Giant Sky Ray
From the top of the steppes, the savanna was breathtaking. Its golden grasses seemed to stretch forever. Above it, a pod of giant sky rays drifted. Their translucent sails cast a spectacle of beautiful colors onto the plains below, like a massive stained-glass window.
Like most sky rays, giant sky rays share a similar appearance to ocean rays. They have wide, flat bodies with flexible wings, small heads, and thin tails. That is where their similarities with ocean rays end--their internal structures are nothing alike.
Giant sky rays can reach a wingspan of 125 feet or more and lengths of 100 feet or more from head to tail tip. Their wings (also known as sails) make up more than 70% of their body volume. The rest of their bodies are comparatively tiny and teardrop shaped.
Though they appear massive, their weight is extremely disproportionate to their size. On average, adult giant sky rays weigh a minuscule 150 pounds! This weightlessness allows them to spend their entire lives in the sky without ever landing.
Giant sky rays have one pair of vestigial legs that dangle uselessly from their bodies. Their legs have three toes and their joints have fused together, rendering them immovable. As the ray grows in size, circulation to the legs gets worse and worse, until they eventually die and fall off. The ray hardly notices the loss of their limbs.
Giant sky rays are built to minimize weight and maximize efficiency. Instead of bone, the majority of their skeleton is made of lighter and more flexible cartilage. Instead of armor that could weigh them down or feathers that could create drag, their skin is soft and silky smooth. Instead of wasting precious energy on intelligence, a giant sky ray's brain is so small that if a human were to have a brain the same size, it would be no bigger than a walnut. Their stomach is three times as big as their brain. They know little other than hunger and danger, and are content to spend their entire lives lazily floating along wind currents devouring Floatflora.
Growth Rate & Stages
Giant sky rays continuously grow for as long as they are alive. Their rate of growth slows after they reach sexual maturity, but there is theoretically no limit to how big they could get.
Very little is known about their reproductive processes. Baby giant sky rays are on average 10 to 15 feet long and much more agile than adults. Babies also have better vision than adults, and may even be smarter than adults. They use these skills to avoid predation until they are big enough that it is no longer a threat.
Baby giant sky rays are born seasonally, typically at the beginning half of Dawn years. The birth of a giant sky ray has never been witnessed.
Dietary Needs and Habits
There is no variety of floatflora that a giant sky ray cannot or will not eat. They use the scoop-shaped appendages on the sides of their face to bring the plants to their mouth.
Giant sky rays don't carry any extra weight that they don't need. They frequently dispose of digestive waste in the form of a fine vapor that they expel through a hole at the top of their bodies. Usually, this vapor is quickly caught in the wind and rarely reaches low enough altitudes to be a problem, but it is known that inhaling the vapor is an extremely unpleasant experience. Giant sky ray vapor is a vital nutrient in the life cycles of many species of floatflora.
Uses, Byproducts & Exploitation
Even though giant sky rays are common, it is rare to stumble across the corpse of one. Their bodies are so light and contain so much edylium that they will continue to drift in the sky for many days after their deaths. During this time they are usually consumed by flying scavengers. When a Tael'Nahvi takes down a giant sky ray, there is nothing left.
If a person gets lucky enough to stumble upon a grounded corpse, they will receive great profits from selling the ray's body parts. Their sails contain incredible amounts of edylium. The unique bacteria cultures in their digestive tracts are useful in certain fermented foods. Their stomachs can be fashioned into water-tight satchels. The heart of a giant sky ray is a delicacy in affluent parts of Auzera. Even their skulls have value as a decoration.
Giant sky rays are not commonly hunted. As gentle beasts, it is seen as a great disrespect to purposefully harm them. Not to mention that the costs of killing one far exceeds the value of its parts.
Ecology & Habitat
Giant sky rays are native to the warm tropical climates of northern Auzera and southern Sanoris. Pods of giant sky rays take regular loops back and forth between the two continents as they follow seasonal food sources. As a solar-aligned Floatbeast, their range is limited to a narrow band around the equator, where the suns' presence is most consistent.
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This article definitely needs some art to make it more interesting. Let me know what kinds of pictures you'd like to see of the giant sky rays! Also if you have any other suggestions for what kinds of things you'd like to know about them, please feel free to comment!
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
I'd love to see a picture of a giant sky ray. Maybe an adult and a baby next to each other? :) I really like the description of their diet. Floatflora is my new favourite word.
Thank you! Floatflora is quite fun to say, I agree