Alien 17




Alien #17 – Phronima mother with babies inside a salp.  The salp is ~2cm in diameter.
Wondering where Ridley Scott got his inspiration for the xenomorph creature in the movie Alien?  Look no further!  Actually, the original drawings were by created by Swiss artist H.R. Giger, but I digress….  The Phronima (Phronima sp.) surely looks like a monster, but let’s not get carried away with anthropomorphism – this look and shape has allowed them to become highly successful pirates of the sea.  The mother phronima has commandeered a salp. Inside of it, she is raising about 14 babies, who are feeding off the salp as they grow. What a sweet, caring mom!!! Unless you’re the salp – then the situation is very much indeed just like in the movie Alien where its living inside and feeding off you, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it! I’m amazed by the way the babies are organized in a nearly perfect ring, and I’ve spent long hours trying to figure out why this is the case. For them to space themselves out this way seems unlikely.  And I can’t imagine the mother constantly herding them into place.  My only plausible theory is that the babies are not yet capable of locomotion, and the mom laid the eggs neatly around the inside ring of the salp. Either way, the phronima mom is a busy, busy girl, and has all of her hands full raising up the next generation of little murdering parasites.

But there’s another fascinating part to this photo.  Salps are a transluscent pale blue-white.  Yet this one has a green/yellow- to orange/red coloration.  I’ve inquired with several marine biologists about this, and the best theory we’ve come up with is that once the phronima has killed the salp, it begins to decompose.  This may be a fungus or bacteria that has started to colonize the salp carcass.  Since the behbeh’s seem to be very mature (perhaps ready to leave at any moment), it would stand to reason that the salp carcass is old and nearing the end of it’s usable life – further indicating that it’s likely colonized by a microscopic parasite.  Isn’t life cool!?!?!


For printing, we offer the Aliens as squares on either aluminum or canvas, but they are customizable into other shapes if your design plan requires it. You can purchase this luxury wall art online in standard sizes, but if you’d like to discuss a custom crop or size, please contact one of our design consultants at the art gallery.  Perhaps our most popular arrangement for Aliens is a grouping of three of our 15″ x 15″ aluminums, but I encourage you to discuss the size & shape of your project’s wall with one of our design consultants, who will help you develop an amazing contemporary art installation that blurs the lines between natural beauty and scientific fascination.  Alien 17 is available up to a maximum size of 54″.