Vyirangan Phasmid

Hunting for strange animals -- cryptids, if you want -- is one of the main past times on Vyiranga. This delicate hobby isn't made any easier by the presence of Caloplaca Vyirangana, the local hallucinogenic lichen whose spores tend to induce lucid dreams. Vyirangan colonists are thus slightly high, almost all the time, and it is not a surprise the Vyirangan Phasmid, or Pseudophasmida Vyirangana, remained a folk tale for so long, until a Starmoth Initiative survey managed to prove that it was more than that.

Pseudophasmida Vyirangana is a small arthropod found on the boreal islands of the warm ocean world. It does not, in fact, look like a Terran phasmid -- the reason why it was put in the pseudophasmida meta-classification is that, much like its Earth-based namesake, it is exceedingly good at eluding detection. So good, in fact, that scientific records of its existence are few and far between, even after extensive research. The rare pictures available show a ten centimetres long creature capable of winged flight, not unlike a dragonfly, with a flexible exoskeleton. Finding itself in the middle of the (admittedly small) terrestrial food chain on Vyiranga, the Vyirangan Phasmid has become a master in camouflage.

Animals capable of colour-based camouflage are not rare on human-explored worlds, but P. Vyirangana pushes it a step further. Instead of simply changing colour to match the environment, its exoskeleton is capable of turning the insect absolutely invisible to both human eyes and cameras. At first, exobiologists suspected some kind of biological optical camouflage, but the truth turned out to be even more intriguing. The arthropod's exoskeleton is covered in mucus that has a negative refraction index -- in effect, P. Vyirangana camouflages itself by bending light around its body. This property, appearing when the arthropod leaves its larval stage, makes the creature virtually undetectable to most local predators when idle. There is, however, another layer to P. Vyirangana's subterfuge.

After extensive studying, it was discovered that adult specimens of the Vyirangan Phasmid are capable of exuding a neurotoxin that, when inhaled, interferes with the neural systems of local life. When exposed to this neurotoxin, human researchers reported peculiar symptoms: loss of short-term visual memory, mild brain fog and inability to focus on a specific task. These symptoms immediately disappeared when the neurotoxin was removed from the environment, albeit it is speculated that long-term exposure might lead to more permanent effects. Through this entirely unique mechanism, P. Vyirangana ensures that even the most cunning predator -- or prey -- will all but forget about its presence. As a stark example of the creature's effectiveness in eluding pursuit or capture, all living specimens obtained during the surveys managed to escape their lab when a scientist willingly released them -- she later told her colleagues that she had forgotten what they were, and why they had to be kept in a terrarium. That the neurotoxins have such an effect on non-indigenous lifeforms may mean that local animals might not even be aware of P. Vyirangana's existence at all -- the optical camouflage being, in fact, a backup defence aimed at creatures that can't inhale the toxin, such as the Vyirangan Salt Worm.

Genetic analyses of the Phasmid show that it probably has a large number of cousins which have yet to be found -- if they can even be found at all, considering that P. Vyirangana's odd tricks might only be the surface of entire potential ecosystems made of invisible insects.

P. Vyirangana only has one known predator, and it is, interestingly enough, also an animal capable of interfering with light, the infamous "anti-firefly" of the Vyirangan sand coast (Pseudolucciola Vyirangana.)

In tribute to Disco Elysium. 

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