Zoom out: Vermovillosids
Vertical-Jawed Bottlenecks – This primitive group does not have the characteristic long neck of its relatives. Instead, powerful muscles line the jaw and neck to give the beak substantial crushing power for its size. Plant-eaters use their mandibles to crack seeds, pulverize branches, and uproot ground vegetation. Carnivores use their beaks to deliver a killing bite to small animals and to hang on to large animals when hunting in groups.
Horizontal-Jawed Bottlenecks – In contrast to their cousins, this group reduced the vertical jaws to make room for slender, delicate mandibles. They use these to fish, pluck grubs out of narrow spaces, and preen. Their tongue is knob-shaped and sensitive to touch and vibration.
Giant Bottlenecks – “Giant” is relative. Most bottlenecks range in size from 20 centimeters to 2 meters, but giant bottlenecks are much larger. Pillar-like legs allow them to reach masses comparable to a small rhinoceros, while a diet of hard-to-reach black plant microphylls gives them an incentive to do so. The neck is specialized for food procurement. Gestating multiple offspring along its length would burden the muscles, so these animals can only birth one offspring at a time. Their tongue is spear-shaped and sensitive to smell, touch, and vibration.
Finned Bottlenecks – These animals took to the sea, darting through the waters like bullets in pursuit of suckerfish and other marine life. Their sticky, sundew-like feeler is retractable and their eyesight, while not stereo, is sharp.
Split-Tongued Bottlencks – They are named for their forked tongues (which not all of them even have), but this is not their only unique feature. Split-tongued bottlenecks carry multiple offspring, but they develop out of phase. Females can be easily identified by the lumpy appearance of their necks, which contain fetuses in various stages of development. For an adult female split-tongued bottleneck, there is always a baby in the pipeline.
Horizontal Jawed Bottlenecks
Vertical Jawed Bottlenecks
With its blood-matted fur, vulture-like head, and feathery tongue, it’s no surprise that the bald-necked bottleneck is a carrion eater. While its single eye is rendered useless by a permanent casing of hard skin, its tongue can smell death from at least a kilometer away. We know that because we chipped one and tracked its movements. The day after we tagged the little land buzzard, it headed straight for Hidden Lake. We followed, and what else was waiting for us but the rotting corpse of a star walrus?
– Alex O’Hearn, biologist, Odyssey I (from Taxa Notes Vol. 1)