For those who have just heard of the incredible beauty of the famed Gemstone Islands of the Xhosa Archipelago; I advise with a word of warning. Without a doubt the Malagasi Islands are teeming with vibrant life one cannot find anywhere else, with good reason. As beautiful as they are, they are more inhospitable and incapable of supporting life than the frigid Taram-Cahaya desert. The sheer overabundance of minerals in and around the islands has resulted in a local ecosystem specifically adapted to survive in such extremely mineral-rich conditions that would easily poison non-native species to death. When it comes to geological composition the islands are the reverse--what we consider common metals are rare and what we consider rarities are present in great abundance. Iron is considered precious due to its versatility while gold is far less valued for being soft and malleable.

The high mineral content of the springs which feed the islands are laden with traces of cobalt, manganese, nickel, and other metals. These metals accumulate in the bodies of gemstone fish and jewel beetles which are the main food sources of the Malagasi crystal kingfisher and iridescent waterbirds. These fish and insects are incredibly toxic due to their high mineral content, compensating for their lack of camouflage. A fair comparison would be like eating bricks of cinnabar or sulfur. Many mainland fish and insects have developed morphological features that imitate their toxic counterparts, a clever passive defense in ensuring their species' survival. Unsurprisingly, there is a distinct lack of large predators on the islands while smaller reptiles, arthropods, and birds are in great number.

Another curious feature of the local flora are the living petrified forests. From their leaves they appear to be no different from tropical hardwood trees in Laeto and Apoy, yet once they reach a certain age the wood becomes completely replaced with minerals. Before they are fully petrified they undergo several cycles of producing flowers and seeds to maximize the number of offspring. Then they simply stop. Unlike conventional trees, they do not wither. Their 'death' is sudden, their internal processes cease before their leaves have the chance to fall off. They are transformed into life-like statues in the shapes of trees. It is at this point the Jauhari harvest the trees to use in constructing their buildings.

-Evelyn Merriwether, Junior Researcher of Foreign Florae and Fauna