Wolf in Sheepskin
A merciless killer is on the loose - Tobias Bernhard provides an eye-witness account
|EARLY-MORNING SUNBEAMS PLAY ON THE HILLY MEADOW. In one of the dips a single hare munches peacefully on the succulent grass. Now and again it raises its head and sniffs, before moving on to another nourishing leaf.|
Hidden behind the ridge of a hill, a stealthy predator stretches and sneaks through the tall blades in search of prey.
Its highly tuned senses detect a whiff of the unsuspecting grazer. With utmost grace, keeping its yellow-spotted body low, predator approaches victim. With a single slow-motion leap, it pounces.
The reaction is immediate, as if a current has jolted the hares body. It wiggles with all its strength, but the hold is too firm.
I watch in fascinated horror as, millimetre by millimetre, the predator works its cavernous mouth over its prey.
The hare, in mortal agony, grips a blade of grass in a futile attempt to pull free. A cloud of purple blood spreads around the scene.
Why dont I interfere Do you remember silently asking that question of the cameraman as you sat tight-stomached through one of those wildlife documentaries in which a python proceeds to devour a screaming pig
The dance of death continues until only the head of the hare is visible, staring accusingly at me and twisting its mouth in pain.
As the blood dissipates and I breathe in relief (I just broke my three-minute breath-hold record), the only sign of the carnage is the bloated stomach of the predator.
If you havent thought of pretty little slugs as fierce predators, you havent encountered the relationship of the nudibranch Gymnodoris ceylonica with the sea hare Stylocheilus longicauda.
They share the common habitat of shallow seagrass beds and are known from the Seychelles to Australia; in Vanuatu, Japan, Guam, the Philippines and the Marshall Islands, and probably populate the entire Indo-Pacific.
The drama can be witnessed when the sea hares are breeding, and large congregations of this common slug attract the handsome predators. Its an entertaining spectacle to look out for, but be warned - it is not for the faint-hearted !
|until the strike is made... |
|gorging commences... |
|the dance of death is nearly at its end ... |
|clouds of purple blood emerge... |
|... burrrrrp! |