I am trying to find out if I have thought of the correct anatomy requirements for designing non humanoid alien species. I am designing as many different biological species as I can with the aim of their anatomy being as far from humans as possible whilst still meeting the criteria.

The aim is that these species will be of early hominid intelligence or smarter and with the same level or more of tool usage. The current visual idea is these creatures have the anatomy that either now or in the future they could build tools, structures and create technology.

Other than sensory organs and methods of communication, multiple limbs with the ability to grasp and manipulate tools has been my main area of focus, research on all the strange and wonderful in nature has provided much inspiration so far.

The species would likely live in groups or early civilizations in order for knowledge to be passed down but it is more their anatomy I am currently trying to design.

There will be no telekinesis for the time being or any abilities that could be considered far superior than humans for achieving physical tasks, so use of limbs seems to be what would make sense. I know ravens and some birds are reasonably clever and can use tools but I cant imagine that a single mouth could perform complex tasks to level I am after.

Any suggestions on if my criteria isn't correct or possible anatomy for tool using tasks to a human level of efficiency I haven't thought about would be appreciated.


1 Answer 1


You are perhaps moving in the wrong direction. Evolution works by adapting existing structures to function in new environments, and adaptations can be added, subtracted or modified beyond recognition, depending on what "works" in that environment. The tiny bones in the inner ear that transmit motion from the eardrum to the nervous system were used to support gills many millions of years ago.

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The bones in the inner ear were used to support gills millions of years ago

The other thing to consider is the evolutionary background of the creature. Modern creatures are bilaterally symmetrical and have 4 limbs and a tail because they are all descended from a particular fish. Vertebrates can trace their ancestry back to a tiny worm which existed 500 million years ago. On the other hand, there are also fossils of creatures preserved in the same Burgess Shales which have no modern counterparts at all...

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Pikaia, your most distant ancestor

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Opabinia. Not anyone's ancestor, so far as we know....

Now imagine your word has a creature like Opabinia that becomes the ancestor of the successful phylum which includes intelligence. Somewhere along the line, they would have had to evolve to live on land, develop the single manipulator into something more dexterous, perhaps rearrange the eyes to provide more detailed vision...

If you don't want to go that far back, perhaps you could consider what would have happened if a radially symmetrical creature like a starfish was the ancestor of the intelligent creature? Octopii have a radically different anatomy from chordates (including having large amounts of their "brain" in their limbs), which would also make for a very alien intelligence should they ever evolve to move onto land.

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Squibbon, from "The Future is Wild". Speculative intelligent cephalopod 200 million years in the future

So start by considering where these creatures came from and how they evolved, and this should inform you in "how" they developed intelligence and tool useage.

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Even an intelligent dinosaur would not have looked anything like us

  • $\begingroup$ I did think of evolution and was almost going to work backwards, I did also plan to create a whole eco system I was more trying to think other that a humanoid what could use technology, maybe make a space ship by humans standard of technologybut not be the usual creature with either fingers or tentacles. $\endgroup$
    – user69935
    Dec 23, 2019 at 0:55
  • $\begingroup$ I forgot to say thanks for the answer, I will try thinking about it the way you said. $\endgroup$
    – user69935
    Dec 23, 2019 at 0:58
  • $\begingroup$ Only the stapes is derived from the gill arches directly, the incus and malleus were derived from bones in the jaw, although technically, the jaw is also derived from the gill arches $\endgroup$ Apr 24, 2020 at 20:28

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