To remind ourselves that Abtestudonia constitutes its very own vertebrate class among tetrapods, we need only recall that no fish can live out its life wriggling on dry land. Despite their medieval classification as “fish” and a superficial resemblance, the armored abtestudonians are even less dependent on water than amphibians, and glean moisture only in small, salty concentrations, such as plump but tiny rodents and lizards, sated hematophagous insects, and certain succulents. Nevertheless, a ventral array of plastrons connect to tough, paddle-like feet that are effective at propelling the creatures through sand and loose soil with movements that resemble “swimming” just enough to reinforce the misconception.
An abtestudonian may cease to resist a human captor’s grasp if it deems the latter’s sweat a lickable treat. This was how the “highly perspirant” music-hall clown and acrobat Willy Tuscato (née Tuscomuck) trained several specimens of Red Terrapisck (Loricatorsiti varstullus) to crawl about his person onstsage. From a distance, they would pass for certain varieties of bony perch found in Euxinovan waters, such as the Pontic Rosefish (Helicolenus thriampi). His act, of course, derived from the age-old tales of the fisherman Crellujeck, who, once taught by the faun Charmident to coax fish to leap into his boat, became indolent from his success, which in turn would cast him into predicaments that he could only resolve by means of his charmed fish — fish he knew he must eventually sell or eat (with salty tears in his eyes).