The Xiphopod is a soft-shelled invertebrate omnivore indigenous to Leir I. Xiphopods, known colloquially as “Blind Oni Crabs,” are typically found on worlds with hot grassland environments, but have also been found to be highly adaptable to extreme conditions. They are considered an invasive species in the United Empire of Earth (UEE). Their ability to float and propel themselves through the air has made them a favorite subject of xenobiologists.
Discovered during the initial planetary survey of Leir I, several specimens were captured and delivered to the University of Rhetor for study and classification. The scientists named the new species Xiphopod in honor of its resemblance to animals in the phylum Arthropoda and genus Xiphosura. The surveyors who discovered the animal, inspired by the “face” and “nose” that can be discerned in the animal’s front carapace, were responsible for the more common name “Blind Oni Crab.”Behavior and Ecology
Xiphopods are found naturally on Leir I, in hot to warm grassy climates at or near sea level. In their native environments, they spend their time hunting, scavenging for food, and resting. Xiphopods spend part of their year in groups, then split off and travel hundreds of kilometers to join other groups during mating season. Biologists theorize that this behavior developed in order to ensure genetic diversity among the species.
Their unique flight pattern occurs via biological process. The Xiphopod converts surrounding air into a hydrogen-helium mix and circulates it within a large, hollow cavity. This allows it to float. It then propels itself through the air by expelling gas from its body, which is incredibly light compared to its size. The most heavyweight adult Xiphopod ever found weighed only 300 g (10.58 oz).Invasive Species
The Xiphopod is a common invasive species, thanks in large part to its opportunistic omnivorous diet, and its ability to adapt to a variety of conditions. Its reproductive habits also play a part: Xiphopods lay up to a thousand eggs at a time. Typically, the unattended eggs hatch in 13-17 Standard Earth Days. The UEE prohibits the trading of Xiphopods in order to discourage their spread throughout habitable space.
The hot, dry environment of Hurston (Stanton I) has proven particularly hospitable to Xiphopods. Although it feeds on a variety of food types, it thrives off the biological waste generated from the settlements on Hurston, and has been able to breed in great numbers thanks to the lack of natural predators. While Xiphopod hunting is encouraged by the local government, for the poorest inhabitants of Hurston, the Xiphopod can be a food source. When roasted, the flesh of the Xiphopod becomes white and firm, and the meat has a musty, sweet flavor.