|Average height||Typically small (varies with species)|
|Aggressivity||Typically low (varies with species)|
|Place of origin||Hi-yi-yi Islands|
|Habitat||Varies with species|
|Diet||Typically insectivorous (varies with species)|
|Lifespan||Typically long (varies with species)|
|Status||Nearly all extinct|
|Behind the Scenes|
|Created by||Gerolf Steiner|
The snouters (order Rhinogradentia); also known as rhinogrades; are a fictional order of mammals created by German naturalist Gerolf Steiner under the pseudonym Harald Stümpke for his 1957 "mockumentary"-style book Bau und Leben der Rhinogradentia and subsequent related works. The group's most well known species is the Great Nasobeme, which Steiner created based on a surrealist poem by Christian Morgenstern written in 1905.
Rhinogrades are a most ecologically and morphologically diverse mammal group indigenous to the (also fictional) Hi-yi-yi archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. Their most readily notable characteristic is the enormous, well-developed snout which derived in an organ known as the nasarium. In most species, the snout is used for locomotion, while others use it to get food. The single-snouted and the multi-snouted lineages seem to have diverged from each other early, back in the Jurassic period.
There are dozens of species of rhinogrades, including terrestrial, freshwater, marine, fossorial, arboreal, volant, sessile and even parasitic forms, some of which bear a closer resemblance to invertebrates than to other mammals. All snouter species are fairly small in size, the biggest ones being the Shaggy-faced Snouter and the Giant Tasselsnouter, which are both medium-sized. The vast majority of snouter species is insectivorous, although some have evolved into herbivores or carnivores.
As a result of their hypertrophied snouts, snouters have also developed several other anatomical peculiarities, including extremely reduced/ absent limbs and a long, hollow and prehensile tail which often acts as a tentacle. In some species the tail houses a spike containing deadly venom. Others yet emanate all sorts of odors to attract insects which they feed on. Additionally, many snouter species breathe and even vocalize through modified tear ducts, as described in the book:
- "Nevertheless the mono- and polyrrhines do exhibit one feature in common; the expanded tear duct, that in many instances serves as a respiratory passage. Bromeante de Burlas regards this as a result of structural convergence, that probably is related to the change in function of the snout (s) and their cavities. So it comes about that the distal nasal openings, in those forms where they occur, mostly subserve special functions that are not connected with respiration: olfactory examination, the intake of food, and finally even participation in the production of the animal's voice (cf. p. 83)."
Most snouter species are long-lived and reproduce rarely, a result of the fact that they have almost no natural predators in the islands. Unlike other mammals, snouters often exhibit very colorful fur patterns. Their fur is often silky and smooth, though some species have developed it into scales as an armor, while others have lost their fur altogether. Interestingly, a high degree of flower mimicry occurs in some species, so that they can attract insects into their mouths easily. Whilst some snouters are solitary animals, most of them are gregarious or even colonial. About the intelligence of Nasobemes, Steiner wrote:
- "The noteworthy fact that the captured Nasobame weeps has psychological interest, for it presupposes that the animal possesses insight and the power of reflection. In view of the considerable volume and degree of differentiation of the brain, such a possibility is not excluded (cf. in connection H. W. Gruhle 1947)."
Tragically, nearly all snouter species were made recently extinct when a nuclear test accidentally resulted in the destruction of the Hy-yi-yi islands.
Several types of snouters have been described in the book:
- Haeckel's Primitive Snouter (Archirrhinos haeckelii)
- Slime Snouters (family Nasolimacidae)
- Snuffler (Emunctator sorbens)
- Honeytail (Dulcicauda griseaurella)
- Ribbon Snouters (Rhinotaenia sp.)
- Trumpet Snouters (Rhinostentor sp.)
- Mole Snouters (family Rhinotalpidae)
- Mud Snouters (family Hypogeonasidae)*
- Burrowing Snouters (family Georrhinidae)*
- Leaf Leaper (Phyllohopla bombola)
- Snout Leapers (Hopsorrhinus sp.)
- Earwing (Otopteryx volitans)
- Orchidsnouter (Orchidiopsis rapax)
- Nasobeme (Nasobema lyricum)
- Predatory Nasobeme (Tyrannonasus imperator)
- Ribbon Snouters (Eledonapis sp.)
- Six-flowered Snouters (Hexanthus sp.)
- Flower-faced Snouters (Cephalanthus sp.)
- Shaggy-faced Snouter (Mammontops ursulus)
- Tasselsnouters (Rhinochilopus sp.)
* = only mentioned briefly as examples of non-insectivorous snouters in the end of the Nasobeme chapter
Additionally, three new genera of fully marine, Cnidarian-like snouters have been recently described in the Antarctic Ocean: Rhizoidonasus euphorbiformis, Larvanasus haleciformis and Nudirhinus medusiformis, all of which lack common names so far.
Yet another minuscule colonial marine genus, Dendronasus, was described in 2004, which uses a tree-like nose to cling itself to ships, floating wood or larger animals.