Monday, May 2, 2011

Prehistoric Predatory Paradise

Skull Island, formerly part of ancient Gondwana, was a stretch of land near the coast of the great Tethys Sea abundant in life. When this landmass broke away, many prehistoric ancestors of the island’s modern inhabitants rode with it guaranteeing their survival when catastrophe and ecological change wiped them out everywhere else in the world. Others joined later rafting, swimming, or flying to the island sanctuary. Land bridges came and went bringing new fauna (much like prehistoric Australia), each adding to the diversity of the island. Over the millennia the island eroded. As habitat was lost, life was concentrated into ever-shrinking areas. Competition became fierce. The island saw an evolutionary arms race erupt, forging a menagerie of nightmares.

World Map of prehistoric continents and the Tethys Sea
Skull Island can be broken down into several ecosystems, all shifting and changing as the competition among local fauna escalates. These ecosystems (listed below) are all equally fascinating and frightening in their own right, contributing to the remarkable biogeography of the island.
  • The Crumbling Coast Land: A savage war front between land and sea where heavy oceanic swells buffet the shattered coast. By the twentieth century the few humans that lived on Skull Island scraped a living on this barren shore, their village perched on a thin sliver of rock jutting into the sea, beyond the warding great wall. On the far side of the island a slow sinking has brought the sea gradually inland. Where once lowland forests and floodplains stretched, high tides have drowned the land. 
  • Blood of the Island: Water is the lifeblood of any ecosystem, and nowhere is this more evident than on Skull Island. High rainfall for much of the year ensured that a constant flow of water worked its way across, into, and under the land. This constant flow sculpted the landforms, carved deep gullies, and leveled the grasslands into floodplains. It filled holes to create pools and murky swamps and fed the ravenous jungle that swathed most of the island. It defined and sustained much of the land’s geography and fed all of its inhabitants.
  • A Garden of Titans: The tangled jungles of Skull Island are, without doubt, the most impressive forest complexes on the planet. All kinds of organisms, plant, animal, or something in between, twist around and through each other in a savage dance for survival. This is an extreme environment that rewards extreme adaptations and evolution in its inhabitants. (Below is a video showing the epic clash between Kong and the island's supreme predator, the Vastatosaurus Rex)
  • Life in the Gloom: Latticing the southern half of Skull Island are deep fissures and chasms, the result of violent quakes and water erosion. Exposed by the splitting rock, underground rivers and vast grottoes were opened and deep springs disgorged tepid water that mixed with the dripping fluid and rot from the surface, creating a steamy soup rich in minerals and thick with organic slop. These abyssal rents and blisters in the crust of the island were world unto themselves. (The video below shows the nightmarish inhabitants of Skull Island's chasms. The crew of the SS Venture could have never been prepared for horrors like the giant cricket Weta Rex, or the vile worm Carnictis)
  • The Roof of the World: Rising above the green shag of the jungle the great spine of Skull Island is the mountainous ridge that ran its crooked length. Flanked by ruin-studded lesser peaks and black crags, the central rise is a row of jagged summits. Harsh elemental forces of wind and rain pruned back the jungle’s insistent efforts to colonize these rocky heights. Into this landscape of grand vistas and buffeting winds, the last of the great apes retreated to make his refuge in the safest haven the island had to offer. Leave it to the monkey to get it right. 
Kong's cliff top home and sanctuary