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Shady Knight
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PostSubject: Harpy Update   Tue Jul 14, 2015 12:39 pm

Well, since this is allegedly a period of change and Karbo made doodles about harpies, I figured now would be the time to give our feathered "friends" a much needed update.  After looking at their entry, I noticed most of it was dedicated to their language, and that just won't do.  As always, shameless copy/pasting and paraphrasing from wikipedia and flavor text.  Since there isn't much material about harpies, I had to improvise, so excuse the bias.  Anyway, enjoy!



Harpies are an all female race of half-women half-bird creatures.  They possess huge wings in place of arms and long, scaly legs ending in razor-sharp talons.  Many harpies grow feathers on various parts of their body, most notably on their thighs and a set of tail feathers near their buttocks, though it varies between species.  Felaryan harpies are widely known as a giant species and have a reputation as one of the top predators of the skies, feared for their voracious appetite and awe-inspiring swiftness in the air.  In truth, harpies come in all sorts of species and sizes.  Some about as tall as humans, some only a little shorter than their well-known giant cousins, and some small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.  Similarly, though the majority of Felaryan borrow their avian features from birds of preys such as eagles, hawks and buzzards, some species take after other birds, such as crows, gulls, and even hummingbirds.


Biological Traits

Harpies possess an extremely lightweight skeleton highly adapted for flight.  Most of their bones are thin and hollow with criss-crossing internal struts and trusses that make them strong enough to withstand the stresses of taking off, flying and landing.  They have a keel extending from their sternum to which their powerful flight muscles are attached.

Harpies possess a complex set of lungs adapted for their high metabolic rate and oxygen demand in flight.  Unlike humans, they do not possess a diaphragm and their lungs are proportionally small.  Instead, harpies have roughly eight or nine air sacs that store and pump air through their lungs.  This allows for a unidirectional flow of air, which allows them to extract a higher concentration of oxygen, and even take in oxygen during exhalation.  Thanks to this, a harpy is able to breathe at much higher elevations than other races could.  This efficient lung structure is not without its faults, however.  Because the sternum must move during respiration, holding a harpy too tightly around the chest can easily cause her to suffocate.  Moreover, because they transfer more oxygen with each breath, airborne toxins are more efficiently transferred as well.

The most important sense for a harpy is its vision and they are known far and wide for their phenomenal visual acuity over other races.  From high up in the sky, they are able to spot a tiny human all the way down on the ground with near perfect clarity.  This is thanks in part to their lens being able change shape more quickly and to a greater extent than a human, allowing them to better focus on an object.  Moreover, harpies developed a pecten oculi, a comb-like structure of blood vessels in the back of their eyes.  With this structure, far fewer blood vessels are located in front of the retina that would normally partially obscure perceived images.  However, because a harpy's eyes are optimized for maximum spatial resolution rather than light perception, they see very poorly in low light.  With the exception of nocturnal species, whose eyes are better suited to function in poor lighting, harpies are forced to adopt a diurnal behavior.  Though harpies possess fully functional human eyelids, they still boast an almost transparent nictitating membrane to protect their eyes in flight while maintaining visibility.

A harpy's hearing is their second most important sense.  Though hard to tell, their ears are shaped slightly differently to better focus sound.  Although their hearing range being roughly similar to a human's, harpies are very sensitive to changes in pitch, tone and rhythm.  This allows them to better hear incoming danger and even help them in communication.


Behavior

Felaryan harpies are generally seen by others as a tough race with a terrible temper, and can easily appear as heartless to those who aren't familiar with their strange customs.  Similar to fairies, harpies are highly free-spirited, doing whatever they want whenever they want without any regard for consequences.  If they want to go somewhere, they will.  If one wants to roughhouse her sister, she won't hesitate.  If someone desires something, she's not going to think twice about stealing it.  That's not to say they are completely insensitive.  Harpies enjoy the company of their kin and often form flocks of sorts and are capable of engaging in conventional protective and considerate behavior, though a lot of what is perceived by other races as rude is actually considered affectionate gestures among harpies.  Aside from other harpies, they also enjoy the company of dryads and it's not uncommon for one to roost in their branches.

Their hedonistic nature has put them at odds with sphinxes, whom harpies tend to despise on an almost instinctual level.  Aside from being their greatest rival as the rulers of Felarya's skies, they see sphinxes as a self-righteous mob, full of themselves in how they place their idea of justice above all and impose it on others.  The two races have waged fierce wars in the past that blackened the skies and tainted the surface red.  Although there hasn't been a conflict of this magnitude between the two races in centuries, harpies and sphinxes still do not see eye to eye, and skirmishes over food or turf aren't uncommon.

It's worth noting that, like fairies, harpies have a bit of a fascination for wearing accessories.  Because they lack hands, their selection of apparels is severely more limited.


Language

Felaryan harpies are famous for their foul language and their sarcastic, mocking retorts, and have the strange habit of punctuating their sentences with threats and insults.  They normally don't mean it at all though, it's just traditional for them to use insults, and it would seem odd and unusual if they didn't.

For example, if a harpy wanted to say: "I wish to speak to your sister", she would add a threat, like: "Let me see your sister or face my wrath!" If the other harpy wanted to reply: "She's not here." then she might actually say: "Insolent fool! My sister has more important matters to deal with than speaking to the likes of you!"

Upon hearing that exchange, one might conclude that the two harpies are on the verge of fighting each other, when it's only a casual exchange.  This tradition is deeply engraved in their culture and transmitted down from generations to generations.  Some harpies delight in what they see as "proper speaking", inventing striking and creative insults that sometimes become famous among their peers and earn them respect and admiration.  The only time they would skip this custom is if they are in a hurry or if they have something very important to say.  It's completely natural for them though, and while some harpies manage to hold back their insults when speaking to other races, most of them just don't bother at all.

Needless to say this habit contributes a lot to their reputation as being a rude and mean lot in the eyes of other races. Aul Ne'kmu'm is a well know Harpiologist who dedicated years to study their language and its true meaning.


Hunting Habits

Depending on the species, Felaryan harpies can be either omnivores or carnivores, but like most sapient predator, they have a preference for tiny, live prey.  They remain aloft at high altitudes or stay perched on the highest branches where they would be difficult to detect.  Once they spot prey, they attack with a sudden and swift swoop, mouth wide open to snatch it off the ground or catching it with its claws.  Being without hands, harpies have become extremely agile with their mouth and tongue.  Although many like to hunt alone, they won't hesitate to hunt in groups every once in a while.  When that happens, they are known to play cruel games with their prey, usually involving dropping the terrified victim and letting one of their sisters catch it in midair, then repeating the process again and again, until one of them grow tired of the game and simply gulp down the prey in flight.  Occasionally, they may attack sedentary tribes, such as Aloes elves, and steal whatever crop or harvest, or trinkets, they can get their talons on.

Harpies also possess the ability to inhale small preys into their mouth just like a vacuum.  They primarily use this powerful suction to snatch preys hiding in spots they otherwise would not be able to reach into.  This ability was at first believed to be the product of wind magic, as it is most commonly used by the Rock Harpy tribe inhabiting the Ascarlin Mountains, who use this ability to feast on miners and adventurers hiding in the mountain's numerous tunnels.  However, further research revealed that other species of harpies are also capable of this ability as well.  There are currently heated debates whether this ability is the product of latent magical powers or the result of a unique organ that acts somewhat like a diaphragm.


Reproduction

Being an all female race, harpies mate with males of other races to reproduce.  Like birds, harpies lay eggs and must keep them warm until they are ready to hatch.  Occasionally, one may lay an unfertilized egg instead, though harpies don't usually care for those.  They fetch a very high price on human markets, but naturally, getting one is easier said than done.  A baby harpy inherits a small amount of genetic material from her father, but otherwise, the offspring of a harpy mother is otherwise always born a harpy.  The paternal genes only affect minor traits, such as hair and eye color, and to an extent, feather coloration, though it may also affect things like facial structure and body shape.

Harpy babies, known as chicks or nestlings, are born without flight feathers, and are entirely dependent on their mother for sustenance and protection.  Nagas, particularly arboreal nagas, pose a huge threats to newborn harpies, as they see nestlings and harpy eggs to be a delicacy.  Luckily, when the mother must leave to hunt, she will often entrust the care of her chicks to a friend or sister.  Harpies are very protective of nestlings and defend the vulnerable newborns ferociously whenever danger decides to rear its ugly head.

Until they grow old enough to develop their flying feathers, the mother is responsible for teaching everything to its chicks, from how to eat, to how to care for themselves, to how to politely address their neighbors.  Once old enough, the mother then teach them how to fly.  Although her friends and sisters might taunt the nestlings, they won't hesitate to catch them safely until they master the art of flying.  After they prove they are ready to leave the nest and hunt without help, they are considered full-fledged adult and are thus treated the same way older harpies typically treat one another.



Thoughts?  Suggestions?


Last edited by Shady Knight on Sat Jul 18, 2015 8:11 pm; edited 15 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: Harpy Update   Thu Jul 16, 2015 7:23 am

I like it ^^

Once again , you did a very nice job  on this update.

It's a lot more detailed without feeling overloaded, just about the right size I'd say.
You bring some really interesting elements as well, although for their special lung system and eyes, I'm a little more reserved for now. Not because I think the idea is not good mind you, but mostly because I don't know how it works for real birds so I have to check first to be able to give a meaningful opinion.
I'd also add something about their capacity to vacuum prey in, no longer making it a technique only available to rock harpies, although they would still be prominent with it.

But yes overall it's very solid. Great job ! Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Harpy Update   Thu Jul 16, 2015 7:50 am

Thanks. ^^

The lungs were something I struggled with.  I couldn't decide if they should have lungs closer to birds, which are proportionally smaller, but have air sacs, or lack the air sacs, but are proportionally as large as human lungs.  I thought both could work, but I decided to bring up air sacs in case your liked it, and figured that if it didn't suit you, you could just replace it.  Like I said, I shamelessly steal my information from wikipedia, and a bird's respiratory system is very complex, I don't really get it myself.  About the only thing I got was that their unidirectional air flow when breathing was what contributed to them being able to breathe even at high altitude.  That said, maybe an organ similar to an air sac could contribute to a harpy's vacuum ability. Wink

The eyes weren't as bad, but I wasn't sure if their eyeballs should be a little flatter or not due to their human-like anatomy.  Since I imagine a harpy's eyes aren't immobile in their socket, I suppose a flatter shape would be unnecessary.  The pecten oculi is something I think should stick because they're the reasons why birds of prey like hawks have such sharp eyesight.  I also think not being able to see at night should also stay, since that would give them a good weakness and it's also how it works for real birds. The membrane, I'll be honest, I'm also a little iffy on it, because it partially acts as an eyelid to keep a bird's eye hydrated, and since harpies have human eyelids, it seems redundant. But, since it protect's a bird's eye in flight from small debris, especially given the speed they can travel at, I figured it was necessary since a harpy's eye is so important to them.

Their hearing was also something I had some problem with.  I couldn't really find anything about birds having good hearing, not at all helped by the fact that birds have ear holes, while harpies have human shaped ears.  So instead, I decided that being sensitive to changes in pitch and tone would be good enough, especially given their weird language.
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PostSubject: Re: Harpy Update   Thu Jul 16, 2015 8:52 am

It's a great job you did but the biological traits is credible for a small to human size but for a giant size it will raise questions.

Shady Knight wrote:
Harpies possess a complex set of lungs adapted for their high metabolic rate and oxygen demand in flight. Unlike human lungs, a harpy's lungs do not have alveoli. Instead, they possess faveolar lungs containing millions of tiny passages called parabronchi. Gases travel via diffusion between the gas exchange tissues and parabronchi, and air flows through them in the same direction during inhalation and exhalation.

Giving too much details about their lungs can make someone bring the square cube law question, just saying they have unlike human they have a complex set of lungs which allow air flow through them in the same direction during inhalation and exhalation is enough.

Shady Knight wrote:
This is thanks to their eyeballs being a flatter shape than a human's, enabling more of its visual field to be in focus, and ciliary muscles allowing the lens to change shape more quickly and to a greater extent. Moreover, harpies developed a pecten oculi, a comb-like structure of blood vessels in the back of their eyes. This structure help greatly reduce the number of blood vessels located in front of the retina that would normally partially obscure perceived images.

As for the lungs detailing the internal structure of the organs is not necessary saying their eyeball is flatter shape than human and the lens can change shape and have less blood vessels located in front of retina that would partially obscure perceived images is just what you need.

Shady Knight wrote:
between 1 kHz and 4 kHz
It's not necessary to have the exact number having their earing compared to humans is enough.
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PostSubject: Re: Harpy Update   Thu Jul 16, 2015 10:09 am

I suppose you are right when it comes to lungs, just saying they have a unidirectional air flow would be easier to read, but from what I've read, I feel like it's not the only reason birds are able to extract a higher concentration of oxygen. That and there is still the possibility of having air sacs just like birds. Their eyes, I think bringing up the pecten oculi is important because it is the reason why birds of prey have less blood vessels in front of their retina. Hearing, that one I agree with, since the 1-4 kHz hearing frequency is useless information given their full hearing range is about the same as a human.

I completely disregard square cube law because, really giants are hardly a unique fantasy creature. Why should they be questioned here when they're never questioned in any other setting they appear?
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PostSubject: Re: Harpy Update   Thu Jul 16, 2015 10:33 am

Shady Knight wrote:
I suppose you are right when it comes to lungs, just saying they have a unidirectional air flow would be easier to read, but from what I've read, I feel like it's not the only reason birds are able to extract a higher concentration of oxygen. That and there is still the possibility of having air sacs just like birds.
My critics was just on the part with the lungs I have no problem with the sacs and the rest.

The pecten oculi doesn't bother me so much, I was just focusing on the fact they have less blood vessels in front of their retina which allow them a better vision, it's like saying neko can see in the dark like cat. It's just easier to visualized.
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PostSubject: Re: Harpy Update   Thu Jul 16, 2015 11:25 am

I did some changes.  Thank you for the suggestions. Hopefully it should be easier to understand how their lungs and eyes work. ^^

There was one change I wanted to make, that because air sacs extend into their hollow bones, respiratory infection can spread into their bones.  I am of the camp who think that diseases and sickness should be possible in Felarya, but since it would be a huge change, I decided not to mention it.  It's one of those cases where I don't see how a parasite could replicate the same effects.
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PostSubject: Re: Harpy Update   Thu Jul 16, 2015 11:38 am

I like the change you did Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: Harpy Update   Sat Jul 18, 2015 12:54 pm

I did some slight rewording and decided that harpies could be omnivorous or carnivorous depending on the species.
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PostSubject: Re: Harpy Update   Sun Jul 19, 2015 5:02 am

Nice changes ^^ I admit I have still some trouble to wrap my mind around the air sacks as it's really hard to visualize, but let's go with it.
I made the update, with some slight modifications here and there ^^
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PostSubject: Re: Harpy Update   Sun Jul 19, 2015 5:20 am

http://people.eku.edu/ritchisong/birdrespiration.html  There's a good diagram of how bird respiration works compared to humans, and for some reason, grasshoppers.

By the way, I spotted a small typo: "from wandering nagas to lurking arboreal frogs,"  From should have a capital letter because it's the start of a new sentence.


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PostSubject: Re: Harpy Update   Sun Jul 19, 2015 5:47 am

Wow very interesting page and indeed it completely explains the process.
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