A page of handwritten notes on dirty, lined refill paper. Headline: Shellbacks
These rarely seen predators are among the most dangerous found in our waters, as well as the largest. Early accounts show that they are hybrids of two related kinds of critter, one lacking a shell, and the other “branded” – a distinction the early survivors made which I am not able to account for, except that the “branded” critters were much less likely to breed successfully, meaning that very few are seen today. Crossbreeding with the soft-backed Locknessie apparently produced a critter with the strengths of the “branded” parent and the fecundity of other critters.
An illustration of a creature like a stocky plesiosaur covered by a spiky shell fills the right half of the page.
The shellback is a fearsome beast, with spines on the tail and the eponymous shell, as well as a wicked beak. Its most dangerous weapon, however, is the siphon running up its long neck from under the torso. By means of rhythmic muscular contractions, the shellback can pump an enormous amount of water out of a nozzle inside the upper beak, striking hard enough to knock prey off cliffs or cause serious injuries.
A smaller illustration of a shellback outline shows the position and path of the siphon.
Fortunately they are rare; egg fragments have been found on beaches, indicating that they must come ashore to breed, a serious impediment to population growth given their bulk. Growing to full size may also take some time, and the young must be vulnerable for some time. Small shells, less spiked than the adults and never larger than a dinner plate, are occasionally found on beaches and are a coveted trade (sentence is cut off by a page break).