Dazy Dandelion, in his seminal paper slippery fingers? brought to the attention of the veterinary community the fungal disease known as otter-fingers, but better known as Kilimanjastra Noumena. In his paper he identifies three symptoms of the disease: light-headedness, acidic blood and slippery otter fingers. In this essay, I wish to complement his results with my own research. I feel that his results are drawn from an incomplete picture of the situation, since the disease having been discovered before the fungus causing it was well-understood.
First, a primer on Kilimanjastra Noumena, it is an extremophile fungus in the wild, mostly found near volcanic vents and fumeroles, mostly under water, for reasons of biochemistry. It reproduces via spores, that are propelled with the assistance of volcanic ejecta and other high-energy phenomenon. It is thought to be endemic to Discoverer Deep, the deepest chasm in Arnd's seas, Lava Gardens and other picturesque locations. Recently, our late planetologist colleague, Florin Haban identified them in the vents under the sea nearest Undana-Ré atoll, and identified a new organism, Schupla or Schupli Cyanolichenasis. What analyses were performed after his death of specimens he sent off-atoll discovered that it was not a single organism, but a compound organism. One of the componded organisms is Kilimanjastra Noumena, I'll call it KN for short from now on.
He also tagged a mandarin otter, named Charlie, took a blood sample, and swabbed its paws for a discoloration it had, and sent the swab for analysis.
Charlie had KN on its paws, at a deeply infective level.
Now, normally, fungal infections are detrimental to higher-order animalia, like otters, but in Charlie's case, the symptoms were mild, from his notes, with the otter acting slightly drunk, swaying as it walked, more than most otters do, that is, and having trouble holding fish out of water.
The blood report came back, listing a second-degree fungal infection, by KN, and a higher than average blood sugar level.
With the tag, Charlie was quickly found, and captured again, for more tests. Cognitive function tests were just slightly below normal, behaviour was more playful than most otters, and Charlie never seemed unhappy or put upon during his captivity.
Later blood work identified that Charlie was almost constantly drunk during that period, the KN in his blood stream pumping alkalis back into that same blood to combat some of the sulfur compounds that his blood was absorbing from his environment.
One alkali that was being produced was ethanol, explaining the 'slippery fingers' on dry land.
One phenomenon that hadn't been observed by Zim Haban though, but was documented later, a small camera being added to his kit, was that the otter was utterly fearless in the water, tackling on larger and more dangerous prey than the documented normal behaviour of otters.
This led to Charlie bringing back prey: a largish ten-tackled spotted mawkfish, and while Charlie had been still living with his parents, and four siblings, he was told in no uncertain terms that he was big enough to fend on his own the following morning, after the otter playground had slept off the food coma from the mawkfish.
A bit disconsolate at the abruptness of things, Charlie nevertheless moved away, looking for a new place to live, finding a small cavern in the coral.
He was awoken the next morning by a querying otter face, a neighbouring clan of Mandarin Otters' youngest female, Dolly, was probing the coral bed for small chiclids, spurring Charlie to swim to try to impress her. To no avail, but when another mawkfish tried to hustle her fishy catch, Charlie just barreled into the mawkfish, adding it to the feast he laid on the floor of his new nest. Finding it too much for one person, he was used after all, to hunt for a clan of six, he indicated to Dolly she could have a share, which she took flirtaciously. They were building a nest the following morning, after another food coma, Charlie at this point showing a definite paunch.
Now, normally clumsiness is hardly a useful trait for an otter, nor is ethanol intoxication, but the artificial bravery shown here is clearly helping Charlie achieve biological imperatives.
It is important to note that the clumsiness would naturally lead Charlie to find larger, less slippery, prey, such as the mawkfish, whose tough grey hide is ridged and almost slip-proof.
Me, and our research group, a bit ethically quandaried about letting the infection possibly kill our friends Charlie and Dolly who had thought us so much, decided to capture Charlie and Dolly, who was now pregnant and ask our friends at the Kagomine Aquamarine Environments museum to cure Charlie. They did so, found out Dolly was coming with a mild case, and cured them both. But by this time they had foster-failed and refused to hand the adorable otters and their progeny back!
So now Charlie, Dolly, Elmo, Frou, George, Hotei and Iambe are now permanent guests, and Mawkfish buffet terrors, in Megamisama, feel free to visit.