You don't get more Alien
-looking than this.
Extra-terrestrials are weird. Sometimes, really
weird. They may look relatively normal
or mind-bendingly freakish
, but whatever their appearance, you can bet that they don't work
like us. They may have green blood
or six sexes
or any of a variety of other features that make it clear: these are alien!
at the hard end of the Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness
is more likely to feature really bizarre examples of Bizarre Alien Biology
, though the soft end can get pretty weird at times too, especially when the Rule Of Cool
or Rule of Funny
is in play.
May turn up during an Alien Autopsy
. Compare Anatomy Tropes
. Assuming that extra-terrestrial life exists (at least in forms more complex than bacteria), this is almost certainly Truth in Television
; the idea that life evolving on an entirely different planet would be particularly similar to life that evolved on Earth is so unlikely as to not even be worth considering.
Categories of aliens that may display Bizarre Alien Biology:
Some specific types of Bizarre Alien Biology:
Examples that don't fit in the above categories:
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Anime and Manga
- From Dragon Ball Z, we have several different types of aliens:
- The Saiyans are Human Aliens who are insanely aggressive and love to fight, have tails, and can transform into giant apes in the light of the full moon if they still have their tails. Not to mention if they are put close to death and recover, they increase in strength exponentially. Despite this, they can interbreed with humans.
- Piccolo's race, the Namekians, are apparently modeled after slugs. They have visible musculature, the ability to regrow pretty much anything so long as their head is intact (Piccolo once regenerated from being broken into pieces as a statue), and green skin (the muscles are pink, though). They also reproduce asexually and are universally male.
- Then there's Frieza's race. They can survive the vacuum of space, are naturally so powerful they can casually destroy planets, can shapeshift to limit their power so as not to destroy their surroundings, and are durable enough to survive the destruction of an entire planet while grievously wounded (however, while Frieza did survive, his injuries likely would have claimed his life if not for expedient medical attention).
- Humans are not bizarre biologically, but they are apparently the only race in the entire cosmos which has learned on their own to sense power levels naturally and conceal theirs if they desire. Other races can learn this, but none have managed this without humans (directly or otherwise) teaching them.
- Majin Buu is not only immune to cyanide, but actually likes the taste of it.
- The Xenomorphs' longtime foes, the Yautja, from the Predator series, have their own weird biology. Most notably, the "dreadlocks" they wear don't appear to be hair at all. Prop skulls from Predators show large sockets for the tendrils.
- Expanded Universe material suggests that the dreadlocks are in fact hair, melted together into tendrils in an incredibly painful rite of passage. Of course the Yautja are still bizarre, what with their glowing yellow-green blood and eyes that register heat rather than visible light.
- Depending on which source, instead of melted together, braided together. The process takes days and is very painful. If the subject so much as winces in pain, the whole thing is undone and must be done again from the beginning.
- On Men In Black, half the humor and plot points are drawn from the biological characteristics of the aliens they encounter, and K's encyclopaedic knowledge thereof. No matter how weird they look, almost all of them find ways to pass for a human. Or, in one case, a small dog. Or, in one novelized case, potted trees. Of course, the MIB refuse access to Earth to anything that cannot blend in with humanity.
- The second movie had a subway-train-sized alien worm with a tiny flower on its head hiding just beneath the surface, disguised as a weed.
- In Avatar, most animals on Pandora breathe through spiracles in their chests rather than nostrils and possess six limbs or appendages.
- In Larry Niven's Known Space series, the Pierson's Puppeteers have three legs ending in hooves, two heads that "resemble Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent puppets" and double as hands, and have their brains in the middle of their torso.
- Bandersnatchi are giant slug-like single-celled organisms with a single chromosome as thick as your finger. Also quite possibly the oldest surviving species in known space.
- The Gw'oth come from an icy moon not unlike Europa. They are five-limbed octopuses that are able to link with each other to become incredibly intelligent supercomputers.
- And last, but certainly not least, are the Pak, of which humans are a subspecies. They have an infant stage, an adult breeder stage and, when infected by a virus present in the Tree of Life root, transform into the biologically immortal Protector stage whose sole purpose is to keep its descendants safe, no matter the collateral damage.
- The Sector General series lives by this trope. It's a hospital that caters to the most outlandish cases in the galaxy, treating aliens of all shapes and sizes. Really' all shapes and sizes; Rubber Forehead Aliens is completely averted in favour of whatever the author mind could conceive. The effects budget is not an issue in novels.
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe often describes the unusual biology of aliens. In the films, the details of a species are rarely gone into in any depth.
- Tbe Codru-Ji starts life a dog-like creature with 6 legs the size of a Doberman. As adults, they look like normal humans, only with 4 arms. No fur or otherwise canine features remain.
- Banthas. Seriously◊.
- Piers Anthony's Cluster series has numerous biologically bizarre aliens, including a water-squirting ball that lives off atmospheric gasses, magnetically-levitating disks of metallic particles that communicate by laser, a teardrop-shaped being with a single tentacle who rolls on a track-ball instead of legs (said ball also serving as the egg for females) and tastes the ground as it rolls, and sentient slime-fish with three sexes.
- The Xsarn of the Gamester Wars trilogy resemble tentacled insects who form a seasonal hundred-person "mating ball" to reproduce (I've never been to one of those kinds of parties...) and eat feces. Since other species' wastes contain little food energy, they must eat almost constantly, and so Xsarn tend to carry feeding troughs with them everywhere. Making it worse, they tend to regurgitate when they get overexcited (which happens a lot). And You Do NOT Want To Know what their greeting ritual is like...
- In Vonda McIntyre's Dreamsnake, the titular creatures superficially resemble ordinary small snakes, and are most notable for the use of their venom as a narcotic and painkiller. Unfortunately, they're rare and difficult to breed in captivity. The protagonist discovers that this is because they actually need biological input from three parents—not to mention exposure to extreme cold—in order to successfully reproduce.
- In the "Shatnerverse" series of Star Trek novels, where Kirk is resurrected after his death in Generations and goes on to live in the 24th century, the main characters encounter a super-secret group of Starfleet black-ops scientists with some pretty wongo ships. Several crewmembers are fully holographic, for example. The captain of the lead ship, a woman named Raddison, has a holodeck for a ready-room, and she appears in a different form with her room set to a different natural disaster recreation to different characters; a small Chinese woman to Kirk, a striking blonde to Riker, etc. In the end, Kirk asks her to at least tell him, among all of her secrets, which of her forms is the real one. She smiles and says, although using a plot reference instead of these words, that he's short-sighted for assuming all species are bipedal. Kirk, at this point, realizes that no matter what her holodeck ready-room looks like, there is always one single constant in the room that never changes. Captain Raddison is the room's potted plant.
- From the mainstream Star Trek Novel Verse:
- Syrath are crystalline life-forms who can regenerate themselves from only small pieces due to non-centralized anatomy, making them effectively immortal, if subject to personality change depending on how much original material is retained.
- Frunalians undergo a metamorphosis during their adult life in which their exoskeleton falls off, their biochemistry (and personality) change and a fleshy mane-like sensory organ erupts down their backs. Frunalians know this change as "the Shift".
- Pacifican Selkies also undergo a metamorphosis, from amphibious breeder to fully aquatic adult; again, part way through their adult lives.
- Seleneans are able to link their brains together through specialized spines that permit them to alter each others' brain chemistry as a means of communication.
- Several of the species featured in Star Trek: Ex Machina, whose physiologies and cultures are expanded from background material associated with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. These include the balleen-feeder Megarites, who require "drysuits" when out of water, and survive on nutrient injections where they can't filter-feed. Then there's the Zaranites, who rely on fluorine-dependent micro-organisms as part of their respiration.
- In Animorphs, Hork-Bajir have two hearts and can survive being shot in one, Andalites have no mouths and absorb nutrients through their hooves and Yeerk reproduction involves three, none of which survive.
- That's nothing compared to the Skrit Na, two species in one. A Skrit is basically a giant, fairly stupid cockroach, which at some point spins itself a cocoon and apparently dies. However, out of its dead body comes a Na, a smarter (but still weird) creature which is basically a member of The Greys.
- In the Cthulhu Mythos Mi-go look like crustaceans with batlike wings and a fleshy orb covered with small tentacles in place of a head, but biologically they are closer to fungi (and they're not really fungi eighter. It's just what they resemble the most from Earth organisms). The Elder Things are described as being something akin to a mix of vegetable and crinoid. And lets not even go to the Great Old Ones which are not really made out of matter in the strictest sense of the word.
- The entire landscape in The Stormlight Archive is like this. Probably has something to do with the massive highstorms coming every couple days. Most of the plants and animals look like things you'd find underwater. Extra bonus goes to the Parshendi, who are humanoid but literally grow their own armour (as in, it's a part of them), which weirds out people in-story.
- The Demonocles in Rumo and His Miraculous Adventures have incredibly complex tongues, containing a structure akin to a secondary spinal cord. Break it, and you have crippled the Demonocle (and scared the living shit out of his buddies).
- One of the recurring themes of Keith Laumer's Retief series was bizarre alien biology that didn't fit the preconceived notions of the Obstructive Bureaucrats in the diplomatic corps, leading to horrible snafus that only Retief could sort out.
- The kif from C.J. Cherryh's Chanur Novels have two sets of jaws, one at the front of their mouths and one at the back. The front set of jaws is used to rip flesh off of still-living prey, while the second set chews the meat into a paste before swallowing it (the throat of a kif is so narrow that it's incapable of swallowing anything solid). Further, the kif are carnivores who can only eat fresh meat, where "fresh" means "could be used in organ/muscle transplant operations". Meat that most other species of carnivores would consider fresh will make kif so nauseous that even when starving to death they'll be unable to eat it.
- The t'ca (giant methane-breathing snake-worms) give birth if subjected to enough psychological stress.
- In one of the Monk books, a convention for a Star Trek Expy are in town. The Spock Expy is an alien with pointed ears, a trunk, and three mouths.
- Comes up in, of all places, The Chronicles of Narnia, when it is mentioned that centaurs have the stomach of a man and the stomach of a horse, and both appetites are very large, so a centaur's breakfast begins at sunrise and lasts until mid-to-late morning. (if looking for a specific reference, this is close to the end of The Silver Chair, after escaping the underground realm)
- The Cheela from Dragon's Egg are a pretty extreme example: living on a neutron star, they're not even made of atoms, but rather of tightly-packed atomic nuclei. Their body "chemistry" being based on nuclear reactions —millions of times faster than normal chemical reactions — they live and think much faster than humans, which is central to the plot. The fact they're also half-Plant Aliens and Blob Monsters that can create and dissolve their bones at will is just the icing on the cake.
- Clifford Simak was prolific at creating imaginative aliens, often at least three or four new ones in each novel or story. Just in Project Pope, there were Dusters (sentient clouds of dust) and Spheres (spherical aliens that had to make themselves beat like a drum to talk to humans) amongst quite a few others.
- Year Zero features a smorgasbord of weird aliens.
- The Souls from The Host leaving aside the fact that they have no eyes (or mouths?), have blood and other tissue that's silvery in color, and are effectively a very squishy, gracefully flowing centipede with brain-controlling tentacles, their reproductive method, which involves suiciding queens splitting apart into thousands upon thousands of tiny little babies is... well, yeah.
- Star Trek has a few examples beyond its usual Human Alien and Rubber Forehead Alien groups, like the Trill, who are (two or) three species with separate degrees of this. The Trill symbionts are alien slugs that live for millennia, and can bond with humans or humanoid aliens. Though only the humanoids of their own homeworld are suitable as permanent hosts. Semi-permanent, rather, since once the host dies the symbiont gets transplanted into a new one. Given that this is done surgically, how did the humanoid Trill and symbiont Trill ever even figure out that such a thing was possible? It's not as if when two sentient species meet, surgically implanting one into the other is a logical thing to attempt.
- A Starfleet officer on DS9 named Vilix'pran (whose species has not been shown on screen) "budded" many children. Who had wings that had to be kept from tangling. Oh right, Vilix'pran takes the pronoun "he".
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine also had the Changelings, a race of shapeshifters whose default form is gelatinous liquid and who live in a collective living ocean called the Great Link.
- The freaking Ocampa. Lifespan of nine years. Body temperature around 16 degrees Celsius. Can only have one child. When ready to mate, they exude a yellow substance from their hands and must have an hour long foot massage with 50 hours of the substance appearing to enable mating. Give birth standing up, from a sack between their shoulders. While their psychic powers probably helped, one still wonders how a species with such bizarre, not to mention mathematically troublesome, method of reproduction could have come about in the first place.
- Just to be fair, it was never said that Ocampa can only have one child, just that if they DON'T breed when the first opportunity comes up, they never will.
- In the episode of Angel where Fred has her body usurped by an Eldritch Abomination, she and Wesley spend the first couple of minutes fighting some small gremlin-like monsters, then discussing the creatures' biology. She describes a portion of their reproductive process, which evidently involves crystals, bacteria, and parasitism.
- Farscape is, unusually for a TV series, full of truly bizarre aliens (as well as having the usual complement of humanoid and Rubber Forehead Aliens).
- Hynerians fart helium when nervous.
- Luxans can survive in a vacuum for a time, and their blood is clear when healthy and cloudy when ill or injured. And there's their tongues, which are longer than the rest of their body, and contains a spectrum sedative capable of knocking out almost any living creature it touches.
- Then there's the fact that Scarrans don't have external sexual organs, which Chiana discovers after collapsing in agony from trying to knee one in the mivonks.
- Pilot, and other members of the species known as "pilots", are adapted to be able to physically link with and communicate with the intelligent starships, to the point where removing them is dangerous.
- The intelligent starships themselves, like Moya, are adapted to work with the pilot species, and, in general, to have human-like creatures living inside themselves. The degree to which the DRDs (repair 'bots) inside Moya are biological and part of her, vs. being mechanical and independent, is somewhat unclear as well.
- It'd probably be quicker to give a list of aliens on that show who don't have Bizarre Alien Biology.
- Humans. Good night.
- Actually, Sebaceans are said to have a similar anatomy to humans- genetically compatible in fact. The only significant difference is that Sebeaceans go into an incurable vegetative state if exposed to excessive heat. Somewhat justified, as it's heavily implied that the Sebacean race was actually a genetically modified off-shoot of humanity).
- The TV version of Alien Nation uses this a LOT. EVERY FRACKING EPISODE introduces some new and strange bit of Newcomer biology (including a whole arc about their strange reproductive process).
- Doctor Who: while the Time Lords looks perfectly identical to humans on the outside, they have two hearts and possess several strange powers, including the ability to regenerate when they are about to die, causing them to immediately reset their cells and biological makeup and reborn with a new face and slightly altered personality.
- Alf: Melmacians have ten major organs, eight of which are stomachs. (They get denser instead of fatter.) And they have green blood.
- Marvin from Nick's Fantastic Comedy Marvin Marvin has five stomachs, though one is apparently used to emit a mating call. The gases in Marvin's stomach also allow him to float when he's really happy.
- Marvin apparently has the ability to superheat or supercool his finger.
- When Marvin gets a toothache in the third episode (aptly titled "Toothache") the tooth has to be removed before it explodes
- The Centauri of Babylon 5, besides their peculiar reproductive anatomy and two hearts, also have no major blood vessels in their wrists. Since they are basically Human Aliens (with funny hairdos), this is somewhat notable; the Centauri themselves reference this a lot.
- The excreta of the bonnacon, a bovine creature of Greek myth, caught fire upon contact with air; the beasts used that particular quirk in their anatomy as a weapon. And there's of course the hydra with its quite impressive regenerative physiology in regard the decapitations... And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
- The Orks in Warhammer 40000 are said to be a mix between flesh and blood beings and fungus. Upon their death they release spores that in turn give birth to Orks and other creatures linked to them (Snotlings and squigs, for instance).
- Another very alien part in their biology is that ork-species never stop growing. If they get wounded and are allowed to heal, they grow even faster. Normally living organisms have a genetic limit on how big they can be, or they are limited by the environment where they live, but orks and their sub-species can grow infinitely.
- That may or may not actually be part of their biology, but rather a part of their innate psychic field. Just as Ork technology runs on Clap Your Hands If You Believe, many Ork leaders grow larger just because his underlings believe that he already is.
- The Necromorphs are Hive Mind obeying alien bacteria that reanimate corpses into various Body Horror Demonic Spiders. Destroying the head doesn't slow them down, and unloading ammo into their torso doesn't either. Only hacking off their limbs, tentacles and yellow tumor-like growths stops them from turning you into food or another corpse to reanimate.
- They can even convert dead body parts. Say you have a chopped-off finger that gets infected by the necrovirus: It'll sprout tentacles and spines and attack you.
- Dead Space's Necromorphs are basically The Thing (1982) IN SPACE. Though less paranoia about who is one, and more paranoia about when one is gonna pop out of air vent and tear you a few superfluous holes.
- Star Control aliens include anything from Blue-Skinned Space Babes to living crystals crackling with electrical discharges and innate hyperspace communication capability, to Eldritch Abomination Hive Mind chatting in Starfish Language.
- While most of the aliens in Deadlock are pretty standard Space Opera, the Uva Mosk (think a three-way cross between a shrub, a human, and either an anteater or a turnip) definitely fall into this category.
- Zerg from StarCraft. Their organ tissues randomly mutate (and, in certain cases, steal new DNA from a new prey creature), and their hyperpowered immune system hunts it down, invoking "survival of the fittest, nature red in tooth and claw" on the genetic level. This allows a piece of formerly dead and rotten Zerg tissue cultured in a laborotory to un-decompose, and evolve 1000,000 times more than humans ever have in the space of a week. Their alpha amino acids have unique "R groups" that allow damaged cells to fuse with protein to repair themselves. It also allows them to ignore Biochemical Barriers by adapting to be compatible with host organisms. They can reproduce through parasitic fusion, or larvae produced from a building that eats mineral crystals, drinks liquid vespene gas, and is built around six wombs (complete with birth canals), a brain, and a stomach. Their buildings are really self-contained organisms that are based on the genetically programmed nest site architecture of their prey species, and one building is specifically designed to do that ultra-evolution thing at an accelerated rate. They don't need to breathe, and their flesh is dense enough to count as a spacesuit. Their metabolism is so fast that, on top of meat, they eat minerals and drink vespene (which is a mutagen, so that helps things along considerably). The downside to this is that they are very susceptable to radiation poisoning.
- The Protoss are relatively normal biologically in comparison, but that's not saying much in light of the above. They've got digitigrade legs, and No Mouth, which they make up for by being photosynthetic and able to absorb water vapor through the skin. Also, with a bit of training, they can turn pure rage into Wrist Blades and cut you to pieces. With a bit more training, it's either invisibility or climate-altering Psychic Storms.
- In Metroid, Kraid is a relatively normal looking three-eyed dinosaur — except for those awfully large spikes that constantly shoot out of his belly.
- Quarians in Mass Effect are examples of Mirror Chemistry, mentioned above. They also evolved on a world where, apparently due to the strange nature of local microbes, their immune system evolved to adapt to and assimilate foreign microbes instead of rejecting them as with all other species in the galaxy. This made them extremely vulnerable to infection from more hostile microbes, though it's explained the problem is less the microbe's doing and more the efforts of the quarian immune system to assimilate it. Three centuries in sterile spaceship environments has only made their immune systems even weaker, forcing them to live permanently inside sterile suits.
- Turians in the same series are avians with similar Mirror Chemistry to Quarians, requiring them to eat their own specific sorts of food or risk digestive distress. Except for some reason they can still consume human doughnuts with no trouble.
- Given the nutritional value of the average doughnut, that is hardly surprising. You might as well eat well-oiled, sugared, cardboard. No meaningful amount of Mirror Chemistry needed.
- In Lusternia, humans are regarded this way. The ability to specialize into different skills? The capacity to interbreed with other races? Freaks! (It helps that in Lusternian lore, humans are from a different dimension entirely.)
- The insectoid Cirbozoids of Starslip Crisis take this to an intentionally comical extreme. For starters, they reproduce asexually (the exact process is never shown); have alkaline blood they can spray through their vestigial eyes — they see with their antenna; they have dorsal gill slits that become clogged with excess blood and need to be purged periodically to keep their hearts from stopping; their carapaces secrete Ritalin; their vital organs are held in their abdomen, making almost their entire body expendable; and their natural mode of walking is skipping. Once, Memnon praised the natural artistry in some crystalline structures in Jinx's cabin; they were the result of the Cirbozoid equivalent of a head cold. And they can only breathe out. Also Mr. Jinx produces Bourbon as a waste product, much to the delight to the local rehabilitated space pirate.
- On multiple occasions, the ship has been saved by any of a variety of gases or fluids that the Cirbozoid crewmember produces. Once, early on, he asks that they get some security personnel so that they can get along without the constant need for his secretions.
- As today's comic (Tuesday, September 9, 2008) demonstrates, Cirbozoids are quite literally a Do Anything Species-if you have a need to be met, a Cirbozoid can probably use some highly specialized reproductive processes and give you a temporary to cover for you until the permanent replacement arrives.
- It's not only their bodies that are different, but their brains; they are incapable of understanding art. This becomes a major plot point.
- Daria is a dragon who on a whim decides to live with humans. While she's very interested in tools and technology, she is completely repulsed by the fact that humans eat, of all things, PLANTS! Her later revelation that fairies eat bugs spurs her to try to fix this problem, but she forgets about it almost instantly.
- In Goblins, Kin the yuan-ti (basically a human with a snake tail instead of legs) mentions that she has two stomachs.
- In Exiern Dragons leave their young in the still smouldering embers of burnt out buildings, the baby dragons resemble normal human infants and grow up looking like (and thinking they are) humans until they reach their late teens when some sort of homing instinct draws them towards other dragons. They spend some time in a half-human/half-dragon state while they gradually lose their human identities, before growing into their final dragon form.
- The tentaculas of Love And Tentacles. Not only do they have three different types of tentacles with very distinct purposes, they also have a two-pronged tongue.
- Gunnerkrigg Court has at least two Merostomatozons, one of least bizarre features being that they "have 47 eyes and 15 not-eyes". Also, descendants of a female fire elemental.
- Drive has Skitter, who can detect gravitational waves with his mohawk.
- Homestuck's trolls. They have a caste system divided between 11 normal blood colors (the "hemospectrum") which goes from short-lived, psychic rust-bloods all the way up to violent & dangerous bluebloods and sea-dweller violet bloods. They have an insect-like life cycle and are born from a separate mother grub species which takes in genetic material carried by drones in pails. Genes from couples that feel the strongest love or hate for each other tend to win out of the incestuous slurry, and troll gender is irrelevant to reproduction. And that doesn't even go into all the bizarre anatomical details hinted at by "auricular sponge clots," "bone bulge," "chitinous windhole," etc.
- Hitmen For Destiny has this down to an art form. These usually come in the form of Professor Lostclock Dripkettle's incredibly descriptive narratives about the various odds and ends of the monsters that inhabit the many worlds of the comic from the stomach monsters who find their prey through living portals that lead to a giant stomach; to the fibra, who may very well be the least efficient creature to ever live.
- In Irregular Webcomic!, Iki Piki has a "splanch" (at least he does before his organs are harvested). It's purpose is unexplained, except that without it he'll die. The Darths & Droids version of Zam Wesell has one as well.