The completed version of Araea's dire wolf/hyena/terror bird analogue. The original was one of the most popular critters in my island lineup, but the drawing was really showing it's age badly. So here is the long-overdue revamp. The species description is a bit choppy still, as I pretty much took the old description and tossed in a few edits here and there, but I intend to smooth it out soon.
As you can see I went back to a reddish colored face and legs. In the end I just thought it worked better.
Here is the "under the feathers" anatomy. [link]
"It was ten years ago but the memory is still fresh in my mind.....I had just transferred to the MPA's plainclothes detective division a month prior and I was already working on a major case. Over a three week period there had been a series of twelve abductions of girls in their late teens and early twenties from the ethnically Thai nieghborhoods in New Hope's northern quarter. The information we had indicated that a local crime boss was behind it and that he intended to ship the girls out to a buyer all the way down in Shasta at the end of the week. On the night in question we got a tip from an informant that the girls were at that very moment being kept in an abandoned shipping office on the docks. We knew we may not get another opportunity to rescue them, if their kidnappers were able to get them out of the province chances were that they would never be recovered so Richter and Belloc, the two senior detectives I was assigned with, decided to hit the place immediately. When we rolled up in front of the location Richter called the Patrol division for backup but in the interest of surprise opted not to wait for their arrival on scene, he handed me a shotgun and the three of us proceeded into the building ahead of the responding Patrol units, who were probably two or three minutes away still. When we breached the door we were fired upon by two suspects and we returned fire, killing them both. After clearing the front room we could hear female screams coming from somewhere in back along with a male voice instructing them to shut up. As we turned down a short dimly lit hallway to go toward the voices we then heard a different male voice shout something like "let it out!" a few moments later there was this bizarre screeching sound and then something large and shaggy rushed up and attacked Richter, who was in the lead, with me right behind him and Belloc at the rear. It just grabbed Richter with these huge clawed wings, rending his torso into hamburger, and literally bit INTO his face. It ripped his jaw off as it were made of paper mache. As the creature turned toward me I put a shotgun blast into it, which wounded it, and then Detective Belloc finished it off with his pistol. Belloc and I knelt next to Richter but his injuries were fatal. Outside, the Patrol division arrived a minute later and intercepted two more suspects attempting to flee the building from another exit. They had left the girls behind in their bid to escape but both individuals were killed in a brief but intense firefight with the patrolmen. Our division head told me later on the thing that killed Richter was a vorga, I have lived in the city my whole life and back then all I knew of vorgas were vague recollections of having seen pictures of them in wildlife books. Before then, we had no idea that the city's criminal element were actually keeping these things as pets, using them as 'guard dogs'. That was a decade ago, these days it's commonplace to run into vorgas during raids. Police work is dangerous enough as it is, but now we have to contend with wild animals as well."
---------Detective Cipriano Ionescu, New Hope Metropolitan Policing Authority
The Vorga (Smilorynchus macellarius) is a 200 pound oviraptoran adapted for a strictly carnivorous diet. it is a robust powerful creature, with a powerful bite and a hooked beak that has been adapted into a slashing weapon in lieu of teeth and large claws on it's forelimbs. In the open grasslands where it is most commonly found the vorga ranks second only to the dune tyrant in the Araean predator heirearchy. Vorgas hunt in packs of around half dozen or so individuals. They are large prey specialists, with ornets being a particularily common target. Persistence hunters, they tend to approach herbivore herds openly without stalking in order to panic the herd into fleeing with the result that weaker inviduals become more obvious. The pack wears the targeted animal down with repeated slashing bites to the flanks and limbs. Smaller prey like darters are sometimes dug out of their burrows and vorgas are enthusiastic scavengers are well.
Vorga beaks have shearing keratinous ridges along the aft part of the jaws that function like the carnassial teeth of a mammalian carnivore, allowing them to process tissue and bones more efficiently then other theropods. the keratin that forms the outer layer of a vorga's beak is perpetually growing in order to stay sharp. this means a vorga that damages it's beak will usually grow it back, the flip side is that frequent chewing action on bone or other tough substances is required to prevent the beak from becoming critically ingrown.
Though it is generally subordinate to the dune tyrant in enviroments where the two co-exist, when numbers are on their side vorgas will often gang up on the tyrannosaurids and drive them off of kills. In fact both species frequently steal kills from one another and attack each other's young.
Vorgas often bully the lightly built cursotyrant off of their kills as well.
Dune tyrants will typically run down and kill lone vorgas whenever the oppurtunity presents itself, but rarely eat them, suggesting that the killings stem primarily from the dune tyrants' drive to remove their ecological competitors.
Vorgas are K-strategist breeders, the eggs are typically incubated by the males. After hatching the young generally spend several months at a communal nesting site under the watch of an adult pack member. The sentry will mount a violent defense against most intruders. as is the case with the majority of coelurosaurs female vorgas are larger and normally dominant over males. Vorga packs are usually comprised of one of more sisters and a cadre of unrelated males
The vorga is frequently found in captivity. They are popular as exotic guard animals with Araea's seedy underworld of drug dealers, human traffickers and weapons smugglers. Frequently they are turned loose to patrol the inside of a fenced in property where they will generally attack any intruder. Guard vorgas are a hazard frequently faced by urban law enforcement raid teams when entering drug dens or whorehouses. Despite their use as property guards the creatures are largely untrainable for the most part and never truly bond with their keepers, though they may tolerate the presence of familar individuals. Some crime bosses have been known to feed troublesome individuals such as police informants to their pet vorgas as well. Vorga fights in which the animals are dropped into pits to battle each other to the death while onlookers bet on the outcome are a popular pastime in some regions. An alternate version of this cruel practice involves pitting vorgas against other animals such as feral pigs, juvenile sabredraks, or large mastiff type dogs. An entire illegal underground cottage industry of breeding vorgas for fighting has sprung up in recent years. after several generations of being selectively bred for aggression these "domestic" vorgas often become singlemindedly ferocious, much more so then their wild counterparts. Additionally their aggression of individual vorgas are often artificially enhanced by feeding them various drugs which affect their temprement and suppress their ability to feel pain. Vorgas with a high degree of fighting prowess are viewed as a kind of status symbol among many in the criminal underworld. In recent years there have been a number of incidents involving vorgas bred for fighting escaping from their handlers custody and creating havoc on the streets of New Hope and Port Tarpan. Urban legends of packs of killer vorgas roaming the back alleys are common amongst city youth and may have kernals of truth to them.
Vorgas in the wild are actually somewhat shy and will usually retreat from human habitation. Vorga are known to be somewhat "neurotic" parents and will obsessively try and move their nest sites or lead offspring away from human settlements, often to the detriment of their breeding cycle. There are very few records of humans being killed by wild vorgas. Their bad reputation has resulted in a high degree of human persecution however and in the wild their numbers are slowly declining throughout their range. Additionally their slow breeding makes it difficult to compete with the exploding population of the R-strategist dune tyrant.
In recent years there has been a push for vorga conservation, several researchers have conducted in depth studies of vorgas in the wild and their findings challenge long held preconceptions about the animal. Instead the studies paint a portrait of an intelligent hunter and devoted parent with a stable and generally harmonious social structure.
wild vorgas also occupy a very malevolent place in skryke culture. Their legends generally feature vorgas as sinister voracious marauders, and not without cause, in reality vorgas are quite dangerous to skrykes, even more so then the larger dune tyrants. They are probably the predator a mother skryke with young chicks fears most. While dune tyrants are given a wide berth and typically regarded with healthy fear, the presence of vorgas can put an entire skryke clan in a state of panicked uproar. typically a group of skrykes will attempt to drive them off, using numbers to their advantage since at 1/3 to 1/2 the oviraptoran's weight a single skryke is no match for a vorga in a fight. If caught by vorgas away from a clan gathering place a lone skryke will usually flee and retreat up a tree or other high object and wait until the larger predator wanders off, ( vorgas can climb but not very well.) Skrykes will however go out of their way to kill vorga chicks whenever the oppurtunity presents itself