Creature Name: Owtch (owe tch)
Height: 0.6 m
Mass: 45 kg
The Owtch is a small, burrowing filter feeder. They usually live in the loose, muddy soil that makes up the Maridia grass swamps. Owtches are rather slow and stupid, depending on their hard shells for protection. They usually go about their daily business without much concern for what is going on around them. Although some predators are foiled by the Owtch's armor, others have learned to flip over the Owtch to get at the soft meat underneath. To protect themselves, Owtch's sleep underground.
To feed, the Owtch burrows into the ground, and then starts sucking up the mud around it. As they suck in the mud, they extract microorganisms, plants, and small animals that live in it. It is on these organisms that the Owtches feed. The Owtches spit out the used dirt back where they found it. When they have used up all the dirt around them, they burrow back to the surface and move to a new area. Burrowing into the ground both protects the Owtch from predators and puts them in contact with richer dirt that is mostly untouched by more surface-living filter feeders. When an Owtch is moving it is at its most vulnerable, since it is only then when it is exposed to predators.
The Owtch's spines help protect it from predators, but they also stick above the ground when an Owtch is underground. Some of the more clever predators have been known to wait by a burrowed Owtch, knowing it will have to surface eventually. To partially counter this, Owtches surface rapidly, this scares away some younger predators. Older ones know better, though. Owtches move by a wave-like motion in the muscular tissues on their belly, as well as their sides when they are burrowing. Small spines sticking out of the tissues retract and extend during this process, sticking into the soil and improving traction. Their tissue is very flexible, and when burrowing Owtches reshape their belly into a cone for better vertical traction.
Owtch females lay eggs in the soil while they are burrowed, and also place a pheromone pack there. The pheromones diffuse up through the wet soil. When a nearby male smells the pheromones, he burrows down and fertilizes the eggs. The eggs hatch, and the babies remain in the soil until they are grown and their shells are hardened. Owtch shells don't harden until they are full grown, since the shell cannot grow with the creature. That means baby Owtches are very vulnerable, and remain deep in the soil until they have a shell for protection.