shade and the the head and thorax are decorated with subtle red markings. The long abdomen transitions vertically from ashy light blue to a thin strip of sandy brown then finally the underbelly is muted light blue.
Each kizinkorzik stands on eight legs. The front two are forward facing, the rear two are backward facing. The front-most pair of legs sport a single long spur on either foot which are used to grapple onto prey or rugged terrain. The animal earned the “mosaic” portion of its name by off-world scientists who made the observation that the layout of the creature’s thoracic region looked like stones knitted together much like a mosaic. Kizinkorziks have long tail-like abdomens which are covered in fuzz and tipped with longer, coarser hairs. In males, three backward facing cerci protrude from the bottom of the abdomen's tip.
This enormous species exists anywhere free of overly thick vegetation. Kizinkorzik are too massive to easily navigate dense forests but require lightly wooded areas, tall grasses, and rocky fields to hide amongst when hunting. Kizinkorzik may also be found in wetlands like bogs, swamps, and marshes, along rivers and lakes, and may even spend long periods of time submerged in water.
Intelligence and Temperament
Mosaic Kizinkorzik are not sentient. They are considered to be moderately intelligent. Their brains are small in proportion to their body size and offer enough function to allow kizinkorizk to make determinations about prey such as whether or not something is dangerous or worth the effort to pursue. They are capable of recognizing patterns that allow them to discern one prey from another and have a basic understanding of where to find certain prey.
These arachnids, like most species on Xilxixian, are considered highly aggressive and non-approachable. It isn't clear if this animal maintains territories. However, similar to other arachnid species, females typically keep to a large stretch of area for longer periods of time than males who wander looking to breed. Kizinkorzik will attack a creature if it is hungry and the creature is deemed worthy of pursuit. Otherwise, a specimen digesting a large meal will remain motionless and may attack if it feels threatened. Only in these rare moments of calm may creatures pass a kizinkorzik unharmed.
Kizinkorziks have exceptionally poor eyesight. Their eyes allow them to detect shapes and fluctuations in light. As such, these creatures rely almost exclusively on the various sensory organs that they employ.
Sensitive hairs predominantly found along the mandibles, feet, and abdomen are attached to special organs that allow the animal to detect minute changes in pressure, vibrations, airborne chemicals, and humidity. In addition, kizinkorzik are armed with a unique organ housed in their mouth. What would appear to be a long slender tongue with three wormy fingers is a heat detector and electroreceptor that allows this ambush predator to locate prey hidden away or out of range of sight or touch. When not in use, the organ is tucked in a pouch inside the animal’s lower jaw. Otherwise, it may be seen dangling or feeling the ground.
Unlike other Xilxixian invertebrates, such as their tespr cousins, kizinkorziks are unable to respirate through their carapace due to the thickness of the plating. Instead, they sport soft tissue attached to six or seven spines along their back. This tissue, similar to the lining of lungs, absorbs oxygen directly from the atmosphere. The location of these respiration membranes is key to the kizinkorzik's ability to exist almost entirely submerged in water uninterrupted.
Kizinkorzik females will call in wandering males via pheromones and signal to them their readiness with vibrations. Males will often bring a meal to the courtship to distract the female and lessen the likelihood of her killing him. This boosts his chances of spreading his genetics to other females. Males are about 20% smaller than females on average. While the female is distracted, the male will climb onto the female's head and grapple her thorax with the hooks of his front feet all the while serenading her with taps of his feet. His abdomen will bend in a U shape to reach beneath the female, latch onto her underbelly with the two longest cerci, and use the shortest to insert a spermatophore into her ovipore. The ovipore is located at the base of the abdomen. The male will then flee for fear of being eaten.
Unique to this species, kizinkorzik are live bearing insects and will give birth to some 50 to 80 fully formed larvae. The larvae are ice blue, shell-less and entirely dependent on the mother for protection. Females will birth their offspring in holes or ditches in soft soil and will stand or lay over the ditch. Females guard her offspring until their first molt after their skins harden around five weeks after birth. Larvae cannibalize weaker individuals after processing the yolk in their bellies. The larvae, now nymphs, will swiftly flee from their ditch to keep from being eaten by their now ravenous mother.
Regeneration and Molting
Like all invertebrates of Xilxixian, the Mosaic Kizinkorzik molts its outer shell as it develops and grows. Molting allows these creatures to regenerate lost limbs, shed scars, and replenish the hairs on their body. Their "tongue" is not part of the molt but will regrow over time if it is damaged or lost entirely. During the molting period, kizinkorziks will find a safe place to hide. It will build pressure in its thorax which causes the seam along the bottom of the upper plates to crack and split. The upper plates will pop up like a lid and the animal will slowly back itself out of its old skin. The animal may be laying on its belly or side during the molt.
After molting is complete and there are no complications, the kizinkorzik will pump fluids back into its legs to stiffen them and give them shape. The new skin of the arachnid hardens over the span of a few days. Complications may occur if a specimen is regrowing a limb, has a deformation, or major scar or injury that would prevent it from successfully molting. Complications might include being unable to split the shell, unable to completely leave the shell and the new shell hardens and fuses to the old, or a molt related injury results in the demise of the animal.
Diet and Hunting
Like nearly all organisms on Xilxixian, kizinkorziks are predatory. They are solitary ambush hunters that use their sense of touch and “tongue” to seek out prey. The “tongue,” as previously described, will either dangle with its fingers feeling the air or it will prod about the ground like an open palm seeking an item in the dark. If a prey item is found beneath the soil, the arachnid will very quickly dig it up with its massive mandibles. Prey found elsewhere is subject to a quiet approach often followed by a chase. Despite their enormity, kizinkorziks are rather light footed and nimble. Their feet allow them to grip nearly any surface, but they are incapable of tackling steep inclines. Some specimens have been documented as marine hunters and will lie in wait in bodies of water for marine or land organisms to pass. The hunter will then leap into action and catch its prey in its jaws.
Kizinkorziks are voracious, opportunistic, and strictly solitary hunters. They will eat anything of notable size. That said, their favorite prey item of choice is the largest sentient invertebrate of their native world, Vesankinystatheru. Vesan females may outgrow some kizinkorziks and therefore are formidable opponents. The risk is often outweighed by the reward. Vesan males however are much smaller and in greater number which make them favorable. As kizinkorziks grow, their metabolism slows. Adult specimens may eat relatively infrequently, but will consume larger or more quantities of prey. Adults may not eat for weeks, even months, between meals. This animal plays a vital role in keeping the population of many species across the planet in check.
Despite being the largest land predator, if not the largest predator entirely, the kizinkorzik is not invincible and faces threats of its own. Their relatively small offspring are a food source for other organisms in their adult, juvenile, or larval form. Kizinkorziks may find themselves preyed upon by a member of their own species when in vulnerable times of life such as their juvenile or larva state, or anytime during molt.