The 1979 film Alien, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Sigourney Weaver, is unquestionably a classic of science fiction and horror, largely because of its enduring imagery. It’s unlikely that the film would still be as fondly remembered as it is today—or have spawned so many subsequent sequels, prequels, and related media—if it weren’t for the exquisite design of the titular alien itself, known as a xenomorph.
There is at least one terrifying creature in the real world that possesses an eerie similarity to the famous fictional extraterrestrial. Believe it or not, it’s the moray eel—and if you were a crab, it would be your worst nightmare!
At first glance, you may not see any apparent resemblance to anything out of this world. Yet these fish are hiding a deadly secret…
They may not get the kind of attention that sharks have, but moray eels are truly fearsome creatures: their jaws are powerful enough to cut through bone. To make matters worse, they also have something called a pharyngeal jaw.
This means that they have an additional set of jaws within their throats. They capture prey with their primary mouths, then use their special ability to grab the victims and drag them down to their gullets so they’re easier to swallow.
Of course, this trait is remarkably similar to the titular creature in the 1979 film Alien and its subsequent sequels and prequels. Scientists didn’t discover this ability until 2007, but other fish with pharyngeal jaws were known before this time, likely influencing artist H.R Giger in his design of the famous “Xenomorph.”
Once you see the moray eel’s pharyngeal jaws for what they are, it’s hard not to compare them to the iconic extraterrestrials!
Watch a type of moray—the snowflake eel—in action below!
The good news (for us, at least) is that moray eels tend to avoid humans as much as possible, and only attack in cases of self-defense or mistaken identity. Either way, it’s still pretty frightening to imagine getting on this fish’s bad side!
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