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Allow me to present the Brethmechin, a creature of Indonesian mythology.

enter image description here

The Book of Creatures website has drawn it as some kind of felid that has adapted for complete marine hunting, rather like the plesiosaurs or mosasaurs of our timeline. But the idea of a felid hunter that has given up its hind legs and modified its tail for swimming does bring up one fundamental issue.

On land, cats are ambush predators. They don't have the same stamina as dogs or bears. Instead, they just wait and wait and wait until they are within striking distance of their prey. That's a fine strategy above the surface, but below? That's more applicable either to gill-breathers (like sharks, eels or anglerfish) or colder-blooded air breathers (like crocodilians).

In an alternate Earth, the actual brethmechin would be smaller than presented in the image--no bigger than a lion.

So how WOULD a marine felid hunt?

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but below? That's more applicable either to gill-breathers (like sharks, eels or anglerfish) or colder-blooded air breathers (like crocodilians).

Ambush would still be the better tactic. There are various marine mammals that can hold their breath for long periods of time, and if they were holding still they could last even longer.

The Brethmechin in your image isn’t very hydrodynamic (honestly it should be redesigned); it would be nowhere near as fast as a dolphin, porpoise or sea lion, mammals that actually hunt actively in marine environments. Since it wouldn’t be fast in the water it would have to have a different tactic.

Considering that it has huge front limbs, and lives in Indonesia, it should snatch land animals that stray just a little too close to the water or try and cross. Maybe it could keep its nose just above water.

If you want to redesign a Felid to actually hunt effectively in the water, just have it go down the path of the other Carnivorans who became marine predators, the pinnipeds and otters. Get rid of the giant puffs of fur and fins that would only provide drag, and shorten those front legs considerably. Then it can hunt like an otter or seal

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  • $\begingroup$ So, basically it would hunt like a crocodile, but grabbing with limbs rather than jaws? $\endgroup$ Dec 17 '20 at 1:15
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The only problem with being an ambush hunter is air supply. So, there are a couple options.

  1. It floats on the surface, drifting as if dead, until some scavenger comes close, at which point it eats the scavenger. This allows it to just breathe at the surface.

  2. It can drop its metabolism way down temporarily, allowing it to rest on a single breath and then do a single fast chase before it has to surface. Again, dead drifting in a current may entice scavengers to come close.

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  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't scavengers adapt to not eat this particular creature? $\endgroup$
    – Zxyrra
    Jan 18 '20 at 23:58
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It doesn't look like an ambush animal, it lacks the physical features to be good at surprise attacks in water.

The best bet is to just chase down the prey and swallow it whole, like how other marine marine mammals do.

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The key to the merpanther is a predator-prey relationship. Let's say we have a sleek but powerful big cat who preys on primates. Fair enough, happens a lot where big cats coexist with primates, right? Let's take this further-the big cat in question is unusually intelligent and spends a lot of time in water. In fact, it has evolved into a pack hunter with an unusual water-centered hunting strategy.

You see, while monkeys can swim, they're not built for it any more than we are. They don't do too well in the water, and since the big cats have adapted into amphibious creatures, they take advantage of this by ambushing their prey at or from rivers and lakes.

In order to survive, these primates will either become good at hiding or adapt to water themselves. Let's say the latter happens; it's theoretically possible, so not too much of a leap there. Over millions of years, the primates evolved into merpeople, but alas! The big cats evolved alongside them.

These merpanther's hunting tactics will feature three things: camouflage, speed, stealth, and opportunism. They will be hard to spot, actively avoid detection methods like sonar, and be fast enough to catch prey unawares and (hopefully) flee before the victim's friends (if they have friends around) can attack them.

Opportunism will be equally important-if these things focus exclusively on eating merpeople, chances are that they'll be driven extinct. So they'll need to be smart, targeting lone individuals or groups of obviously vulnerable merpeople.

Unless....there is a slight chance that the merpeople will view the merpanthers as divine, a manifestation of divine rage or instrument of punishment, or have gained a sort of 'sacrificial altruism' that causes certain members of a 'pod' to sacrifice themselves for the greater good of the group as a whole.

As a result, the merpanthers may be able to get free meals, but that's horribly unlikely.

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