I believe you are remembering "The Snouters: Form and Life of the
Rhinogrades," by Harald Stümpke (a pen name of Gerolf Steiner). This
book was originally published in the German language, in 1957. The
English translation was published in 1967. The book describes a
fictitious mammalian order which is accidentally rendered extinct by
an atomic bomb test. One variety of this creature plants itself in the
ground by the tail, and the creature's mating is achieved when males
and females are blown into contact with each other by the wind.
"One of their striking features is the stiffened tail, that may be as
much as twenty inches long... The tip of the tail bears a much
cornified epithelium, that eventually forms a sort of pointed,
plugshaped horny cap. As soon as the tip of the tail reaches the
ground, the animal that had climbed up the plant stem starts to bore
this caudal plug into the ground, which within four to six days it
penetrates to a depth of as much as 6 inches. Then the animal lets go
of the plant stem and henceforth is supported by its own tail, that
continues to lengthen. The degree of caudal extension attained depends
on the nutritional state of the animal, and proceeds more slowly when
the latter is well fed. An animal once firmly 'planted' in this way
can no longer move from its location, but simply waits there for prey
with folded arms and open mouth. As mentioned, the mental capacities
are slight. Mating takes place when it is windy; as the specimens are
blown back and forth on their tails and come into contact the desirous
males take firm hold of the females."
"Rhinogradentia (also known as snouters or Rhinogrades) is a
fictitious mammal order documented by the equally fictitious German
naturalist Harald Stümpke. The order's most remarkable characteristic
was the Nasorium, an organ derived from the ancestral species's nose,
which had variously evolved to fulfill every conceivable function...
The order's remarkable variety was the natural outcome of evolution
acting over millions of years in the isolated Hi-yi-yi islands in the
Pacific Ocean. All the 14 families and 189 known Snouter species
descended from a small shrew-like animal, which gradually evolved and
diversified to fill most of the ecological niches in the archipelago ?
from tiny worm-like beings to large herbivores and predators... The
snouters were discovered on the main island of Hiddudify in 1941 by
the Swedish explorer Einar Pettersson-Skämtkvist. Unfortunately, as a
consequence of atomic bomb testing, the islands sank suddenly into the
ocean in the late 1950s. Thus perished all traces of the snouters."
If you're interested in purchasing a used copy of "The Snouters,"
these AddAll search strings will give you many options:
AddAll: The Snouters: Form and Life of the Rhinogrades
There is also a sequel, "The Snouters Revisited," by Charles C. Davis:
AddAll: The Snouters Revisited
This was a stumper for me for quite a while: your description sounded
very familiar, and I was sure I'd read the book, but numerous Google
searches failed to turn up anything useful. Finally the name
"snouters" popped into my head, and I zeroed in on the information
posted above with the use of this Google search string:
Google Web Search: snouters tails
I hope this is the right book! If it is not, please request
clarification; I'll be glad to offer further assistance before you
rate my answer.