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Bizarre Alien Limbs

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"I'm sorry. It was an accident, I didn't mean to step on your... whatever that is."
Alex Rogan, The Last Starfighter

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 or Vertebrate with Extra Limbs, if legs are involved. Supertrope to Handy Feet, Prehensile Tail, Prehensile Hair, and Multipurpose Tongue. May result in Operator Incompatibility for other species.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Elfen Lied: The Diclonii look like humans but also possess a number of invisible (to anyone but themselves and the audience) and flexible appendages called "vectors" that can extend for several meters and slice human flesh with ease.

    Comic Books 
  • The DCU:
    • Superman: In The Untold Story of Argo City, alien Zygors have three tentacle-limbs which they use to feed themselves and propel their bodies through the void of space.
    • 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.
  • 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.

    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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Arrival: The Heptapods 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.
  • Avatar: The monkey-like Prolemuris 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.
  • Battleship: The aliens 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.
  • Godzilla (2014): The MUTO 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.
  • Pacific Rim: Some of the kaiju have two seperate forearms attached to a single hand, making it look like their radius and ulna are splitting apart.
  • Star Wars: Dugs, such as Sebulba from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, walk on their hands, which lift their entire bodies off the ground and allow them to use their feet as hands, basically swapping the use of their arms and legs.
  • War of the Worlds (2005): The aliens have three walking legs and two smaller, two-fingered arms hanging from their chests, evoking the tripod fighting machines they pilot.

  • After Man: A Zoology of the Future:
    • The grobbit is a small hoofed mammal which can use its feet to grasp branches and pull them low for browsing. Double dewclaws make it far better at hooking and gripping vegetation than any extant hoofed animal.
    • The flightless bats 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.
  • Alien in a Small Town: The Jan 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.
  • Animorphs:
    • 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.
    • In the Time of Dinosaurs: The Mercora look like giant, asymmetrical crabs. One side has four large legs and 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.
  • Doctor Who Missing Adventures: In Venusian Lullaby, the Venusians have a lot of odd biology, including five tentacle-like arms and five tentacle-like legs.
  • Expedition:
    • The gyrosprinter 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.
    • The Emperor Sea Strider is 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.
  • Double Star: Martians are mushroom-shaped entities capable of forming tentacle-like pseudopods.
  • Footfall: The fithp have twin elephant trunks that split into four little tentacles each.
  • His Dark Materials: The mulefa 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.
  • Humanx Commonwealth: The Thranx have four pairs of limbs. The hind four ends in feet; the foremost ends in "truhands", which look like four tendrils about five inches long coming out of the end of the limb. Their remaining pair end in pincerlike "foothands" which can do duty as either kind of limb.
  • John Carter of Mars: 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.
  • 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. They also have three legs - two forelegs and a single hind leg.
  • Uplift: The g'Keks are a semi-artificial, gene-engineered species that actually have biological wheels.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5: The Centauri 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 Future Is Wild: 200 million years in the future, 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 the creature's weight with contracted muscle), while others, such as the monkey-like Squibbon, use their tentacles to swing about in the treetops.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "Rule of Law", the Medusans have pincer appendages for arms.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • "First Contact": The Malcorians have fused phalanges with suction cups.
    • Benzites have four opposing thumbs — two on each hand.
    • The Traveler has oddly-shaped hands, possessing fewer and larger fingers than humans.

    Video Games 
  • The Eternal Cylinder has quite a few examples. One such creature is the Great Gaaahr, a giant desert herbivore that as an infant floats through the air on a balloon-like gas sac while alternately hopping on its single leg, while as an adult its leg splits into three and becomes a tripedal walker as it has now grown too heavy to float.
  • Mass Effect: The hanar 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.
  • 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.
  • Pok√©mon has quite a few examples, most notably Hydreigon, a dragon whose hands contain smaller brainless heads that are used for eating or attacking.
  • Spore Creatures: There are numerous legs and arms in the game that don't resemble anything typical, such as the Bubleebu's arms and legs; each leg and arm has two separate joints ending in a fine claw point for a hand or foot.
  • StarCraft: The horn-like appendages of the Zerglings are revealed in the Remastered edition to actually be an extra pair of vaguely-humanoid arms emerging directly behind their heads, almost like ears.
  • Stellaris: Implied for some of the aliens, 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.
  • X: 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.

  • Dark Wings: The wyverns have two little claws on their wing joints that act as crude hands.
  • 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.
  • Vexxarr: Bleen have six thin tentacles sprouting from just under their heads.

    Web Original 
  • Hamster's Paradise:
    • The rhinocheirids are a family of bipedal hamster descendants that have evolved an elephant-like trunk but theirs have three lobes at the end due to the split upper lips possessed by rodents, leading to what is similar to a three fingered hand. One descendant of the rhinocheirid, the fisshors, are more reliant on tool use and even developed a second trunk on their lower lip for increased dexterity.
    • The wingles are a lineage of rattile — lizard-like hamster descendant with scales derived from hair — that have adapted to flap four elongated scales rabidly thanks to enlarged and modified erector pili muscles, allowing them to fly like insects. Some species are even capable of shedding and regrowing them since they are basically just fur.
    • The cricetaceans swim like whales but lack a tail, so their hind flippers are similar to a fluke and they propel themselves by undulating their spines.
    • In the Temperocene, some species of the vaguely snake-like burrowurm develop a toxin derived from their skin glands that causes severe allergic reactions and delivers it into the bodies of prey and predators through their front limbs which have been turned into fanged pinchers. One marine species, the sterpent, had moved their pinchers directly behind their heads and effectively turned them into a second set of jaws now that they no longer needed to use them for terrestrial locomotion.
    • The daggoths are a cave-dwelling molrock descendant that has developed seven tentacles on their faces that they use to hunt insects. They've also greatly reduced their legs and scurry around on sixteen elongated toes. It goes even farther with their troglofauna descendants. With greater space and oxygen after their tunnels expand their digits become more erect and effectively become legs with some species repurposing their fingers into long feelers and their aquatic member turning them into eight pairs of flippers.
    • The searrels are a small species of hamatee that have developed a claw on their front flippers and have turned their hind flippers into a backwards facing pincher that they use to climb through the mats of coast kudzu that they live in.
  • 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, develops its single hind leg into having a backwards-bending knee joint and a downward-curved back that turn 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. Burrowing antlears and their scorplear descendants later adapt to use their ears as an additional set of legs.
      • The siphontooth is a species of gliding tribbethere which becomes the first-ever quadrupedal tribbet, despite the basic tribbet body plan having only three legs, by hypertrophying the fingers of its hindleg until the two lateral ones become grasshopper-like legs, while the middle one remains as a balancing organ.
      • 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).
    • The snuffalo is a large grazing flightless bird with short legs and a large head that comes with a thick beak that they use like a third limb due to how heavy their skull is.
    • The bumplets are a species of small burrowing bird that uses wings tipped with two claws for digging. This resulted in their wrist bones growing larger till they reached their shoulders, meaning that they, and their more terrestrial descendants the bumblebadgers, have no elbows. One of their sapient descendants, thalassic gravediggers, rely on group cooperation in order to effectively make and use their tools since they lack to dexterity to do so alone even with their more prehensile fingers.
  • Snaiad: The Tromobrachids have turned their front limbs into chewing "jaws", which funnel food directly to their chest-located mouths.
  • The online Speculative Biology community has adopted the term "centaurism" in reference to appendages, once used for locomotion, being re-purposed for other tasks over the course of evolution.

    Western Animation 
  • South Park: "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, belongs to a species called Edoans, who are basically humanoid with a third arm extending from the middle of the chest and a third leg between the other two. In one of the Star Trek Logs, Captain Kirk mentions a story about an Edoan who lived on Earth for a while, and made an excellent living as a pickpocket until the police realized he had a third arm.
    • "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.
  • Insects are the only type of flying animal known that doesn't use modified legs to fly. In fact, scientists have yet to reach a consensus as to what body part insects' wings originally evolved from. Some theories include extensions of the exoskeleton and modified gills!