The goal and charm of being an archeologist of unreality is to attempt
to make sense of the products of imagination. We apply the
rules of the real world, laws of physics, chemistry, biology and evolution
to the creations of film and literature, in an attempt to make it hang
Good writing, good film or movie creations, have depth.
They have psychological reality, and quite often, they can be explained
and understood in terms of reality. Sometimes, of course, something
makes no sense at all, in which case, its far less satisfying. The
point of unreal archeology is to try and wrap reality around things.
It's a game really, but it's a fun game. It's all about making
the impossible possible, about making the unreal plausible, and perhaps
deepening or explaining the underlying mechanics of the work.
What do the religions of Barsoom tell us about the social history of the
world? How do plate tectonics work on a hollow world like Pellucidar?
Things like that.
So, when it comes to the Wieroo, my first impulse is to dig up Edgar
Rice Burroughs cadaver and kick his ass. Because this takes the cake
for being an illogical, insensible bag of hammers.
First of all, there's the question of the basic anatomy.
The Wieroo is a creature with four separate articulated limbs *and* a set
of wings. This is pretty unique among vertebrates.
The other known true flyers, pterosaurs, bats and birds, all work with
a basic four limbs and have converted two of those limbs into wings.
In fact, all known existing and fossil vertebrates from amphibians on up
are confined to a four limb plan. Some, as in cetaceans or certain
flightless birds like the Moa have devolved back to two. Others
like the snakes and glass lizards and certain salamanders have abandoned
limbs entirely. But nevertheless, the basic plan appears to
be rigorously four limbs. However this evolutionary choice was made,
it was made at the very beginnings of the colonization of land by Amphibians,
and it has never been departed from. There is no example on
our Earth anywhere of a six limbed vertebrate species. It's just
And then there's the improbability of a flying creature of that size.
There's the fact that there are no females only males, that the males reproduce
with other species somehow, and that the offspring have no apparent heritage
from the mothers. It's just impossibility piled on top of contradiction
on top of nonsense. I'm not happy.
So, let's set to seeing if we can make some sense out of this creature.
At the outset, I acknowledge a debt owed to Rik Johns, whose detailed descriptions
of the Wieroo and URL appear in the appendices.
Wieroo Art by Mahlon Blaine
A refugee from Barsoom?
Perhaps the Wieroo are extraterrestrial? Well, that would
be a handy way of getting out of any jam. Your creature is
a bit weird? It's obviously from off world, no need to try
and construct an evolutionary history or taxonomy, its just from somewhere
else. It's a cheap cop out, and frankly, its not nearly as
interesting a solution.
To be fair though, one has to acknowledge that six limbed creatures,
Apts, Green Men, White Apes, form an important part of the ecology of Barsoom.
Further, on Thuria (likely a Barsoomian colony), there is a small six limbed
bird, with four legs and two wings. So it's possible that the
Wieroo might be a transplanted Barsoomian evolutionary line.
The problem here, of course, is that there's no evidence that Barsoomian
life forms ever managed to reach Earth. John Carter and Ulysses
Paxton can astrally project themselves back and forth, but this is a talent
seemingly reserved to humans.
Related Species, The Trodon
So, what do we do with our frustrating Wieroo? Well, the
next step is to peruse the rest of Burroughs canon to see if there is anything
similar. The Wieroo alone pose a problem. But another
similar creature means that we can identify their commonalties, dissect
their differences and work backwards to a common ancestor and an evolutionary
So, are the Wieroo alone
on Earth? Not quite.
For one thing, the Wieroo, in a quasi-canonical story, appear to have cousins
in Pal Ul Don. They were chronicled in a Tarzan comic strip
done by Comics legend Russ Manning. There is a description and URL
in the appendices.
However, as interesting and instructive as it is, this is not canonical.
At best, we can accept them as a sub-race of Wieroo. But we shouldn't
build our edifices too high on those backs.
In Pellucidar, there is a very interesting animal called the Trodon,
described as follows:
“The trodon is somewhat pterosaurian,
having a head that is "pterodactyl-like", and mighty leathern wings. Its'
body, however, somewhat resembles a gigantic winged kangaroo, with powerful
rear legs, and a massive tail. Its forearms are separate from the wings,
and with them the trodon can easily grasp its prey. It also has a pouch
with which it transports its victims (and perhaps its young, after they
hatch?). The trodon paralyzes its victims' nervous system with
its barbed tongue. The victims are then left in the adult trodon's rookery
until the eggs hatch, and the young trodons devour their screaming victims
Again, there is a more elaborate quote, and a URL which also includes artists
depictions in the Appendices. The Trodon is the only other
distinct animal which shares the Wieroo body plan of four legs and a pair
of functional wings. It is almost certainly related.
Now, all by itself, the Trodon would be a puzzler. It's
described as a marsupial reptile, or a reptilian marsupial. Like
Marsupials, it has a pouch, which would suggest that it is fundamentally
a mammal. Like reptiles it lays eggs. So, in this respect,
it's a toss up.
It may well be a reptile which has evolved a pouch, much like Marsupials
did. On the other hand, the monotremes of Australia, such as
the pangolin and platypus lay eggs. So it's possible that the
Trodon’s line is derived from very early egg laying monotreme/marsupials.
The overall body plan, except for the wings and head is expressly that
of a Kangaroo. On the other hand, that body plan is also used
by carnivorous biped dinosaurs. So, once again, its hard to
The pterodactyl like head is suggestive of reptilian origins, but then
again, it wouldn't be out of the question for a mammalian muzzle.
So, we could go either way.
We could stop to wonder if Trodon's are warm blooded. The Wieroo
seem to be, and the high level of activity and complex behaviour of the
Trodon would seem to lead us in that direction. Marsupials
are warm blooded, but monotremes have aspects of cold bloodedness.
Reptiles are cold blooded, but there's evidence for warm blooded dinosaurs.
Generally, the Wieroo seem less ambiguous and more clearly mammalian, which
suggests the Trodon is too.
Meanwhile, there are features to the Trodon, such as the barbed tongue
which seem to fit nowhere.
In the end, it becomes almost a coin toss as to whether the Trodon,
and by extension, the Wieroo are reptiles or mammals.
My instinct is to call them marsupials for now, but its an issue we'll
keep wrestling with.
So, now we have two related creatures, what can we make of them?
Flying Dragons Down Under
First, I think that we can begin to identify their common geographic
origins: Australia, or perhaps Antarctica. After
the fall of the dinosaurs, Australia, Antarctica (before glaciation) and
South America were lost ‘Island continents’ were marsupials thrived.
In South America, the marsupials were accompanied by lively lines of placental
mammals. But in Australia, the placental mammals never made
it at all, and the entire continent was left to egg laying monotremes and
marsupials. Thus, Australia isolated earlier than South America,
and represents the better candidate for our Wieroo/Trodon ancestor.
Antarctica is a big blank spot, since all of its mammals are long extinct
and its fossil record is buried under miles of ice. But charitably,
I would include Antarctica as a repository of lost and unknown marsupial
and monotreme mammals.
So, let's go back to our central headache. The four legged
and two winged character of the Wieroo and Trodons. As I've
said, every vertebrate beyond fish works on the four limbed plans.
Once in a while, fewer. Never ever more.
Is there any way around this? There is a precedent.
The flying lizard Draco has two wings in addition to its four legs.
How does it manage this? Very simple, the ‘wings’ are not limbs,
as in birds, bats and pterosaurs. Rather, the ‘wings’ are modified
ribs, stretched out and elongated from the body, with leathery skin between
them. Draco is a tiny lizard, perhaps eight inches long with
a six inch wingspan.
Right now, Draco is the only animal which has evolved this particular
approach to gliding flight. But it is not alone. The fossil
record shows us Coelurosauravus, a pre-mezosoic lizardlike creature which
existed in Madagascar, sixteen inches long with a ‘wing’ span of a foot.
There was also Kuehneosaurus, with a length of 26 inches and a wing span
of over a foot, which lived in the late triassic in England.
None of these creatures could actually fly. Rather, they were
all gliders. But nevertheless, they managed to grow a pair
of wings without actually having to give up four limbs.
Could one of these reptiles be the ancestors of the Wieroo and Trodon?
It's possible, but unlikely. While the Trodon has some distinct
reptile characteristics, they are notably dinosaur/pterosaur traits.
Our little flyers were all lizards or lizard like creatures, they were
an evolutionary side line to the higher archosaurs.
The trouble with these little guys, is simply that they were too handicapped
to break out of their niches. They're small cold blooded, relatively
primitive insectivores. Those reptiles who were going to make
something of themselves, had already separated and were in the process
of becoming dinosaurs and other higher reptiles. This was a
development among the reptilian also rans, a wrinkle among creatures that
had already been bypassed. Ultimately, they are evolutionary dead
Not that there's anything wrong with evolutionary dead ends.
The lizards may not have been great shakes, but in the end, they've outlived
the dinosaurs by some 65 million years. So who is laughing now.
But the point is that for various reasons, like the inbuilt limitations
of these lizards, the problems of competition, the need for major mutation,
the winged lizards simply were not capable of making the leap to the big
What they really tell us, is that it could be done, which opens the
door to speculating that some more advanced species tried the same trick.
This has happened before. Take the sailbacks. In the
Permian, there was a sailbacked mammal like carnivorous reptile called
Dimetrodon. It basically looked like a monitor lizard with
a big sail on its back made of elongated vertebra spikes. It was
used to regulate body heat. Not to be outdone, there was a
vegetarian sail backed reptile, called Edaphosaurus, which looked like
a big iguana, and independently arrived at the same solution.
Fast forward a hundred million years, and we have a couple of new sailbacks.
The new one was a T-Rex cousin named spinosaurus, and a duckbill dinosaur
cousin named Ouranosaurus. There was no direct evolutionary connection
between any of these four. It was simply a good idea for the circumstances.
So, if the primitive draco lizards could develop ‘rib-sail wings’, then
its entirely possible that some later and more advanced species might be
able to do the same thing.
A dinosaur? Unlikely. The dinosaurs had priced themselves
out of the market. Although they were sophisticated and advanced
reptiles, they were too strongly committed to their lines, and to the larger
size ranges. To get to that viable ‘rib-wing’, you would need
to start with a small, even tiny, tree dwelling, generalized creature.
There were no dinosaur lines like that.
Mammal lines? Yes. Hell, for millions of years, that
was nothing but the mammal lines. Small, covert, agile, active tree
climbers, the prehistoric analogues of rats and squirrels.
They were perfectly positioned in the trees to begin this line of development.
fact, many mammalian tree dwellers became gliders. There are
a half dozen independent variations on the flying squirrel, including a
marsupial version. Essentially, they achieved a limited gliding
by stretching membranes of skin out between their limbs and parachuting
along. So why didn't we see rib-wings among mammals?
The simple explanation that the flying squirrel type skin membrane was
just a quicker and easier evolutionary fix. After all, to get
rib wings, you've got to separate the ribs from the body, grow them out,
hold them steady and stretch skin across them. For the ‘flying
squirrels’, all you had to do was stretch a membrane between your forelimbs
and hind limbs and you were in business.
At least one line of prehistoric ‘flying squirrels’ eventually evolved
into bats. This was a placental mammal, which probably originated
in the old world, and then eventually spread to all the continents, including
Australia and South America. But while the Bat was developing
and getting its act together, the skies of Australia were vacant, and there
was a window of opportunity for marsupials to develop their own flyer.
And they may have had the biological flexibility to use develop rib-wings.
And Australia had a tendency, sometimes, to do things in weird ways.
Unconvinced? Take a look at the Duckbill Platypus or the Pangolin.
Or think about this: The Kangaroo was Australia's attempt to
make a Deer. It's entirely possible that an Australian tree
shrew, for one reason or another, found itself doing things the hard way
and developed rib-wings. There may have been some genetic quirk
or local condition that worked against the usual solution.
So, our first step would be some marsupial squirrel, or more likely
a marsupial insectivore similar to a tree shrew developing draco type rib-wings.
This would make it a superior glider to the normal flying squirrel designs.
As a sophisticated glider, it would develop as a predator.
All it would have to do would be to climb up high, keep an eye open for
prey and then drop, gliding onto the pray from above in an ambush.
The ability to control the glide with the rib-wings would mean that they
could adjust course and even overcome evasive maneuvers should the prey
spot them and attempt to dodge.
by the way, this knocks Antarctica out of the running.
For these evolutionary developments, you need a thick rain forest jungle.
Australia, at tropical and subtropical latitudes had that.
Antarctica, on the other hand, even before it moved into its polar position
and became ice covered, was much further south in temperate zones.
It didn't have rain forest jungle, but at best, boreal forest and plains.
So, our Marsupial Draco is an Australian.
This advantage in hunting would lead to certain evolutionary developments.
Our marsupial draco would graduate from insectivore to predator, becoming
larger. It would prey upon other small ground or tree dwelling
marsupials, a local ‘death from the sky.’
Evolving the Wieroo, Faces,
Legs and Wings
Getting larger would mean that our marsupial draco would need to evolve
larger and better wings, it would need stronger and better muscles and
ligaments to control its glide. This would set it on the path to
It would also result in certain adaptations. Like eagles
or owls, the hunting birds, its vision would have to improve. The
eyes would become larger and more acute. If it was a nocturnal
hunter (and night gliding or flying was virgin territory waiting to be
occupied, most birds were not night flyers) then again, the eyes would
have to become larger and more acute.
Ambushing prey from above requires excellent depth perception, which
requires binocular vision. The face of our marsupial tree shrew would
have shortened like a cats, the head becoming wider, the eyes looking forward.
The result would start to be a pterosaur-like head, and the line that will
lead to the Trodon.
given the extra demands of nocturnal existence even flattened as we see
with Owls and Tarsiers. Owls need bigger eyes than Eagles because
they are nocturnal predators. This has resulted in startling flat
faces. The Tarsier is a nocturnal lemur-like primate, but unlike
other lemurs who have dog like muzzles, the Tarsier needs excellent nocturnal
depth perception to jump from tree to tree, hence a flat, oddly human-like
face. Your creature, some varieties of it, perhaps the line
that leads directly to the Wieroo will start to look like flying monkeys.
Shades of the Wizard of Oz!
Very quickly, our marsupial draco, by the time its about the size of
a crow or raven, would come to a problem: Its wings were not
They're excellent gliding wings, no question. Difficult
to develop, but once you've got them, you're far superior to those pokey
flying squirrels. But for powered flight? Not so
The problem is that bats, birds and pterosaurs were using wings that
were adapted forelegs. These were already designed as load bearing
structures, capable of rapid movement and dealing with heavy stresses.
They were already wired into an evolved musculature, and hooked up to big
heavy muscle groups. It would take some heavy engineering to
turn them into wings, but at the same time, the basic architecture was
already highly developed.
In contrast, the rib-wings had relatively minimal musculature to start
with. The ribs had not originally developed as flexible load bearing
structures anchoring major muscle groups. So you weren't going to
get as large, or as heavy, muscle arrangements as we found in birds and
bats. Worse, you were going to have to get around the fact that your
wing muscles would be putting stress on the torso, and that your torso
was structurally a few ribs short. The result was underpowered wing
muscles, and birds and bats literally flying circles around you.
Now, in the early days of Australia, this wasn't a big deal.
Birds were strictly daytime animals, so the night was their territory.
Bats hadn't evolved yet, or hadn't reached Australia, so there was no competition
for the night. The Marsupial Draco was free to evolve in peace.
Of course, when bats did start to arrive to take over the night, the Marsupial
Draco was in trouble!
So, what could the Marsupial Draco do? Well, it wasn't out
of the question that Marsupial Draco could develop powerful wings.
Given enough time, that could be evolved. The trouble was that
birds and bats had a built in head start.
But there was another solution available. Jumping like a
little kangaroo. Gliding animals have always leaped to begin
their glide. Flying fish take that a step further by literally
jumping out of the water to glide, their leap provides the momentum for
the glide. Essentially, its almost flight by launch.
This wasn't an option available to most birds or bats, they'd already
pledged their musculature to their wing structures, and they couldn't really
engineer powerful jumping legs. Bats in fact, were so committed
to winged flight, that they almost lost the ability altogether to run on
their hind legs. For both bats and birds, the hind legs were used
heavily for perching and resting. It also wasn't an option available
to ‘flying squirrel’ type gliders, whose legs were anchors for the gliding
membranes. But for the Marsupial Draco, the legs and their musculature,
were free and clear.
So, in order to make up for a lack of power during flight, the Marsupial
Draco, began to evolve launch power. Essentially, powerful
jumping legs would provide the initial acceleration. Assuming
that our Marsupial Draco concentrated on short flights and made a point
of aiming toward and kicking off from tree branches and trunks, it could
fly quite well and compete with bats and birds. It was still
an inferior flyer, but at least it could stay in the game.
So, what this starts to mean is relatively large and long hind legs,
in comparison to the front legs, which are proportionately shorter.
Essentially, we saw a move towards the kangaroo like proportions of the
Trodon, and the human-like proportions of the Wieroo. In short, the
die is cast, and the evolutionary pathways to Trodon and Wieroo are now
There's room for debate of course. When did the Trodon and
Wieroo lines split? Late or early? At the very least,
the critical adaptations were well established by the time the split occurred.
Were the adaptations made in isolation, or was the competitive pressure
of birds and especially bats a factor? And when did it become a factor?
And for what adaptations?
Trodon and Wieroo Split
There were a few little wrinkles. Obviously a short faced,
flying predator has a few handicaps in ambushing its prey.
Eagles and Owls have developed formidable talons, bats on the other hand,
have largely stuck with insects and small prey. How was the
Marsupial Draco to subdue its prey. Its front and back paws could
develop claws, but these were needed for tree climbing, so they could never
be hyper-specialized weapons. The shorter flatter faces made biting
attacks more difficult.
A solution was a poison barb. Poison is mostly restricted
to a few reptiles and amphibians. But there are actually poisonous
mammals, although its rare, and mostly found among shrews. But it
is available to mammals to develop.
The development of the poison barb attack probably set the Trodon on
its path to becoming a major predator, and oriented it strongly towards
predator specializations like claws and talons. It became the big
game hunter, going after animals its own size and larger.
Without the poison barb, the Wieroo line could not hunt as ambitiously.
They were forced to pursue smaller prey. This meant that in order
to make their meal, they could not rely upon the big fat kill, but had
to make many smaller kills of smaller, faster, more cunningly concealed
This fostered the development of intelligence in the Wieroo, as well
as increasing the requirements for detailed vision. A Trodon,
or Trodon ancestor simply had to watch for a cow or a deer blundering along,
easy to spot, easy to fall upon and a very rewarding kill.
The Trodon didn't need hyper-acute vision, so its head did not flatten
past pterodactyl levels. The intelligence remained relatively low
and animalistic. The adaptations were devoted to helping to kill
and devour large prey. And of course, the large amounts of
meat, relatively easily caught, resulted in it becoming an increasingly
For the Wieroo ancestor, there was a need to carefully study its surroundings,
looking for subtle telltale signs of spoor, dens, nests or tracks.
It had to be able to distinguish between leaves shifted by the passage
of prey, and that of movement. It had to figure out what prey
was around, where it was to be found, and when it was most likely to be
caught. And of course, instead of one big kill, its dinner
was likely several different types of prey. This would foster
the development of intelligence, even as the enlarged nocturnal eyes made
the face almost flat. Because the prey was small and helpless and
relatively easily devoured, heavy muscles, powerful jaws and ripping talons
were not necessary and did not develop. On the other hand, the Wieroo
had to work a lot harder for its dinner than the Trodon. The
Trodon could afford the luxury of a heavy kangaroo tail, the Wieroo could
not. The tail diminished, becoming a slender appendage or vanishing
entirely. The separation of the two lines was complete.
At this point, by the way, we're probably not all that big.
The Trodons are the size of small dinosaurs and the Wieroo are human sized.
But realistically, in comparison to other flyers, its unlikely that the
proto-Wieroo got any larger than monkeys, or the proto-Trodons got any
larger than Eagles or Vultures. It was probably only in Pellucidar
that the modern forms reached their present sizes.
And inevitably, the proto-Wieroo and proto-Trodons moved to Pellucidar.
In their original homeland of Australia, they were eventually overwhelmed
by changing climate and the competition of bats and birds.
Trodon and Wieroo Reproduction
There are only a few things left to clarify now. One is
reproduction. Obviously flying creatures need to keep their
weight down. A flying marsupial, particularly one with under-powered
wings, has a problem. The demands of flight meant that both
lines would have to wrestle with the problems posed by carrying infants.
For the Trodon, this meant a return to egg laying, not too far past
in its evolutionary history. The pouch remained and became
a means of carrying food, much like a Pelican's pouch.
The Wieroo's evolutionary solution was almost diabolical in its elegance.
The Wieroo became a cuckoo. Instead of raising its young itself,
it simply passed the job onto some other animal.
To understand how this works, we have to come to grips with the apparent
strangeness of Wieroo sex. According to those familiar with
them, the Wieroo are exclusively male, an obvious impossibility.
Even worse, they use other species females to reproduce, a double impossibility.
And finally, the offspring of these impossible unions, seem to have no
genetic relationship to their mothers, but are completely Wieroo, a triple
Okay, reality check here. Obviously, the Wieroo must have
male and female sexes. Every vertebrate has that.
However, the distinction between male and female Wieroo may not be obvious.
The Wieroo, remember are not even off of a primate line, they would not
have human sexual or secondary sexual characteristics. In fact,
female sexual characteristics may mimic and even exceed the male's organs.
The spider monkey female, for instance, has a long pendulous clitoris which
may be mistaken for the male penis. The female Hyaena's
clitoris is a huge organ resembling but larger than the male organ, and
the female Hyaena goes it one better by sporting a large, false testicle
sack. Ancient writers were baffled by the fact that Hyaena's
seemed to be exclusively male and could not understand how the species
could reproduce. The Wieroo are similar to Hyaena's and Spider
Monkey's in that the female anatomy is difficult to distinguish from the
But how does this deal with their need to impregnate human females?
To understand this, we have to appreciate a peculiarity of Marsupial reproduction.
Placental mammals are kept within the mother's body for an extended time,
and are born relatively fully developed. Within hours of birth,
an infant calf is walking around. Within weeks a kitten is playing.
Marsupial mammals on the other hand are born almost completely undeveloped.
A baby kangaroo at birth is almost microscopic. The Marsupials
are born undeveloped and move into the pouch where they are sustained by
milk and finish the rest of their development.
Well, as we've noted, a flying marsupial cannot really afford the extra
weight of a developing baby, so they have to get them out of the pouch.
The Trodons dealt with that, as we noted, by laying eggs. The
Wieroo solution was even more ingenious. They placed their
offspring in other animals to grow!
Among vertebrates, there are examples of mother animals adopting or
suckling other species. The cuckoo bird takes this a step further.
It lays its eggs in another birds nest. The cuckoo's are born larger
and stronger than the original inhabitants of the nest and quickly dispose
of them. Thereafter, the mother and father birds of the nest feed
and raise the cuckoo as their own.
Now, Marsupials young are born almost microscopically tiny.
So, it would be feasible for the Wieroo to insert their young, while microscopically
tiny, into a suitable host and let it grow there.
The Wieroo's, in a Marsupial world like Australia, were originally simply
cuckoos. Instead of planting their eggs in another birds nest, they
planted their offspring in another marsupial's pouch. This would
tend to evolve a specialized ‘planting’ organ, and would undoubtedly be
traumatic to the host marsupial. But a few months later, the
host would not be connecting its traumatic experience with the loved, if
strange, baby in its pouch.
The shift of Wieroo populations to Pellucidar would have introduced
them into a world filled with placental mammals which far outnumbered marsupials.
This would offer them an opportunity to take the next step, to shifting
from planting in the pouch of Marsupials, into the actual bodies of placentals.
The Wieroo young probably attaches itself to the tissue of the host
parent, devouring the flesh or sucking the blood. Or it might
actually be able to ‘trick’ the Mother's body into a state of false pregnancy,
causing a placental membrane and umbilical cord to grow around itself.
In this case, the host mother would carry the Wieroo as if it was their
own baby. The Wieroo young would grow and eventually emerge
from the body of their host mother, but would have no genetic relationship
to the host mother.
Thus, we now know who and what the Wieroo females are. They're
the ones ‘raping’ and ‘impregnating’ human women. The males,
in contrast, are probably less robust and less aggressive.
Evolution and Wieroo Society
The Wieroo evolved intelligence much like primates, in order to meet
similar conditions, but with very different driving factors.
Primates, who essentially evolved intelligence as way of mapping out
the forest, determining what fruit trees there were, where they were, and
when each was in season, had a very important difference. For
them, food, when available, was plentiful. After all, on any
fruit tree in season, there would be far more fruit than any one monkey
could eat before it rotted. So, monkeys congregated, their
intelligence became a social intelligence. They moved and lived
in groups, and refined their intelligence by evolving as a social animal,
developing ways to manage conflicts, systems of dominance and submission,
relationships, alliances and affection.
The Wieroo were ‘small creature’ predators. They weren't looking
at fruit trees where there was enough for all. For each Wieroo,
the objective was to find enough for itself. Which meant that any
other Wieroo hunting in the neighborhood was a potential competitor.
They felt no need to be social. Unlike big game hunters, there
was no need to cooperate.
Instead, the Wieroo simply went their own ways. Did the
Wieroo gather? Of course they did. After all, when not
hunting they needed to rest, to sleep, they needed shelter, they would
seek the same sorts of areas, require the same sorts of resources and refuge.
So, much like seagulls, they would tend to congregate on secure areas.
But the social evolution of Wieroo groups, and the evolution of their
social wiring, was much different from Monkeys and Primates.
Troops of Monkeys formed a community with common direction and common purposes,
individuals behaviour is dictated by their relationships with other individuals
in the troop.
A congregation of Wieroo was just a collection of individuals, without
any more complex interrelationships or common purposes. The
behaviour of an individual Wieroo was dictated, not by relationships with
other individuals, but by the strength and prowess of that individual against
So, when a Wieroo builds a house, its choice is dictated by its ability
to impose itself on the others around it. Which could include
using other houses as walls, or even as building materials, or building
its house on top of another house. There is no concept of planning
or order. Status among Wieroo is determined not by relationships,
but by acts, including acts of Murder. A Wieroo City thus, is a lot
closer to a Seagull breeding rookery, both in structure and social organization,
than it is to a human city.
This doesn't mean that Wieroo have no capacity for social relationships
at all. It's clear that they murder each other freely, treat
each other as slaves and have almost no interest in their children.
Nevertheless, they have evolved some basic degree of cooperation in being
able to endure in a city or colony at all. They are intelligent
enough to recognize common purposes, and if the reward is close, they can
work together. They can appreciate cooperation through enlightened
self interest, including bargaining and exchange, where there is not enough
strength to simply take. Males and females probably bond.
And the need to find and control host mothers for their reproduction probably
drives some social cooperation and organization. But Wieroo
social wiring, their social evolution and social behaviour is quite different
from primates and markedly less advanced.
It is likely that one major driver of social behaviour and Wieroo society
is the need to find, control, and care for host mothers. At
least, so long as those host mothers are useful for reproduction.
Host mothers are the equivalent of big game, so they may work cooperatively
to hunt and trap them. Host mothers must then be controlled or the
babies may not survive. Controlling them means confining and feeding
them. Which means that the demands on a Wieroo's time and energy
grow dramatically with every host mother acquired. One way
around that trap is to try and force the slaves or host mothers to earn
their own keep. Another way is to enlist other Wieroo in feeding
and caging your host mothers, either through your own strength and willingness
to murder them, or by bargaining status, resources or access to host mothers.
One activity which almost certainly resulted in the development of social
behaviour would be fishing. Fish are the one small prey that
are plentiful like fruit, thus eliminating competition, and which are best
hunted cooperatively like big game, thus encouraging cooperation and teamwork.
It is no surprise that the Wieroo Cities are on an island in a lake
in Caprona. It is likely that the subsistence economy of these
cities is based principally on fishing. (There is probably
little or no significant agricultural economy) Of course, the increased
technology of the Wieroo, through use of tools, spears, hammers clubs and
nets, now allows them to go after big game which was formerly beyond their
physical capacity, which also encourages cooperation. Thus,
we see a big difference between Wieroo and Hominids. Hominids
were social before they became tool users. Wieroo becoming
tool users allowed them to become social.
As tool users, the Wieroo are no slouches. It is clear that
the high degree of intelligence developed in evolving as a small prey hunter
allowed them to develop increasingly sophisticated tools, including eventually
metalworking and weaving. This is not surprising, Otters and
Eagles will use stones as hammers to break open shells, the early Wieroo
started from there and never looked back.
It is not clear that the Wieroo developed language on their own.
At best, they might have developed some capacity and simply borrowed language
from humans. If they did have language, it likely developed
on extremely narrow lines. Wieroo language is probably heavily
oriented towards nouns and naming, and stating intentions and acts.
Wieroo language is likely ‘me’-centric and not really concerned with abstracts,
philosophy or other viewpoints.
Wieroo behaviour is likely heavily influenced by instinctive behavioural
wiring. The behaviour of house building, for instance, seems
heavily reminiscent of the instinctive drives to build nests or bowers,
including elaborate structures, in some birds and mammals.
In particular, the penchant for using skulls as a building material is
highly reminiscent of the attraction of magpies and other birds to find
and incorporate shiny or bright object in their nests to make it attractive
to potential mates.
Despite their intelligence and technological ability, the Wieroo social
handicap has prevented them from dominating or ruling Caprona.
They simply cannot cooperate or establish a social structure as complex
as a systematic Empire.
Wieroo Outside Caprona
The Wieroo and Trodon, and the evolutionary lines that lead to them,
are long extinct in Australia. The Wieroo of Caprona
are likely an outlier population derived from Pellucidar. The
fact that beings so large can fly at all suggests that gravity and air
pressure are more benign in Pellucidar, and that Caprona is well within
Pellucidar's gravitational and atmospheric conditions.
There is some indication of a population of Wieroo in Pal Ul Don, although
this report is apocryphal. The Pal Ul Don Wieroo differ
from Caprona Wieroo in that they are tailed and can use their tails for
peacock display, have prensile feet and spurs on the feet, and it is not
clear whether they have a language. They display technological
and social sophistication, including nests, weapons and breeding arrangements,
but not too the level shown by Caprona Wieroo. None of these
things would be out of line for Wieroo development, and in fact, Wieroo
may speciate heavily, there may be dozens of varieties of Wieroo in Pellucidar.
According to Caprona informants, the Wieroo practice natural selection
by infanticide, and so it is entirely possible, even likely, that the Wieroo
will tend to select infants for resemblance to the dominant population
in the area. This may simply be good sense, a tailed Wieroo
born to a tailed mother is less likely to be rejected or killed by the
mother. The same holds true for a tailless Wieroo born to a tailless
host mother. Or it may be that Wieroo, in absorbing language from
their human or human-like neighbors, also absorb aesthetic judgments.
It is likely, given their handicaps, that the Wieroo of Pellucidar are
a series of scattered populations. They would not be able to compete
with organized human cities or states. They likely exist as individual
loners, in small pack-like groups in wild territories, and in cities/rookeries/colonies
in secure locations like offshore islands.
And that's the Unreal Archeology of the Wieroo, one of Burroughs strangest
creatures. An exotic Australian Marsupial creature part hominid,
part predator, part flyer.
Caprona, Wieroo Descriptions and Society
One other race is native to the island, an entirely fictitious
one invented by Burroughs. These are the Wieroos, a race of winged humans
that consists entirely of males. They have dead-white skin, and goggling
eyes, which lends them an eerie death-like appearance. They can see in
darkness as well as a cat. It is uncertain entirely bizarre race came about.
The Wieroos seem to regard themselves as the highest race on the island,
but they seem to have originated, not from the Galu, but through some freakish
off-branching in the Caspakan chain of human evolution. The Wieroo exist
on an island in the center of a lake, in a city constructed entirely from
human skulls. They prey on the women of Caspak's human races. The young
born to female captives of the Wieroo is always male, showing no characters
of their female parent.
Much of what we know of this race comes from the diary
of Bradley and his Ga-lu wife as they were imprisoned on this island. However,
Co-Tan's comments were based on oral legends of a race that they considered
to be almost supernatural and Bradley's time among the Wieroo was limited
to a very few days. Thus the information given is suspect.
However, we can make a number of suppositions that may or may not be accurate.
Legend shows that the Wieroo (Weir-lu?) and Ga-lu races
evolved at the same time and under similar conditions. The Weir-lu race,
however, possessed rudimentary wings which gave them a monumental ego as
well as a goal in life. By kidnapping Ga-lu women as breeding stock
and by killing their own children who were born with smaller wings, the
Wieroo race quickly controlled their own evolution and became a truly avian
race. Their physical appearance eventually changed into one of hideous
visage being hairless with flat ears, claws instead of nails and large
wings and eyes. Wieroo prefer to travel at night, possibly because
of their eyes, which are night-adapted and therefore sensitive to daylight.
The Wieroo mentality is that of advancement by murder,
a philosophy that they attempted to export to the Ga-lu with no success
and so were driven to the island of Oo-oh where they managed to develop
a civilization of some advanced technology, the most obvious being the
smelting of iron ore into sabers and the weaving of cloth, neither of which
are possessed by the Ga-lu. Despite this technical advantage and their
vast numbers, the Wieroo have been unable to conquer the less-technical
and ground-bound humans.
Currently Wieroo are denied weapons until the secretly
murder sufficient numbers to enable them to wear a red slash across their
white robes. As the numbers of their victims increases, so does the colour
of their robes, eventually earning them the right to bear arms, after which
murder becomes easier and advancement quicker. The ultimate
murderer will eventually become the king of the island.
The Wieroo steal women from the neighboring Ga-lu tribes,
bringing them to their island where they are hidden away and forced into
a lifetime of servitude as breeding stock. Until the O’Brien expedition
of the 21st century, the Wieroo were considered to be invulnerable and
none of their captives (save Bradley and Co-Tan some 80 years earlier)
had ever escaped.
One question that remains unanswered is why the U-33 submarine
which brought Tyler and his party into Caspak was not used to shell the
Wieroo city and rescue the Ga-lu captives. Since all members of that expedition
have been dead for decades, we may never know the answer.
It is believed that as the number of female Ga-lu prisoners
cannot possibly meet the needs of the Wieroo nation, that the majority
of the Wieroo are unarmed celebates who are forced to live on the outskirts
of their cities as virtual slaves. These continue in their drab lives until
they manage to murder their way up the social and political ladder and
also inward to the center of the city.
Those who are successful in capturing a Ga-lu woman must
keep her in secret and as she bears him children, he then drives these
sons away as they reach puberty. These abandoned children migrating to
the slums of the city outskirts until they are able to murder their way
back to the center of the city.
When a Wieroo murders another, he searches the home of
his victim for wealth, skulls which are trophies of his kill and, of course,
the hidden rooms in which his victims are secreted. The successful murderer
then kills the children of his victim and takes their captive mother for
his own. The growth of the city is as interesting as the political
climb of the citizens.
Each Wieroo city, of which there are three, is built upon
a river that provides drinking water, a sewer and a means of disposing
of their murdered victims. The city starts as a series of regular buildings
that line the river. As the population increases, roads are built and more
homes are constructed along a set grid pattern with bridges to cross the
river. Up to this point, the construction is normal and predictable. However,
at a certain point, the society breaks down for unknown reasons.
One theory is that those who regulate the city plans are
murdered, thus allowing unplanned construction to take place but this is
Regardless of the reason, the inhabitants begin to construct
more buildings at random. One can imagine an up-and-coming star on the
political scene abandoning his hovel on the outskirts and moving inward
as he murders his way up the social scale. Seeing a street with two buildings
on either side, he decided to take advantage of this and rather than build
four walls and a roof, he builds two walls that cross the street and connect
the two original buildings. He then roofs his new home at a considerable
savings in cost, materials and labour. The fact that the road is now blocked
by his new home is irrelevant as the Wieroo can easily stop walking and
fly over the obstacle.
Eventually another Wieroo will build his home is a similar
manner until the city is a maze of houses with short dead-end streets.
Then another Wieroo will lay a floor over the roof of an existing building
and construct a house on top of another, often covering the roof-top door.
The new inhabitant will often seek to murder the tenant of the now hidden
dwelling and turn the lower building into a prison for his own captured
The first city built, and the oldest, was built on the
western end of the island and contains the Blue Palace of Seven Skulls
in which lives He Who Speaks for Luada, the King and most successful murderer.
When that city became over-crowded, a second city was built in the center
of the island, again on a river. And when that city became over-crowded,
the third, youngest and final city was built in the eastern end of the
Although it is unknown how long this process has been
going on, it is apparent that it has existed
long enough to produce adequate victims to pave the city
streets and walls with skulls.
Pal Ul Don, Apocryphal Wieroo Colony
Comics legend Russ Manning did do an adaptation of the
actual novel in the Dell series however, and his version stuck strictly
to the story, though the incident with the dinosaur in the swamp was curiously
absent. He also took Tarzan to Pal-ul-don on numerous occasions in his
Sunday and daily strips. Manning's version of the lost land is essentially
the Burroughs' own, though the format of the newspaper strip allowed Tarzan
to return to Pal-ul-don more than once, and the land is given much greater
detail. By far the most "Burroughsian" of Pal-ul-don's comic-invented
races are "winged men" of Manning's strips. These are very similar to the
Wieroos of Caspak, but with a few striking differences. Like the Wieroo,
Pal-ul-don's winged men are a race of males only, and must subsist on the
females of the lost land other races, in order to procreate. Unlike the
Wieroo, they are less intelligent and more animal-like. They live in the
sides of cliffs in gigantic mud nests, after the manner of cliff-swallows,
and roost within the nests from wooden beams like gigantic bats. They apparently
branched off from Pal-ul-dons other tailed races in some remote age. In
the winged men, the tails can be unfurled like that of a peacock, and for
the same purpose! After a winged man has captured a woman, the two dominant
males "cock fight", to determine who will mate with her. Their grasping
feet are quipped with razor-sharp fighting spurs. Captive females are taken
to a "nursery" within the nests, where they will bear and raise wing men
offspring. These offspring are always male, and have no characteristics
of their female parent. Winged men use a small whip of "feathers", anointed
with a stinging sap, in order to subdue their captives. These weird beings
do not have a language, but communicate with a series of squeals and whistles.
Manning did not invent a Pal-ul-donian term for this race, but a name such
as "In-dons" ("strange men") might have been appropriate.
This is an entirely fictitious monster, as Burroughs
himself admits when he tells us that its restoration was never in any book,
its skeleton never in any museum. Perhaps it is entirely Pellucidaran in
origin, or perhaps it is one species whose surface counterpart will remain
undiscovered. The trodon is somewhat pterosaurian, having a head
that is "pterodactyl-like", and mighty leathern wings. Its body, however,
somewhat resembles a gigantic winged kangaroo, with powerful rear legs,
and a massive tail. Its forearms are separate from the wings, and with
them the troodon can easily grasp its prey. It also has a pouch with which
it transports its victims (and perhaps its young, after they hatch?). Burroughs
refers to the Trodon as a "giant marsupial reptile", though technically
this is impossible, since the marsupial reproductive system is strictly
mammalian. The trodon paralyzes its victims' nervous system with
its barbed tongue. The victims are then left in the adult trodon's rookery
until the eggs hatch, and the young trodons devour their screaming victims