The natural form of a shapeshifter is that of a grey/green/brown blob about the size of a softball and the density of jam- about three pounds, total. The shapeshifter can, from that form, transform into any other form that it wishes while constraining to the laws of mass conservation. Therefore, huge shapes are possible at a significant loss of density. For food, shapeshifters are mostly paniverous, meaning that they'll "eat" nearly anything, metabolising the molecular energy of absorbed matter easily within themselves. Two notable exceptions to this rule are stone and metal. Stone, strangely, cannot be metabolized by shapeshifters, and this normally causes no problems for a shapeshifter. Metal of all sorts, however, carries with it an odd reaction. The moment metal comes into contact with a shapeshifter, it reverts back to its natural amorphous shape and is unable to shift into anything else for a total of fifteen seconds. Extended contact with metal, however, means extended periods of inability to shift, coupled with an inability to metabolize anything. This means that it is perfectly possible to capture a shapeshifter by placing it in a shoebox with a penny and securing the lid with a rubber band.
Shapeshifters can't die. Period. Even captured and starved, a shapeshifter will simply go into a low energy use coma until they are able to awaken again. After more than a month of captivity, this usually requires sunlight as an energy booster, as they would no longer have the energy necessary to metabolize matter. However, there is a method that is known to put an end to a single shapeshifter mind. The metabolism of other shapeshifters gives a shapeshifter a more certain grasp of transformation, able to hold a form for longer without using up very much energy. However, at a certain, unknown point, the shift becomes TOO sure, and the shapeshifter is able to be destroyed. At this point, it splits into however many shapeshifters that had made up the one, which all flee mindlessly to find a safe place until they have grown to full size. This usually takes about a year. When each shapeshifter emerges, its memory of having any sort of past is wiped clear.
Shapeshifters have no sense of taste, smell, or sight, even when mimicing the form of an eye, nose, or mouth. Instead they substitute for extremely sensitive "hearing", which is basically feeling the vibrations on them and interpreting it. They can depress this if they need to. This creates a sort of natural echolocation, since the sounds of everything bouncing off of eachother creates a mental picture for shapeshifters. This also makes it impossible to sneak up behind them, for their echolocation goes in all three hundred and sixty degrees. Color is beyond them to know, although experimentation with people and energy absorption has taught them how to mimic it. Because of their metabolizing process, they are also immune to all non-metal based intoxicants, including alcohol, medicines, and poisons. However, they are also incapable of using magic and are extremely weak physically due to their small mass.
"While I have no doubt there are many different 'breeds' of shape shifters on Kaia, this article surprised me. As a noted shape shifter myself, of the Laskbian sort (also called Star Gazers), I was most surprised at the similarities between these shifters and my own kind. For instance, the ability to ingest almost anything. Ask any betting man at the local tavern; I've won quite a few wagers upon the premise. "Taiaka, I'll give you a month's pay if you eat this tin can!" And so I do. Metal and stone both have little effect on my guts. Though, and I hesitate announcing this to the world, I, and my kind, have a severe allergy to copper. Pretty much in the same way some werewolves have an allergy to silver. Wounds infliced by copper weapons are extremely painful, heal at a terribly slow pace, and will most often become infected.
And yet, I am not an energy being. I plopped out of a pussy like the 'lower races' and my 'true form' is not a blob of jam, but this handsome beast you see before you. I can die. We can die I should say. Acts of canibalism have a profound effect on 'energy levels' though. A severly wounded Star gazer often resorts to eating their own kind to heal. Messy, but effective.
As far as I know, the only way to stop a Laskbian from shifting (again, there is a definate similarity) is to insert a piece of copper through the bones of the wrist (ulna/radius). There are sets of special bracers made by the Djinn (of course) that were used in history to keep shifters from shifting and enslave them. "