A large long lived eusocial rodent most closely related to beavers, though its ancestry includes genetic material from voles and mole rats. They live in large colonies with distinct castes and specialized members. Fabers are found most commonly in coastal waters of tropical and semitropical regions. Occasionally they are found further out if there are shallow enough sea mounts availible. The colonies build extensive reefs by extending dams and jetties made of various kinds of debris infilled with sand and mud and "planted" with corals and sturdier varietes of sea vegetation. Specialized members of the builder cast ingest and partialy digest sea shells, and other organic structures rich in calcium and excrete a kind of natural cement that is used to join and secure rocks and heavy drift timbers. This quick hardening excrement in turn serves as a ready source of calcium for corals.
As the reef grows and matures, fabers extend a network of tunnels and chambers down it's length, and it is in these tunnels and chambers that the mature colony makes its home. Older faber reefs are broad enough and high enough to support a variety of coastal plant life. Tower trees on or near the reefs are tended and fed upon by the colony. They eat a hollow out in the palm's heart from underneath, but do not disturb the tree's roots and do not feed past the tree's ability to regrow it's heartwood. This activity tends to stunt the tower palms and encourages them to grow denser root networks. This in turn more firmly anchors the trees against inclimate weather and powerful storms.
The reefs created by the fabers serve as nursuries for a variety of marine life, some of which is fed upon by the fabers themselves, especially the shellfish which they use as a source of both nourishment and calcium for building.
Physiology: All Fabers resemble balding bucktoothed beavers whose pelt is intact upon the head and back but absent everywhere else, though all are fully hursuite as juviniles. They are adapted to marine life, and have a layer of fat under their skin to help keep them warm should they become chilled. Their metabolism does not always function like a mammal's. Fabers retain the ability of the mole rate to regulate its body temperature like a reptile. They are also capable of conserving energy by going into deep hibernation for a few weeks at a time when food sources are stressed. Another unusual feature inherited from their mole rat genes is the lack of pain sensation on their skin. They are immune the burning sensation of capsaisin and of most jellyfish stings. Neither do they itch.
Another feature of their skin is the limited ability to extract oxygen from sea water. This ability is the most robust among the builder subcast, enabling them to take only one breathe every half hour or so while they work, or only once every hour if they are resting or feeding below water. Part of their mole rat heritage is an extremely efficient metabolism. Their blood stores a great deal of oxygen for use as needed.
Diet: Fabers are primarily vegetarian but they will eat grubs, small shellfish, jellyfish, and the occasional minnow.
Each colony has only one queen who controls the virility and caste distinction of other members by means of pheromones and hormones. She is ensconced in a large chamber in the densest part of the reef. Having bred she stretches out, extending (dislocating) each vertibrae of her spine so that her body carry a brood of upto twenty pups at one time. Queens are insanely territorial, and will attempt to kill any intruding queen searching to begin or claim a new burrow, though in very large older reefs widely seperated co-regent sisterhoods are not unknown, but in those cases the other queens are brood sisters or mothers and daughters of more docile disposition.
These are super males, much larger and stronger than the average worker. They are however the smallest of the castes, no more than two or three born every few years. Brood males leave the colony to find and take up residence with new queens and old queens whose males have died or become aged. Each queen keeps a "stable" of up to four brood males, at least one of which may be a son or brother. They are the defenders of last resort if an enemy makes it's way to the brood chamber. At least two varieties of reef fabers produce pelagic morphs for males whose purpose is to find new building grounds far away. These morphs are also responsible for moving and protecting a queen if a colony is faced with devastating natural disaster or a severe food shortage. The pelagic morphs resemble nothing so much as small seals flattened to swim like rays and skates.
Workers are born looking much the same but speciallize into a variety of speciallized subcastes. Some are diggers and tunnelers, others build the reefs and keep them in repair on the outside. Of the fabers, these spend the most time in the water and are the most physically adapted to it. A somewhat larger subcaste of workers, genetically tending to be males, though sterile, are responsible for the reef's defence. They patrol in packs of three to six and tend to be both curioius and aggressive. When not actively defending the colony they will chew down trees and large shrubs to be stripped for food and later dismembered and incorporated into the reef. Finally there are the harvesters. These are visually indistinguishable from the tunnelers but they go out to forage for the colony larders and it is they who harvest the sweet heartwood of the tower palm, tend to the queen and her pups and who run as go betweens, carrying scent messages through the colony.
One variety of reef fabers produce a devastatingly effective micro-soldier. This is a dangerous, fast, suicidal little beast. It targets large threats, usually area apex predators such as seals, sharks, and small hungry whales. It dive bombs them, aiming for the head or spine and buries a hollow quill at the base of its skull deep into the flesh of the preditor. Then it gets creepy. The faber soldier dies, and with it's death spasm injects a slug of it's own neural tissue into its target through the quill. This tissue attaches to the nervous system of the predator, grows and entwines it over the course of the next few days until it has completly taken over the beast, which then spends the rest of its life inside the reef and protecting it from any other interloping preditor, and it will fight to the death obliveous to any pain or injury if need be.
Sea snakes (pups)
and in places where colonies are built near esutaries Fabers must guard against crocidilians and otters.