Fringe: The Wasp, The Bat, The Gila Monster, And The Tiger

By Eric Wolff | April 15, 2009 5:57 pm

Screenshot from FringeWell, now we know what you get when you combine a wasp, a bat, a gila monster, and a tiger into one giant nasty thing: asexual reproduction! OK, not really, that just happens to be what happened on last night’s episode of Fringe (spoilers below.)

A geneticist combined these different creatures to produce one new, scary one. The beast went on a rampage, injecting its eggs into several people, and before we knew it larvae were bursting out rib cages. Ick, for sure.

But what I found most intriguing were the organisms the geneticist decided to combine. What was his plan. Here’s a look:

Gila monster: One of two venomous lizards in the world. The gila monster generally lives unobtrusively in the American Southwest.  It’s venemous, but the venom is generally used in self-defense.

Why the Fringe Monster needed it: Not sure, really. Gila monsters can eat a lot food at one time and then not eat for a while, a trait which might be useful.

Tiger: Tigers are solitary hunters who typically live across southern and eastern Asia. They’re also cats, and possibly vulnerable to having their bellies rubbed, but I’m not sure I’d try that. Seems like a good way to have my head playfully batted off my shoulders.

Why the Fringe monster needed it: I think it had to be for size. Tigers can get to be nine feet long and weigh 600 pounds. Most of the ingredients described to us are small or even tiny creatures. Maybe they used the tiger to provide the bulk for the beast.

Parasitic wasp (Megarhyssa macrurus): There are actually several species of  M. macrurus, but they share the characteristic of preying on the larvae of beetles, weevils, or butterflies.

Why the Finge monster needed it: These wasps lay their eggs via a long ovidepositor, just like our friend the monster. The female wasp injects the eggs into the host, and the larvae feed until they go into chrysalis. After chrysalis, the mature wasp eats its way out of the host. (This life cycle has been grist for the science fiction mill before, being the inspiration for the modus operandi of the eponymous creature in Alien and its sequels.)

Vampire Bats (Desmodus rotundus): The common vampire bat, made famous through the ages as a carrier of rabies, but also as the inspiration for Satan’s bat wings.

Why the Fringe monster needed it: On the show, it’s exposited that the bat is the solution for a fundamental problem in combining beasts: How do you get the beast not to reject its hybrid parts? Bats, they tell us on the show, have a special immune system that allows the bat to carry diseases without being infected by them. Well, I couldn’t find evidence of that (though I’m happy to have the way pointed to me). What I did find is that bats, especially vampire bats, carry rabies, and in fact are the primary vector for rabies in humans. They can also carry ebola virus, and maybe other things. But it’s not clear they do this any differently than any other rodent.

But vampire bats offer a number of other useful traits for a big monster. As hunters, they are incredibly quick. Typically they will land near prey, then creep up on it and leap at the last second to pounce on it, no doubt with a malicious blood-sucking grin on their tiny faces. Once there, their saliva has an anti-coagulant that allows them to suck blood until they’re sated or unseated from their hold. What monster worth its salt wouldn’t want those skills?

Fringe never gives us a hint of what this monster might have been intended for. Possibly it was simply a proof of concept. But the combination of beasts is suspicious: two stalking predators, two venomous creatures, and one that lays its eggs inside another creature. Plus they grew it really big. Was the plan to unleash this bad boy on Tokyo?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Biotech, TV

Comments (15)

Links to this Post

  1. » Mimicry Sutton, New Hampshire | May 7, 2009
  1. luca

    No T-rex, nor great white shark in the mix? Pity. It could have used a huge mouth, and may be learn to fly F-14…

  2. Soel

    I couldn’t find any information detailing that bats had especially better immune systems, but from a conceptual point of view it would make sense. As vampire bats subsist exclusively on blood it would be a great boon to them to have very strong immune systems as they may run across all kinds of diseases in the animals they feed off of.

    I agree with luca though, T-Rex’s in F-14′s would be way cool. Hurray for Calvin and Hobbes!

  3. RobC

    Bats are not rodents. :-)

  4. apollo

    i was quite disappointed to find that bats immune systems are unspectacular. i think i shall stop watching the show now that they make up facts, but portray them as truth, to make the show more interesting

  5. Although the immune systems of bats may be unspectacular according to apollo, there is at least one virus expert who thinks that the ability of bats to coexist with many different types of viruses without showing symptoms may possibly hold promise for the medical field: http://www.csiro.au/news/Bat-Helps-Virus.html

  6. michael

    rats are only resistant to some kinds of diseases.. the same way humans are resistant to some… where else bats are host to tons… thats the key difference in my oppinion

  7. what does this have to do with”which is not poisonous to people?”

  8. dont kill them please i love them

  9. Zerkaden

    Hi!

    I just finished the first season of Fringe, and was also kind of interested in the composition of the monster, particularly because of the explanation about the role of the bat and its immune system. I tried to search (not far, just one or two google questions) and found a part of the answer on a Swiss medical website (it is in French so I’ll translate the interesting part of the article).

    According to the author, the bat’s immune system possesses a quite low amount of B-cells, which probably explains his tolerance to the viruses and other micro-organisms that you mentionned.

    P.S. : the URL of the website in which I found this is http://revue.medhyg.ch/article.php3?sid=32589. Also, I apologize for my poor English skills, but I’m from Belgium and I think I might need more than tv-shows and my earlier English curses to learn the language ; )

  10. sam

    the bat was supposedly used was it a micro-chiroptera or a macro chiroptera? the other thing,all those creatures have a different genetic make up,so cominng up with a viable offspring is next to impossible. great fiction work though.

  11. Dr.Mikenstien

    I’ve read quite a lot about bats actually, and while not widely noted or recorded, thier immune systems do carry the trait walter described in the episode… SOME species of bats, indeed many, have immune systems with advanced immuno-functions, making them able to be infected by MANY different diseases, even simultaneously, without signs or symptoms of the infection they are afflicted with showing in any of thier tissues. The immune system is usually strong/complex enough to keep the pathogen’s replication in check, preventing the disease from manifesting, even if its NOT really strong enough to COMPLETELY remove the pathogen and ‘cure’ itself from infection… What remains is a bat that HAS a disease, but shows no signs of symptoms of it, making bats great reseviour species for spreading/infectious microbes/pathogens.

    Why this is possible is still being studied, but theories like the extremely fast rate of a bats metabolism, combined with its natural proficiency to assemble/produce antibodies, plus its lymphatic functions being similar to other mammals, have prompted even biotech organizations to code and catalogue the little guys’ (bats’) proteins for future study.

    Whats this mean for the episode :

    So if you ask me? The episode’s writing holds a little water. Not a LOT of water, and no not ALL the water, but some, certainly… And if the fact that bat DNA isnt a good enough answer/explaination for making a giant monster outa genetic hybridization… I remind you, you are not watching BBC… this is not a documentary about cutting-edge science… its a Fictional Drama about FBI investigations into impossible occurences… So just let it go, and be glad the writers took the time to do a LITTLE research, which is more than a lot of shows can really say (coughs the name ‘smallville’)… And besides… if there WAS a proven way of making cross-phylogenic genetic hybrids work (and you hear about new ones being successful all the time! The fish-potato for example, thats cross-class let alone cross-phylum), then why on earth would the good people at the network, really broadcast how the secret/trick works to you know… people like me and you… o.0? : P

  12. Dr.Mikenstien

    >>>@ Sam

    Well… the fact that these animals have very diferent genetic make-up is true, but what makes this episodes claim so almost-plausible… is that the degree of variation in ALL genetic code is now known to be much smaller than we had prev thought. Take for example what Peter said in the Pilot about cows and people being only so far apart genetically… Since the degree of diference between our genomes, is less than previously thought, new technologies like that discussed in this episode, have and are being developed to CLOSE THE GAP, and make members from diferent CLASSES of animal, let alone diferent species or families of animal, able to cross genetically and still produce living/stable offspring. My last comment mentioned a Potato strain now on the market that is actually part flounder? It was crossed with a flounder so that the potatos grew fats/proteins that otherwise would only be seen in fish.

    Thats NOT fiction, and the resulting crossbred strain of potato was not only able to survive, but performed better than its parent-potatos when tested with cold-stress. We’ve crossed cats from many diferent families now, in the name of preserving or bringing back diferent endangered or extinct species of wild-cats. The lines that segregate the diversity of species, are in fact proving easier and easier to smudge or blur, as time goes by and understanding increases.

    Im pretty certain we humans were able to successfully create a Hum-anzee as far back as the 20s (Robert Yerkes’ Urban Legend on Wiki), if not sooner. This was a cross of human and chimpanzee genomes – two of the closest in nature genetically speaking. Whether actual experiments like this have been successful remains historically unconfirmed… Other examples like the russian Ape-man experiments, seem to pop up now and then but again, dont seem to be taken seriously by scientific communities.

    None the less, its not really considered a valid view anymore academically to say that animals or organisms from different species CAN’T be crossed and produce a viable lifeform capable of growth/life/etc… Consider how many goats, cows or other farmyard animals are being considered today as possible candidates for human/animal hybridization in the name of making(engineering) animals that internally/automatically produce (desired)needed human-specific proteins/antibodies/etc, the pharma industry then intends to collect and market as medicines or treatments. Suffer from a disease-related protein deficiency? Now you can just drink goats-milk laced with human-brand proteins you body will recognize and use in place of the one’s you are lacking.

    Instead of it being likely that genetic variation means there is NO WAY some species could ever be ‘blended’, even in a lab : it’s much more likely that we simply havent figured out the SECRET to that particular recipe/hybrid/cross before now. This fact does nothing however for the unfortunate truth that most crosses/hybrids usually end up sterile, and thus are incapable of bringing forth offspring of thier own, i.e. further generations. If they HAD this ability, much could probably be learned by studying that kind of unique heredity, perhaps? : )

  13. I and my buddies have already been looking at the great information located on your web site then the sudden came up with an awful suspicion I never thanked the website owner for those tips. My young men ended up so happy to study them and have undoubtedly been making the most of those things. Thank you for genuinely quite kind and also for selecting these kinds of extraordinary issues most people are really desirous to learn about. My personal honest apologies for not saying thanks to you earlier.

  14. alveolate

    lol just noticed the last part when Walter is doing an ultrasound on Charlie. the geezer was practically massaging his belly with the device! for all the “research”, they couldn’t get the ultrasound technique right.

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