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Xref: info.physics.utoronto.ca alt.answers:4682 alt.cult-movies:58590 news.answers:29936 rec.answers:7606 rec.arts.movies:183727 rec.arts.sf.movies:27944 Newsgroups: alt.cult-movies,rec.arts.sf.movies,rec.arts.movies,news.answers,rec.answers,alt.answers Path: news.twi.tudelft.nl!vos From: Vos@Dutiws.TWI.TUDelft.NL Subject: MOVIES: ALIEN FAQ part 4/4 Message-ID: Followup-To: rec.arts.sf.movies Sender: vos@dutiws.twi.tudelft.nl (E.W.C. de Vos) Organization: Weyland Yutani - "Building Better Worlds" Date: Wed, 28 Sep 1994 17:05:55 GMT Approved: news-answers-request@MIT.Edu Expires: Wed, 2 Nov 1994 23:00:00 GMT Lines: 822 Posting-Frequency: approx. every month Archive-name: movies/alien-faq/part4 Version: 2.1 &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& & & & ALIEN, ALIENS and ALIEN^3 & & & & Information and Frequently Asked Questions & & & & Version 2.1 & & & & PART 4 of 4 & & & &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& 16. SOME HEAVY DEDUCTIONS The following is a highly speculative theory regarding the evolutionary history of the alien creatures and their natural hosts, as well as the nature and conditions of the alien homeworld. These speculations are based on the following assumptions; that the alien evolved on a planet and was not created de novo by another species in its current form, that the alien and its homeworld have been shaped by physical and evolutionary forces which are similar to those in effect on our own world, that the alien is not the dominant life form on its homeworld, existing instead as part of a complex ecosystem, and that the homeworld is as diverse with life forms and potential habitats as is our own. The information used as a basis for this speculation comes solely from the Alien, Aliens and Alien^3 films. Important common features of aliens taken from the 3 films: Host dependent reproduction Dual stage metamorphic life cycle Metallo-silicate exoskeleton Endoskeleton in juvenile form Growth-stage mediated shedding of skin Low pH blood Increased speed & strength (relative to human standards) Large curving crania of varying morphology Internal mouthed tongue Carnivorous external teeth Air sac bellows in the juvenile form Articulated limbs and tail in all life stages Varying number of limbs and digits in different life stages Predatory or greater intelligence Copious production of "slime' Presumed common features observed in some subset of the films: Presumed sociality and communication (i.e., the hive was not a fluke) Internal pressure greater than 14 psi Body temperature equals ambient temperature Can "breathe" underwater Nest built in hot area Some or all of these features may be due to the adaptation/modification of the organism to its current lifestyle as a space faring parasitic species. In the case of modification, it would be most parsimonious to assume that the aliens were intended for use as biological weapons. This theory assumes that the creatures found in space are adapted or modified to living in this habitat, and focuses on estimating their possible ancestral forms and the state of the ancestral homeworld. It assumes that any modifications and adaptations have been made using pre-existing characteristics, so that the ancestral creatures posses similar characteristics. The creatures found in space are referred to as "modern" in the following discussion. To avoid confusion between discussions of various theorized species and their respective life cycles, the life stages have been given specific designations as follows: Life cycle phases: Life stage designation [1] Egg is lain EGG *maturation phase* [this period might occur in utero] [2] Egg matures *dormant phase* [length of this phase is indefinite] Host signals are detected = motion + sounds [3] Egg hatches and mobile crawler follows signals to hostLARVA [4] Host's breathing orifice is secured by "face hugging" crawler *implantation phase* ~24 hours Embryo is implanted in host breathing system. EMBRYO Crawler falls off, dead. *gestation phase* ~1-10 days [5] Chestbuster emerges from host NYMPH [6] Chestbuster stage undergoes a series of instar-like INSTAR transformations until the imago is achieved. IMAGO [7] Queen-imago lays egg QUEEN The life stages encompassing the egg, larva and embryo are referred to as JUVENILE, and those encompassing the nymph, instars and imagoes are referred to as ADULT. Discussion of observed characteristics: The alien life cycle is divided into two distinct stages which are reminiscent of the alternating sporophyte and gametophyte generational stages of plants and fungi. Plants produce distinct types of reproductive cells (spores or gametes) which give rise to genetically distinct types of organisms. Spores grow into gametophytes, which produce gametes, while gametes fuse to form sporophytes which produce spores. In the alien species, the sporophyte stage could be represented by the juvenile stages. These would create the "spore" or embryo. The gametophyte stage could be represented by the adult stages. These would lay eggs after gamete fusion. Such a strategy in might be indicative of an chaotic and dangerous natural environment (see discussion of hypothetical ancestors). We have zero knowledge of the genetics of these creatures, so further speculation on the existence or nature of alien reproductive cells is futile. The alien morphology seems to be a melange of arthropod and vertebrate characteristics. The segmented exoskeletal carapace and variable numbers of limbs are reminiscent of terrestrial arthropods (as well as armored fishes and reptiles to a lesser extent), while the adult body plan seems more vertebrate in nature; the presence of a jaw, spine terminating in a tail and limbs ending in grasping hands and feet as opposed to the mouthparts, legs and body plan of an arthropod suggest a vertebrate morphology. The larval legs are articulated via an endoskeleton, which appears to be covered in a sheath of muscle and a pliable external layer of protein and silicon. This seems to indicate that the oldest ancestors of these creatures posessed endoskeletons, and that exoskeletons evolved later. As is the case with vertebrate evolution in the Silurian and Devonian periods, the endoskeleton may have evolved first as a means to protect the CNS, and the exoskeleton could have evolved secondarily; in response to environmental challenges. The eggs are complex organisms in and of themselves. They are responsible for maintaining life support for the larva for an indefinite amount of time, and must recognize a potential host and distinguish it from valid members of the nest. The eggs contain rudimentary moving parts. Once the egg has determined that a host is proximal, it releases the larva. In the modern species, the egg is flammable, translucent and unarmored. Their gracile nature in comparison to the adults may be in response to the security afforded by the nest strategy. Because of these unusual qualities in an egg, it might be that the egg and larva constitute a single organism up until the point where the larva is released. The size of an egg in comparison to the size of the contained larva indicates substantial internal morphology, consistent with requirements for life support and sensory systems. Despite the obvious immediate differences, the organism's basic body plan may be conserved between the juvenile and adult forms. The larval form has 8 legs, and while imago forms only appear to have 4 limbs, queens appear to have 8. All forms have a single articulated tail, implying the presence of a spine and CNS. As the juveniles posses an endoskeleton it could be assumed that the adults do as well. The adult head morphology is quite distinctive. In the post-nymph forms, the mouth contains a secondary set of jaws on the end of the tongue, and the head is long and curved. In the modern species, it is probable that the larval form is derived to the point where a majority of the sensory portions of the larval body remain in the egg when the larva is released. Anatomy corresponding to the adult head may be contained within the egg. Accordingly, if the juvenile "air- sacs" are used for respiration, any adult breathing apparatus would be located posterior to the hindmost pair of adult legs. Four "vanes" are visible on the backs of most adults, and six are visible along the backs of queens. These may function in breathing. Additionally, the head configuration of the adult may be adaptive in that it would prevent accidental implantation of an embryo into an adult by a larva, or prevent intentional implantation by a larva of another species. The legs of the larva will not easily grasp the adult head, and the ventral "embryopositor" tube will be subject to attack by the mouthed tongue. This may suggest that there are competing species of these creatures on the homeworld. While in the egg, the larva sloshes about in a fluid, suggesting aquatic origins for this species. The emerging larva retains a thin coating of the internal fluid, and this layer appears to be caustic, although the caustic properties are not as dramatic as those displayed by the organism's blood. The combination of the egg fluid and blood pH indicates drastically different aquatic environment on the homeworld than on earth. It is possible that the pH of the egg fluid is closer to the true pH of the oceans on the homeworld and that the caustic properties of the organism's blood are due to a combination of modification and adaptation to the parasitic lifestyle, or the egg maturation process may deplete the egg fluid of its caustic properties. Interior carapace pressure might indicate a higher average planetary pressure than 14 psi. This could be a defense mechanism, or it could simply be circulatory pressure. The internal physiology of the organism has yet to be revealed, but pulsing "artery-like" structures have been observed in emergent nymphs. Possibly the homeworld is larger or the atmosphere is heavier than on earth. The larval air sacs/bellows might be a historical adaptation to living beyond the aqueous environment, but it is possible that these are a parasitic adaptation, and are not required by the organism. The degree to which they function is probably dictated by the atmospheric requirements of the host, but we have no knowledge of the organism's atmospheric requirements. If such sacs are required, the larva will not survive in vacuum. The adults appear to function as well underwater as out of it, implying that the do not use air sacs. It is possible that inert gasses irritate the adults. Possibly, they breathe using modified gill structures located in the dorsal vanes. Body temperature is ambient, perhaps indicating a generally warm planetary surface temperature, or geothermal habitat requirement. It remains to be seen how long the imago can survive in a vacuum or sub- freezing temperatures. The low pH of the blood would seem to indicate a drastically reduced freezing point. Queens survive extended periods of transit through both of these environments, and it is possible that other instar and imago forms may as well. The various adult forms demonstrate aversion to open flames, but unlike the eggs and nymphs, are not flammable. This suggests temperature boundaries within the upper limits of terrestrial environments. The lack of obvious eyes in any observed stages indicates that the aliens either live entirely in enclosed or subterranean areas, or that there is no visible light incident on the surface of the homeworld. If the organisms lived entirely underground, their size and potential for well populated nests implies a well developed and robust subterranean ecosystem. If they lived the entirety of their lives in their nests, they would be dependent upon the movement of prey and hosts into the nest for survival. It is possible that they lure these into the nest, but the aliens seem quite capable and adept at retrieving them as well. If they dwelled on an illuminated surface for any amount of time, eyes would be a distinct advantage. The aliens display significant ability to cling to and move on vertical and inverted surfaces, supporting the idea that a significant portion of time is spent underground or in enclosed spaces. Nests fit this description, and it may be that castes which venture outside of the nest posses eyes. In this case, these castes have not yet been observed. The nests might be constructed above or below ground or water, but seem to be designed so that the resinous construction material covers all surfaces near their cores. Partially submerged nests would require air chambers for hosts and larvae. Copious amounts of a viscous substance are constantly being secreted from the mouthparts and neighboring regions. This substance appears to be used in constructing nests, hardening to form a resin. Thick strands may also be produced, although the mechanism for this is unclear. Prior to hardening, the resin does not display caustic properties, and may act to neutralize acids. This would be useful, both in offering protection from an acidic environment, and in protecting the nest from being accidentally dissolved. Homeworld speculation: (assuming that the aliens are not entirely subterranean) The homeworld has a higher atmospheric pressure and possibly a greater gravity than terrestrial standards. It has oceans which are of a very low pH and most likely an atmosphere of similar low pH. The EM spectrum incident upon the homeworld is significantly different from terrestrial standards, lacking "visible" wavelengths. This might indicate that the planet's orbit is very large, that it is extremely overcast or that it orbits a weak sun. In this case, the ecosystem might be based on geochemical and geothermal systems. Geothermal activity might also provide a relatively high ambient temperature. The acidic nature of the aquatic and atmospheric environments might also be due to extensive production of hydrogen sulfide and other "high energy" compounds via geochemical activity. A high level of volcanic and tectonic activity might be maintained by tidal forces stemming from planetary and stellar bodies in the system. An ecosystem not based on photosynthesis would require radically different energy production schemes. Such an ecosystem might be founded on thermo- and acidophillic microorganisms. Larger autotrophs might incorporate endosymbiotic versions of these microorganisms. Vegetative "plants" would be found around areas of geothermal and geochemical activity, both on the surface and on the floor of the oceans. Other organisms might exploit the difference in pH and temperature at the boundary between aquatic and terrestrial environments. If volcanic activity were responsible for the overcast nature of the atmosphere, incident light might be used by photosynthetic organisms high in the atmosphere. Thermophillic photosynthesizing organisms might also be found near lava flows. Areas free of volcanic activity would be dead zones, possibly inhabited by hibernating organisms awaiting an increase in ocean level or the occasional lost creature. Extensive tectonic and volcanic activity might result in habitats subject to frequent change. A geothermal habitat might be replaced by a geochemical or volcanic habitat, or might be flooded. If this were the case, organisms would have to be either extremely adaptive or mobile in order to survive. Hypothetical ancestors: The presence of an endoskeleton and an exoskeleton implies that conditions changed during the evolution of the organism, requiring armored protection of the entire body. Drastically increased predation is one such possible change, while a dramatic lowering of the pH of the environment is a second. These options are not mutually exclusive; hostile changes in the environment may cause increases in levels of predation. A low pH ocean could literally dissolve its inhabitants, forcing them to lower their pH to meet that of the environment, present a barrier against the caustic properties of their surroundings, leave the oceans or try these strategies in various combinations. Thick layers of continuously renewed armor would be constantly ablated by the acid, but could protect underlying tissues, and secretion of neutralizing substances could serve as similar a shield. A lowering of the blood pH might offer some protection, but might also begin to damage one's own tissues, and would probably be energetically expensive. Raising the pH of one's tissues would not be a successful strategy in an aquatic environment. The aliens posses all of these characteristics to various degrees, suggesting that the aquatic environment is either extremely caustic, or became progressively more caustic in discrete degrees. The modern species appears only to produce secretions in and around the mouth region; possibly the protective substance has to be applied to exposed regions of the anatomy, or whole body coverage is not necessary beyond an aquatic environment. In the former case, hardening of the resin might serve to bolster the exoskeleton, or the exoskeleton might be formed of the same substance, secreted from the surface of the body. The endo- and exoskeletons would be made from different substances in this case. In either case, the secretions around the mouth are used for building the nest. Ancestral types might have been covered in an additional layer of secretions. The larvae are known to have an external layer composed of some combination of protein-polysaccharides and polarized silicon. Larvae do not seem to produce secretions, and the external layer is not as hard in appearance as the adult carapace. In non-nymph adults, this carapace has a metallic appearance, and is probably composed of additional materials. The teeth of nymphs often have a metallic appearance. If the hardening of resinous secretions were the source of the exoskeleton, these secretions might contain different substances depending on their intended use. Secretions destined to become armor, structural material or strands and cables might have very different compositions. Living in a variety of challenging and dangerous environments might favor the observed division of reproductive strategies. The organism might be able to adapt rapidly to changing environments by using varying morphologies and reproductive strategies as a means of "shifting gears". An organism that was unconcerned with finding a mate could focus on finding a carrier or host capable of moving its offspring to a potentially more hospitable area. Organisms in a hospitable area could focus on reproducing themselves as efficiently as possible. Primitive juveniles could create embryos to be carried away by mobile hosts, while successful adults could create multiple eggs which were suited to their environment. Thus selection operates one way on the juveniles, selecting for those able to find suitable hosts (including mobility when the environment is shifting), and another way on the adults, selecting for those best suited to their environment. This implies that primitive juvenile stages were capable of predicting environmental shifts and altering their host selection accordingly. That the modern species has an "atrophied" juvenile stage implies that a stable environment was located, or that a novel strategy for relocating was developed. The stable environment may have been space, or perhaps there are yet unobserved castes capable of carrying eggs long distances. The ancestral organism's life cycle might have been similar to that of a caterpillar/butterfly. The organism searches for a host off of which an embryo may feed after being lain by a larva, much like a caterpillar on a leaf. Possibly older pre-parasitic forms of this organism were like caterpillars; the implanted "embryos" may have been mobile, representing an intermediate life-stage (PRO-EMBRYO). It is possible that the nymph stage may have occupied this position, having been "laid" by the larva in a more advanced form. It certainly seems to be the case that the juvenile and nymph stages of the modern species are developmentally simplified. The modern larva is not capable of ingesting nutrients, being solely devoted to implanting one embryo, and some modern nymphs emerge sans limbs or with "limbs buds". This primitive life cycle might have proceeded as follows: [1] Egg is lain - matures - hatches [2] Larva proceeds in search of food and an appropriately mobile host. [3] Larva finds a host, lays pro-embryo on the host and returns to stage 2. [4] Pro-embryo "grazes" on host organism or organisms [5] Pro-embryo develops into first instar, becoming independent of host. [6] Instars develop into imago forms. [7] Imago searches for food and mates, lays eggs. This life cycle is only "mildly" parasitic; the pro-embryo does not necessarily harm the host during its grazing/feeding activity, but remains in jeopardy of discovery and extermination in this vulnerable state. If the pro-embryo were implanted internally to the host and absorbed nutrients directly from the host, it could be less vulnerable. The first parasitic ancestors may have placed their pro-embryos internal to the host, where nutrients could be obtained partially digested food in the host's "stomach" or digestive system. If the host digestive system bore similarity to vertebrate systems, there may have been compartments of extreme pH, which may have contributed to the acidophilic nature of the modern species. More advanced parasites might have done away with their pro- embryo forms, simply implanting embryos within their hosts and which would grow to nymph form by stealing nutrients directly from the host. These parasites would not have been social organisms. hypothetical ancestors and habitats: unarmored aquatic vertebrate in a mildly acidic ocean slime-resin coated aquatic vertebrate in an acidic ocean resin-armored and slime coated aquatic creature in a very acidic ocean armored terrestrial creature coping with a variety of hostile surface environments above described creature with a grazing pro-embryo form above described creature with a parasitic embryo form The development of sociality: In descending order, the "weak" points in the life cycle of the pre-social organisms appear to be the dormant phase, the gestation phase and the travel time of the larva from egg to host. These risks could be minimized by securing the eggs "underground" (away from host/egg predation), and by immobilizing hosts near to the eggs. The eggs might remain susceptible to predation by small egg eating creatures or larger creatures capable of entering an active nest, requiring cooperative measures on the part of adults in protecting them. Sociality might develop naturally from such a system. Initially, a division of labor between hunter-foragers to locate and retrieve fresh hosts and warrior-scavenger-nurses to protect the eggs and gestating hosts from predators might suffice. The subsequent evolution of the queen dominated caste system may have been a way to diminish competition for hosts between partially related organisms, by establishing genetically homogenous nests. The large numbers of eggs produced by modern queens seem to indicate a strategy involving overproduction of eggs. The persistence of this strategy in the modern species might be due to co-evolution of egg predators, or to environmental conditions where the risk of destruction of significant portions of the nest was high. Host Mediated Adaptation: A further means to adapt to an environment is by adopting strategies developed earlier by another species. The embryo is in a prime position to learn about the metabolic and environmental conditions of its host. Knowledge of local environmental conditions such as the pH, atmospheric content and energy generation schemes would be important for post emergence survival. Varying energy generation schemes may result in differing metabolisms. Knowledge of the metabolic level and requirements of the host gives an advantage to be used in hunting such hosts. The development of the nymph might mimic other physical attributes of the host as well. For example, if the host spent much time hanging upside down, the nymph could develop that way as well, making it a competent predator in an "upside down" environment. Adult organisms are presumably adapted to their environment via some combination of this host mediated process in concert with post- emergence selection. In the primitive species, larval offspring of these adapted adults will have to evaluate the state of the environment to determine if they should seek a mobile host to find a more hospitable environment, or if the should seek one to which they are adapted. If a larva chooses a mobile host, its embryo may posses different metabolic requirements or a generally different metabolism, which may result in the death of the embryo after prolonged exposure. The nymph must remain capable of aborting its development at the minimum possible stage and emerging from the host, developing a new adaptive strategy from the information gathered from the host, and surviving to reproduce and lay eggs adapted to the new environment. This minimum stage is limbless, displaying only the buds of limbs, and uses the segmented tail for propulsion. If the larva chooses a host to which it is adapted, there will be much less danger to the embryo from the host's metabolism, and the nymph will be able to develop to its full form prior to emergence. This full form possesses two sets of limbs in addition to the tail. It is possible that a host chosen by a larva that detects no impending environmental shift might be immobile or vegetative in nature. Once a relatively stable environment has been located (in which several rounds of reproduction were possible), a varying progression of forms might be observed, as pressures of selection and host mediated adaptation refine the organism's strategy for survival in the environment. Sensation: Since the creatures do not posses any eyes by terrestrial standards, they must have some other means of sensing their environment. If the body plan is conserved between juvenile and adult stages, it is reasonable to assume that the same types of sensors are used in each case. The eggs appear to be able to detect motion and proximity, and to be able to distinguish between hosts and nestmates. The sensation of heat may not be important to this process, as the natural host may have had similar body temperature. The larvae are capable locating and determining the distance to the host implantation orifice, and of leaping through space to that orifice. The adults are capable of distinguishing between nestmates and potential hosts, and are capable of detecting movement. They are probably also possessed of pattern recognition systems, and spatial arrangement recognition systems. Adults have been observed to fixate on objects using their heads, suggesting that their primary sensory organs are located in the anterior portions of their heads. All adult stages are capable of producing a variety of sounds, and it is probably the case that they can hear and communicate via sound. Communication with "stripped down" eggs is probably better facilitated via chemical means than sound. It is likely that recognition of nestmates is achieved via a combination of chemical and sonic communication. Eggs might communicate with each other via chemical signals. The detection of motion and proximity may be facilitated via sonic systems. In terrestrial nocturnal, subterranean and aquatic environments, these have proven quite successful, and accordingly, the shape of the head is reminiscent of cetacean crania. However, the large curving structure of the head might serve as some other sort of sensor as well. It could be used to detect EM wavelengths other than visible light, although it is not obvious how useful such a structure would be in detecting longer or shorter wavelengths. Interestingly, the creatures might have a sensory system similar to the "motion tracking" technology developed by humans. Communication: Variation in the surface morphology of the head seems to indicate a sensory function. Lone adults have uniform smooth reflective heads, while adults functioning in a nest have distinct anterior and posterior head sections; the posterior region being covered in a ribbed pattern with a sagittal crest, and the anterior region being characteristically smooth with a pair of pits on either side of the head. This morphology in social organisms may be used in sonic and chemical communication. That this ribbed pattern is visible in the neck regions of the lone adult may indicate that the smooth reflective surface of the heads serves as a canopy covering more complex structures. This smooth canopy is reminiscent of the smooth surfaces of the queen's headpiece sheath. This sheath is comprised of at least three independent pieces, the largest of which possesses several overlapping flanges. Various sized holes are visible between these flanges, and the entire sheath may serve as a production organ for chemical signals. In the transformation from imago to queen-imago (see the discussion of ancestral types below), the adult canopy may develop into the sheath. Once this transformation has been accomplished, the new queen would issue chemical signals destroying the canopies of any nearby adults. If the ribbed structures beneath the canopy corresponded to modest versions of the signal procution organs beneath the queen's sheath and were be used for communication between nestmates, the canopy might serve to isolate a lone adult from foreign signals. Canopied adults would in effect be "deaf" to most nest signals. If all nestmates are progeny of the same queen, then the canopy destroying signal produced by a particular queen might be genetically specified. A canopied adult which found itself near a foreign nest or a foreign queen would not be susceptible to that queen's signals, and would develop into a queen. An adult which found itself near a related nest or queen would lose its canopy and join the nest. A dead queen would be replaced by a young canopied adult. It could be assumed that an uncanopied adult would be utterly subservient to the commands of a queen, in which case it might be possible for one queen to kill another and steal the uncanopied members of the nest. The canopy must allow limited communication, as a valid queen must be able to order its destruction. Possibly, canopied adults would be capable of identifying hosts harboring embryos as well, and could act to protect related embryos and possibly destroy unrelated ones. The modern and ancestral natural hosts: The modern species" reproductive cycle is problematic because it displays a dependence upon the death of a host for the reproduction of a each organism. A host which survived nymph emergence might favor the development of this lifestyle. Such a host would have to withstand the damage incurred in emergence, and be able to survive further rounds of implantation, gestation and emergence. Alternatively, ancestral forms of the organism might have used a less injurious host-emergence strategy. If instead of creating new exits, the nymphs emerged via the orifice through which they were implanted, the chance of the host surviving would increase dramatically. Possibly, ancestral organisms used such a strategy. Also, a host with thick exterior armor would make creation of new exits difficult. In any case, a large organism would be better suited to surviving the embryo development process. The parasite might be little more than a pest for a host of sufficient size, and might even serve some symbiotic function by feeding on exoskeletal parasites of the host after emergence. The implantation period indicates a requirement for about 24 hours of close contact. This is facilitated by the articulated limbs and the tail. In modern creatures, the larval "embryopositor" appears to be composed of soft tissue, indicating that implantation is probably directly onto the desired internal substrate as opposed to being gained by destruction of external tissue. In addition to other possible functions, the mouthed tongue of the imago might function to permit sampling of the tissue contained within a hard carapace. These data suggest that the natural host possessed a hard shell. During the implantation phase, the host is provided with atmosphere via specialized bellows structures on the larva, implying that the host would be in danger of asphyxiation during the implantation process. Thus the natural host probably has only one breathing orifice, and is at least partially terrestrial. The parameters of the area surrounding the natural host's breathing orifice may be estimated via observing the length of tail available and the available span of the articulated limbs (2-3 feet for the limbs and 4-5 feet of tail). This orifice is most likely at the end of a stalk of indeterminate length, which might be up to a foot in diameter. The terminus of this stalk is most likely a spheroid 1-2 feet in diameter. The amount of oxygen provided to the host is limited by the size of the larval bellows apparatus, and this would limit the size of a potential host and that host's activity during implantation. Possibly the bellows size has evolved to parallel changes in host size. The constrictive nature of the tail would seem to suggest that the host's breathing is accomplished by changing the volume of the stalk. Bi-directional air flow in the host might be accomplished via the use of peristaltic waves. Since the host is likely armored, the tail would probably not be capable of constricting the host unless this strategy were used to inhale and exhale. Assuming that the host would resent an attack on its sole breathing orifice and the subsequent implantation event, temporary incapacitation of the host would be desirable on the part of the organism. An extremely large host might be able to detach the larva at negligible expense to its own structure. Possibly the constrictive nature of the tail is used to immobilize the host initially. However, an incapacitated host would be easy prey to various other predatory creatures. It is possible that the implantation period would not be *extremely* uncomfortable for the host, and that the host would be capable of enduring the implantation period without sufficient cause to successfully dislodge the parasite. In this case, the implantation process might only diminish the host's "natural breathing capacity', requiring the supplemental air supply provided by the larva. In such a scenario, it might be possible for multiple larvae to simultaneously implant embryos in hosts. Emergence of the nymph seems to be triggered by moderate levels of host activity. This might be a valid strategy if the host was preyed upon. Moderate levels of activity would indicate that there were no predators around and that the locale was safe for nymph emergence. Sufficiently high level of activity might indicate flight from a predator, and a period of inactivity might be indicative of a host's attempt to hide from a predator. The general conclusions regarding the natural host are as follows; it is a large terrestrial or semi-aquatic organism which breathes through an orifice at the end of a stalk. This could be the host's head, or it could be a specialized structure. The host is most likely armored and is possibly prey to other predators. Most of the above speculation regards the natural host of the pre-social organism. The natural host of the social organism is most likely a smaller version of the described host. Smaller hosts would occur in more abundant numbers, and their populations might tolerate the parasitic lifestyle of increasing numbers of aliens. In addition, it is more efficient to capture, immobilize and maintain smaller hosts than large. It is possible that the modern organism's penchant for creating a new emergence orifice is a modification subsequent to the dispersal into space; on the homeworld, the social organisms might remain capable of multiple rounds of implantation, gestation and emergence on a single host. Some species might retain the ability to switch from a social mode to a more primitive non-social mode. Proposed ancestral types: Presumably, organisms which use these strategies still live on the homeworld. Early ancestor: a non-social creature with a multi-stage life cycle. Most stages of this life cycle are omnivorous. This is a very primitive version of the organism. Natural host: The natural host might be any large mobile creature, or it might be some sort of immobile vegetative organism. Life cycle: Eggs are laid in large clutches, perhaps buried in the ground or perhaps attached to vegetative organisms via resin. This resin might also serve to protect the eggs from predation. After a long maturation phase, these eggs hatch and larvae emerge. These are free living organisms in their own right, devoted to finding food and potential hosts. Possessed of advanced sensory capabilities, these creatures are capable of producing many pro-embryos. The eggs of this species would be little more than containers, possessing no sensory apparatus and probably opening upon the signal of the larva. These larvae locate and lay pro-embryos on putative hosts. These pro-embryos digest whatever available food there is to be found on their substrate; the food might be other surface parasites or vegetative matter or secreted substances. These pro-embryos would be capable of moving between hosts, and some in some "vegetative" species might serve in a "cross-pollinating" capacity. In more advanced forms, the pro-embryos might live in the host digestive system, feeding off of partially digested nutrients. Once a sufficient level of nutrition has been achieved, the embryo metamorphoses into a nymph and becomes a free living organism. Progression through of a series of predatory instars yields the imago, which serves the sole purpose of laying more eggs. Comments: There are a variety of lifecycle and lifestyle strategies which may be derived from this organism. There are probably a variety of different species descended from this general form. The imago is the fully adult form of the organism, having spent all of its instars searching for food. As with the pro-embryo, this food might be both vegetative or "animal" in nature. Medial ancestor: a non-social predatory creature with a dual stage life cycle. This type of creature is perhaps on the verge of developing into the modern organism. Natural host: The natural host is a large creature that breathes atmosphere through a single orifice on the end of an armored stalk. Airflow through this stalk is maintained by expanding and contracting the walls of the stalk, possibly via peristaltic waves. Life cycle: Thick-hided and perhaps armored eggs are buried in the ground and are mortared in place with resin. The eggs mature and enter the dormant phase. The motion and sound of a passing potential host signals the egg to hatch and disgorge the larva which pursues, catches and "boards" the host. In this organism, the larva's sole purpose is to locate and implant an embryo into a host as quickly as is possible. Its sensory apparatus are devoted to this task alone, and because it does not take nutrition, it can only afford to implant a few embryos; in most cases it can only manage one. The egg retains a modest ability for detection and controls the release of the larva. The larva then locates the breathing orifice, affixes itself to it via means of the legs and tail and supplements the air flow to the host during the implantation phase. The embryo is implanted in the internal substance of the breathing canal. Once implantation is complete, the larva dies. The host proceeds, until the nymph emerges from its "breathing trunk" via the natural orifice. The host most likely survives this ordeal, although it might experience labored breathing for a few days. The nymph goes through a series of instars , which hunt for food, until an imago is realized, which hunts for food, mates and prospective host ranges. The mouthed tongue might be integral to all three pursuits, as well as protecting the adults form implantation by larvae of other species. Putative hosts might be weakened by use of the mouthed tongue, making them more susceptible to being boarded by the larva. A series of eggs might be lain over a large area, awaiting a weakened host to stumble through. Possibly, the adults are capable of cucooning themselves and or severely weakened hosts with resin in order to protect against predation. Comments: The eggs and larvae of this species appear intermediate in that they share the responsibilities of host detection and selection. This suggests that the larva and egg are a single continuous organism in this species and that sensory organs are shared or duplicated between the two parts. Immediate ancestor: a predatory social creature, possibly smaller than the medial ancestral type. This is the organism which immediately predated the modern organism. Natural host: a smaller version of the ancestor's host, or a similar smaller creature. Life cycle: A fertile queen lays thick hided eggs in a protected creche. These are guarded and tended by various castes of adult relatives. The nest is created and maintained by the adults and is constructed from secreted resin. The adults procure hosts from outside the nest and immobilize them near mature eggs. The eggs open and the larva immediately attach to the host. Larval energy usage is almost totally devoted to adhering to the host and implanting a single embryo. The large eggs contain most of the important sensory and decision making apparatus, leaving the larvae as "stripped down" as is possible. Implantation and gestation occur as in the medial ancestor, but the nymph tears its way out of the host body. Unless it is sufficiently large, the host likely expires in the emergence. The nymph develops into an imago via a series of instars, which might perform particular duties required by the nest according to their age or caste. Comments: Queens display at least six limbs, and an additional pair of hind limbs are required to support the ovarian organ systems. Queens have a greater number of limbs, digits and dorsal vanes than are observed in various adult forms, and thus may represent a most advanced instar form. If this is the case, the various observed forms may represent different instar stages of adult development, and each of these might correspond to a different caste. A nymph which found it self isolated from a nest, or in a nest sans a functional queen, might develop rapidly through a series of instars (which would only be of use in a functional nest) and into a queen- imago which could then begin the egg laying process and re-establish control of a leaderless nest. A queen in a functioning nest would suppress this development in all other individuals, halting their development at the penultimate imago stage. This could be accomplished via a special queen- produced chemical signal which causes the destruction of adult canopies. A lone imago metamorphosing into a queen-imago might require a period of hibernation as it develops the morphological characteristics of a queen: the auxiliary ventral arms, large headpiece sheath and externalized ovarian systems with associated legs. In this case, the adult canopy might be the source of the developmental signals which trigger the transformation, and would develop into the sheath. The queen-imago is a form devoted to producing large numbers of eggs in a short amount of time. Presumably, this form is a novel development which is specific to the social species. It might be that imago form retains the ability to lay eggs at a much lower rate and at much greater expense to itself. This would require an override of the natural inclination for canopied imago forms to develop into queen-imagoes, and would probably only occur under periods of extreme stress when the nutritional requirements of metamorphosis into a queen could not be met. Problems: The most difficult problem regards the provenance of the "acidic blood'. It is likely that the caustic properties of the blood are not due to simple pH, but that other chemical and enzymatic factors are in effect. Regardless, the origin of such a system remains difficult to estimate. The egg fluid would seem to indicate a moderately acidic aquatic environment. An acidification of the blood might have arisen as a defense mechanism, or in response to changes in the environment, or as an adaptation to a life cycle stage in an acidic digestive environment. The organism's "blood" might be its digestive system, which would suggest an extremely different internal structure than terrestrial standards. The caustic properties of the blood appear to be more effective on synthetic and organic materials than on metals, supporting the idea that other chemical and enzymatic factors are at work, which in turn supports the digestive theory. Disclaimer: The characteristics discussed above are not the sole characteristics available for discussion, nor are the conclusions drawn the only conclusions possible. This is simply one possible picture based on the set of assumptions and the data. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- 15. REVISION HISTORY (Daryll Hobson initiated this FAQ) v1.0 - March 22, 1993 - Initial draft. Most information supplied by me alone. v1.1 - March 31, 1993 - Added countless bits of information supplied by interested users of the net. v1.2 - April 14, 1993 - Revision control. Chestburster scene added, more info on the dog/cow scene of _ALIEN^3_, more _ALIENS_ cut scenes, added to the alien physiology discussion. Small changes to the merchandise list. Added more "memorable quotes" and more "trivia". Added "rituals" section and switched around the order of the sections to make the FAQ more readable. v1.3 - May 5, 1993 - Small changes to the "Who is?" section. Removed the Chestburster scene. Organized the discussion section. Added some more frequently asked questions. More complete descriptions of the cut scenes from _ALIEN_ and _ALIENS_ were added as well. More trivia. v1.4 - June 23, 1993 - Added Gibson's ALIEN^3 script synopsis, James Cameron's answers to a few questions about ALIENS and vastly improved the merchandise and FAQ sections. v1.5 - Sept 14, 1993 - Added more frequently asked questions. Added running times to some of the _ALIEN_ cut scenes. More rituals. Added extensive info about _ALIEN^3_ script rewrites. v1.6 - Sept 21, 1993 - In an effort to reduce (eliminate?) the all-too-common flaming of _ALIEN^3_, I added a section to Frequently Discussed Topics that addresses both sides of the argument. Broke the FAQ up into 3 parts so I could (once again) post it to the Internet. v1.7 - Dec 25, 1993 - FINALLY got an FTP site for the FAQ. Added to the technical errors, frequently asked questions, trivia. Increased emphasis on NOT asking me "Where can I get Gibson's ALIEN 3 script?" v1.8 - Mar 8, 1994 - More information on soundtracks. Added to frequently asked questions, trivia and memorable quotes. Memorable quotes ordered according to when they occur in the movies. Didn't get around to adding ALL that new merchandise yet. What a nightmare! v1.9 - April 10,1994 - Changed information on how to get Gibson's ALIEN 3 script. Added to frequently asked questions, merchandise and memorable quotes. v2.0 - June 14, 1994 - Added more memorable quotes, questions and merchandise. Prepared the document to be HANDED OFF (ie: no longer maintained by me). (Eelko de Vos took over the maintenace of the FAQ) v2.1 - August 12, 1994 - Added some more info on various subjects. Also added part four to the faq: Steve's document about what he derived from the alien movies. It are the insights of a molecular biologist. I rearranged some bits, but most this document is mostly in its original state. I added the Alien homepage on www to it. &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& & & & The END & & & &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

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