A truly marvelous creature native to R'unor and the more outlying islands under Santerran dominion, the Gaspan resemble enlarged jellyfish who have tried and failed to take to the skies. Instead they spend their lives floating above the ground, drinking merrily and eating bugs to their hearts content.
Appearance. The Gaspan is a deceptively large creature, for, despite often floating a full 2.5 peds above the ground, and having bell caps with a diameter in excess of 1.5, they scarcely weigh more than 1 pygge, if that. Taking a cue from the R'unorians, we will divide the Gaspan into three distinct parts, the belly cap, the body and the tentacles.
The bell cap is the most distinctive anatomical part of these creatures, and resembles the cap of a mushroom, sitting above their smaller bodies. These also provide a convenient shorthand for the sex of individuals, with the females possessing muted red and blue hides, while the males sport flamboyant reds, blues, purple and greens in myriad of patterns, although often it seems a certain colour predominates. At the top of the cap is a small, circular opening that somewhat resembles a mouth. This opening is used by Gaspans to channel the element of wind, which keeps it afloat, allowing it to ascend or descend should the need arise. To allow for this, the Gaspan's cap is incredibly elastic, and can expand greatly, far beyond the usual 1.5 peds diameter. Coating the bell cap is a sticky mucus that is used to trap insects and small animals, and is also gathered to be used to make adhesives.
Below the bell cap is the body, which is slightly shorter than the diameter of the bell cap (usually, if the cap is 1.5 peds, the body is only 1.2 - 1.3 peds long) and about half as thick. The head of the Gaspan is simply placed on one end of the body, and is a slightly bulbous, colourful thin with large, black eyes - often described as cute by the R'unorians, and otherworldly by the Santerrans - that are never seen to move, although this seems to be an illusion stemming from their large size. Between and slightly below the eyes are their nostrils, which are naught more than a pair of slits, and they themselves rest over a short and exceptionally wide, toothless mouth, from which occasionally spills their large, tri-forked tongue. The tongue has three forks in it, and each extra appendage is completely prehensile. Aside from their eyes, mouths and nasal slits, the Gaspan's body lack any other outstanding features, though they are often rather colourful, in patterns and hues matching those of their caps.
Hanging from their body are eight thin, though relatively powerful tentacles. Completely prehensile, these eight tentacles are used primarily to feed, but some Gaspans have been reported using them to move small obstacles and to gain one another's attention, though this is rather rare and no researcher has seen such incidents - all are anecdotes gained from Gaspan Farmers in Santerra and R'unor. Almost invariably, the tentacles are a dark blue, though exceptions are seen. Males have an extra ninth faux-tentacle, that is actually a tube used to hold and fertilize eggs.
Most notably, Gaspan possess the ability to float and control their altitude.
Their most versatile ability, however, is the sticky mucus they secrete from
their bell caps, which is a very powerful adhesive that remains sticky until
dried out (which, it should be noted, is much harder to do than it should be).
Sarcastically, some may also contend that their smell is a special ability, for
they rank as one of (if not the most) putrid smelling creatures in all
Territory. Originally found only in the R'unorian Isles and the most extreme northeastern extent of Santerran dominion, they can now be observed in small numbers in the heart of Santerran territory, Anis-Anpagan and even Santharia as an exotic addition to menageries. Generally, though not exclusively, they prefer swamps and marshers, but anywhere relatively warm with an abundance of insects is agreeable to them.
Habitat/Behaviour. In the wild they roam in large groups called blooms that usually range between 20-200 individuals, led by a single alpha-female who asserts her dominance through fencing (really, a glorified slap fight with their tentacles), gets to determine where the bloom roams, and enjoys first choice during mating season. On the Gaspan ranches this behaviour is replicated, while for the few in menageries, where males predominate by warrant of their more colourful bodies, there is no hierarchy, they simply roam in a loose group.
Gaspan behaviour is very sex dependent. Males have been described as meek, stupid and apathetic, contrasted to females who've been described as warlike, violent and cruel, and this is reflected in their roles in the blooms, where males... well, males don't do much. They're just there and only make an impact during mating season, while females run the show. Organized into a strict hierarchy, blooms are led by the strongest females who gain their place though bully-boying (girling, in this case) the other females in subservience. At the bottom of this totem pole are the weakest, meekest and eldest, a small number of females subject to frequent, arbitrary violence. These arrangements are fluids and the leading female often changes quickly, as seen on the ranches where they rise and fall almost daily. Interestingly, it has been noted by Entos the Turtle (a famous R'unorian researcher, famed for his tattoos and obesity) that the females in any given bloom outnumber males by an average of 3 to 1. Entos holds this to be the reason for the aggressive behavior of female Gaspan - they're simply afraid of not being able to mate.
Previously described as 'astoundingly stupid' recent observation has shown that the Gaspan's intelligence, while nothing special, is much higher than once supposed. This idea was taken from the fact that Gaspan are very docile in regards to outsiders, allowing other animals and humans to walk freely through their blooms. Seemingly suicidal, this practice seems to be a product of learning that they make really, really bad food - the little meat they have is chewy to the point of being inedible and putrid in taste. The only thing that seems to eat them are lurker beetles, and even they would rather have the meat sit out in the sun for a few days!
Diet. Catching them passively in the sticky mucus secreted on their bell cap and then scraping them off with their tentacles, Gaspan are insectivores and feed on bugs of all size. Because of their small size and small energy expenditure, they need little food, allowing a diet of insects to suffice.
Ironically, they only creature that eats them is the lurker beetle, though, because of their domesticity, Gaspan are usually slaughtered first and allowed to putrefy a bit before being served to the beetles.
Mating. The mating ritual of the Gaspan is among the strangest in the world. Besides the role reversal between sexes (female Gaspan's are the ones who fight for the right to choose a male) the male actually accepts a single egg - about the size of two dwarves' fists put together - from the female, fertilizes it and cares for it within his faux-tentacles. In 5 months, the newly born Gaspan begins to push its' way out of the egg, and the father releases his progeny. This is where parenting ends - the young Gaspan either lives or dies, it is of no concern to the parents. It is believed, especially by the R'unorians, that the single births and high mortality rate is a natural check on the otherwise invulnerable population. Without these, the world would soon be overpopulated by hordes of floating insectivores!
Mating season begins in the early spring and lasts only about a month, and is marked by vicious (for a Gaspan) combat between females vying for a mate, accompanied by high pitched shrieks (their only known vocalization). Males, characteristically are rather apathetic about it all, and willingly enough accept the egg of any female able to give it to him without being attacked. According to Gaspan Farmers, this is the only time of year they've ever been 'attacked' (we use this term lightly) and most simply avoid harvesting the mucus during mating season.
Usages. The mucus secreted by their bell caps is a very powerful, valuable adhesive, and a respectably strong industry has sprung up in the R'unorian Isles and the northern extremes of Aca-Santerra based on harvesting it. They are called Gaspan Farmers, but they're more akin to ranchers, simply fencing in a large tract of land for their Gaspan to roam. Very little upkeep is necessary, and dead individuals are allowed to rot in order to attract more insects for their animals to keep. Once a week, small teams go out and quietly harvest some of the mucus - which is very viscous and only drys out in extreme heat - in jars. Gaspan Farmers are not poor, as obtaining a viable bloom is an expensive proposition,and the mucus fetches a high price. Often, they are ridiculed by 'true' farmers for how little work they actually have to do!
The mucus is very valuable, as it is not only very strong, but, unlike other glues, very hard to destroy. Only direct, prolonged sunlight of great intensity will dry it out, and it is a rare occurrence for an item glued with Gaspan mucus to come apart. The R'unorians use it prolifically in their bows and armour, and the Santerrans often use it on their ships. Often, it is simply sought out because it's a good glue. Artisans and crafters value it because it will hold longer, therefore prolonging their art longer.
The only other uses for these creatures is to feed the lurker beetles in R'unor, which is less common than one might think, and as pets. This may be surprising, given their lack of cuddly-ness, but many enjoy the indifferent company of a male Gaspan, as well as their colours. Related, they are also very popular additions to menageries across Caelereth, though these individuals often die from ignorance on the part of their owners, who simply don't know enough about them to care for them.
Myth/Lore. In R'unor, there is a whole series of folktales dealing with the genesis of the Gaspan from their humble beginnings as jellyfish. Depending on which tale you hear (and there are many of them) you will learn that they were blessed by Murlar to choose between the deep or land, or banished by him for some grave offence to wander the land. Ever popular amongst children is the tale of "How the Gaspan Came to Be", chronicling the creature's rise from lowly whiny jellyfish, to floating whiny jellyfish.