Cryopteryx boreas ("Frozen wing of the North Wind", Greek cryo[freeze]+pteryx[wing]+Boreas[North wind])
Height: 7.8 ft (2.38 m)
Length: 21.4 ft (6.52 m)
Wingspan: 35 ft (10.67 m)
Weight: 675 lbs (306.18 kg)
Lifespan: 60-75 years
Range: Northern Ice Cap, northern regions of United States of Film (Yonder)
Offense/Defense: Spiked armor, club-tipped tail, enormous claws, sharp teeth, Cryo Burst from mouth
Danger Level: High - Beware!
Species: C. boreas
Upon arriving at the Northern Ice Cap, the first thing you see is, of course, ice. This no-man's land is the epitome of inhospitability and extreme conditions, and it is hard for life to sustain itself in this frozen world. But even here, there are creatures that are hardy and daring enough to stake out a living in this frozen wasteland.
The Ar'kta'ra is one of these. Its name can be roughly translated from Silurian to "Ice Lord," which corresponds to its distinctive cry that echoes through the howling blizzards. There are no polar bears in its icy wasteland home, so it has willingly obliged to fill out their role for them. Like its more temperate relative, the Pte'ra, it is a bilophid drake, but it is more adapted to ice and snow, and can thus be considered a more specialized beast. And like polar bears of Earth, it is becoming increasingly endangered because of this, as melting of the ice caps due to global warming are threatening its natural habitat.
The most distinguishing feature of the Ar'kta'ra is its armor. It is similar to the armor on armadillos, Chain Chomps, and ankylosaurs, in that it is comprised of bony plates set into the skin, covered with keratin. Ar'kta'ras have pale white armor that is articulated, with joints to allow flexibility as well as protection; the armor is also adorned with two rows of spikes, for protection against other Ar'kta'ras and giant aquatic creatures that may try to attack them. Below the armor, the body, wings, legs, and tail are covered entirely in dense, white fur, which protects from the cold. The throat, chest, and feet have large, round, slate-gray scales, with a blue-green throat in the male. When the Ar'kta'ra spreads its wings, it flashes bright green and blue underneath, to display to other drakes in the area.
It is not known exactly how the armor on the Ar'kta'ra evolved, but one can look at similar armored creatures as a reference. Like armadillos and ankylosaurs, these drakes probably evolved their plates from scutes in the skin, possibly similar to those of a crocodile. There has yet to be a fossil of an armored drake at the moment, but as other drakes do have scutes somewhere on their bodies, be it their tails or backs, it is likely that the ancestral species has scutes as well. The Ar'kta'ra has taken this protection to an extreme, and its armor makes for a reliable defensive adaptation. Its spine is less rigid than other drakes, and can flex both horizontally and vertically, enabling the drake to tuck in its tail and limbs and expose as much of its armor as possible. And when push comes to shove, the plates on the tip of the drake's tail are fused into a lethal spiked club, which makes a convincing deadly weapon that can smash, stab, and crush even the thickest armor.
The skin and fur of the Ar'kta'ra is essential for its survival in the polar wastelands. The dragon has up to 5 cm of blubber under its skin for insulation, and is nearly invisible under infrared photography but overheats at temperatures above 15°C (59°F). Like that of a polar bear, the fur is thick and multi-layered. The dense underfur insulates the creature, while waterproof guard hairs keep it dry. The beast can appear white to blue-green, but the hairs are transparent; often, aquatic algae and other microorganisms that the creature picks up during the summer reside in the guard hairs, particularly on the wings and tail, and result in the creature's distinctive coloration. The fur on the underside of the broad, high-lift wings is naturally blue in males, and is meant as a display for females, whose wings are almost entirely white.
Since there is little plant material out on the ice, the Ar'kta'ka has adapted to a specifically carnivorous diet, preying mostly on blubber-rich seals, walruses, and small cetaceans. Its triangular, serrated, replacable teeth are shaped like those of a great white shark, and designed to slice their victim to pieces. Its jaws are powerful, backed up by strong muscles, and it can bite down with as much force as a great white as well. In addition, the jaw hollow contains a special set of glands which super-cool a freezing liquid via convection from the condenser gland to the evaporator gland. The heat extracted from the condenser warms the creature's body, while the resultant temperature drop cools the liquid in the storage gland. When the drake contracts the storage gland, the super-cooled liquid is ejected in a stream of pressurized vapor, which can freeze almost anything it touches. The drake can then rip apart the frozen prey at its leisure.
The Ar'kta'ra is well adapted to hunting its mammalian meals on the icy wasteland. It has the most sensitive nose of any drake, capable of smelling a seal's breathing hole from up to two miles away. Once it has detected its prey, it then has to actually travel to the breathing hole; its large, webbed feet distribute its weight as it stalks on the ice, and pointed scales called spicules on the undersides of the toes give it a good grip. Once at the proper spot, it curls up and blends into the ice, waiting for a meal to appear; should a seal arise, the dragon will strike with its jaws and crush the seal's head to kill it, drag it onto the ice, and devour it on the spot, starting with the blubber before moving on to the muscles and innards. When hunting seals resting on ice, it relies on a different strategy, crouching upon the ice and waiting until the target drops its guard. It will then take to the skies and swoop, firing its Cryo Burst before the seal has time to react, and then sinking its huge curved talons into its prey before carrying it off. A third method is applied in the breeding season, when seals haul themselves into ice hollows to give birth; the drake locates a birthing hollow from the air, then swoops and thrusts its talons downward, striking with the huge curved killing claw on the second toe. The female often only barely makes it back to the water, but the pup cannot swim and is thus easily slaughtered. Female Ar'kta'ras are well-fed throughout the winter.
The same can't often be said for the male Ar'kta'ras, though. They are usually busy guarding their eggs. Unlike most drakes, the Ar'kta'ra cares for its eggs, and is also very social. In the breeding season, both males and females will sing to each other, and will only pair up if their calls match. Two to three eggs are laid a few days later, and the female will transfer them to the male who insulates it in a flap of skin between its legs. The females then leave to hunt, while the males stay behind to guard the eggs in the winter, huddling together to stave off the cold. The eggs will hatch into dark-colored, furry flaplings in the beginning of spring, and will stay with their parents for a few days before learning to fly on their own. The females then arrive, and deliver pre-digested seal meat to their young. The males then go off to feed themselves, while the females train the youngsters to fly. Once the males return, the chicks will join them on their first hunt, and many more to come. Unlike other drakes, which are solitary, Ar'kta'ras live in family groups, with the flaplings often hunting alongside their parents, snatching up fish and seabirds until they are fully mature at the age of around 20. Once their coats begin to lighten, and their caws develop into the beautiful "Ar-kta-ra" that gives them their name, they will set off to find mates and families of their own.
Andy says: "Although this drake is increasingly threatened by habitat loss, it is one of those species that can be tamed and can survive in captivity. Ar'kta'ras are dangerous, but they are also loyal, and do not often attack humans due to our lack of blubber. The domestic breeds often have smaller spikes on their backs than the wild strain, as these get in the way when saddling and riding them. With a body like a combination of a polar bear and a wyvern, a personality like a dog, and a work attitude like a horse, this drake is an essential player amidst the northern tribes. We did plan to have it as a worldwide mount for use in generic combat, but unfortunately, it is so exquisitely specialized for polar life that it's nothing but a figurative 'white dragon' pretty much anywhere else!"