This document was obtained under the 2004 Legacy-Hand Document Sharing Agreement
Common Name: Ropen
Latin Name: Duah duah
Distribution: caverns on various Oceanian islands
Length: 5-7 meters
Wingspan: 9-14 meters
Weight: 20-30 kilograms
Sapient: Probably not
Habitat: Despite their native habitat, we do not keep ropen in recreated caves. Instead, they are in a very large aviary (geodesic dome fifty meters in radius) constructed of carbon nanotubes. This aviary accurately recreates (estimated 5% deviation) an Oceanian cloud forest.
Husbandry: All ropen are fed five kilograms of fish every other day and ten kilograms of fruit a week. Every other week, the enclosure is cleaned. During this time, the ropen should be kept sedated with L-46 and have life signs monitored by no less than three individuals each armed with stun guns.
Morphology: Time travel has demonstrated rather conclusively that Quetzalcoatlus was extremely fragile to the point where it is a small miracle it evolved at all, making mild interference in its evolution being likely. The ropen is significantly more sturdy; analysis of skeletons reveal that many have healed wounds consistent with those from Oceanic weapons. The ropen also differs in that the wing significantly wider than in Quetzalcoatlus (proportionally), being shaped more like those of Criorhynchus, and overall it is simply more flexible, a feat accomplished both by being significantly smaller and by having bones that are themselves slightly flexible.
The most interesting aspect of the ropen, however, is its bioluminescent underside. The color of light emitted varies considerably. Ropen from New Guinea display a bluish light similar to that from many species of bioluminescent algae and the bacterium genus Vibrio while those from Sumatra emit a purple light. Indonesia ropen emit a reddish light, and those from the Phillipines emit a lime green light.
These colors are not clean divisions, as the exact color of the light blends at the edges of each of the subspecies’ ranges. The mechanism for which the light is produced is currently unknown, as Legacy has been unable to procure an already dead ropen and taking samples from a ropen currently at Legacy runs an unacceptable risk of harming the ropen in question. The working hypothesis, however, is that the ropen produce the light by means of symbiotic bacterium.
The full reason for the light is more difficult to determine. While it could theoretically attract fish, that does not explain the range of color displayed by different ropen subspecies. Communication is another distinct possibility, as ropen in the presence of another ropen will flash different patterns of light at each other, and some of the language has been deciphered, though ropen are known to glow when no other ropen are present (as well as when they are asleep) for minutes at a time, so this cannot be the only reason--and that does not explain differing colors either.
Evolutionary History: Fossil records in Oceania show that the genus Quetzalcoatlus survived after the K-T Event. After the K-T event, it rapidly speciated into several different groups: Coatlidae (coatls), Neopterodactyloidaa (extant pterosaurs), and Aetherdactylidae (pterosaurs adapted to the highest regions of the atmosphere and short forays into outer space). The ropen belongs to the second group, which appears to have spread from eastern North America west to what is now northwest Africa (it should be noted that several very primitive species of pterosaur are native to that region).
Approximately 35 milion years ago, pterosaurs began spreading to Oceania through the rest of Africa and then island hopping the rest of the distance. The ropen evolved approximately 20 million years ago when the pterosaurs first hit Oceania.
The appearance of the ropen was bizarrely rapid (within three million years) given the fact that they and they alone among pterosaurs have developed bioluminescence. If the bioluminescence is indeed, as theorized, actually due to the presence of bacteria, it may have been that the bacteria were originally present and served as gut flora initially, later becoming symbotic for the purpose of bioluminescence.
Diet: Mostly fish with some fruit. Ropen have also been sighted digging up fresh graves, and presumably eat the bodies, as the bodies are invariably not seen afterwards. Interestingly, ropen will not eat unburied but still dead humans, possibly resulting in the tradition of not burying the dead being present on several Oceanic islands.
Social Behavior: Ropen have an extremely complex system of communication composed of flashes of light, part of which is documented in the attached table. Over the decades that captive ropen have been observed, the flock has created new signals, suggesting a form of sentience.
Ropen form close-knit flocks led by a dominant male and female pair. Members of the flock will work together to bring down large animals, which are then shared evenly among the flock, or to eliminate threats to the flock. The behavior of the flock when working in this way is highly cunning; far more so than single individuals are.
The creatures are monogamous and mate for life. Eggs are laid in clutches of three to five throughout the year, though fertility greatly increases when food is plentiful. All eggs are laid in a central nest built by the dominant male and female. Members of the flock work together to guard eggs and hatchlings, alternating guards and mothers.
Intelligence: As stated above, ropen have a complex language, one capable of communicating basic emotions, warnings, and thoughts. While the intelligence of the ropen is believed to be limited (due to their small brain), communicating simple messages to warn or soothe them has proved effective by means of a robotic ropen equipped with lights operated by remote control. It is currently unknown if the ropen believe the robotic ropen to be an actual ropen or understand that it is a method of communication from us to them.