Author's Note: I made this as a kinda Wikipedia style biological summary of Nargacuga with speculative features and explanations for its abilities. Do note that this is heavily speculative and mostly based on my very basic understanding of biology and general observation with these monsters. It is all labelled so you can skip to specific parts if you want.
(Note: Many of the taxonomic classifications are named after the classification of Earth’s species because I don’t have the creative energy to come up with appropriate sounding Latin words for all of them and it simplifies the process and makes it easier to draw connections.)
- Size and appearance
Nargacuga is a medium-sized pseudowyvern (Felisauria) native to densely forested areas, such as the Ancient Forest of the New World. The largest adults reach up to over 23.5 meters long and weigh up to 7 tons but most individuals are around 17 meters and 4.5 tons. They are covered in dark blue semiplume with red plumage covering leaf-shaped streaks from the base of the beaks to throughout the inside of the external ear and along the trailing edges of the wings. Their scales are a smokey grey.
The Nargacuga is overall morphologically typical of a pseudowyvern, possessing four limbs, two legs and two wings, all of which are used for terrestrial locomotion. They walk and run with a semi splayed limb posture. The wings are of similar proportions to the other two known extant genera of pseudowyverns, Tigrex (Tigrex) and Barioth (Cryofelis), being muscular and longer than their hindlimbs but noticeably shorter compared to “true” flying wyverns while their hind limbs are highly developed and more gracile compared to Tigrex and Barioth.
Hatchlings have features typical of baby wyverns, with a large, short face and proportionately smaller limbs. They have dark grey downy feathers which are replaced with adult feathers once they’ve reached two-thirds of their adult size.
- Head morphology
The skull is wide, deep and lightly built. Small triangular antorbital fenestra located just below the eye further minimize weight. It has large eye sockets and large cylindrical-shaped eyes loaded with rod cells which work well in low light conditions, allowing Nargacuga to see in near pitch-black though their cone cell count is still also quite high. Their pupil openings are also highly adjustable due to the large iris muscles and flexible sclerotic rings so their diurnal vision is still rather sharp combined with their decently high number of colour-detecting cone cells (by virtue of the eyes’ size). At the back of the eye is a tapetum lucidum that reflects light back into the retina, allowing them to take in as much light as possible in low light conditions (at night or under a dense canopy) while giving them a very bright eyeshine in such conditions. The tapetum lucidum mostly reflects light on the lower frequency range for visible light, leading to a yellow, orange or red eyeshine depending on the exact lighting conditions. During stress responses, increased blood pressure raises blood flow through the capillaries in the eye, filtering out the eyeshine and leaving a crimson glow while the pupils dilate allowing more light to come in and out of the eye, intensifying that glow. The eyeballs point forward, allowing for a wide range of binocular vision but they are fixed within the eye socket due to their size and shape so the Nargacuga relies on rapidly turning their long, muscular necks to maintain visual awareness of their surroundings. As with all pseudowyverns, they also have cartilaginous external ears extending from eyebrows and back of the skull, funnelling sound into the ear opening, increasing audio acuity. The base of the ears are also controlled by multiple muscle groups, allowing them to turn, locating and tracking sources of sound though not to the extent of fanged beasts as their ears are more fixed to the skull.
The outside edges of the maxillary and premaxillary bones bear grooves holding matrices of blood vessels feeding the keratin of the beak. The tip of the beak stoops into a hook akin to an Earthly bird of prey. The beak growing from the end of the maxillary bones form tomial teeth analogous to those in many of Earth’s falcon species and function similarly to canine teeth. The beak overall has sharp, bladelike edges, and overlaps the mandible. The teeth of the maxilla, often obscured by the beak are thick ziphodont-type teeth with minor serrations. The dentition of the mandible is heterodont, with three different types of teeth: molars somewhat similar to the maxillary teeth albeit thinner, more blade-like and possessing more serrations, conical canines and small packed incisors. The jaw large muscles attach and loop through the large temporal and supertemporal fenestra, connecting to the mandible. This muscle group composed of roughly 80% fast-twitch type ii muscle fibres for a rapid application of force.
- Limb and tail morphology
The limbs of Nargacuga are overall fairly typical of pseudowyverns, with four powerful limbs, 2 hindlegs and 2 wings, all of which are utilized in terrestrial and arboreal locomotion. Relatively to Barioth and Tigrex, Nargacuga has fairly elongated hindlimbs (partially by virtue of their lighter build) which allows for greater sprinting capabilities though their proportions (thigh and shin of roughly equal length) still suggest a greater reliance on pouncing and leaping. The thigh bones are covered in muscle scars which anchor thick fast-twitch muscle groups as well as the large fast-twitch caudofemoralis muscles connecting to the tail, which are responsible for rapidly pulling back the hindlimbs. The ankles can rotate backwards so that the Nargacuga can maintain a firm grasp on a tree trunk in all positions, even allowing them to quickly sprint down a tree. The feet are padded with four flexible, albeit short, toes tipped with thick hooked talons for traction and grasping. The hind limbs are connected to the body via flexible ball-in-socket joints that allow them to alternate between a sprawling, pillar-erect, and erect gait. The forelimbs or wings, as with most wyverns and particularly pseudowyverns are significantly larger and muscular than the hindlimbs though the length disparity is somewhat less exaggerated than in “true” flying wyverns. The wings are still primarily used in a sprawling gait when walking to compensate for the difference in length with the legs but they can be flexed inwards to a significant degree (similarly to the flight strokes of flying wyverns) though they are also able to extend forwards to a much greater distance than “true” flying wyverns. The ancestral keel bone (an extension of the sternum) is maintained, allowing for the anchoring of huge pectoral muscles which power the wings for running and leaping. The keel bone is also curved upwards to a greater extent than flying wyverns so that the attached pectoral muscles could efficiently pull the wings downwards as well as backwards, adding significant horizontal distance to a stride or leap while sacrificing a small degree of verticality. The digits of the wings in Nargacuga are highly derived and unique. The wing itself is formed from black and red skin membranes suspended in two digits. These bones of these digits are thick, durable, and connected by the ossification of the cartilage and connective tissue in the joints connecting them, forming stiff, curved structures. These are overlaid with large rhomboidal ossified scales which are tightly arranged without overlap and connected by stiff keratin, forming a unified blade-shaped sheath. The keratin covering the scales on the leading edge of the digits are edged and blade-like. These scales are shed frequently to maintain the sharpness of the blades. The fourth digit of the forelimb, or first digit of the wings, is the primary blade though the wing membrane connects under the leading edge of the fifth digit in such a way that it could slide over the fourth digit, allowing the two to work in conjunction. The first three digits which are free of the wing membranes are large and fairly flexible, capable of flexing inwards for grasping motions. The toes are tipped with thin, curved talons which possess a cutting edge on their regularly shed keratin sheaths, and possess toe pads that cushion a hard impact and protect the claws from unnecessary contact with hard surfaces. The tail is as long as the rest of the body and is heavily muscled. Aside from serving as an anchor for the caudofemoralis muscles, it serves as a critical counterbalance for Nargacuga’s arboreal movements as well as a powerful club for self-defence. The surface area of the wing membranes is rather small though they could still be used to generate additional lift while traversing between trees. The membranes can also be stretched out as a courtship or intimidation display.
As with all flying wyverns, Nargacuga possesses uncompressible lungs connected to a matrix of air sacs which create a unidirectional airflow. This allows for a highly efficient gas exchange, facilitating Nargacuga’s fast and active lifestyle. This system is notably more efficient than the lungs of all other vertebrates (except for Elder Dragons) as it eliminates the majority of stagnant air and allows for gas exchange during both inhalation and exhalation. The anterior thoracic air sacs could also be inflated to prevent rapid deceleration and absorb dangerous amounts of shock when enduring hard impacts such as if the Nargacuga tripped and fell from a canopy.
Nargacuga possesses feathers which appear to be an ancestral trait for true wyverns (pseudowyverns, true flying wyverns, bird wyverns) though it is unique in that it is the largest wyvern with a full-body covering of feathers by a rather large margin and it only possesses scales on its digits and paws. The primary benefits of feathers are their lightweight compared to scales, while also being more flexible, suiting Nargacuga’s agile lifestyle. They can also serve as insulation and aid in incubating eggs and keeping chicks warm. The feathers on the eyebrows and within the external ears filter out debris, protecting these crucial sensory organs. They can also be fluffed up or otherwise manipulated in certain intraspecies interactions, including courtship and conflict. Many feathers near the tip of the tail possess dense and pointed shafts with reduced filaments. This further bolsters the lethality of its tail swipe by sending numerous sharp spikes into the aggressor with each bow. These spines are also barbed at the end and possess a relatively weak connection to the skin, allowing them to break off and embed themselves in the flesh of the victim.
- Feeding and diet
Nargacuga is an ambush predator that preys on a wide variety of monsters though they favour small to medium-sized prey that they can capture without much resistance, such as kelbi, mosswine, and small bird wyverns though they will take on weakened individuals of larger species such as duramboros, banbaro, rathalos, or yian garuga is an opportunity presents itself. They effortlessly traverse the dense forest, on land or through the canopy while using their bladed wings to slice through obstructions. They detect prey by a combination of sight and sound, with their olfactory sense being significantly weaker than most other wyverns. They stalk their prey, usually under extremely thick foliage or at night where their dark coating would be least visible, either from the undergrowth or, preferably, a large tree trunk until it is within roughly 30-50 meters of the target, before clearing that distance with a single leap to pin down their prey with the talons on its paws, holding it still for live consumption. Younger Nargacugas tend to overshoot but they quickly learn to adjust their leaps as they gain more experience, giving them one of the highest hunting success rates of all monsters. If the Nargacuga fails to pin the prey or if the prey is larger, it could pivot itself around and then, using the residual momentum from the pounce, swing one of its bladed wings at the target’s limbs, often easily severing muscle, arteries and tendons with a swift slash, knocking down the prey if not outright sending it into shock.
- Defensive Behaviour
While Nargacuga is a fairly large and very formidable predator, the ecosystems in which it resides is also cohabitated by other such monsters, many of whom pose a great threat to the pseudowyvern. These threats include Rathalos, Yian Garuga, Deviljho, Tigrex, Zinogre, Elder Dragons,… Generally, when given an option, the Nargacuga prefers to intimidate and/or flee, either into thick foliage or caves to escape aerial predators or up onto trees to avoid terrestrial threats (In this regard, they could be compared to cheetahs and leopards of Earth’s African savannah.). However, if escape is not an option or their chicks are at risk, they are often quite capable of defending themselves against the likes of Rathalos, Tigrex, Zinogre, or hunters. Their primary weapons of self-defence are their wing blades and heavy spiked tail, both of which can inflict heavy bleeding and blunt force trauma. They also take advantage of their agility, leaping around an aggressor, confusing them, attacking them from their blind spot or simply running circles around them. They can also become extremely aggressive, quickly and frequently entering an adrenaline-fueled flight or fight state, in which their eyes shine a bloody crimson to intimidate aggressors. During this state, their senses heighten, the natural limiters of muscle strength (to prevent tears) are removed, and their spleen releases a massive quantity of red blood cells, doping their bloodstream and they become extremely fast, powerful and dangerous while sacrificing caution and some precision. With that said, coming out of this state leaves them exhausted, aching and vulnerable. Furthermore, their frail nature means that they are not well equipped to take many powerful blows and while their size and fairly flame retardant feathers offer some protection, fire attacks can quickly wear them down and they have practically no defence against electricity.
- Reproduction and Life Cycle
Nargacugas are generally solitary but congregate for mating seasons. Males use a mixture of chemical trails and growl to draw in females. They would then perform acrobatic displays, most likely intended to show off their physical prowess. When confronted with rival males, they often simply square each other up and try to intimidate one another until one leaves. Territorial fights are fairly rare and typically quite held back only end in minor scratches. In fact, most intraspecies fighting occurs when a male attempt to kill the offspring of a female so that she would be ready to breed again, which often ends in the female hyped up on adrenaline eviscerating the male. Females are oviparous and give birth to around three or four large eggs which they incubate for around 50 days before hatching. They raise the chicks until 5 years of age, protecting, feeding and teaching them. As briefly mentioned above, mother Nargacugas are highly aggressive and defensive, and it is advised that hunters should keep away (also for conservation purpose). They can live for up to 60 years or more though most die younger from starvation, injuries, or being killed by other monsters.
Classification and Evolution:
There is some debate as to where exactly pseudowyverns lie on the phylogenetic tree of wyverns though it is generally accepted that they are flying wyverns (Wyvernia). They may be a basal group which branched out early on the occupy a different niche from and, thus, avoids direct competition with other flying wyverns or they may be, in fact, a highly derived group. Within the group itself, it is probable that Nargacuga is less closely related to Tigrex and Barioth than the latter two are to one another due to Nargacuga’s full covering of feathers, beak and large external ears, for which it was classed in its own family, Felisauridae. However, it is possible that it forms a group with Barioth, more separate from Tigrex, instead, considering their shared traits, namely hardened wing digits, and a presence of feathers.
The Biology of Fatalis: https://www.reddit.com/r/MonsterHunter/comments/jx10ag/the_biology_of_fatalis/
The Biology of Vaal Hazak: https://www.reddit.com/r/MonsterHunter/comments/k57iww/the_biology_of_vaal_hazak/
The Biology of Shara Ishvalda: https://www.reddit.com/r/MonsterHunter/comments/ke8hfr/the_biology_of_shara_ishvalda/
The Biology of Zinogre: https://www.reddit.com/r/MonsterHunter/comments/kt1obd/the_biology_of_zinogre/?utm_source=share&amp;utm_medium=ios_app&amp;utm_name=iossmf
Next One: To be decided here! https://www.reddit.com/r/MonsterHunter/comments/l4nvbn/im_making_more_speculative_biology_posts_u_can/?utm_source=share&amp;utm_medium=ios_app&amp;utm_name=iossmf
Source: Original link
© Post "The Biology of Nargacuga" for game Monster Hunter World.
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