Azkul

Physiology

The Azkul are uncontested alpha predators of the waters. Covered in sharklike, sandpapery skin, they slink through the deep unopposed. These beasts, depending on their race, can be as small as 12.5m (41') from snout to tailtip or as massive as 54m (177'2") out in the open ocean. The largest of these kul can easily snap up all other kul in one or two bites.

While specific colors vary on race, the Azkul may range over the entire blue and green spectrums down to the darkest blues and blacks. Others range over the tan sand colors with markings of coral or tangerine. No matter the race, Azkul are countershaded to camoflauge in their environments. This means that their stomachs are lighter colors so that when they are viewed from below, they mix in with the sun or moonlight from above. The backs are darker to blend in with the dark depths of the ocean or sea floor.

Most Azkul sport a long frill running from the base of the head to the fin on the tail. This frill helps them stay upright in the water when swimming at higher speeds. The spines are made of cartilage and so are very flexible, with the membrane between them being slightly thicker than the thin skin of inland species.

The eyes of these kul are generally very dark - essentially black; the pupils are rounded and large to take in all the sunlight they can under the water. The small amount of iris visible can only vary from a deep, rich brown to nearly pure black. The sclera is not visible.

Anatomy

As seafaring creatures, Azkul look very unique compared to the rest of the kul. Their sleek bodies are shaped like an elongated teardrop with their tail ending in a shark-like fin to propel them through the water. Since their bodies are so long, this results in a slithering motion.

Also meant to assist them in swimming are four short fins - vestigial hands fused together to form paddle-like structures. While each digit is tipped with a claw, the digits themselves cannot be spread, held together, or curled. The Azkul use these short but strong legs to help guide their turns and maneuver in the water. To reduce drag, they keep them tight to their bodies when swimming swiftly forwards.

Once an Azkul catches up with its prey, it'll open its wide jaws to grasp onto and crush the victim. Each tooth is conical and sharp, designed for piercing slippery ocean-faring creatures. The tongue, while it exists, is rooted to the base of the mouth and cannot be flexed. Azkul eat all prey whole; anything that it cannot swallow in one bite it will bite into smaller pieces with its strong jaws.

The blood that spills into the ocean from a kill is swiftly noticable by any Azkul within a very large radius around it. Their sense of smell is extremely keen, able to notice hints of blood in the water from many miles away. Technically, Azkul do not 'smell' as a traditional land-creature does, but rather senses the water flowing through their gills with small glands that lie before them. The gills themselves are very large, four to each side of the neck; they allow the beast to process water rather than air for oxygen, making them the only true waterbound kul known to exist.

Reproduction and Development

Azkul are birthed live, tail first into the world. Once born, they are dependent on their mothers for food for about six months to a year before having grown enough to not have to fear most oceanborne predators. Between ages eight to fifteen they reach sexual maturity, depending on subspecies, with the larger taking longer to mature.

There are no special landmarks in the growth of these kul as very little can be considered special about them. Newborns are essentially tiny adults, dependent on their parents only for protection during their first few months or year.

Races

The Azkul 'races' are less races and more different subspecies overall, as they live in entirely different environments and almost never interact. When they do, they may end up killing and eating each other rather than simply avoiding each other as those of the same race do.

Coastal

Coastal Azkul are the lighest-colored Azkul, reaching lengths of about 18m (59') on average. Their scales reflect the myriads of coral colors of the ground below them, letting them blend in when waiting for unsuspecting prey. With their bodies usually sandy in coloration, their markings are a bit out there compared to the rest of the Azkul races; cyan, coral, and even a seaweed green can be the colors of their markings. The colors generally vary on which coastline you find these creatures on; the more vibrant ones can be found in or near coral reefs, while the ones with less noticable markings hide among bare sandy or rocky bottoms near the edges of their natural warm-water habitats.

While they do live on coasts, these Azkul must dwell further off the shoreline near the drop-off to deeper waters as to not risk beaching themselves or being washed onto rocks by the tide. They feed on any coastal life that ventures out too far or on fish schools that patrol the edge of deeper water.

Compared to the other subspecies, Coastal Azkul are more streamlined in configuration. They have shorter tails in comparison to body length than their open ocean cousins, but not nearly as short as a River Azkul. The fin on the end of their tails have the largest size ratio to body size out of all Azkul. Their snouts are also narrow and long for catching small, quick prey. They are among the many that sport a frill across their back, but theirs is the most prominent out of all Azkul, used for maintaining certain angles in the water when catching prey.The markings on their body generally resemble pebbles, breaking up into smaller dots and circles towards the bottom of the body, meant to match with the rocky sea floor.

Deep Sea

None but the deepest diving Open Ocean Azkul know about this mysterious cousin. The Deep Sea Azkul, only reaching 14.5m (47'6") in length, inhabit the darkest depths of the ocean along the ocean floor. They are deep blues and blacks, needing no fancy markings or coloration; the depths are far too dark for that. Instead, they have large patches of bioluminescence along their bodies, lighting up the area around them and attracting mates from afar. Smaller fish and sea creatures of the depths will often swim mindlessly towards their sparks of light, curious, only to be gobbled up moments later by the hungry owner.

Despite the entirely different environment - and crushing pressure difference - these Azkul do not look massively different from their more surface-faring friends. Their eyes have shrunk in size as to not waste energy powering a useless organ. Their blubber is thicker and their bones are overall reinforced to deal with the crushing force above them. Most notably beyond their bioluminesence is their extremely long tail, the structure taking up over half of its entire body length. Their teeth are also freakishly large, mimicing those of a real-world anglerfish.

Open Ocean

When a landborn kul hears another say 'Azkul', these are the beasts they think of; absolute monstrosities of the deep, growing to the length of 54 (177'2") meters or more on their diet of large sea creatures. These beasts patrol the open ocean aimlessly, permeating waters unknown to the rest of their world. Nothing challenges these monsters; they may only fear each other, but with how large the ocean is, it's unlikely for them to meet one another outside of breeding season.

These are the only Azkul not to sport a back fin of any kind as to reduce drag across their already massive bodies. They have long tails and jaws, meant for powering after and catching large and otherwise dangerous prey.

River

River Azkul are the most commonly seen species of Azkul, inhabiting freshwater bodies such as rivers and, less commonly, lakes. They are primarily green in coloration and sport little in terms of markings, looking muddied in general. They have short snouts and tails in comparison to the other Azkul subspecies and noticable, but very reduced, back fins. They are the smallest of all Azkul, reaching only 12.5m (41')

These Azkul compete primarily with Mazkul for their resources, leading them to take to deeper rivers and lakes over the shoreline, which are dominated by the semiaquatic competition.

Behavior

Due to the primitive - and rather unknown - nature of these beasts, some kul argue that they shouldn't be considered kul at all - considered mindless, killing beasts without much brain, their only ties to the terran species are distant evolutionary links.

In reality, the Azkul are intelligent and self-aware, but on a very basic level; they do not understand the concept of love, altriusm, or anything of the sort. Their intelligence is entirely used towards furthering their own survival, be it calculating the best way to strike at a foe, or the remembering the best feeding grounds.

Anything that isn't another Azkul of the same subspecies is food. Even Coastal Azkul are food to the Open Ocean Azkul.

Social

Azkul don't have much social behavior beyond mating with one another, which is done unceremoniously once the opposite sex is found during breeding season. Mothers are very protective of their young, but aren't ones to enact revenge if their calf is killed. A threat to the mother's life is taken far more seriously than that to its calf.

Courtship

During breeding season - spring - the Azkul feel an instictive pull inland towards shallower waters for breeding grounds. Open Ocean Azkul roam the deep off of the coasts of the continent to find the opposite sex. Females, once mated, will leave the coasts and return to the deep. Males, however, will remain for the entirity of the breeding season searching for females. This is the only time one may see Open Ocean Azkul surface. Coastal Azkul just find one another and breed, going into the shallows to birth their young. Deep Sea simply mate whenever another one is found, however; the opportunities are too few and far between to miss. River Azkul are more prolific, having a rather long breeding season during summer months when food is plentiful and the water is warm.

Ecology

The Azkul live in the depths of the ocean, the coasts, fresh water, and the open seas. Depending on which environment they thrive in, the habitat varies widely, as well as the challenges within.

Habitat

Open Ocean Azkul roam the endless expanses of blue that Threa has to offer. Never swimming entirely to the bottom and never surfacing, these beasts aren't seen until breeding season when they near shore and, subsequently, the surface. The open ocean is generally empty when it comes to any sort of 'landscape' or flora, but the fauna is plentiful; fish and their hunters roam the waves.

Coastal Azkul, on the other hand, are surrounded by sand and plants, using the latter to their advantage in ambush-hunting tactics. Some swim among deeper reefs, hunting the shoals of fish there. These are the ones that encounter Sozkul the most.

Deep Sea Azkul swim in pitch blackness among the bones and rocks that litter the bottom of the ocean. Not much is to be said about their environment beyond it is very, very cold and very, very dark.

On the other hand, River Azkul inhabit nearly all freshwater ecosystems, though they prefer moving rivers with deep beds. They are found in all bodies of inland water outside of the frozen northern tips of the continent.

Diet

All Azkul are voracious carnivores and piscivores, devouring anything they can fit their jaws around. Sozkul are a particular treat to Open Ocean Azkul if they swim too far out; while Coastal Azkul may run a risk fighting the Sozkul, an Open Ocean one can snatch it up in a single bite.

Competition and Predators

There's no competition or predators for Open Ocean Azkul. Coastal Azkul, however, have to deal with the Sozkul and Sozlin hunting their fish and diminishing the supply. Both run a risk of attacking these kul, be it for food or protection, as well, making them their only true predator. However, they may turn the tables and kill them, instead, at times. River Azkul constantly compete with Mazkul for fish along shorelines, often getting into territorial scrapes in which the Azkul will attempt to drown the semiaquatic competition.