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This is a submission for the Anatomically Correct Series

In the story I’m writing there is an island of mostly Monotremes which have diversified into a variety of ecological niches with a group of platypuses evolving into Manticores (here’s a rough mock up of what one of these Manticores might look like with a smaller tail)! Now some characteristics of these Manticores include:

  • lay eggs (of course)
  • having a lion like body
  • males have a cross between a lions mane and humans beard
  • having bat like wings as their forelimbs
  • are tetrapods instead of Hexapods like classical Manticores
  • having a scorpion like tail
  • being carnivores
  • 25% smaller than a mountain lion
  • are quadrupeds
  • having a surprisingly humanoid looking face (optional)
  • are capable of flight

Given these characteristics how realistic are they, and what evolutionary pressures would lead to such a beast?

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  • $\begingroup$ Why the downvotes? $\endgroup$ – Renan Feb 23 at 21:23
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    $\begingroup$ I haven't downvoted but these constant questions of this type are getting tiring and seem like they are being asked just for the sake of it. $\endgroup$ – RandySavage Feb 23 at 21:30
  • $\begingroup$ It could be created using genetic engineering/Synthetic Biology. Or take bats, Scorpions and Lion genes and mix them to create it. $\endgroup$ – Sabrine Crystal Santos Feb 24 at 0:12
  • $\begingroup$ This is going to have to be a chimaera, if you want a shot at it existing. [Not the mythical beast, the genetic variant of gene splicing.] $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed Feb 24 at 0:19
  • $\begingroup$ VTC due to poor quality: please make this about your world; or make it of use & interest to other geopoets! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Apr 18 at 20:13
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Size

To me, the first issue is size. You've probably heard of the cube square law? As I understand it, for flight, there is a fifth power square law. Flight is hard, especially if you are massive.

The largest fliers at this point are some of the eagles. Huge wingspan, hollow bones for weight reduction, and mostly limited to soaring. The largest mammal fliers would be bats, which are cited as being the size of a small fox.

Thus, I doubt your creature could be much larger than a house cat.

Flight

It is probably mostly restricted to gliding and soaring. If it can run, it can probably run faster than it can fly. Indeed, that may be what it must do to get in the air.

Sting

I would expect this is normally used from the air. Thus, it would sting downward and forward, between the hind legs. The tail might well be carried high when on the ground, and thus resemble a scorpion. The tail might also have some flight surfaces to it, giving it an unusual appearance.

Diet

It would need to be high energy. Good candidates: meat, fruit/seeds, blood, milk. Probably only one, as each gets you a different jaw.

meat

A jaw designed to tear flesh. Probably dog or cat like.

fruit/seeds

A jaw designed for crushing. Probably lots of teeth, though maybe none and a digestive tract that does the work instead. (Some birds do this, probably for weight reasons.)

blood

The ability to induce bleeding, and suck on the blood. This could get a human-like face.

milk

The ability to suck on the milk. Possibly no jaw to speak of at all. This could easily get a human like face.

My thoughts

Personally, I like the idea of a milk drinker. If a large grazer has developed that both the females and the males lactate, and do so all the time, then the food source is good. At this point, the sting could become a sedative or paralytic, used to obtain access to the milk without killing the beast.

This could develop into a mutually beneficial relationship, if the "manticore" acts as a high sentry for the herd, warning of approaching predators. If such a relationship has gone far enough, the sting might also be used for protecting the herd.

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Platypus

Definitely a platypus. They are one of the only poisonous mammals. Your scorpion tail is is a lion like tail with a big poison barb on the end. Bat wings fit well enough with a mammal - tbh I'm not convinced that we don't have a great real world explanation for bats since any intermediate species from rat to bat seems like it wouldn't make it, but bats are real so there you go. Human-like face... large eyes up front make sense for an apex predator, but for a human-like appearance you'd need a small nose/weak sense of smell. I'll be honest. I don't know why human noses suck compared to a cat/dog/bear, and a quick google search didn't turn up much. You could just hand wave that part. Finally for you to have a big flying predator like this at all you need a lot of big animals for it to pounce on from the sky and devour. High CO2 content in the atmosphere ought to help with that. Dinosaurs could afford to get so huge because food was plentiful. At 2000ppm plants grow like crazy, the herbivores can afford to grow larger, and the predators grow larger as well.

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A manticore could have evolved from a therapsid that evolved to be similar to the carnivorans. They might also have a long tail to defend themselves from other predators. They might evolve to have a bony ridge formed from the caudal ribs, which might later evolve into extended spines. It might also evolve to secrete poison from its skin, to further protect itself. They might evolve quills to protect the body. These quills might become hollow in order to deliver the secretions as venom. Some quills at the end of the tail might evolve to spray out venom. This would lead to these quills increasing in size, and the power of the spray increasing. At some point, they may evolve to produce a plug to plug the quill, which would allow pressure to be increased in the quill's base and allowing the quill to be shot out at high speed. These quills would likely take on an arrow-like shape, allowing better flight. The other quills of the body would be reduced, as they are less needed. They may be hit by a mutation that causes them to form many extra teeth. These teeth might move in the jaw to form 3 rows of teeth. Due to the increased amount of points in the mouth, they might be less able to tear up food. To avoid this, they might start to pick up prey in their mouth and swallow it whole. This would likely lead to the jaws becoming wider and the lower jaw spliting. Due to being less needed for biting, the jaws might shorten to a near-human face. They might evolve to produce loud, trumpet-like noises in order to attract a mate, and might also become bright red with a thick mane and bare face, due to sexual selection. These changes would make a manticore

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Okay, lets try and have some fun. We will start from a Lion Base type and address the two main features

  1. Wings and Food Source

For wings to develop you need to be able to use them. This means you need to be lightweight but also means that your food supply is spread over a large distance or far away from Home. You might also notice that creatures that have wings only have 2 legs... this is due to the huge amount of energy required to invest in an additional set of limbs. From this, we can assume there there are seasonal bursts of abundant food to fulfill this energy requirement. One which is on land, requiring legs to hunt and where flying would not provide an advantage. Another which would be either very far away... or water related (think of sea birds).

Focusing on the first land based abundant food source where wings don't help. Your Manticore would need to be hunting large animals. It has powerful legs to attack and pin the prey and jaws to bit, pin and tear away at the flesh. Its wings are useless here because it needs to engage in a fight (Most birds only attack animals that are smaller than them) and can't just quickly pick off/up the animal. Otherwise, its legs would be more bird like, instead of sturdy and muscular (think of eagles lifting up sheep compared to a lion pinning down a wilder beast).

Now the second abundant supply of food. This would need to either be sea based or spread over a large area. I'm going to choose spread over a large area, something like multiple localized explosions in the rabbit population (probably caused by a seasonal weather of some sort). Your Manticore would use its wings to fly into the location, feast on the local population very easily and then move onto the next location. The stinger tail can be tied in here, as a way to dig rabbits out of their tunnels, but more on that later.

  1. Scorpion tail

This is hard to determine the use of. In your image, the body is far too large for the tail to be used like a traditional scorpion stings (over the head) due to its length and size, and its hard shell would develop completely differently from a traditional insect due to the lion biology. Instead of being a shell, its likely that the shape and material would be a hard hair or bone like material. The stinger wouldn't be used to disable its prey, because otherwise, the Manticores power limbs become a bit redundant. The tail will likely be used to swing from side to side and would probably be shaped and grow that way due to mating preferences instead of having an actual utility (there is no way a tail would develop enough flexibility to act as a proper 5th/7th limb). The only purpose would be as previously mentioned, if its prey lived in holes, the Manticore could potentially use its tail to flush them out.

  1. Humanoid face?

I don't think think this part can happen. A human face focuses on prey infront of it, but your Manticore would need to have a mix of bird and lion to be able to hunt prey and have some sort of useful vision when searching for its second food source. It would also need a stronger jaw structure to be carnivorous and you obvious end up with some sort of snout (looks at cats and dogs in general).

Unfortunately, I can't pin exactly where the wings would develop (as mammals wouldn't develop wings in addition to their 4 limbs, and birds won't develop arms). So it would have to be a completely separate evolutionary line from either of the two and I don't know enough to figure out where this split would have occured.

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If manticores have hair like mammals, yet lay eggs like reptiles, they could possibly be a highly derived form of therapsids, mammal-like reptiles from the Permian era. Perhaps a species survived the Great Dying and adapted to hunting flying creatures, such as pterosaurs, by developing wings and a venomous spur at the end of their tail.

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  • $\begingroup$ you are aware Monotremes exist right? $\endgroup$ – icewar1908 Mar 8 at 20:42
  • $\begingroup$ Yes I do know that monotremes exist $\endgroup$ – Daikyu Maryu Mar 8 at 21:20
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For a completely different answer...

Many of the functionality statistics you list you get for free with an insect such as a grasshopper or cricket. The stylistic facts such as the body shape and appearance could be covered by mimicry or intimidation. Alternately, you could start with a scorpion and get the tail for free... but not the wings. As a bonus, you could even get a hexapod design if you wanted - or if you really like tetrapods, the smallest limbs could be vestigial.

For this to work, the biggest problem is going to be size. Historically, there were some large flying insects, but I don't think anything was that big and dense.

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