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Bizarre Alien Limbs

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This trope is when a non-human being has an unusual type of limb that does duty as a hand or foot. Or even as other things. Tentacles, prehensile tongues, pseudopods... you name it, somebody's written about it.

Common variations include extra joints in limbs, or an odd number of limbs, usually three.

For other types of strange appendages, see Artificial Limbs, Combat Tentacles and Multi-Armed and Dangerous. Subtrope of Bizarre Alien Biology; may be a sister trope to Bizarre Alien Locomotion, if legs are involved. Supertrope to Prehensile Tail, Prehensile Hair, and Multipurpose Tongue. May result in Operator Incompatibility for other species.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Elfen Lied the Diclonii look like humans but also possess a number of invisible (to anyone but themselves and the audience) "hands" called "vectors" that can extend for several meters and slice human flesh with ease. They are not exactly aliens but their origins are never quite elaborated upon.

    Comic Books 
  • Star Trek: Early Voyages: In the two-part story "The Fallen", the Chakuun are a centauroid race, possessing a lower body and four legs much like those of a horse.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: While the Rykornians are Plant Aliens and the females are large stationery stalks with long leaf-like tentacles the ambulatory males are small rhombus shaped beings whose only notably plant like parts are their four thin leaf-like limbs.

    Films — Animated 
  • Stitch from Lilo & Stitch has an extra pair of retractable arms that according to Word of God have a collapsible humerus that allow them to fold up like switchblades and neatly tuck behind his ribcage when not in use.
    • The same applies to many of his 'cousins', most notably 627 who has four extra retractable arms for a grand total of six.
    • On the non-experiment side, there is Pleakley, who has three stubby legs that make a distinctive rotating motion when he walks or runs.
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    Films — Live-Action 
  • The monkey-like Prolemuris from Avatar are a missing link between the four-limbed sapient Na'vi and the rest of the six-limbed Pandoran wildlife. Strangely, their arms are partly fused, having a single shoulder and humerus but bifurcating at the elbow joint.
  • The aliens in Battleship have hands that are apparently four opposing fingers. Also their feet appear to be similar to dogs' or cats' feet, in that they appear to walk on their toes.
  • Some of the kaiju in Pacific Rim have two seperate forearms attached to a single hand, making it look like their radius and ulna are splitting apart.
  • The MUTO from Godzilla (2014) have a total of eight limbs: in the male, he has one pair of front legs, one pair of wings, a pair of smaller arms on his abdominal region and a pair of digitigrade hind legs. The female MUTO has a similar arrangement, though instead of wings she has a second pair of forelegs.
  • Sebulba the Dug from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace walks on his arms, which lift his entire body off the ground and allow him to use his feet as hands, basically swapping the use of his arms and legs.
  • The Heptapods from Arrival have seven limbs, arranged radially around their bodies like a starfish. Each of the seven legs can open up into a star-shaped, seven-fingered hand, out of which they can produce a squid-ink like substance which they use to communicate.
  • Bor Gullet from Rogue One apparently uses his tentacles to Mind Rape people so that Saw Gerrera will know if they're lying to him.
  • The aliens from Spielberg's War of the Worlds provide the page image, featuring three legs and two arms, evoking the tripod fighting machines they pilot.

    Literature 
  • The gyrosprinter in Expedition is a two-legged antelope-like alien herbivore from the planet Darwin IV, with one front leg and one hind leg, seemingly from its front and back legs fusing together. Despite this seemingly unstable configuration the gyrosprinter evolved highly-efficient balance organs, becoming Darwin IV's fastest land animal.
    • There is also the Emperor Sea Strider, a massive bipedal creature that roams the Amoebic Sea: an immense, gelatinous superorganism covering a tenth of the planet's surface. As it feeds on this gelatinous material to support its great bulk, the Sea Strider has mouths located on its feet, taking bites out of the "sea" with every step.
    • Forest Sliders are born quadrupeds, but as they grow and mature, their back legs atrophy and are shed as a bony skid replaces them.
  • The flightless bats in After Man: A Zoology of the Future have played this trope to full effect, with some, such as the slothlike Shalloth, using its former wings as webbed, gripping hands, while others, like the predatory Nightstalker, actually walk around on their arms while using their hind legs as arms.
  • The mulefa in His Dark Materials have a single two-fingered trunk. Since even simple tasks, like tying a knot, require more than one individual, it strengthens the community's bond. They also have legs adapted to use a kind of giant disk-shaped seedpod as wheels.
  • Martians in Robert A. Heinlein's Double Star were mushroom-shaped entities capable of forming tentacle-like pseudopods.
  • The fithp from Footfall have twin elephant trunks that split into four little tentacles each.
  • In Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth novels, the Thranx have "truhands" at the end of their praying mantis-style forelimbs. They look like four tendrils about five inches long coming out of the end of the limb. Also, their second pair of limbs (out of four) end in pincerlike "foothands" which can do duty as either kind of limb.
  • Known Space: Puppeteers use their two heads as hands. The heads' lips are made of little finger-like fleshy lobes, and their slender tongues further enhance their dexterity. In effect, this means that puppeteers can see and taste with their hands.
  • In David Brin's Uplift series, the g'Keks are a semi-artificial, gene-engineered species that actually have biological wheels.
  • In The Andalite Chronicles the future Visser Three turns up at one point with a pair of semi-sapient aliens with biological wheels instead of legs. Elfangor, the POV character, is dumbfounded.
    • The Mercora look like giant, asymmetrical crabs. One side has four large legs, the other three smaller legs, meaning that they move sideways. The four-legged side also has a big, three-pronged claw, while the other has two humanlike arms, but stronger and with tapered, delicate fingers.
  • In the Doctor Who Missing Adventures novel Venusian Lullaby the Venusians have a lot of odd biology, including five tentacle-like arms and five tentacle-like legs.
  • In the John Carter of Mars series, many Barsoomian species have at least six limbs - two arms, two legs, and a third set of appendages that can serves as either extra arms or extra legs.
  • The Jan in Alien in a Small Town have three sexes with different body shapes. The male workers and sterile warriors each have three legs. The workers have three tentacles, two ending in three-fingered hands and the third ending in a big black eye (and no head). The warriors' single eye is flush with their bodies, but they have six tentacle arms each ending in a nasty hook. The female matriarchs are sessile, with no feet at all, and grow to the size of mountains, and have the same two-arms-and-eyestalk arrangement as the workers, but enormous.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The Future Is Wild, 200 million years in the future, and all mammals have become extinct. Their replacements are terrestrial cephalopods known as Terrasquids. Some, such as the elephant-like Megasquid, walk about on eight pillar-like tentacles (which have no bones and instead support its weight with contracted muscle), while others, such as the monkey-like Squibbon, use their tentacles to swing about in the treetops.
  • The Malcorians in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "First Contact" had fused phalanges with suction cups. Benzites from the same series had four opposing thumbs- two on each hand. The Traveler also had oddly-shaped hands, possessing fewer and larger fingers than humans.
  • The Centauri in the Babylon 5 have six prehensile tentacles that grow out of their backs, and apparently act as the male genitalia. At one point a Centauri is caught using it to cheat at cards, meaning that one can apparently extend several feet.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "Rule of Law", the Medusans have pincer appendages for arms.

    Video Games 
  • Pokémon has quite a few examples, most notably Hydreigon, a dragon whose hands contain smaller brainless heads that are used for eating or attacking.
  • The hanar in Mass Effect are essentially sapient jellyfish that can live on land. As such they have tentacles instead of legs, which is one of the reasons none of them ever move from place to place in game: the game engine is optimized for humanoid locomotion.
  • The horn-like appendages of the Zerglings from StarCraft were revealed in the Remastered edition to actually be an extra pair of vaguely-humanoid arms emerging directly behind their heads, almost like ears.
  • In the X-Universe the Boron are a race of squid-like aliens that have tentacles instead of legs. In the novelization of the first game this causes a Teladi doing a salvage operation on a wrecked Boron space station a few problems, since the computer terminals were designed for soft tentacles instead of lizard-like claws.
  • Implied for some of the aliens in Stellaris, as most are based on real animals that are known for this trope (see the Real Life section below). Special note to this arthropoid portrait.
  • In Ori and the Will of the Wisps, the mutant/zombie/demon owl Big Bad Shriek walks on her elongated wing digits Sebulba-style, allowing the use of her talons as makeshift hands.

    Web Comics 
  • The wyverns from Dark Wings have two little claws on their wing joints that act as crude hands.
  • Bleen from Vexxarr have six thin tentacles sprouting from just under their heads.
  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • Schlock himself is a carbosilicate amorph. He normally has two hand-shaped pseudopods and moves by sliding along, but in a pinch he can sprout an indefinite number of extra arms, and move by extending a big pseudopod from his underside with enough force to send himself flying several yards.
    • The same strip also has Neophants, elephants whose front feet can uncurl into hands, and Frellenti whose complete lack of arms is made up for by a prehensile tongue.

    Web Original 
  • Serina: The tribbets are tripedal terrestrial descendants of guppies that modified their tails and pectoral fins into three walking limbs. Beyond that, the various tribbet lineages develop a number of very unusual limb arrangements.
    • One lineage, the mammal-like tribbetheres, develop erect forearms with seven digits on each forepaw. One canithere species, the thylacine-like painted repandor, developed its single hind leg having a backwards-bending knee joint, and a downward-curved back that turns the hind leg into a spring to help launch the creature forward when running. Merwals, a type of aquatic canithere, have a tail fluke derived from its single hind leg, and thus still possesses an ankle and knee joint, almost resembling a person wearing a mermaid tail.
    • The antlears are a group of circuagodonts — herbivorous, ungulate-like tribbetheres — that developed mobile, jointed antler-like limbs on their ears that they use to pull branches down to their mouths. The explanation for this is that the ears of tribbetheres have a bony matrix in them due to being derived from the gill plates of their fish ancestors, unlike the cartilaginous ears of Earth mammals. This gives them much better mobility and the ability to grip.
    • Another group of tribbets entirely, the handfishes, shorten their forearms but lengthen their fingers instead, eventually turning their individual fingers into separate limbs themselves (becoming hexapedal with the former wrist becoming a double-shoulder joint).
  • Snaiad: The Tromobrachids have turned their front limbs into chewing "jaws", which funnel food directly to their chest-located mouths.

    Western Animation 
  • The South Park episode "Medicinal Fried Chicken" has a human example when Randy Marsh uses his balls as a hippity-hop after deliberately giving himself testicular cancer to get a prescription for medical cannabis.
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series:
    • Lieutenant Arex, a bridge officer aboard the Enterprise, has a third arm extending from his breastbone and a third leg between the other two.
    • During "The Eye of the Beholder", the away team on Lactra 7 is captured by gastropod aliens, which have one elephant-like appendage with three or four tendril fingers. The aliens put the away team in a zoo, because they regard humans as dumb animals.
  • Steven Universe:

    Real Life 
  • Ichthyosaurs, dolphin-like marine reptiles of the dinosaur age, evolved their forelimbs into paddles to aid in swimming. However, while dolphins retained five fingers inside each flipper, icthyosaurs sprouted extra digits in their flippers with some having as many as TEN digits on each flipper. What's more, while most vertebrates only have three or four bones in each finger, icthyosaurs had as many as twelve bones in each digit: which, combined with the ungodly number of fingers to begin with, makes the skeletal structure of their foreflippers look less like a hand and more like some freakish cob of corn. Nobody is really sure why they evolved such unusual limbs, though a theory suggests it may have helped their flippers form a hydrofoil.
  • Single-celled organisms mostly use pseudopods, temporary tentacle-like projections that can extend and retract from any part of the cell membrane at will.
  • Elephants' trunks are a good example of a functional "arm" that evolved non-homologously to primates' arms.
  • Octopuses are very good at manipulating objects with their tentacles. In fact, each tentacle has a tiny brain of its own, meaning that when an octopus wants to perform a task, the main brain simply commands the arm brain what to do—and the arm itself figures out how to do it.
  • Most arthropods use both their legs and mandibles for manipulation. Most notably, scorpions: their trademark pincers are modifed from mouthparts called pedipalps.
  • Some monkeys and apes can use their tail and/or feet. New World monkeys in particular have tails adapted for grasping branches, functioning as a third hand of sorts when climbing in the treetops. Orangutans are also adapted to living in trees, with arms long enough to be used like crutches when they have to move around on the ground.
  • While kangaroos hop on two legs when moving quickly, when walking at a slower pace they use a unique swinging gait that makes use of the hind legs alternating with the arms and tail, essentially making the kangaroo the only vertebrate animal alive today that walks with an odd number of limbs.
  • Sideshow performer Johnny Eck (immortalised in the movie Freaks) was born with a truncated torso and useless vestigial legs small enough to be hidden under his clothes. He got around by walking on his hands.

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