Aliens - big blue beings or giant jellyfish?
Updated: Feb 27, 2019
As a writer, there is nothing more exciting than creating your own world. With all the new planets being found (even if no aliens have been yet), I’ve found myself trying to populate them with aliens of my own creation.
But what would aliens actually look like?
I hate the stereotypical green men, and I would hate to be accused of copying the amazing cat-like people in Avatar. So many people criticise Hollywood versions: why are they humanoid? They could be anything. I needed to do some research.
I stumbled across this article. It is the opinions of 'experts' on what they think aliens would look like. It's a really great read - showing that most people assume aliens might actually look more similar to us than we think. They'd need manipulative digits to build tools, need sensory systems to hunt and learn, and an intelligent being would need to be able to communicate with others. Size and shape dependent on “gravity, ambient density, and source of energy” – thick atmosphere would mean horizontal animals, thin would be vertical.
My Own Alien Species
After reading that article, I realised I had my own opinions on this matter - as I'm sure you would. I believe they would look very similar to us, however, I like to use a bit of creativity on their differences.
I researched into the animals on our world and how they adapt to different climates, meaning the different habitats on different worlds would impact the people who live there, as follows:
If they live in a hot environment, they would have hair on the top of head (to protect from heat) but not on the rest of the body (increase heat loss over the rest of the body), so they would have long hair but no eyebrows or hair on arms or legs. This idea is from a camel: they have short fur, but long fur on the top of their humps to prevent water loss.
If they are aquatic/ or live in swamp-like conditions, I like to assume they are frogs: breathe through their skin, using the tiny capillaries to absorb oxygen. Or they would have noses that close off, like seals. Aquatic animals would also need to have a unique way of communication: maybe echolocation (produce a series of clicks with larynx, 50,000-200,000 Hz as wavelength of frequency 5x longer in water).
If a carnivore, they might eat all of an animal, digesting with a very acidic stomach and gizzard stones to crush up bones and scales in first part of stomach, before going to the send to be digested properly. Similar to crocodiles, they wouldn’t need to eat as frequently as other species.
If a herbivore, they would need two stomachs and symbiont bacteria to break bonds between cellulose. However, I like the idea of kleptoplasty as seen in sea slugs (read more here). They photosynthesise to create food, using pouch-like cells (diverticula) on back that turn green when they ingest chlorophyll from plants.
If they are prey, their children would be gestated much longer so the baby comes out much more advanced, meaning they can walk almost instantly, similar to prey on Earth.
But they might not have the same reproductive system as humans. They might be asexual, using binary fission like bacteria (dividing itself into two) or budding like yeast (clone of self grows on it, and then separated when mature). It could take over host cells, like viruses. However, all of these options seem only to work on microscopic beings or plants; any part of a plant with meristematic cells (undifferentiated cells which can become anything) can grow a whole other plant from it.
There are some animals which can be produced by parthenogenesis (growth and development of embryo/seed without fertilisation, cloning self naturally) or autogamy (self-fertilisation, two gametes from same individual). Similarly, it might have more than two sexes (syngens) like fungi. Animals don’t have to reproduce only from two sexes. The offspring might be seeds or spores, clones or offspring using both genetic material. They could be fully formed or not, gestated a long time or not, looked after by parent or not: it could be stored in a pouch or incubated like a penguin egg.
The possibilities are endless. I still need more time to make decisions of my own alien species. What do you think other species might look like? Do you believe they are just like us, or totally different?
Keep an eye out for any of my upcoming books; you might just see one of these ideas make it into the final novel.