How alien: covenant retcons james cameron’s aliens and more
For the most part, these advancements are for the better. However, some are tougher to love and are met with resistance. The opinions that drive people to love or hate different aspects of science are influenced by a variety of sources. For better or worse, one of those sources is popular media, like films. Most movies are not made with education in mind and the science they portray is rarely unbiased.
We watched four science fiction movies throughout the summer. Each film was paired with a special guest scientist, there to explain whether the science was more fact or fiction. The audience discussions with these experts were wide-ranging and fascinating. The most recent film we watched this way was Alien, and it has given me an all new appreciation for this sci-fi horror franchise.
Our expert for Alien was Dr. Matt Frye. Frye is an entomologist, a scientist who studies insects. The alien xenomorphs might be from another planet, but they have a very insect-like lifecycle and many insect-like body features as well. They are also something else that Dr.
Frye has experience with: Parasitoids. Sometimes a parasite will move from one host to another in search of more favorable conditions. Humans have a lot of parasites, ranging from head lice to tapeworms. Parasitoids are much larger in comparison to their host, tend to stick with a single host throughout their life, and their effects are much more dire. The xenomorph is certainly a parasitoid, as its emergence causes certain death in the host without immediate intervention.
The xenomorph has an infamously gruesome lifecycle. There is one breeding queen for each xenomorph hive. The queen lays the eggs, which lay dormant until they sense movement nearby.
When the infant alien has achieved maturation, it violently bursts from the body of its host, a process that is immediately fatal in almost all cases. Then, over the course of mere hours, it grows from cat-sized to human-sized, ready to cause mayhem.
This lifecycle might seem rather far-fetched, but Dr. While there is no insect that behaves exactly like a xenomorph, there are many that come frightfully close. If you want to see a scene of sci-fi horror, you may want to start with exploring your own back yard….
The following information is adapted from Dr. In Alien, the protagonists come across hundreds of alien eggs in the cargo hold of a derelict spacecraft.
These eggs have been abandoned for years, but one stirs into life when a human walks by, unleashing its fiendish inhabitant upon the unlucky officer. Flea eggs hatch into immature larvae. After another week or two, the larvae weave a cocoon around themselves, inside which they are changing into their adult form. Under ideal conditions, a flea might spend only a couple weeks in its cocoon. When the situation is less favorable, the cocoons fall dormant.
They remain in dormancy until they sense movement or heat, s that a potential host is nearby. It is only then that they emerge. Even if you kill all the adult fleas, there may be cocooned fleas lurking about for as long as six months, waiting for the perfect moment to pop out and stop biting again.
When the xenomorph egg hatches it is a facehugger that comes out. While in the facehugger stage, a xenomorph has only one goal: Find a host. They skitter around on their eight eerie legs, actively pursuing their targets. The human is alive, though unconscious, during this process, making it perhaps the most horrific part of the xenomorph lifestyle.
That is, until the next stage occurs. This mobile host-finding behavior is seen in a of insect species. They look a lot like flies as adults, but their adult form is short-lived. They may survive for as little as five hours, only living long enough to breed.
Why alien life will be robotic
In some Strepsiptera species, the eggs hatch within the female. The larvae eat their mother from the inside out. When they emerge, they swiftly try to find a new insect host before starvation sets in. When they find a target, they climb onto the insect and secrete enzymes to soften its protective exoskeleton. When it is properly weakened, they burrow their way inside. The living host is both their food and shelter, much like growing xenomorph larvae are sheltered and nurtured by a living human body.
Like its name implies, the chestburster stage of the xenomorph is known for messily bursting out of a human chest, which is shown on screen at least once per Alien franchise film. It is very similar in appearance to an adult xenomorph, though often has underdeveloped limbs and a more serpentine form.
Though insects with planidium stages seek out hosts on their own, adults do the work in other species. There are a of wasp species that puncture other insects and lay eggs directly inside their bodies. The eggs hatch into larvae that slowly consume the host while developing within them.
Cocooning can take place either inside the host or outside. Those that cocoon within a host burst out after metamorphosing to adult form, creating an exceptionally alien-like scene. Parasitic wasps are incredibly common and incredibly diverse, with as many asspecies of wasp employing this lifestyle.
Should they all be flushed out air locks, like so often happens with their xenomorph brethren? Absolutely not! This makes them excellent for pest control. There have been over a intentional introductions of parasitic wasps to agricultural areas.
If you ever see a hornworm in your garden with white cocoons stuck to its body, leave it alone. The hornworm is covered in parasitoid moth cocoons, which will someday emerge to prey on more hornworms and help keep your garden safe.
Alien: covenant leaves much better lingering questions than prometheus
Adult aliens are monsters of predatory efficiency. There are a of insects that are probably as scary as a xenomorph to something closer to their size. The tarantula hawk is one of them, a spider wasp that specializes in hunting tarantulas. They have the sleek black look of an alien predator and one of the most painful stings ever recorded. They grasp tarantulas with their claws, positioning themselves for a sting.
When the egg hatches, the larva burrows into the still-living spider. Another interesting facet of xenomorph behavior is their tendency to form hives. This is straight out of insect biology. Like the xenomorph, many species of ants, termites, bees, and wasps form How where a single female breeds and the rest of the population carry out various roles. In an ant colony, the workers are in charge of everything from foraging to taking care of young. Until the films show more of the inner workings of a xenomorph hive, the finer details of their social behavior remain unknown.
The xenomorph, fierce enough already, has another line of defense: Molecular acid for blood. When injured, its blood can spray onto its attacker and cause life-threatening damage within a matter of seconds. The acid blood can also eat through the metal of spaceship hulls, making defeating it a complicated manner indeed. Many characters in the film hesitate to attack the xenomorph after they discover this feature.
The beloved monarch butterfly has a comparable, though toned down, deterrent against attack. A bird that eats a monarch caterpillar or butterfly will feel ill fast, leading it to avoid eating them in the future. A monarch butterfly might not spray you with acid if you attack it, but it does have internal chemical defenses that protect it from harm. Frye touched on a of other subjects in his Alien discussion.
It attacks and kills humans, but it never appears to linger around to ingest any part of its kills, and there is no evidence that it came back and did so later. The large amount of fluid that drips off the xenomorphs is rather puzzling too, as the alien is likewise never shown to drink. Frye gave all of us a lot to think about that day, and hopefully this translation of his presentation will give blog readers something to grow on too. We would like to run this event series again next year, and if we do, I hope to see you there!
Musings from the Bruce Museum Science Department.