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View Diary: Halloween Horror Movies 2013 - Day 28 - ALIEN (106 comments)

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  •  One of the things I really liked about Alien... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cmcolin, avsp, TofG, Dvalkure

    ...as a scientist, was that the biology of the alien actually made a lot of sense (if you ignore all the later movies). As a parasite, the alien faced the same biological dilemma as earthly parasites: how do you reproduce when you require a host for reproduction? A lot of parasites have long dormant stages (like the alien eggs), and then have a rapid growth cycle once a host is encountered (the alien grew to full size in just a few days). Some real parasites also have a life cycle that includes an disposable injector (the face-hugger was discarded once Kane was infected; parasitic rhizocephalan barnacles use a similar method).

    Some of the alien's features can also be interpreted as adaptations for a parasite that specializes in using space-faring species as hosts. Space-faring species implies a spaceship, with a contained environment; acid blood makes it harder to get rid of the infestation, as the Nostromo crew discovered. The same with its apparent ability to withstand a variety of environmental conditions. In the director's cut, we find that the alien on the Nostromo was able to cocoon hosts and reproduce on its own (parthenogenesis). This is seen in some real parasites in which the host is mobile, and the parasite is unlikely to encounter another member of its own species. It's also possible that the alien could adopt characteristics of its host, increasing its ability to survive in whatever conditions the host prefers (the "dog-alien" in Alien3 supports this).

    Unfortunately, Aliens threw out most of the biologically-sound aspects of a space-based parasite. The whole "bee-ant" social insect model is almost completely incompatible with a parasitic lifestyle, because the hosts need to be brought to the queen, and the aliens couldn't travel on their own.

    Even so, Aliens was a fun movie.

    "Great is the power of steady misrepresentation; but the history of science shows that fortunately this power does not long endure."--Charles Darwin

    by Hopeful Monster on Tue Oct 29, 2013 at 09:44:06 AM PDT

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