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"Within the humid understory of Chriiah’s richest rainforests, sudden flashes of color can occasionally be seen as darting creatures strike shafts of canopy light. Not more than two inches in length (excluding adornments) these flying beings, known locally as skydrops, exhibit an intriguing social structure and a viciousness that belies their whimsical name and colorful bodies.
Intelligent, and with the ability maintain very rapid controlled flight whilst maneuvering through a complex tangle of undergrowth, skydrops feed frequently to power their high metabolism. Plants that provide energy rich liquids grow in patches of forest frequented by skydrops, and the two groups of organisms have evolved mutualistic relationships. Flower clusters of several of these plants produce a succession of blooms in sequence, allowing skydrops to establish set territories in the forest where blooms are active, and to pass reproductive cells from flower to flower as they do so. As sequential hermaphrodites, large mature skydrops are almost exclusively females and use their impressive head crests and greater size to control access to feeding areas. Smaller males, if they suitably impress a female, are allowed to mate with her, raise their young and feed within her territory. The cost of that access is to join other aligned males in defending their collective territory from other swarms, coordinating and maintaining their allegiance through a set of learned swarm-specific vocalizations. During times of limited food, many individuals are killed in the constant battle to secure active flowers.
After helping raise several broods, hormonal changes begin to transform these males into young females. This is potentially the most dangerous time in a skydrops’ life, as it must strike out to form its own swarm, or challenge the dominant female for leadership. If the matriarch’s position is secure, these adolescents will leave the swarm, accompanied by several allied males, and attempt to secure new feeding grounds. Many do not survive and are killed during this dispersal stage, but those that make it will begin to acquire their own entourage of males and increase their territory.
There is some variation among subspecies and geographic populations of skydrops, and not all are so aggressive. In areas of great abundance, several mature females may co-exist without significant conflict, even forming larger multi-swarm alliances in forests filled with their constant high-toned social calls."