Mammals of all types can be found in Aereth. The ones documented here belong to the megafauna species. For specific habitats and variants, see the documentation on each land within Aereth. The biggest difference between Aereth’s mammals and Earth’s is the existence of the megafauna. A large majority of these animals never went extinct on Gaia. As the other mammals are common and well known, this document mainly focuses on the megafauna and the more unusual animals found on the continent of Aereth and its barrier islands.
Living mammal species can be identified by the presence of sweat glands, including those that are specialized to produce milk to nourish their young.
Jaw joint – The dentary (the lower jaw bone which carries the teeth) and the squamosal (a small cranial bone) meet to form the joint. In most gnathostomes, including early therapsids, the joint consists of the articular (a small bone at the back of the lower jaw) and the quadrate (a small bone at the back of the upper jaw).
Middle ear – In crown-group mammals, the sound is carried from the eardrum by a chain of three bones, the malleus, the incus, and the stapes. Ancestrally, the malleus and the incus are derived from the articular and the quadrate bones that constituted the jaw joint of early therapsids.
Tooth replacement – Teeth are replaced once or (as in toothed whales and murid rodents) not at all, rather than being replaced continually throughout life.
Prismatic enamel – The enamel coating on the surface of a tooth consists of prisms, solid, rod-like structures extending from the dentin to the tooth’s surface.
Occipital condyles – Two knobs at the base of the skull fit into the topmost neck vertebra; most other tetrapods, in contrast, have only one such knob.
Both wild and domesticated bison are indigenous to the world of Gaia. Most species inhabit the vast plains of Aereth and Xia although there is a shaggy giant bison that roams the high alpine meadows. Early on, mankind caught and domesticated these animals. They provide the staple red meat of many populations.
All bison species are nomadic grazers and travel in herds. Bison are good swimmers and can cross rivers over half a mile (1 km) wide. The bulls leave the herds of females at 2 or 3 years of age and join a male herd which is generally smaller than the female herds. Mature bulls rarely travel alone.
Head-and-body length ranges from 2 to 3.5 m (6.6 to 11.5 ft) long, the tail adding 30 to 91 cm (12 to 36 in). Shoulder height in the species can range from 152 to 186 cm (60 to 73 in). Typical weight can range from 318 to 1,000 kg (700 to 2,200 lb).
Bison are not normally aggressive although they can be unpredictable in mating season.
There are many breeds of domestic and wild horse roaming Aereth and Xia as well as other types of equines (mules, donkeys, zebra, etc.)
There is one breed indigenous only to Cymeria. It is the Dikaya. The Dikaya are also Cymeria’s national emblem. Dikayas are highly prized by the Cymerians as well as other nations, and their export is severely regulated. Only geldings and non-gestating mares will be traded or sold outside Cymerian borders.
Another common horse found in Cymeria are the Herák Horse, an animal bred from the Dikaya to be smaller in stature and somewhat heavier in the body. The largest number of Heráks are found in Tynar-Dazûr.
Read more on the Dikaya and Herák Horse.
There are several species of sloth inhabiting the forests. Higher in the mountains, at the periphery of forests and in grasslands, dwells the Ground Sloth. This animal can weigh up to six tons and reach an overall length of twenty feet. The sloths are covered by long thick fur, dark brown in color on the back and sides, shading to tan and cream on the chest and underbelly.
It is characterized by massive front claws which it uses to hook and drag branches down from trees so it can eat the leaves. Due to not being able to put its front feet flat on the ground, it walks on the sides of its feet. This massive animal does not move rapidly and will normally stand its ground rather than flee, depending on its great size to deter would-be predators. While not known to be actively aggressive, it can do severe damage with its claws when cornered.
The ground sloths are omnivorous. Their preferred diet is made up of a variety of fruit, plants, and berries. They occasionally raid ant and termite nests or beehives for honey. Periodically, usually before winter’s hibernation, they will take over kills by other predators. It is believed they need the nutrients and protein to sustain them through the winter months.
There is not an abundance of these massive slow-moving animals, and they are not normally hunted unless one moves in and starts damaging valuable crops. Even then, the first recourse is to try to drive the animal away from the farm. Their meat is rank and the fur, no matter how often it is washed and cleaned, retains a foul musky odor. If a sloth carcass is found, the claws are harvested as they can be fashioned into unique weapons as well as into other tools and personal ornaments.
There are many breeds of domesticated cattle in almost all of the settled lands on Gaia. Although the Highland Cattle originated in the mountains of Cymeria, due to their hardy nature, they are bred in many of the mountainous regions of Aereth.
Highlands are known as a hardy breed well able to cope with the rugged nature of their native Harkanian Highlands which have a high annual rainfall and sometimes very strong winds.
However, highland cattle have also been successfully established in many temperate countries in central Aquilonia, and indeed in countries where winters are substantially colder than Cymeria such as in Nordheim and Icelandia. Their hair is considered the longest of any cattle breed and gives protection during the cold winters. Their skill in foraging for food allows them to survive in steep mountain areas where they both graze and browse, and eat plants that many other cattle avoid. They can dig through the snow with their horns to find buried plants.
Mature bulls can weigh up to 800 kg (1,800 pounds), and cows can weigh up to 500 kg (1,100 pounds). Highland cattle also have a longer expected lifespan than most other breeds of cattle, up to 20 years. The cows have traditionally been used for milk production as they have a docile temperament and the milk has a high butterfat content. They are generally good-natured animals but very protective of their young.
Along with other species of deer, elk, moose, et., there is the Highland Elk. This massive animal’s habitat tends to be the high meadows and forests of the various mountain ranges.
The Highland Elk stands about 2.1 meters (6.9 ft) tall at the shoulders, and it had the largest antlers of any known cervid (a maximum of 3.65 m (12.0 ft) from tip to tip and weighing up to 40 kg (88 lb)). The Elk can attain a total mass of 540–600 kg (1,200–1,300 lb), with large specimens weighing 700 kg (1,500 lb) or more, roughly similar to the moose.
They are hunted for food, their skins, and their antlers which are made into many different tools and implements. Attempts to domesticate them have failed. Not due to the animal’s nature, but due to the fact they are so massive it is impossible to maintain them a breeding population in captivity.
They are not ordinarily aggressive, but an injured adult can cause serious injury or death.
These animals range freely in Aereth going pretty much wherever they want. They are highly aggressive and can kill a man. In fact, there are probably more deaths per year by wild boar than by all of the other megafauna predators combined.
Adult boars can measure from 90 to 200 cm (35 to 79 in) in length, not counting a tail of 15 to 40 cm (5.9 to 16 in), and have a shoulder height of 55 to 110 cm (22 to 43 in). As a whole, their average weight is 50–90 kg (110–200 pounds), though boars show a great deal of weight variation within their geographical ranges.
Wild Boar are hunted for sport and to keep them from overpopulating, and for meat. Although they are occasionally hunted for sport, the meat, skin, and tusks are always put to good use. The bristles, in fact, are made into hairbrushes. Wild Boar tend to proliferate as domestic pigs escape and interbreed with the boar.
There is a variety of average domesticated sheep along with the large mountain sheep that roam Aereth. These are occasionally hunted for food, rarely for sport.
Along with various camelids (camels, alpacas, llamas, etc.), there is a small variety known as the Suri. It is particularly well-adapted to survival in the highest mountains and alpine meadows or plains.
Highly valued for its particularly fine wool, these animals live both in the wild and as domesticated farm animals where they are raised for their coats.