Special Report

What Will Extraterrestrial Life Look Like?

Illustrator David Aguilar melds art and science to imagine how alien creatures might adapt to their environments

It is time that we drop Hollywood’s humanoid view of extraterrestrials. In reality, David Aguilar says, “We are going to find bizarre adaptations.” (David Aguilar)


(David Aguilar)

Aguilar styled an alien he calls a temmet after an actual fossil of Hallucigenia, a small worm with spikes on its backs and tentacles for legs that lived on Earth during the Cambrian period, about 500 million years ago. “I love that body shape,” he says, “so I put it on a world that had less gravity. It was much larger in size.”

Temmets roam the cloudy planet Venera. The gentle giants have eight legs and long snouts, for sucking water from lakes. In place of eyes, which would be futile in the foggy conditions, temets use sonar for wayfinding. Their spikes emit acoustic signals that bounce off of their surroundings.

“They make great pets,” says Aguilar, playfully. “They will not retrieve a ball. That’s the only problem.”


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