The long strange trip
(Hexapoda strenii, H. Silvans)
The tree kraken is native to Forboldn, but for various reasons can be found on many small, low gravity worlds.
The adult tree kraken weighs 6 kilograms and resembles in general body form the octopus, having a central body sensory cluster and six radiating tentacle-like arms. The internal skeleton is rudimentary, consisting of a cartilaginous stiffening of the body to permit the lung sacs to function, to serve as attachment points for the muscles, and to permit leverage for the three part mandible located at the base of the arms.
The arms of the kraken consist of a stiffened central support structure surrounded by a muscular sheath. The arms end in from 2 to 7 (depending on species) smaller appendages. the ventral surface of the arm, and the ends of these smaller appendages end with a disk-shaped sucker-like organ covered with hundreds of small, razor-sharp tooth-like structures.
The eyes are paired, operate stereoscopically, and permit the kraken to detect the faintest movement at several hundred meters. Range judgment is extremely good.
Three to eight lung sacs in the body mass handle respiration. Each sac has its own connection to the atmosphere. To function, the inner lining of each sac must be kept moist, requiring the kraken to remain in regions of high humidity, such as marshes, swamps, or jungles. Tree kraken have a closed respiratory system and are endothermic.
The kraken attacks its prey by leaping upon it from a height, usually a tree, but often a cliff and occasionally a roof. The arms wrap around the prey, immobilizing it. The disk-shaped structures abrade the skin and other tissue into fragments which are the conveyed to the mouth. After feeding, the kraken climbs to a high place for protection from other predators, and goes into a digestive torpor. It emerges several hours later.
Kraken are hermaphroditic: reproduction is accomplished through budding. During the six week mating season, pairs of kraken exchange genetic material through two tube like structures above the eyes. After fertilization, these structures swell to many times their normal size. Arms develop, becoming fully developed miniature kraken (after eight to twelve weeks.) When fully developed, the young detach themselves and go their own way. Since kraken will eat their own young, the young detach while the parent is in a digestive torpor.