The gimp, Melexsorbius parvus, is a tiny, partly quadrupedal, nectar-sipping, arbrosaur hailing from the tropical forests of both South America and Central America, in The New Dinosaurs: An Alternative Evolution.

As in tropical forests all round the Equator, the trees of the Neotropical ecozone are full of numerous kinds of animals. They support many more different types of animal than the trees of the forests in the temperate or cold zones. With the constant high temperatures and the daily rainfall, vegetation flourishes and several hundred different species of tree thrive in a very small area. A thick canopy consisting of intermeshed boughs of the tallest trees spreads out to catch the sunlight. Epiphytes and dangling creepers festoon these high branches. As a result, there are many different kinds of leaves, flowers and fruits available above the gloom and roots of the forest floor. Many varieties of animals have evolved to exploit these potential foodstuffs. Generally, the tree-living animals of South America are smaller than those of the tropical forests in the rest of the world. The airy canopy is alive with little arbrosaurs adapted to feed on the thousands upon thousands of different types of insects that make their homes there.

Some of the arbrosaurs, however, have abandoned their insectivorous way of life and have evolved into totally new forms. The nectar-sucking gimp, for instance, is a tiny animal, no more than 20 centimeters (8 inches) long including the slender delicate head, and eats nothing but nectar. Its snout has evolved into a long tube which acts as a rigid sheath for an extendable nectar-gathering tongue. These features are similar to those of the ant-eating adaptation of the pangaloon, and it is obvious that both animals evolved from the same group of arbrosaurs that crossed from North America during the Great American Interchange in the Pliocene. The tubular snout may be seen as an example of preadaptation where a feature evolves spontaneously and is then retained because it is perfectly suited for a particular purpose.

Gimp feeding

The nectar-eating gimp feeds rather like moths and bees, pushing its snout down into the base of long flowers to reach the nectar. As a result, the snout emerges covered with pollen which the gimp then unwittingly transfers to another flower, thus fertilizing it. The animal's shape is similar to that of the small arbrosaurs but it is not as fast-moving. Its forelimbs can grasp flower stems. Its body is very small, since nectar needs very little digestion and requires only a small gut.

Gimp 2

Many species of gimp exist in the Neotropical forests. Each one eats the nectar of a particular species of flower and has a correspondingly different shaped snout. A more obvious difference between species is the pattern on the back. This can range from spots, to stripes, or large patches of color.

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