Imagining an alien monster is easy. If you don’t want to strain at all, it is enough to take something familiar, earthly, and increase it for impressiveness. Spiders or centipedes are often used for this purpose. But it is better, of course, to work a little, collecting a creature from separate, preferably incompatible parts, borrowing bathrooms in different classes and even types of animals. Tentacles and extra pairs of legs are welcome.
If you apply a few really creative solutions (without wondering about their appropriateness), it will turn out very well. It will turn out Alien from the film of the same name by Ridley Scott.
The main thing is Wednesday
In the depressions on the ocean floor, deprived of light and oxygen, one can find only bacteria surviving due to chemosynthesis and a few migrants from areas with more favorable conditions. But they are also representatives of the evolutionary bottom with a rank no higher than worms
What might animals from other planets look like? Will the discoverers meet random combinations of retractable claws, claws and beaks – or, on the contrary, will xenomorphs differ from terrestrial predators only by the arrangement of stripes on their skin?
If you take the issue seriously, then you should start not with a xenomorph, but with the planet where it comes from.
Similar problems suggest similar solutions. Suffice it to recall the shark, tuna, ichthyosaurus and dolphin, which, despite the huge differences in origin and internal structure, look about the same – exactly how a predator hunting in the water column should look. This means that for the appearance of truly alien forms of life and conditions unseen on Earth, striking the imagination, no less alien and original are required. And already at this stage, science cuts the wings of fantasy, because, although the Universe is infinite, the choice of conditions in it is limited.
It is not difficult to “construct” an animal, in the metabolism of which sulfuric acid will take the place of water. It is enough to replace oxygen in DNA with sulfur. But where to find a planet with acidic oceans suitable for its appearance?
Most likely, the world with a developed biosphere will have much in common with ours. Any alternatives are either physically impossible or obviously unfavorable. And most often they can only be called “alternatives” at a stretch. So, there is no reason to doubt that life is possible in the subglacial oceans on the moons of Jupiter. Since on Earth it not only exists in complete darkness, with tremendous pressure and the absence of oxygen, but, as it is now believed, originated precisely in such conditions. Suitable, as we again know from the experience of our own planet, only for extremophilic bacteria. Thus, we already have exhaustive information about the monsters supposedly inhabiting the gloomy abysses of Europe. In the event of their invasion of Earth, firearms and laser weapons will be completely useless. Boiling won’t help much either.
Kingdom of cold
Life really alien must be looked for on planets too hot or cold for liquid water to exist there. Moreover, the fiery worlds, apparently, can be immediately discarded, since high temperature is a natural enemy of complex molecules. With icy celestial bodies on which oceans of liquid gases splash, everything is not so hopeless.
At temperatures in the tens of Kelvin degrees, very interesting effects of cryochemical synthesis appear. On the one hand, the cold slows down the reactions, but on the other hand, even the most unstable and unstable compounds under normal conditions are able to exist. Very weak chemical bonds, invisible at room temperature, arrange atoms into complex structures.
Of course, life based on cryosynthesis is a very extravagant hypothesis, the plausibility of which science at this stage is not even able to assess. But if you dream up, you can imagine very unusual animals and plants, existing as if in a different time stream. Since the metabolic rate will still be very low, the ferocious predator will be no more agile than the baobab. We don’t even have to talk about plants.
Only a sophisticated analysis will make it possible to distinguish them from mineral formations. Due to the low rate of generational change, which means slow evolution, cryobionts will in any case remain primitive creatures. But at the same time, only a large, even gigantic size will allow them to minimize the loss of energy released in the body.
Something similar, namely the icy Burmese forest on Titan, is described by Stanislav Lem in his novel Fiasco. It is worth noting that the Huygens lander did not record spectacular ice vegetation on the surface of the largest satellite of Saturn. But if we assume that life on Titan exists and has already emerged from the methane “waters” onto the “land” consisting of ammonia-water ice, then it is quite possible to assume that the identical rounded “stones” visible in the pictures are cryo-plants.
Aliens’ acidic blood should not be the norm in their homeworld biosphere. Otherwise, acid spitting would be pointless as a weapon. It is rather a defensive mechanism: “You can’t eat me without alkali!”
If we assume that Aliens were not created by an advanced civilization, but evolved by evolution, the world that gave birth to this species will turn out to be a terrible place. And not because xenomorphs are found there. But because in their homeland they are clearly not at the top of the food pyramid, but closer to its base.
This is indisputably evidenced by the tendency to parasitism, for the “masters of life” is absolutely uncharacteristic, and the colossal rate of reproduction of the species, justified only when it is called upon to compensate for the huge losses.
Even the Alien larvae – face-hunters, breastbreakers – are far from helpless. And if the uterus is able, having discarded the ovipositor, to join the battle, then there is a high probability that the soldiers of the xenomorph hive will not be able to protect the queen and her offspring.
Conditions are completely “unearthly” and at the same time quite favorable can be found on the oxygen planets. Most of the supposedly habitable worlds currently open are of the super-earth class. A planet several times larger than the Earth in mass and, accordingly, possessing a strong gravity, with a high probability will acquire an atmosphere comparable in density to the Venusian one. This in itself is not very good.
The super-powerful greenhouse effect can lead to overheating, and the thick gas blanket will absorb light, inhibiting photosynthesis at the surface. But it is in such conditions that the aerostatic method of movement, dearly loved by science fiction writers, will become possible: in almost every second invented world there are creatures flying on hydrogen bubbles. Furthermore,
Plants will be the first to turn into bubbles filled with methane or hydrogen, which flight will allow to rise to the light, that is, above the cloud cover. The plants will inevitably be followed by animals, once again turned into living balloons.
On a “greenhouse” planet, the high resistance of the environment will make flapping flight, which is usual in terrestrial conditions, unprofitable. Small wings will be required for taxiing, while the engine will be operated by an “air cannon” modeled after a squid jet.
The concept of the fauna of the “flying world” can be given by the Earth’s ocean. After all, the hydrostatic (on the swim bladder) movement makes almost the same demands on the physical structure as the aerostatic one.
Accordingly, the appearance of air animals can be very bizarre and varied. True, the inhabitants of the atmosphere, whose bodies will be 90% occupied by gas, will be much larger than the inhabitants of the waters. Only the large size will allow them to acquire strong covers and minimize drag during flight.
Probably, there will be non-flying animals on the super-earth, inhabitants of the surface, which will turn into the “bottom” of the air ocean. As for other inhabitants of the bottom, the main food for them will be the remains of those who once flew slightly higher than they should have, then burst and blown away … But there is a great chance that there will be no sushi on the “greenhouse” planet at all. In a world rich in gases, there will be a lot of water, and the relief of the planet is smoother, the higher the gravity. Most likely, the oxygen super-earth will become an “ocean planet.”
– Another effective way to travel on a planet with a dense atmosphere is soaring due to the force of the wind. For insects and small plants, this option is even preferable to aerostatic flight.
The absence of land will give rise to another type of natural conditions, on Earth, not that it does not exist, but does not play a noticeable role and is unattractive. In the oceans of our planet there are many plankton – animals and plants that “soar” in the water column and move due to currents.
The Pleiston living on the surface of the water, as a rule, does not form a large mass. It is the pleustonic plant organisms that are closest to the light (which is especially important in a gloomy world), but if the algae does not “hold” to the bottom, the wind will quickly throw it ashore.
In the case when there are no shores, swimming on the surface, and not in the water column, becomes the obvious and better choice. The seas will be covered with a mass of intertwined stems, possibly dense enough to support the weight of arthropods and small vertebrates. And large creatures feeding on algae will turn into “living boats”, unwilling or even incapable of diving, since they have absolutely nothing to do under water.
Predators will also have to change the way they move – after all, all prey is on the surface! They will move on to breathing atmospheric air and sailing with minimal submersion – like a speedboat or a hydrofoil. Indeed, no matter how dense the atmosphere is, the resistance of the medium in air is less than in water.
Fauna will turn out to be unusual even on a “dry” super-earth, which does not have a particularly dense atmosphere. The evolution of the animal kingdom will be influenced by the increased force of gravity, which will make flapping flight and walking more difficult. The beasts will have to get smaller to improve their strength-to-mass ratio.
A characteristic feature of the animals of the “heavy” worlds can be a vertical mouth. The blue whale rolls over on its side to rotate its huge jaw. For crawling creatures, the mouth swinging open to the sides is also more convenient
The first amphibians on our planet could not walk and, resting on the ground with their paws like fins, with difficulty dragged the belly protected by horny plates over the stones. Only the second generation of sushi pioneers managed to get up slightly on their feet, reducing friction during movement. But if the force of gravity is 2g, as in Harry Harrison’s “World of Death”, movement on four points of support will become an impossible task for primitive vertebrates.
No, they will not surrender, but simply move towards dominance on land in a different way, taking up the development of progressive crawling methods. And the “heavy” planet will turn into a kingdom of serpentine creatures. In other respects, the biosphere will remain “earthlike”. Crawling legless animals will occupy the niches of large herbivores and predators, in due time they will become overgrown with wool and begin to feed their cubs with milk.
The “lungs” of the planet
According to the canon, on the planet Pandora from the movie “Avatar”, gravity is 20% less than on Earth, and the atmosphere is 20% denser. But the size of the Pandorian flying monsters indicates no greater gravity than Mars.
The possibility of the existence of “oxygen” planets with a gravity two to three times less than on Earth seems doubtful. But under very favorable circumstances (the leakage of gases into outer space is compensated by their inflow from the bowels as a result of extremely high seismic activity caused, as on Pandora, by tidal interactions), this is apparently possible. Low gravity will not create truly new and original conditions. Nevertheless, the appearance of the inhabitants of the “light world” will be very impressive.
Low gravity will make flapping flight accessible to medium sized animals. Small ones will spend no more energy on moving through the air than when walking. In such a situation, only the largest or burrowing animals will not rush to acquire wings. At the top of the food pyramid, of course, will be the birds best adapted to flight.
In this case, the eagle weighing two centners will remain exactly the eagle. Because from an aerodynamic point of view, the eagle is much more perfect than the flying horror from the Avatar.
Genetic plasticity is an effective adaptation method. But it comes at a price. Species that change body structure depending on external conditions have an abnormally high frequency of genetic defects
On a planet like Earth, evolution will inevitably follow similar paths. And the result will depend on how far she has time to go. If not too much, then in general terms we can familiarize ourselves with it, without even leaving our world – by the methods of paleontology. But if evolution goes further than at the present moment on Earth, it will give rise to animals that are much more “alien” and unusual than in any of the previous cases. Although this will hardly concern the appearance of animals.
On Earth, over the past 20-30 million years, evolution has paid less and less attention to form, concentrating on the inner content. Modern wolves are weaker than the “dire wolves” (Canis dirus) that lived in the Pleistocene, but much smarter. The improvement of natural weapons has completely lost its meaning, because the wolf is already capable of killing a creature much larger than itself, and at the same time feeds mainly on voles.
Increasing intelligence gives better results. The race of golovans mentioned in the Strugatskys’ novels – intelligent canines, differing from wolves only in the volume of the skull – is most likely a reliable portrait of a predator from an ancient planet.
Species are not large enough to acquire the required brain size, and reptiles, amphibians, arthropods will change much more. They will shift to a social lifestyle that allows them to adapt through the physical specialization of “castes”, or they will join complex schemes of symbiosis. One can imagine turtles with wasp nests in shells or colonial rodents, divided into castes: mouse-like – for actions in the forest litter, workers with a gliding membrane – to capture the upper tiers of the forest, digging – for construction, soldiers – for protection and petty predation.
The striking effect of “strangeness” occurs when a certain species of animals occupies an ecological niche that is clearly not intended for it. New Zealand kiwi bird – fake insectivorous mammal
Animals that do not feel a vocation either for higher mental activity, or for organization, or for symbiosis, will also find a way out. Scientists love to populate worlds with polymorphic monsters that change their appearance depending on the circumstances. But to change the form, it is not at all required to steal other people’s genes, as the xenomorph race does. You can have several sets of your own.
After the genetic code was deciphered, the zoological reference books had to be rewritten. It turned out that some fish species (including trout) are capable of forming up to four forms in one reservoir, differing in appearance and feeding method. Moreover, even adult fish, once in new conditions, are able to physically transform – for the best fit with them. Which is not so surprising if you remember that salmon even change the structure of the skull during the mating season.
Polymorphism, in the language of science called “genetic plasticity”, allows one species to capture any number of ecological niches and to adapt even to a rapidly changing environment. With only one limitation: if the ancestors of this species were once already adapted to it.
As you know, in its development the embryo repeats the history of the species. And some animals are able to “remember” the evolutionary solutions already found once. This method is effective in its own way – however, only for creatures that rely entirely on instinct and do not accumulate individual experience. After physical transformation, highly organized vertebrates will have to re-learn everything.
The xenomorph can have tentacles, claws, and a retractable moray eel mouth. But when painting his portrait, one cannot neglect the aesthetic side of the issue. Regardless of the strangeness, the alien beast – no matter whether it is real or well-designed – is likely to be beautiful. This applies to dangerous predators in the first place.
A person intuitively defines perfection and efficiency. Therefore, most of the terrestrial animals seem beautiful to us. Or at least not ugly. Except for spiders, insects and rats, the attitude towards which is predetermined by atavistic fear, the exceptions to this rule speak for themselves. Unpleasant-looking evolutionary outsiders – scavengers, parasites, underground, deep-sea or apparently obsolete creatures. Such as crocodiles. Snakes, for example, are still trending. They can be feared, and they are completely alien to man.