My design entry for Creature of the week, over at conceptart.org
For months scientific expeditions were puzzled by the mysterious vocalizations and sounds that echoed through the gigantic mineral forests that covered the surface of planet Oretox. This lead to the conclusion that there must have been hundreds of different species living in the forest, some estimated to be gigantic based on the measured sound frequency. However, after many weeks of searching, the expedition finally came across the culprit.
It turned out that one gigantic organism was responsible for all the recorded sounds. Nicknamed the 'Oretox Songbird', due to its bird like talons, turkey like neck, and nasal cavities shaped like musical notes. The largest specimens have been estimated to reach heights as much as 40 metres and weigh over 450 tonnes, 3 times the size of a blue whale.
The Oretox Songbird has several hundred resonating chambers, and is capable of thousands of variations of pitch, frequency and vocalization. Its amazing ability to produce hundreds of sounds at one time gives the impression of groups of animals of many different species. Anything from loud chirping and howling to elephant like grumbles can be emitted by the animal. The most common sound made by the Oretox Songbird is a very low and very, very loud growl that is similar to the mating call of an alligator. This growl is referred to as its feeding voice, as its soul purpose is to cause vibrations that shake the tiny mineral based life forms from the high canopies of the forest. These are then ingested by the giant creature, using its multiple tongues to lap up the falling organisms. It can also inhale them in through its many nasal cavities and still process food the same way. Like our giant whales, the Oretox Songbird is a gentle filter feeder. They usually have four of five tongues but can have as many as ten, some over thirty feet in length.
The biology of the mineral forests is very comparable to coral reefs on Earth, with tiny life forms clustered together to form the outer skeleton, which is rich in calcium. As the layers of life forms build up for hundreds of years they eventually form giant platforms consisting of mature organisms that use a similar process to photosynthesis. It is these high platforms that contain the richest minerals that sustain the Oretox Songbird.
The ability to make such a range of complex sounds has lead to speculation that it could be a form of communication between individuals or groups, especially over long distances, like whales use echolocation and clicks. It has even been theorized as a form of language, since the sophistication between individuals shows signs of high intelligence. Their sounds also seem to have a link with emotions, as they show signs of joy and playfulness when emitting high frequency calls. Along with singing for fun, they also use similar vocalizations in courtship rituals. Despite this, there is no evidence to support the existence of males and females, however the horny 'beaks' or 'crests' seem to vary between individuals.