Natural History of an Alien

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Natural History of an Alien
StarringVarious scientists
Country of originUnited Kingdom
No. of episodes1
Running time1 hour with commercials (US)
Original networkBBC Two (UK), Discovery Channel (US)
Picture formatUnknown
Original release1998

Natural History of an Alien also known as Anatomy of an Alien in the US was an early Discovery Channel mockumentary similar to Alien Planet, aired in 1998. This mockumentary featured various alien ecosystem projects from the Epona Project to Ringworld. It also featured many notable scientists and science fiction authors such as Dr. Jack Cohen, Derek Briggs, Christopher McKay, David Wynn-Williams, Emily Holton, Peter Cattermole, Brian Aldiss, Sil Read, Wolf Read, Edward Smallwood, Adega Zuidema, Steve Hanly, Kevin Warwick and Dougal Dixon.


The viewer is in an intergalactic spaceship named the S.S. Attenborough run by a small green alien.

Cambrian Earth[edit]

Earth during the Cambrian.



They visit asteroids and talk about the possibility of panspermia seeding solar system with life.


Featured organisms[edit]

  • Europa Cone Bacteria, orange-gray bacteria that are in huge towers. These towers rise many miles above the ocean floor. Inside these vents, warm water rises, nourishing layer upon layer of bacteria.
  • Europa Sea Vent Herbivore, a giant, gray, shark-like swimmer that feeds on bacteria in schools with a suction cup-like mouth on an extended, Opabinia-like trunk. These trunk-shaped mouths pierce the vents to suck in vast quantities of bacteria. These grazers are territorial and like squid on Earth, flash warning glows to drive away rivals. They make a series of dolphin-like cries.
  • Europa Sea Vent Carnivore, a predatory, yellow-green, echolocating, streamlined, shark-like swimmer that is built for speed and preys on the Europa Sea Vent Herbivores. Like the Europa Sea Vent Herbivores, the Europa Sea Vent Carnivores also have an Opabinia-like snout, but used instead to kill Europa Sea Vent Herbivores.

High Gravity Planet[edit]

They visit a high gravity planet, where they encounter many insect-like aliens who have adapted to 1.5 times Earth's gravity. High gravity means a thicker atmosphere (the planet in question having an atmosphere 15 times as dense as Earth's) and easier flight.

Featured organisms[edit]

  • Pteropede, a gray-green, millipede-like creature from High Gravity Planet with accordion-folding, dragon-like wings. It resembles a dragonfly when it flies. It may be able to take advantage over of the denser air to fly, but high gravity can lead to a bumpy landing. To support its great weight, the creature's eight legs are directly under its body. It breathes through lungs in the tip of its tail, which is more efficient than the way insects take in air, so the Pteropede is able to pump oxygen through its large, heavy body. To grow, the Pteropede must enter the water. It is only in the buoyancy of water, where gravity has little effect, that the Pteropede can shed its skin and increase in size. Once the new skin is hardened, the Pteropede can return to the demanding heavy gravity environment on land.
  • Sputnik Bug, a small, blue, Eoarthropleura-like creature from High Gravity Planet named after Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite in orbit. It has spines to protect it from a dangerous fall. Whenever it does fall, it immediately rolls up in a ball shape when it starts to tumble.
  • Splatter Bug, a small, brown, Eurypterid-like creature from High Gravity Planet. It sadly has nothing to protect its soft body. It's an evolutionary dead-end.


They visit the science fiction world of "Helliconia" which was created by Brian Aldiss. It's a binary system and they show how life can adapt to having 2 suns.

Featured organism[edit]

  • Helliconian Tree, a strange-looking tree from Helliconia with a cooling tower-shaped tree trunk and branches on the very top with thin in width leaves, making the branch look like a moth antennae during the short summers. Like deciduous trees on Earth, the Helliconian Tree turns dormant during snow-filled winters. It sheds its leaves but its branches curl up and go inside the Tree. The Tree then shields its top with an ice-like cap it grows.


They visit the science fiction world of "Sulfuria" which was created by Dougal Dixon. It is a sulfur rich world that is similar to Io.

Featured organisms[edit]

  • Sulfurian Balloon Plant, a tall, orange organism from Sulfuria that lives off of sunlight. They are like giant balloons, anchored to the ground and being pulled up by the gas that is inside of their flattish, pizza-like tops. They are like kelp on Earth. Babies sprout from the sides of the parent plant and eventually break off, becoming an independent adult.
  • Parachute Worm, a whitish-gray, earthworm-like creature from Sulfuria that lives off the gas of the Sulfurian Balloon Plant by sucking it out. Newly-born larvae resemble twigs with two umbrella-like extensions. Larvae are born live as the mother is feeding. After a little while, the young depart from their mothers and use the umbrella-like extensions to parachute down gently through the murk of the atmosphere to the planet floor and shed their umbrella extensions. After falling into water and shedding, the young Parachute Worms feed on the nutritious roots of the Sulfurian Balloon Plants. When they have fattened up, the adults make their epic journey back up the stalks to mate. The Parachute Worm is a perpetual migrant. Its lifecycle is a response to this extreme environment.


They visit Epona an imaginary ecosystem created by group scientists and science fiction writers called The Epona Project.

Featured organisms[edit]

  • Epona Pagoda Tree, a thin-looking, green tree from Epona with large, disk-shaped leaves surrounding it. The reason why the leaves are so huge is because they need to get as much carbon dioxide as possible. They are able to do a remarkable ability of movement. If a herbivore comes to nibble on them, they are able to fold back their branches.
  • Spring Croc, a green, hopping, two-legged, predatory, Venus flytrap-like creature from Epona. It is the major predator on Epona. It lies in wait for its prey (usually partially submerged). It is extremely vicious. It is a lot like the Earth shark, for it mostly focuses on eating. It does not need to be intelligent, it just has to be quiet.
  • Uther, a brownish-gray, flyer from Epona resembling a cross between a Sharovipteryx and a pterosaur. They are descended from flying fish-like ancestors. They started out in their avian-like lifestyle hunting Salacopods (small, amphibian-like creatures). They later on graduated to larger carcasses to feed on. Then they started to become predators themselves. In order to fly, they have a boost, which is a combination of hydrogen peroxide and ethanol, which hyper-oxygenates their blood. It allows them incredible stamina.


They visit the science fiction world of "Greenworld" which was created by Dougal Dixon. It is an Earth-like planet filled with lush rainforests.

Featured organisms[edit]

  • Curlywhorl, an arboreal, purple-red, centipede/iguana-like creature from Greenworld that came from aquatic, sea star-like ancestors (like all the other inhabitants of Green World did).
  • Pud, a small, green, 3-eyed, weevil-like creature from Greenworld's equator. There are thousands of species across the planet. They are like the beetles of Earth. It has 6 limbs, 5 are used for grasping and one is used for movement. This gives the Pud a hopping motion. They are often seen in groups, foraging for food in the undergrowth. They scavenge on fallen fruit. They have many predators and can sense danger coming with their three sensitive, leaf-like antennae. It makes a series of small-pitched chirps and hoots.
  • Kwank, a large, reddish-brown, robber crab-like creature from Greenworld with a turtle-like shell on its back. It is like the anteater of Green World, for it often goes for Puds.
  • Unidentified large, lobster-like predator, an inhabitant of Greenworld that sometimes attacks and eats Kwanks. It was only shown in the form of its shadow.

Artificial Life[edit]

On Greenworld, the ship encounters an artificial lifeforms from a robotic cube ship. It uses solar panels to gather energy and mines asteroids to get resources to grow. It even sends down a probe to "Greenworld" explore it. One such probe looked like a metal centipede in appearance. At the end of the film, the narrator is revealed to be a little green man-like female alien.

External links[edit]