Cava are a species of beaked, Paravian therapods which are the direct descendants of a member of the Dromaeosauridae clade of dinosaurs. They are one of many intelligent, sapient species native to Urth, and are characterised by their striking bird-like appearance featuring shiny black plumage, colourful crest feathers and corvid-like heads. Anatomically modern cava evolved in central Aurora approximately 2 Mya. They remained the dominant form of sapient life on the continent until their decline during most recent period of glaciation, when they were largely supplanted by humans and elves outside of several geographically isolated regions, the most notable of which being the Axdelian peninsula.
(OOC note: Cava = singular & plural, Cavan = Adjective )
(OOC note 2: there are several inaccuracies with the picture but its better than the last one)
The cava are the descendants of a species of small dromaeosaur of the genus Microraptor that survived the C-P mass extinction 66 million years ago that were isolated on Aurora and Sempiternica. Competition from emerging birds and mammals left few ecological niches to exploit, however a number of arboreal species that had specialised into masterful climbing and dexterity over their gliding flight thrived. Known as treeclaws, they led similar lifestyles comparable to the primate ancestors of the human species group.
An omnivorous species of treeclaw entered a trend of rapidly increasing cranial capacity approximately 10-15 Mya, resulting in a range of new species capable of creating and using basic tools and achieving a rudimentary use of fire. This alongside the long-term aridification of Central-East Aurora led to upright bipedalism evolving as a response to the thinning forests and the expanding plains biome as a means of faster locomotion and predator detection. Anatomically modern cava evolved 2 Mya in the Ethaln Plain and quickly spread to dominate the continent, however without any continuous land bridges to Yasteria at the time they remained geographically isolated.
Cava interacted with a human-group ancestor species that rafted over form Yasteria 1.8 million years ago, likely outcompeting them due to their superior tool using ability at the time and forcing them into inhospitable areas in the eastern side of the continent.
Although highly disputed, evidence from uncovered tools suggests that cava hunter gatherers in modern Staynes may have domesticated and farmed several crops for a brief period of time approximately 500-300 Kya. It is unknown how developed this culture became, how long it lasted or why reversion to hunter-gathering occurred due to the advanced decay of the recovered artefacts. Agriculture was likely developed a second time approximately 100 Kya onwards from which tentative evidence of basic metalworking exists, entirely localised in the Axdelian peninsula. However, the onset of glaciation and more extreme climate conditions, expansion of a large tundra steppe and the subsequent failure of crops likely forced a return to hunter gathering.
Falling temperatures lead to a land bridge forming between Yasteria and Aurora at various points from 200 Kya onwards, leading to cava encountering migrating elves. Whilst there are signs of intraspecies violence, there is also significant evidence of coexisting communities in many regions. It is unknown why no Cava migrated northwards into Yasteria during this time. Humans arrived on the continent 50 Kya. The range of Cava in Aurora remained approximately the same as it had before, however with two other sapient species competing for the carrying capacity of the continent, populations in the center and east declined, whilst the Axdelian peninsula saw very little human or elf inhabitation and thus no significant change.
With the rise of complex civilisation on Aurora, Cava predominantly inhabited the West side of the continent where they were most populous, with elves and humans conversely inhabiting the central and East, although examples of significant cava populations were still in the area and vice versa. Over time oppression against smaller Cava populations in the East slowly drove a diaspora into the interior of mountainous regions and towards majority Cavan civilisations in the West. The Axdelian peninsula and its neighbouring regions remain majority Cava to the present, although large minorities are present across the continent. Kéyan and Kormistazic colonisation of Arcturia has meant a significant Cava population exists on the South East coast and beyond, with Quariin being majority Cava. There was also another diaspora of Cava across Urth from the 16th century onwards with the fall of the Kormistazic empire, both as refugees and as colonists and labour by the Morstaybishlian empire.
Cava have an upright, humanoid appearance, but their skeletal structure differs significantly from most other sapient species. Like many therapods, parts of cavan skeletons are pneumatised and hollow, strengthened with criss-crossing struts. This provides great strength comparable to mammalian bones whilst being much lighter. Cava possess a vestigial keel bone on their sternum, which often appears as a noticeable bulge on the chest. Cavan Legs possess a digitigrade arrangement and their digits are tetradactyl, with four for each limb. Cavan feet have an anisodactyl arrangement and the hands consist of one opposable thumb and three main digits. Their skulls and beak are remarkably similar to that of corvids, indicative of their ancestors' generalist lifestyle and omnivorous diet. Intracranial volume is typically somewhat smaller than other sapient species, however the neuron density is much greater and seems to result in equivalent general intelligence.
The entire body of a Cava save for its forelimbs is covered in thick plumage. There are a range of colours, black is the most common, however white, grey and blue plumage patterns are very frequent, and there are various random mutations such as leucism. The upper to mid limbs feature several vestigial wing feathers akin to their dromaeosaur ancestors. The back of the head features a crest with three or more plumes of brightly coloured iridescent feathers that strongly reflect UV light. This may have served a role in sexual selection as the reflectivity is often an indicator of an individual's physical health. On average Cavan eyesight is better than other sapients, especially in terms of following movement and UV sensitivity, however they have noticeably poorer contrast detection. Eye colour varies but light blue is the most common. Cava possess a syrinx organ instead of vocal cords which allows for a decent vocal range and even mimicry. Despite this, the lack of lips and teeth does limit the possible sounds they can make with ease which has had major impact on language and cultural development.
Individual Cava are androgynous, with few sexually dimorphic features, and thus without closer inspection it is difficult to discern an individuals sex based on appearance or voice.