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The setting

On an Earth-like planet but with completely different flora and fauna there is the Great Plain. It is similar in size to the Serengeti National Park on Earth. The Plain is surrounded by high mountains on all sides except where it meets the ocean. Creatures who live there have been isolated for aeons and evolved to its conditions.

The seasons

For reasons not disclosed here, the seasons have been changing over time. Each year the winter is getting longer and harsher. The animals and plants are continually evolving to adapt.

The flora and fauna

The Fatoids are an apelike creature and when they emerge from hibernation they have the proportions of a skinny human with baggy skin. Their heads are hamster-like and they are furry. They repair their hibernation burrow and set off in search of food. This consists mainly of leaves from the Yumyum tree which grows in groves scattered over the plain. The trees situated near the burrows are soon exhausted and they so they must travel far and wide.

The Yumyum trees enjoy a symbiotic relationship with the Fatoids and benefit from their manure. In return the Yumyum grow edible leaves at an ideal height for the Fatoids.

During the Summer, the apelike Fatoids gorge themselves on YumYum and eventually they eat so much that they become almost spherical. Imagine a chimpanzee's skeleton and other structures completely encased in a huge ball of fat. The usual apertures exist but appear on the surface. The only thing that projects from the sphere is the head.

Once they are at maximum size, (roughly 1.5 m in diameter), they must head back to their burrow to hibernate.

Their only enemy is a large predator species (the Chomptor) that also has to hibernate. It starts off skinny and gets fatter until it too is spherical.

Conditions for the Fatoids

Their underlying anatomy is that of an upright ape. They have the intelligence level of an average pet hamster. They don't use tools. There is no agriculture. They are foragers. Their behaviour is almost entirely instinctual and has evolved over aeons. They have to forage far and wide from their hibernation-hole to find fattening food. Enough Fatoids always survive to perpetuate the species.

Conditions for the Chomptors

Everything is pretty much the same as for the Fatoids except they are carnivores and their skeleton and musculature are based on a quadruped plan. Again they become completely spherical with just the head sticking out. They have sharp teeth and the intelligence and habits of a wolf.

Interaction

Predators and prey have achieved a balance just like lions and herbivores have on Earth.

Locomotion

When these creatures are ready for hibernation, as far as is known, they can move only by bouncing or rolling. Both are potentially risky because landing on their heads with their full weight could crush their skulls. Rolling over could break their necks.

One would suppose that rolling can only be used downhill and hopping seems difficult to achieve for a sphere. For example Could a remote controlled beach ball hop along without any internal wheels?

Question

How can a slightly top-heavy sphere (without an internal mechanism apart from its skeleton and muscles), make headway for any appreciable distance, even on a horizontal surface? How can it regain an upright posture when necessary?

Note

Some voluntary exterior distortion of the fatty sphere can occur via musculature. Gravity naturally flattens the sphere at the base so when standing, they are holding themselves up with their enclosed feet.

When answering, please address locomotion, balance and optionally safety.

Visualisation

This picture is for scale only. Fatoids contain fat not air. They are slightly furry and have hamster-like heads that project from the sphere. enter image description here

A fat hamster - This shows the general appearance of a Fatoid in terms of fur and head shape but the proportions are as shown above.

enter image description here

Videos

Balloon chasing and 'eating' humans https://youtu.be/VZe9NUBH_3w?t=35

Balloon predator and prey. Note: Unlike the creatures in this video, the Fatoids and Chomptors do not have limbs and tails visible when they are fat. https://youtu.be/yltlJEdSAHw?t=34

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    $\begingroup$ Sorry but this does not make sense. Humanoid skeleton is not really compatible with that. Even if somebody figured a way to move when fully inflated the partially inflated phases would suck. I'd drop the humanoid part and make the fatoids spherical from the beginning with the sphere either increasing in size or becoming gradually less hollow. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Dec 1 '18 at 13:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Ville Niemi - They are not inflated like a balloon - that was just for scale. They are fat like a hamster. The balloon shape is caused by fat. I've edited to make that clear. $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Dec 1 '18 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ Related: Movement for a spherical desert creature $\endgroup$ – Renan Dec 1 '18 at 20:20
  • $\begingroup$ This question reminds me of this: youtube.com/channel/UCO5Da7kc1uvYwsSsnwcSCZg $\endgroup$ – takintoolong Dec 25 '18 at 0:31
  • $\begingroup$ @ takintoolong - Thanks, I already referenced one of those videos in my question ;-) $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Dec 25 '18 at 9:57
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Fishes have the swimming bladder to help them control their buoyancy.

The fattoid have a similar adaptation: they have 5 bladders, arranged to form a cross. One central bladder and 4 around it. The central one is slightly lower with respect to the lateral ones (see picture for I hope better visualization)

fattoid section

When the fattoid wants to stay upright only the central bladder is filled with water based liquid, lowering its center of mass.

When it wants to roll, first the fattoid fills one lateral bladder to shift the center of mass to the side, and once the tilting starts simply transferring the liquid to other bladders keep the motion (channels not shown in the picture).

To stop, the process is reversed: the liquid is transferred to the back facing bladders until stopping the rotation. Also to regain the upright position the fattoid fills the bottom bladder ending up standing.

It's not a fast process, both in the acceleration and in the deceleration, but normally the achieved velocities are not so high that a fast reaction time is needed.

To protect their head they can pull in the neck, limiting the protrusion, and have developed a thicker skull for additional protection.

To climb gentle slopes they either gain sufficient velocity to overcome it (if the slope is short) or simply zig zag around the shortest path if the slope is long, so that the faced slope is lower.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nice solution - How do they protect their always sticking out head? Can they both hop and roll using your mechanism? Can they traverse gentle slopes? $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Dec 1 '18 at 14:00
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    $\begingroup$ @chaslyfromUK, I am afraid hopping is out of the picture with this (unless they find something like a platform when rolling). The rest I have added to the answer. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Dec 1 '18 at 14:06
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    $\begingroup$ large volume long phased 'peristalsis' could also be used to oscillate the body, either in time and across 3 dimensions in a constant pattern for regular motion, or in an increasing tempo 2d pattern for hopping (up and down) with forward motion provided by the legs. Whilst we might posit the fat as contiguous, 'muscular' membranes capable of 'balancing load' would likely be evolved to provide stability as well as other functions (that amount of fat needs protein policing) $\endgroup$ – Giu Piete Dec 1 '18 at 14:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Giu Piete - That sounds intriguing. I'd be interested to see an answer based on that if you have time. $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Dec 1 '18 at 14:18
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    $\begingroup$ They can just avoid rolling directly over their head; rolling instead over a part of the sphere directly under a shoulder or upper arm. The internal bladders can be aligned to allow that; and in fact in the picture are away from the center line dawn between the head and the bottom bladder. In fact, for vision purposes it might be smarter to roll on their side (like we would roll down a hill), instead of head over heels. $\endgroup$ – Amadeus Dec 1 '18 at 23:05

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