Since science fiction is supposed to be one of my interests (and if you saw my library, you'd agree), it occurred to me that I should post something science-fiction-y.
This is the write-up on one of the alien races I've come up with, the Hexans.
A Hexan has six limbs, three arms, three legs, evenly spaced around the generally disk-shaped body. Each limb has 6 tentacles at the end. On the legs, they're short (functionally toes) and can be used to grip on smooth/slippery surfaces. On the arms, the tentacles are generally between 30 to 40 cm long (functionally fingers). Both “toes” and “fingers” are claw-tipped: short, blunt claws on the toes and longer, sharper claws on the fingers.
The limbs have three joints: shoulder/hip, elbow/knee and wrist/ankle, but the entire limb is flexible, to a degree. Each arm or leg can be bent to about 60 degrees, but doing so is a slow and uncomfortable process. Left alone, a bent limb will return to normal, unless damaged, and a hexan is generally incapable of bending a limb without external force – i.e. a hexan can bend his/her arm by using his/her other two arms, legs, or bracing it in something and pushing or pulling on it, but can not bend that arm otherwise. Of course, the shoulder, elbow and wrist do move normally.
arms are generally from 90 to 120 cm long, though shorter and longer variations are known. Each arm angles down from the main body for 30 to 40 cm before turning back up. At the end of the arm are what may as well be called hands: they're at the end of the arm and boast 6 tentacles that fill the function of fingers. The fingers average 30 to 40 cm in length, evenly spaced around the “palm” of the hand and tipped with a short, sharp claw.
legs are generally from 60 to 90 cm long, although, like the arms, variations in length are common. In contrast with the arms, the legs angle up from the body before bending back down. The foot is a muscular disk, centered on the “ankle” with the toe tentacles evenly spaced around it. The toe tentacles average from 10 to 15 cm, although here, again, variations are common, and each toe is tipped with a short, blunt claw.
a hexan has 6 eyes, all located on the primary (first) joint of each limb, each on a 7 to 10 cm stalk. The eyes located on the “elbows” look down, while the eyes located on the “knees” look up. Between limb movement and mobility of the eye stalks, a hexan has effective 360 degree vision, above, below and around, making them very hard to sneak up on.
Hexans have a breathing slit on either side of each limb, for a total of 12. Generally, they breath in around the legs and out around the arms.
The hexan diet is omnivorous, tending toward carnivorous where possible in the majority of the population. Vegetarian hexans are known, generally in one of the religious orders.
The mouth is located on top of the body, centrally located, matched with a cloaca/anus on the center bottom of the body.
In pre-tool times, hexans preyed upon small animals that they could ingest whole, larger animals that had been killed and partially eaten by other animals and plants. With the invention of the knife, hexans were able to kill and eat larger animals, as well as portion larger plants.
Certain ancestral forms had venom glands in the hands and feet. These are still present in moder-day hexans, but are vestigal/non-working in over 99% of the population.
hexans have two genders: hermaphroditic breeders and neuter. Gender balance is usually close to 2:1 breeders:neuters. Neuters are generally larger and stronger than breeders, and tend to live longer, barring accident, disease or violence.
Breeding takes place between two breeders, following which the breeders and their offspring are tended by a neuter. The act of breeding involves two breeders joining belly to belly and grasping hands/feet. Certain glands in the hands and feet are activated, exchanging genetic material with the clasped hand/foot. The actual exchange/mating period is usually less than an hour, after which both hexans will curl up and fall asleep for the next several days.
After the exchange of genetic material, the hands and feet swell up, then after about two days, fall off the arms/legs. Over the course of the next week or so, they change into small hexans – infants for all intents and purposes. They are unintelligent and must be tended by the neuter gender – the nanny – to keep them from eating each other or, in some cases, their parents.
The parents will wake up in about a week or so, gaunt, ravenous and missing their hands and feet. New hands and feet will regrow over the course of the next few months, until three or four months later they're fully grown and the hexan parents are ready to return to whatever work they do.
Meanwhile, the nanny is tending to both the parents, as well as all 12 of their offspring. Losses from cannibalism are not uncommon, often reaching 50% or more. Out of the original 12 children, an average of 3 or 4 make it to adult-hood. The hexans are generally not bothered by loses of 75% or more. Among other reasons, hexans don't gain sentience until shortly before adult-hood, so child-rearing among hexans is more like ranching small, dangerous carnivores than raising human children.
After some thought, I realize that a three-legged critter isn't that stable. To walk, at least one leg has to move. As soon as a leg comes off the ground, the Hexan will fall over. I see a couple different choices here.
1: Hexans have more than six limbs. Six legs, and either three or six arms. Of course, then they're Nonans or Dodecans, which doesn't trip off the tongue quite so easily.
2: Hexans still only have six limbs, but each limb works as both a leg and an arm. If the limb comes down to a "foot" instead of an elbow, then comes back up to a "hand," it'd work, but I think then that it'd be awfully awkward for them to use their hands for anything delicate while walking.
3: Hexans have six general-purpose limbs, usable as feet or hands, as needed. Need to walk? Walk on your hands/feet. Need to manipulate something? Use your hands/feet.
4: I have considered an aquatic/semi-aquatic or arboreal life-style for the Hexans. In either environment, the hands/feet/arms/legs problem becomes a lot less problematic.
I also need to work on Hexan culture & society, technology and their relationships with other races, if any.