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How the 'Alien' Xenomorph Works

Author's Note
Senior Staff Writer Robert Lamb
Senior Staff Writer Robert Lamb
HowStuffWorks 2009

I've been a fan of the "Alien" films for as long as I've been old enough to watch them -- probably a little longer to be honest. So it was a huge thrill to explore the xenomorphs in true HowStuffWorks fashion.

Elsewhere on the Net, you'll find any number of fan-generated articles on speculative alien biology, as well as some excellent resources about the making of the films. I tried to steer somewhere between the two and turned to real-world biology whenever possible, rather than the conflicting world of comics, novelizations, video games and "Predator" crossovers.

There's also quite a bit of fascinating film study on the "Alien" franchise out there, discussing everything from the sexual aspects of the creature itself to academic debate over Ripley's underwear. If you'd like to catch up on some of that, do check out the Stuff to Blow Your Mind episode "The Science of Prometheus."

I'd like to personally thank H.R. Giger, who was very generous in sharing information and artwork for this article. Be sure to visit the H.R. Giger Museum, in Gruyeres, Switzerland, where the artist's original "Alien" paintings can be viewed in person year-round. And if you want to dive into every possible detail regarding the making of "Alien," then check out the artist's own book, "Giger's Alien," Valaquen's blog Strange Shapes and Ian Nathan's book "Alien Vault: The Definitive Story of the Making of the Film."

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