My story’s alien planet is dominated by eight-limbed vertebrates. The design and purpose of these limbs varies greatly depending on the creature, as it does on Earth, but they generally tend to retain most or all of these limbs throughout evolution (I.e. no snakes).

People, and presumably some other Earth-dwelling vertebrates, often find arthropods and other creatures with many limbs to be strange or “alien” in appearance. Conversely, if some of these eight-limbed creatures suddenly encountered a four-limbed vertebrate (specifically, a rat from Earth), would they instinctively find it strange or funny-looking because of its relative lack of limbs? Would there be an evolutionary cause for this?

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    $\begingroup$ Given how we have vastly disparate feelings about critters with different numbers of limbs than us. How do you expect there to be a definitive answer to this question other than “maybe”? Seems like you could write your critter to have whatever feelings you want. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Jan 9 at 5:30
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    $\begingroup$ Only if animals with the fewer limbs are not common in their world, do you find worms and snakes funny looking because they have a different limb count (no limbs) to us?, you're a bit strange if you do because everyone else just thinks they're perfectly normal animals .. and then it's only temporary, they'll get used to it quickly like we did with the kangaroo etc that seemed odd to westerners when we first saw them. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Jan 9 at 12:04
  • $\begingroup$ An "evolutionary cause" would be a fewer-legged predator that, over eons of predation, causes instinctive fear in the higher-legged species. But the reaction wouldn't be, "that's strange," the reaction would be, "hate that! Kill it!" Things are strange or funny when they're out of the ordinary or subvert our expectations - but whether or not that reaction is based on joy/laughter or bias/disgust varies wildly with individuals. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jan 9 at 16:21

1 Answer 1


It depends

What is considered "funny-looking" is going to depend on what they are used to seeing. If the only creatures they see are members of their own species, then they probably will think it's funny-looking.

But most creatures share their environment with other kinds of creatures, and that's the case stretching back for millennia. So, if any of those other creatures have a different number of limbs, it's likely your aliens won't think much of it.

If these creatures evolve in an environment that contains other creatures with a different number of limbs, it's unlikely we could make any general assumptions about what is considered "odd." At that point it becomes a matter of personal reaction, which is a question about individual characters and not worldbuilding (as noted by sphennings).

Of course, if they have any kind of culture, it's possible they will have developed some artificial ideas about what is good and bad when it comes to body plans. Your question doesn't mention anything like that. And, if it did, you'd literally be answering your own question.


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