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What Aliens Might Look Like

I have a little fictional fun with my aliens...

blurry aliens

Used with permission.

While I have had fun playing around with the idea of non-humanoid aliens, it is interesting ot read about what actual scientists think aliens might look like.

“Darwin’s Aliens” is a paper authored by biologists from the University of Oxford, theorizing that life on other planets was probably molded by natural selection. After all, the theory of evolution holds that creatures who can reproduce originated by means of natural selection. Regardless of the environment entities developed in, giving birth and passing on one’s genes defined the rise of life on Earth and advanced it to its modern-day complexity and variations.

Biologist can’t say exactly what aliens look like–whether they have purple or green or smooth or scaly skin, two big eyes or three small ones, but they do reason extraterrestrial life might be similar to life on earth.

Alien life will probably be carbon-based —because of its the fourth most abundant element in the universe when measured spectroscopically, at 4,600 parts per million. So, a world that’s at least somewhat wet doesn’t have extreme hot or cold temperatures, and has a protective atmosphere would most likely have carbon-based life.

Silicon is another common element that is solid at room temperature. Like carbon, silicon can form four bonds but it’s not as capable of more stable and varied structures. However, silicon-based life may have emerged on planets vastly different from Earth, with extremely hot temperatures.  Additionally, many biologists believe life may exist in forms that are totally unrecognizable to us. 

But, aliens who evolved by natural selection should have some specific features. By applying evolutionary theory, along with their knowledge of the physics and chemistry of the universe these biologists statistically assessed what extraterrestrial life might look like. 

Take the feature of eyes, for example, thousands of vertebrates—fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals—have eyes, so creatures and beings on other planets most likely have eyes. Also, most living things need to see, so on any planet that has some kind of light, anything living there most likely has eyes. So, high probability that aliens will have eyes. With that same reasoning, aliens will have sensory organs of some kind for smelling, hearing, touching, and tasting.

On Earth, separate organisms evolved into higher, complex ones after extreme events forced major transitions. If an alien species developed through natural selection and have bodies with multiple functional parts and features like limbs, internal organs, and sensory systems, then they underwent major evolutionary changes.

So, like us, with billions of cells in our bodies, complex extraterrestrials will have numerous smaller entities in their bodies that all work together so the beings can function. On planets that experienced even more major transitions than Earth, the aliens might have nested societies–social colonies specializing in specific tasks, pooling together on a planet-wide scale.

So now you’ve gotten a glimpse of what astrobiologist think evolved, intelligent extraterrestrials will look like. But, figuring out how we’re going to find, relate to, or communicate with space aliens is a whole other matter.

I was on a panel at a scifi con about how to communicate during first contact with aliens. My first response to my role was panic. What do I know about talking to aliens? Then I realized no one knew that (that they will admit), so I could make up that, too. 

What do you think aliens will be like? Are you ready for first contact? (Side note: Green River, Wyoming is ready! Check out their intergalactic spaceport!

Perilously yours,


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