Alien Xenomorph Biology Explained! (Because Science w/ Kyle Hill)

Alien Xenomorph Biology Explained! (Because Science w/ Kyle Hill)

– Today’s episode of Because Science is sponsored by Mack Weldon. Oh, hello. I just took off my helmet, even though I’m about to encounter the first
extraterrestrial life forms because I’m a bad scientist. But I can’t help it,
these xenomorph things are too interesting,
too complicated, too … Unnecessarily convoluted,
I have to study them up close and personal. What is their life cycle? What the heck is the black goo? How do xenomorphs really work? For the last 40 years, since
the original Alien came out, fans have speculated about
how the iconic monsters work. Their has to be some science
in the science fiction, right? But fans have always argued
because the Alien franchise is intentionally vague about
biology and life cycles. The movies want you to be in the dark to heighten the horror. However, the movies sometimes
feel downright contradictory, so how do the xenomorphs work? I think I’ve figured it out,
yes, even with Prometheus. In the first Alien, and even Aliens, the life cycle of the xenomorph
isn’t all that complicated if you know where the
filmmakers were coming from. According to screenwriter Dan O’Bannon in an essay entitled Something
Perfectly Disgusting, “I patterned the alien’s
life cycle on real parasites. “Parasitic wasps treat caterpillars “in an altogether revolting
manner, the study of which “I commend to anyone who is
tired of having good dreams.” You’re tired of having good dreams, right? This is Cortesia
Glomerata, a parasitic wasp that parisitizes caterpillars. It does so by laying eggs inside of the caterpillar’s body, which
eat them from the inside out and eventually bug-burst
from their bodies, wherever their chest may be,
after a gestation period. Look familiar? (whooshing) Whoa! Nice try, loser. Both co-writer Ronald Shusett
and director Ridley Scott have been quoted as saying
that parasitic wasps inspired the life cycle
of the original alien. You’re tired of having good dreams, right? This is Rhyssa Persuasoria,
which Ridley Scott mentioned in an interview. It crawls along wood, finds
a grub underneath that wood, drills into the wood
with its butt, and then inserts eggs into the grub
which then hatch into larvae which eat the grub from the inside out, muscles first, vital organs last. This is the Tarantula Hawk Wasp, which Shusett has mentioned in interviews. It paralyzes a spider, leads it to a den and then leys an egg on its
abdomen which then hatches into a larvae and burrows into the spider, eating it from the inside
out, muscles first, vital organs last, and then eventually emerges as an adult animal. Sounds just like an alien incapacitating a human for a facehugger, doesn’t it? (gooey chomping sounds) With this inspiration, O’Bannon said that, wait, where’s the … O’Bannon said that, “These
alien beings had two sexes on their own, but they needed
a third animal to reproduce, so they bring in an
animal, put it up next to a facehugger, or spore, and then wham, they lead the inseminated animal off to an enclosure somewhere
to await the birth.” This is more or less exactly
what parasitic wasps do. They fertilize each other
first but need a third animal to complete the life cycle, so … This is the classic xenomorph life cycle. Humans stumble upon a
long-dead race of parasite that died out before they could get their last fertilized eggs hosts,
but then humans arrive and the eggs activate and
then a embryo delivery device or face … Facehugger, attaches to a
human and implants an embryo inside that human and
after a gestation period, the embryo bursts forth from the chest, eventually growing into
a full-grown xenomorph. Xenomorph has to find another
mate to continue this process, but this is the gist of it. Parasitic wasps don’t have queens, but James Cameron’s addition of one doesn’t really change anything, it just– (growling) ugh, it just adds a step. The black goo, though, that
makes things complicated. The film Prometheus introduces
a number of distinct-looking creatures, but they are
all linked by the goo. We see goo-sposure lead to everything from the hammerpedes, to the
trilobite, to the deacon alien, and finally to a zombie guy? How the heck does the
original xenomorph life cycle fit into any of this? According to the movie,
the goo is actually Chemical A03959X.91-15, or a
so-called genetic accelerant. Now it’s my theory, and
many others’, that this genetic accelerant takes
whatever biology it finds and weaponizes it. It takes any living thing,
and through a genetic process, makes it more xenomorph-y, depending on the genetics it’s working with. I mean really, the first
alien you see and it looks like a vagina snake, and you wanna take off your helmet and touch it? That’s just– No dude, that’s just your fault. You’re bad at your job. So the goo takes Holloway’s
sperm and transforms it into the trilobite, which in
turn infects the engineer, which becomes the deacon alien. The goo also infects some
native worms on LV-223 and makes them a lot
more hostile and acidy. The hammerpedes. But what about that zombie guy? Well, in a deleted scene from Prometheus, he was initially supposed
to be a lot more like a xenomorph-human hybrid or transforming into a xenomorph himself. This only goes to show that
this is what the goo does. It takes living things and gives them xenomorph-like qualities. But how does the black goo
take biology and weaponize it? And how does that fit into
the xenomorph life cycle as we know it and the
original Alien franchise? I’ve been calling the
Alien aliens xenomorphs this whole time, which
implies that they are a singular species, so
how can there be so many different animals in all these movies? That’s because xenomorph
is not a species name, it’s a description. “Xenomorph” means “strange form.” The classic xenomorph
that we’re used to, then, is simply just the strange forms that the goo gives to humans,
just like the hammerpede is the strange form given
to the worms on LV-223. If all his is the case, than the goo, filled with microorganisms
or viruses or nanomachines, or whatever, could be a vector for intense and specific
horizontal gene transfer, which is the transfer of genetic material between organisms and
not between generations, like the gene transfer that created you. This genetic accelerant then, more or less attacks hosts’ cells and inserts
genetic material into them. Those cells take up the new
material and express those genes and change the entire
organism as a result. We see this most frequently
happening in bacteria, which can share genetic material to become antibiotic-resistant, for
example, but in this case, the goo could share xenomorph-like genes with any organism to make them more … Alien. But where does the dog alien
from Alien Cubed fit in? It doesn’t. That movie’s bad. So where does all of this
leave the alien life cycle, including the goo? (exhales) Alright, so, from the
original movie we know that a xenomorph needs to interact
with another xenomorph to fertilize an egg and
further on the strange forms, so first the goo has to
interact with a human and then the human
transforms into a xenomorph and with another xenomorph,
that fertilizes an egg with the embryo transfer device, the f– (whooshing) the facehugger inside,
which interacts with a human which then becomes a xenomorph
after the chest bursting, which, one of them could split
off and become the queen. The goo also attempts to do the same thing with human sperm, forming the trilobite, which interacts with the engineer, which interacts to form the
deacon, after some bursting as well, and the goo also
interacts with the worms on LV-223, and then becomes (panting) the hammerpede, and all this can happen via horizontal gene transfer,
and that all makes sense except, only the strange
form of the human and the goo will produce the classic xenomorph that you’re familiar with. So what is the true xenomorph life cycle? Well it all started with humans that were exposed to a bio-weapon
that became a strange form of a parasite that needed
a third party to reproduce just like a parasitic
wasp and all that was via a process known as
horizontal gene transfer. (panting) Of course, everything
would have been a lot more straightforward and
sensical if Ridley Scott had stuck to his original vision, but hey, life, even fictional life, is complicated. Because– (choking) Because … Ooh! Thank you so much for watching. Make sure to follow me
on Twitter at @Sci_Phile where you can suggest
ideas for future episodes and on Instagram under the same handle where you can now see
mini-episodes of the show just like you can on Facebook,
which I forgot to mention. So go do it, and ask me questions. Don’t at me. You can at me. And a special thanks
to this week’s sponsor, Mack Weldon, makers of premium
underwear, workout wear, hoodies, outerwear. They are super high-quality,
which I appreciate because I have extreme skin sensitivities. I can tell if all my hairs on my body are in the same direction or
not, so when it comes to buying stuff that fits well
and feels good on your skin, I take it super, super
seriously, and I just ordered some stuff from Mack Weldon, it was super easy, and
now if you have the same needs for your clothing,
you can order from them and get 20% off your purchase, which is more than most promo codes, I think, using the promo code SCIENCE. Hey, you’re a human with skin. Be comfortable in it, and if
you don’t like the clothing, they’ll refund you, no questions asked, and you can keep the garment. Promo code SCIENCE, Mack Weldon. Have you ever seen the
tagline for Alien 3? Which is actually Alien Cubed. Right, they wrote it like this. Write it like this, like that. And the tagline, they say. “Three times the horror, three
times the scares and stuff.” They say three times, but this is cubed, so the only way for that to be true is if the original Alien
had only 1.733 horror. Like, that was the value of horror. Then if you cube this, then it’s gonna be three times the original value.

100 Replies to “Alien Xenomorph Biology Explained! (Because Science w/ Kyle Hill)”

  1. Good explaination. It shows how the original concept really went off the rails. I think Bannon and Shusett imagined it as a natural species, but it is too specifically adapted to prey on humans and attack the structures of modern civilization to be that. Scott thought it was a bioweapon, but horizontal gene transfer messes that up. It’s great for artistic expression, but a weapon that adapts its way around designed safeties or loses its potency by picking up weak genes is not particularly useful for ensuring the clearing of planets of sentient life. That black goo, aka monster sauce, is not a much better concept, because it too is an uncontrollable doomsday weapon.

    I tend to look at the engineers as gardners, manipulating the biospheres of habitable planets to produce the resources that they need. To them, we are just weeds that need to be pulled when we threaten their vegitables.

  2. Wasn't the alien from Alien 3 formed from a face-hugger using a dog as the host? That's why it was so different from the humanoid ones. But yes, that movie was indeed bad, lol.

  3. Xenomorphs don't mate there like ants in a way but some xenos eventually molt into queen xenos and the queen puts itself on a wall grows a egg sack and starts laying tons and tons of eggs and they hatch face huggers that mostly leave the nest to find a host by there self unless there are hosts already trapped in hive walls with only there face sticking out making them helpless

  4. A human doesn't transform into a xeno, they transform into a drone which turns into a warrior to praetorian and then queen. if there already was a queen, the praetorian might transform into a carrier or ravager. The "dog" alien or runner transforms into a Chrysalis, smasher, or crusher, I don't remember exactly this strain's life cycle.

  5. Isn’t it an evolutionary disadvantage to be SO relient on other organisms? Like they can’t survive without other animals. That’s like us having sex with a tiger to have babies

  6. So what's the difference between the traditional xenomorph and the zombie xenomorph? I'm guessing the traditional xenomorph was created by some other nonhuman predatory species that interacted with the goo, and for some reason the biology of these creatures closely matches that of humans (the creature would have to be a cross between a mammal and an insect), which makes human hosts conducive to reproduction. The zombie xenomorph is the first time we ever see a human being changed from the goo, which would then become it's own species of xenomorph had it had the chance to reproduce. Or perhaps the goo causes mammalian species to become more insectoid, developing exoskeletons and more acidic blood. Are there any chemicals in the real world that can cause genetic changes like this? My guess is it would have to be radioactive since radioactive material can cause gene damage, but not changes in the genome like the goo does.

  7. Does actually the goo interact with human directly creating eggs? Aren't eggs produced by the Queen?
    I think the "classic" Giger's xenomorph species was created accidentally by Engineers or simply occured by evolution.
    There's no causal connection between the goo and the "classic" alien species. The goo is responsible only for metamorphoses in "Prometheus" movie (and maybe in "Covenant", but in Covenant goo used to simply kill Engineers and other animalish stuff, the actual alteration of species was caused by some puffball "spores", which can be a product of the goo, of course).

  8. what about the event of grown up xenomorph impregnates moms in the hospital directly without facehugger in AVP2? Why predaliens in this movie only able to breed xenomorph warriors and not new cross breed species between alien-predator-human?

  9. Actcally the things you call zenomorphs arent what black goo Does to human its the strange form with a ficical form the black goo is zenomorph Dna mixed with something

  10. This theory may need to be rexamined as of the additional of alien 'Covernant' which explains the evolution and genetic selection of the Nenomorph to the Prodomorph and then finally to the Xenomorph

  11. Actually I don't think the Facehugger is actually dying after it lays a xeno embryo in it. I actually think it's them transferring themselves into another. The main central nervous system is acted all on the embryo and after it's done transferring the facehugger dies, reacting more on nerve reflex. Similar to a butterfly leaving it's cocoon

  12. Better to just say it’s a biological weapon that bonds with the dna of any living creature to form something more deadly. For instance the face hugger mates with the dog to make the runner. A typical xenomorph only comes when combined with human dna.


  13. I always figure that the blacl goo was reversed bio engeering of the xeno, has the ship with the aliens egg crashed on the near by moon.

  14. You were getting a like until you shit on Alien3, proving you don't know dick about movies, so now you get a big fat dislike. Good job hippie.

  15. in some versions of the aliens they take traits from the host so maybe the goo is some material from them that has a chemical that allows them to do this and it may have been synthesized by that one dude from Covenant from materials on that planet then he began mixing species with them eventually creating the xenomorph a creature that can naturally make the goo and use it to create speciation between generations.
    Edit maybe the aliens are separate like the aliens that can impregnate others and take genes are the ones from alien vs predator and the main continuity aliens are the normal ones who cannot change form through generations both separated by ability to make the goo.

  16. As far as I was aware, the resulting Xenomorph from a Facehugger was because the facehugger adapted the biology of the host with it's own, therefore creating the Xenomorph. As well as this the black goo was an early development of the adapting genome. Basically, David created the Xenomorphs and the goo wasn't really part of the modern Xeno life cycle, as a Queen lays eggs independently and doesn't require a mate, and once the Queen dies, a Praetorian will malt into a Queen. The cycle goes :

    Xenomorph or any other form
    If you want the facts go to Viral Killer or Alien Theory

  17. Right… forget Prometheus it's stupid. The Alien Xenomorph was created as a biological weapon. Its not something that could evolve because it kills its hosts (all of them) and wouldn't be successful on a planet. Everything larger than a common house cat would end up 'hugged'. So here's the original good idea lost because Hollywood.

    The original Alien movie showed a ship that was piloted by a gigantic elephant like creature that the ridiculous Prometheus movie turned into an albino humanoid with a stupid mask. Dumb. This is dumb, stupid, ridiculous and idiotic. The original much better idea were to make the gigantic elephant like creatures into a race that created the aliens to fight… well we'll get to that but please forget Prometheus. Anyway these elephant like creatures were masters of organic technology – they literally 'grew' their ships, were highly empathic, long lived, and very peaceful.

    In their explorations around the galaxy they discovered the predators. Predators were (when first found) small, vicious, warlike, but contained the potential for intelligence and civilization. These nasty little mandible graced shell eaters were 4 feet tall, weak, and hunted by lots of other predators on their swamp like homeworld. The giant elephant like creatures greeted them and tried to uplift them. Bad idea. The predators quickly learned that by causing pain to themselves they could cause harm to these gigantic peaceful beings due to their empathic nature and the elephants quickly went from being guides to being slaves. The predators demanded organic upgrades and to avoid pain the elephant like beings provided – working on their DNA. Eventually some of the peaceful elephant like aliens realized that they were being completely enslaved and used their knowledge of organic technology to build the ultimate weapon – the xenomorph. No empathy, no mercy, the perfect organic killing machine.

    You could make a really interesting world around such (I certainly didn't create this idea I read it on the internet and in Dark Horse comics many moons ago) but such is apparently less preferable to black goo and stupid hose masks for albinos. Anyway I'd love to see movie makers make something of this but sadly it won't happen. Enjoy Prometheus.

  18. How did Moses know that a AMA symbol would Morph into the DNA chain design??? That is why i was thinking about another kind of parasite when i thought of that.THANKS FOR YOUR video

  19. Take away the flying aliens and the noise they make, and then this guy looks like he's on hallucinatory drugs.

  20. This is very interesting, Kyle, but it's very hard for me to concentrate looking at your beautiful eyes. I think you should start doing videos with your shirt off.

  21. O.g Xenomorph life cycle
    Egg facehugger, chestburster, beta xenomorph, xenomorph, xenomorph drone, xenomorph warrior, xenomorph queen

    Also there are dog/ox xenos

  22. The black goo is designed to simulate royal jelly much like bees create on earth. This is the life cycle of a xenomorph. There was a queen mother xenomorph (who was either created as a bio weapon by the engineers or was just a natural phenomenon), this queen mother was living on the xenomorph home world of xenomorph prime. She lays ovamorph eggs which hatch into royal face huggers(the face huggers that insert a queen embryo through the mouth or open wound). These facehuggers find a host and impregnates this host which then latter comes out as a queen chest burster it grows up within hours and lays eggs(without a mate, because it was confirmed that all xenomorphs are female and the species is asexual and do not require a mate like humans and other sexual organisms). This queen lays a ovamorph egg and it hatches and the facehugger goes onto a host And impregnates it, it will burst out of the chest and create a drone xenomorph, this xenomorph however, takes the genetic form of the creature it impregnated, so it looks like that organism, but is still looks like the xenomorph. This drone now becomes a warrior then a praetorian. The preatorian starts releasing a scent that the drones and warriors don’t like, so they attack the praetorian and she leaves the hive. Not long after that she will return and kill most of the drones and the warriors she, goes before the queen and asks if she can help protect and seeing as most of her hive has been killed the queen willl accept. Soon the queen dies and the praetorian evolves into a new queen. However, this is not the end of it’s life cycle as the queen gets older it becomes the the oldest xenomorph queen on the planet and becomes the empress xenomorph. Then she will die as the empress and end the life cycle.

  23. If you include the comics and games then from the chestburster it goes the drone (weak version of the xeno) then warrior (classic xeno) then the praytorion (similear to a queen and protect the queen) then to the queen herself. Also a queen sometimes created a queen facehugger which is larger than all the other facehuggers and when it impregnates it impregnates a queen embryo. Also if a facehugger never impregnates it turns into a spider xeno. Also a queen can evolve into an empress and then a monarch which is the strongest xeno ever and lay queen eggs with queen facehuggers. When a predator is impregnated it creates the predalien which also has a queen that lays eggs into a female host usually 6 at a time. When ze goo infects fungi the fungi release spores that if find there way into a human through ears mouth eyes or nose grow into a neomorph that later burst out of the back of the host and is known as a back burster when it is young.

  24. The gestating "Chestburster" zygote takes on characteristics of the host body, possibly through some sort of Horizontal Genetic Transfer system built into the Xenomorph species. Hence the Dog Alien in 'Cubed'. So, another theory, based on your notion of "How ze Goo Vorks", some non-earth parasitic life cycle hive with queen species (which as I stated may have already had HGT on their own, or maybe the Goo gave them that) got exposed to the Goo and it turned them into the Aliens we know and love. Whether this was an accident or done deliberately is unknown. As for the Zombie Guy, maybe Ze Goo is programmed to produce "that look"?

  25. KYLE KYLE…. You screwed up. Big time. The Xenomorphs would have had to evolve alongside humanity in the first place. That horizontal gene transfer is bull hockey, it was disproved. What the heck makes a chest burster larvae GROW within 24 hours to a full adult larger than a human being? THAT'S PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE! And what about the freakishly destructive blood, how could their bodies hold it all in?

  26. Besides the fact that xenos don't mate with other Xenos, xeno in greek means foreign not strange (and morph means form as in foreign-form or else an alien)

  27. I was eating when I watched the Alien movies when I was 9, and I am eating during this video. Don't ask what's wrong with me, I'm not certain. I just tend to watch things while eating. Feel free to ask my dad what's wrong with him for letting his 9 year old daughter watch movies with aliens bursting out of chests.

  28. I see one problem that bothers me and that’s the xenomorphs being predominantly female aside from hive guard and xenomorph Kong’s which I think are only in the board game

  29. i have a few things i'd like to add

    first, i dont think there are genders at all: drone, queen, praetorian, facehugger – i think they are just titles. the queen is not a female, she just lays eggs, and we call her a she cause it just fits, humans are used to queens being female. but their aliens, fucking parasitic aliens at that. in the same way that a machine can be modled a human, and you can call it a her, she or he if you want, it will still have no real gender at the end of the day. thats just my opinion

    second in regards to needing to eat or breath or take a shit.

    i think their blood is a kind of battery, breathing air and eating can simply recharge that batterys power. what do i mean? the breathing one is obvious, breathing oxygen is their main method of recharging the battery power in their blood. they use oxygen to….i dont phucking know, power the mini wind turbines in the xeno's cells? if you get what i mean? in a manner to how plants use sunlight
    as for why in damn near EVERY peice of aliens stuff i have seen, there has been little to no mention of xenomorphs needing to eat or in turn, take a shit. maybe the breathing is just enough to keep their energy recharged, but maybe in some cases they eat in order to get an additional energy boost or somthing, why would they not need to leave xeno-droppings? well, their aliens, their 'digestive system' if they even have one, does not need to be easily understood by us, we're just humans after all and our digestive systems do work, but in a slightly primitive fashion: ill just breifly explain
    "break open the food and take the good bits for energy" this happens from the saliva in our mouth to our stomaches all the way to our tracts. only when the body has gotten all it can out of it, does it send it off to wait to be expelled as waste, alongside it are dead cells that no longer work and other junk.

    perhaps the xeno's are just more advanced in that regard, perhaps instead of having waste products, they use everything? molecular acid for blood, what makes you think they would have a normal digestive system? maybe they melt everything down until its just molecules or atoms and then reforms it to be somthing usefull. like energy or that drool they love secrecting to make nests

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