Pharlans appear to be, at first glance, a combination of humans and birds. Neither is true as they are unique form of life which is neither bird nor mammal.
Pharlans are nearly completely covered with parly hollow feather-like scales (called kyrtsay). It is these scales that serve as energy absorbption structures. On the head there are varying degrees of soft featherlike structures. Their pointed, mobile ears sit on top of their heads, affording excellent directional hearing. These too are covered by kyrtsay.
Each of the five fingers and three toes has a sharp curving talon. All talons are completely round in cross section and are meant for gripping prey. The eyes are proportionately slightly larger than those of humans and near the eye is the accessory nasal passage which is used to increase airflow when flying and especially in high speed dives.
They have a long prehensile(grasping) tail tipped with a second pair of tiny wings. The tail tip contains a "tail heal" or kabaign which also has a set of 5 insect like eyes. These eyes are fixed and have give a somewhat grainy grey overall picture but with 360 degrees of vision. They do make it almost impossible to sneak up on a Pharlan.
They also have a secondary sense of smell on the bottom of the tail as well as a pair of muscular fingers (called ielan). These fingers are typically enclosed by two interlocking scales (called krenatan) when not in use. These "fingers" are extremely sensitive and used by pharlans instead of their hands for fine work and are the only part of a pharlan that is very sensitive to touch. The tail wings can also serve as a sort of grappling hook to serve as an anchor to mast moving prey.
Whatever the reason pharlans are extremely strong while also being light weight. Their bones, scales and feather-like scales are made of very tough materials known on Rona and much tougher than anything known on earth.
Pharlans are vulnerable on the chest and tail area as well as somewhat on the face and neck. Their skin is studded with small kyrstay, much like fine scales. It functions something like chain mail, however sharp piercing objects can penetrate this defense. Pharlans do have an excellent ability to heal, in fact when injured they can heal so well that, if examined after the injury has healed one could not tell that an injury had occurred. Tremendous amounts of damage can be recovered from thanks in part to their 'second nature'.
Pharlans have an alternate system of life support that requires no food intake or oxygen usage. Any form of energy can be absorbed through specialized cells in the skin, scales and kyrtsay. Feathers are inert and while the skin underneath will absorb any power, the feathers may be burnt. This is converted to electricity and stored in chemical form in a specialized organ called the chadake. When needed is converted back to electricity and is transmitted through the nerve tissue to each and every cell of the body where it is utilized directly.
Healing and growth, however, normally requires the intake of actual food due to the fact that pharlans cannot synthesize all of their biological molecules from scratch. Biologically this makes pharlans photoheterotrophs.
Pharlans can generally only be killed by an attack that destroys both of theirnatures simultaneously. This can generally be accomplished using explosive tipped weaponry. However the explosive charge must detonate after penetrating the skin or much of the energy of the blast will simply be absorbed. Even this however is not always effective since if a pharlans recieves energy and retains even a small portion of the chadake they may still survive.
Execution of Pharlans is typically performed through physical removal of both the heart and the chadake. Pharlans will also not regenerate if their head is removed due to the fact that the memory backup the "crystalline memory", which is usually located at the base of the skull produces the electrical and chemical signals that tell the pharlan's cells to regenerate. However this is very difficult to remove the head or directly damage the crystalline memory given the strength of pharlan bones and armored scales ont he back of the neck. A direct strike with something like an armor piercing round would probably suffice.
Hearing sensitivity and range of wavelengths detected is similar to that of humans. Pharlans can't hear dog whistles but they can locate sounds better because of their swiveling ears.
The sense of smell in pharlans is similar to that of the domestic dog. A pharlan's sense of smell is such that individuals can recognize one another easily by scent alone. Even if a scent is not recognized ot an individual another pharlan will know what gender and probably the approximate age and potentially state of mind if the individual was under the influence of a particularly strong emotion. Similar information can be gathered about other races and creatures if the individual pharlan is familiar with the species in question.
Pharlans can use their nose or the underside of the tail tip to detect smells however the sense of smell in their nose is much more sensitive. Generally the tail tip can be passed over the ground to scan for interesting smells while the nose can then be used to accurately assess them.
Pharlans also have an accessory sense which consists of specialized cells in the cheek area which can detect the minute electro-magnetic fields that all living creatures produce. At night pharlans become more dependant on smell and their acessory sense of electromagnetic fields. In a way this sense is a bit like X-ray vision except that it can only see living or electrically powered objects, although some discernment of surroundings is possible when strong electrical fields are available.
But these objects can be seen through walls, soil and other structures. The electromagnetic field lines of the planet they are residing on can also be seen and used for navigation.
Pharlans have some telepathic ability but they must be in direct physical contact with whatever they are communicating with. There can be some residual link for a short time (an hour or so) after initial contact has been made. Pharlans can communicate to one another through bolts of electricity if direct contact is not possible.
One pharlan can generally not force one another to divulge information through this sort of contact unless one of the individuals is very well trained and/or skilled and the other is very young or untrained.
Sexual dimorphism is fairly subtle in Pharlans. Males and Females are similar in size and strength with males being slightly shorter and stockier as well as more brightly colored with females being taller and thinner. Females also usually have kyrstay that are patterened with penciling, or striping on the surface while males are usually of one color.
Sexually mature females have tassles on the ends of their ears. Male pharlans usually have enlarged Kyrtsay on the back of the neck which form a crest. Females also have crests but they are much smaller. Females typically have longer wings for their size and are therefore faster in the air. But the males with shorter wings are more maneuverable.
Sexual maturity is reached around 150 years of age while approximate full size is reached around twenty. This long period of adolescence allows them to pursue education and other skills, especially those of hunting and combat before they become saddled with the responsibilities of marriage and family. Pharlans usually pair off at around 200-300 years of age. A "first date" very often consisting of a challenge to a duel with swords (not to the death of course). Either sex may initiate the challenge and it is generally considered rude to decline unless the individual is truly a poor specimen!
The winner of the battle, regardless of who initiated it, retains the "right of refusal" and can decide if the loser has "earned" a second date or not. The loser can still refuse if the winner asks them out again but again this is considered rude. The second date may be any number of things including anything from more civilized forms of cultural expression such as various forms of art to a cooperative hunt. After the second date continuation of the realtionship is judged to be purely at the discretion of both of the involved parties.
One a pharlan has found him or herself a suitable mate a ceremony is usually conducted in the temple which involves sacrifices of living creatures. The pair are then referred to as "heart mates". About 5-7 years after becoming mates, both the male and female of the pair will enter a physiological state called Mentena'a which is similar to Elephant Musth. Pharlans in this state are somewhat dangerous and only desire to be with their mate, any one or anything that gets in the way can be in serious danger. Once a pharlan couple has been through mentena'a together they are considered physiologically "bonded" and are referred to as "bond mates". It is during these events that mating takes place and an egg is produced. Production of multiple eggs is extremely rare. If the egg hatches and fledges successfully the pharlan pair will enter mentena'a again around 250 years later, if the mating/hatching fails it may reoccur in less than 10-20 years.
Pharlan eggs are relatively small, but are expandable and grow in size by absorbing solar radiation and energy from the parents after a period of about 3 months. The eggs are incubated either by the parents or an incubation lamp - depending on the climate the pharlans live in. When a pharlan first hatches it is dependent on energy alone to sustain it. Within 24-36 hours it will be able to digest food and obtain energy from it but until that time the parents must collect or buy large quantities of energy for the hatchling. Pharlan hatchlings fledge at around 10 years of age and begin hunting training at that time.
Territorial ownership is determined by ritual combat. They most typically engage in sword fights to determine land ownership. These battles are usually held in one of the few structures built on the planet's surface - the arenas built specifically for this purpose. The battles are almost never to the death. Most fights end with the sword of one opponent being plunged into the chest of another. This is not fatal in pharlans as their ability to heal will typically mend the wound within a few hours or days. Giving of energy will typically accelerate the healing process.
Sometimes one opponent will cut of the tail tip of another. This is considered a great dishonor for the one who loses his tail tip (It is typically kept by the victor as a trophy). While it will regenerate in time (a few months). The dishonored pharlan must live his life without a tail tip allowing everyone to see his or her dishonor. This tail tip removal typically only occurs in fights over matters of honor or rank in the military. If one pharlan has offended another these kinds of battles will occur. A few very skilled pharlans will sometimes start to collect large numbers of tail tips. This is typically a very dangerous proposition because once word gets around that an individual is a "tip collector" he will usually be challenged by one of the most powerful pharlan warriors and have virtually all of his tail lopped off.Unmated Pharlans are judged to be good potential mates in part by their valuable hunting skills. The greatest hunters are considered to be those that can survive in a small and relatively unproductive territory. Both males and females engage in this quest for status. Once mated however the attitude changes toward finding a better territory to support a family.
It is also generally considered dishonorable to use eleectricity as a weapon against prey. The pharlan's primary prey, the Gakra'Rek is generally resistant to electrical attacks anyway. Pharlans also hold a great deal of respect for the land and biosphere in general. It is considered a great dishonor and shame to wantonly inflict damage on plants and animals. Hunting is permitted but it must not turn into a slaughter of large numbers of beasts for no or little reason. This is considered a great waste and shameful. While there are no laws directly regarding this, older powerful pharlans will typically challenge and remove the tail of anyone who engages in such conduct.
Many Pharlans distain many of what they call the lesser races considering them to be similar to prey animals. Generally this is not considered to include the races of the council of seven but some pharlans include them in this designation as well.
Because of this battles with them are somewhat governed by the same rules as those for hunting. However a pharlan can show honor to an opponent of a "lesser race" by choosing to fight him while using his sword. Although the eating of sentient races is generally frowned upon, some pharlans will occasionally eat individuals of a lasser race that they have killed in battle.
In the new era, most pharlans take a very dim view on the active pursuit of sentient races as food. But this was a much more widespread practice during the time of the wrongful conquest. Pharlans can also show another pharlan great dishonor - and offense by refusing to draw his or her weapon and using only his talons. Most of the time fighting another pharlan only with talons is considered fighting "dirty". However, especially in youngsters, "grappling" is encouragesd as a sport so thaty they may improve their hunting techniques. Fleeing from any battle is generally considered to be dishonorable but especially if the opponent is not a pharlan or is a member of a lesser race.
Steelhide were used as a weapon. Steelhide are almost impossible to eradicate from an area once established due to their tiny larva and eggs-which can survive for decades unhatched in soil. They are also very agressive, quick to reproduce and hard to kill by all but Pharlans. This made them a perfect weapon to colonize a world. Pharlans continue to live on the worlds infested with steel-hide to control their numbers and prevent further damage to native wildlife. A few worlds have been cleansed of steelhide infestation but several worlds have environments that are so damaged by steelhide that Pharlans have annexed them.