When I first came to Australia in 1976 I moved straight from Rochester, a major city in upstate New York, to Broken Hill, New South Wales – a mining town in the middle of the outback. (Talk about culture shock!)
The house we rented had no indoor toilet and one morning as I made my first trek out to the ‘dunny’ I came upon an amazing sight. There on the path was the biggest spider I had ever seen (a Huntsman with a leg-span as big as a dinner plate) grappling with the biggest wasp I’d ever seen. The battle was both ferocious and frightening and I stood transfixed. (Until our cat came along and ate them both.)
I’ve since learned that that wasp is a native parasitic species. Unlike others of its kind, it lives alone instead of in communal nests. After mating, the female finds a big juicy spider, paralyses it with her sting and carries it to a pre-dug burrow. She shoves the spider deep inside, lays a single egg on her victim and seals the hole.
Another species of parasitic wasp builds a kind of maternity ward – a series of tiny mud chambers joined in a row which I often find stuck to an outside wall of our house. Once when I cut one open, I found a different spider sealed in each chamber, each with its own wasp egg attached. (Goo!)
It struck me years later that this species could well have been the inspiration for the creature in Aliens. At the very least the existence of such real life ‘monsters’ lends believability to their fictional counterparts.
There really is nothing an author could create in a story that is stranger than the life that already exists on this planet.