The kurukurukan, singular and plural, were a semi-sapient race native to Taiie IV in the Taiie star system. They were among the most advanced lifeforms on that planet, bridging the gap between reptilian and avian in much the same way that the archaeopteryx did on (the real) Earth's Late Jurassic period, and stood out among the mostly piscean and amphibian denizens of the young world, where they ruled the canopies; they were no match for the giant amphibians and less developed, but larger and deadlier, early reptiles, but reigned unchallenged and supreme in the skies. The species is believed to have gone extinct when the Mishhuvurthyar destroyed the Taiie star system in YE 29.
They looked in some ways similar to an artist's depiction of an archaeopteryx. They were of a serpentine build, elongated with a snakelike head, and squamous, most of the surface of the skin covered in scales. Two upper limbs emerged from their dorsal side at about 1/4 of the way down the body from the head. They were formed into wings, and feathered, but retained a prehensile appendage at the third joint consisting of two two-jointed, taloned digits with a mutually opposable, one-jointed thumb. Three digits were webbed, forming the wing itself, in the same manner as a bat. These digits had three joints each. The body at the wings' point of attachment was significantly thicker than the rest of the body, due to a much greater density and amount of muscle, giving the strength for the wings to provide lift.
Halfway down the body was another set of limbs, terminating in prehensile appendages with five two-jointed fingers and a mutually-opposed, one-jointed thumb, all bearing raptor-like talons. The legs were quite muscular, of about the same density as the torso muscles that attached to the wings. They were almost froglike, and rest plantigrade when the kurukurukan was on a flat surface. The kurukurukan initiated flight by leaping into the air, and they were capable of astonishing leaps, even without flying, of almost ten times the creatures' length. The limbs were ill-suited for walking, however, more for climbing or jumping. When a kurukuran had to move on the ground, it crawled with its wings folded, using the digits of the upper limbs to pull itself, while the lower limbs pushed, its belly barely a centimeter above the surface. They were also capable of slithering by folding their limbs beneath them, but this was slow and awkward, unless the kurukurukan was swimming, a task at which it excelled, moving much like an iguana, with surprising speed and agility.
The kurukurukan's tail was thick, muscular, and fluked on the end. The fluke bore a plume of feathers, which was used to provide stability and steering in flight, and propel the animal through water.
Their skulls were partially-fused, and held together by tough cartilage. This allowed the creature to fit its head into very small spaces like a rat, a distinct advantage, because the omnivorous kurukurukan were primarily omophagous, and also feed on small animals that burrowed into the ground or the hollows of the large trees and giant ferns of Taiie IV. Their teeth were that of a carnivore in evolutionary transition to being an omnivore. Most of the teeth were fanged, and backwards-curving with small serrations. Its canines were much longer than its other teeth, and straighter, while its incisors were chisel-like, and extremely sharp. The esophagus featured a muscular gizzard, lined with mineral deposits at maturity, for help in the digestion of fibrous plant and fungal material. They were also known to swoop down and snatch small creatures off of the ground, or small fish that were close to the water's surface.
Kurukurukan had very highly developed senses of smell, with coiled sinuses having a lot of surface area, assisted by the long tongue, which was pointed and tubelike, rather than forked. Pit glands helped the animal detect heat, and its eyes were large, adapted to the dim light of Taiie's lower canopy. Bright lights hurt the kurukurukans' sensitive eyes and disoriented them. The kurukurukan had color vision, and there is evidence that it could see into the ultraviolet, but had problems with the red end of the visible light spectrum, wavelengths which did not as easily penetrate the thick atmosphere and heavy foliage of its home. They had fairly good hearing, despite having no external ears, assisted by tiny, downy feathers around the ear canal, and inside its outer portion. Larger feathers, of which the kurukurukan had conscious directional control, provided protection to the aural canal and rudimentary focusing.
The scales of a kurukurukan were largest on the ventral, where they were thick, lateral bands. They were smallest on the limbs. The scales were darker in color on the dorsal than they were on the ventral, and were brightly colored. The dominant color was green, but there were blue, red, yellow, and orange as well, and provided suitable camouflage in the flowered foliage of the early angiosperms of the upper canopy. The geometric patterns formed by the multicolored scales seemed to be unique to the individual. There was a mane of plumage around the base of the head, and a crest down the center of the dorsal spine, as well as on the wings and at the base of the tail. Their coloration was similar to that of the scales, but much brighter, and the patterns likewise seemed unique to the individual. Other than a measure of camouflage, there was no discernible purpose to the colors, as both sexes seem to have equally bright plumage. The only variation was that the young have duller colors.
The species was, as stated, bi-gender sexual differentiation, and they reproduced sexually, mating year-round. They were egg-laying, the females fertile once every three standard weeks or so, becoming so at about six standard months of age. They gestated in the eggs for a period of about one standard month. The eggs were soft-shelled, tough, but easily rent from the inside by the young kurukurukan's talons and fangs. The young were protected fiercely by both parents, who remained together and with the young until they matured, a period of about five standard months. Kurukurukan were not known for long enough to have discerned their maximum lifespan, but DNA degradation and tooth wear placed the oldest studied individuals at about twelve standard years, though most of the older adults were in the nine-year-old range. Both sexes apparently remained fertile throughout their lifetime. When not a mated pair with young, they had no real group structure, but tended to congregate loosely in areas of a few square kilometers, with individuals out side of the denser population areas being rare, and generally being between two relatively proximate population areas.
Females and males were roughly the same size, only detailed examination could discern sex. They hatched at about ten centimeters in length, and were about one meter long from nose to tail at maturity, with a wingspan of almost three meters. Kurukurukan apparently continued to grow throughout their lifetime, with the oldest known specimen being also the largest, just under thirteen years old, 2571cm in length with an impressive 6324cm wingspan. Until about three months, the young possessed rudimentary gills. They could live submerged in water with an adequate oxygen supply virtually indefinitely with them. They possessed sophisticated, four-chambered lungs like birds, for efficient gas exchange, and their hearts were eight chambered, keeping their oxygenated and deoxygenated warm blood separate. Their metabolisms were incredibly fast, and most of their time awake would be spent eating, with the bulk of the remainder spent looking for food- they were neither exclusively nocturnal or diurnal, being most active at the twilight periods around dawn and dusk, spending a good deal of the middle periods of night and day asleep.
Kurukurukan were not known to fight among themselves, except for 'wrestling matches' that served social purposes such as bonding, play, and issues of dominance, but were very aggressive to any species which they recognized as either food or a threat to their young. Their thick scales and dense muscle were, at maturity, a solid defense against the teeth and claws of anything about their size, and against considerably larger creatures as well, especially the older, larger specimens, whose scales thickened with their age commensurate with their size. This served to protect their bones, which were hollow and quite brittle. They killed prey by constriction and biting, not being poisonous, and defended themselves against threats by biting, raking with their rear claws, wing buffets, and whipping their thick tails. They were capable of striking from the ground like a rattlesnake, and did not need to be coiled or raised up to strike like a cobra.
Kurukurukan were surprisingly intelligent, about on the level of a dog or pig, though not quite approaching that of an advanced primate. They had the primitive cunning and problem solving abilities observed in some octopi and cuttlefish, and outstanding memories. They had refined instincts and were incredibly curious, demonstrating a remarkable capacity for learned behavior and recognition of individuals of other species. Specimens taken into captivity for study showed a proclivity for escape, but on the other hand, initial experiments showed them to be very easily trainable, and quite friendly and companionable (once they cease perceiving NH-22C Yamataian as a threat, that is). Their high metabolic requirements, light sensitivity, and odd activity cycle were seen to be barriers to the kurukurukan having any sort of purpose useful to Yamatai in any tactical or service capacity, however.