If you were a gladiator in the Outer Rim territories in the Star Wars galaxy, you'd recognize the Acklay immediately, by reputation if not by first-hand experience. As fans saw in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, these creatures are ferocious opponents in the pits, and very difficult to defeat. They've been exported to worlds all around the outer rim and are highly valued. But what is the acklay like in its natural habitat?
The acklay originate from a planet called Vendaxa. Despite their seeming deftness in the sandy gladiatorial pits, Acklay are amphibious creatures that spend much of their time in the oceans of their home world. Their small eyes can see underwater, away from harsh sunlight, and their pinchers allow them to slash and hack at their prey. They are crustaceans, resembling some of the crabs we have here on Earth, but their also exhibit reptilian traits (just look at those needle toothed jaws, sharp claws, and leahtery hide!). Underwater, they hunt schools of fish, but during the day, these creatures emerge from the water and hunt on the plains of Vendaxa.
Looking at this monstrous and aggressive creature, it's easy to see why they are so valuable to arena owners in the Outer Rim, despite the cost of feeding them. Their shells are quite impervious, they are fast, insensitive to pain, and have fierce claws that slash and stab their prey. They can't see very well, but have very specialized sensory organs on their chins to detect electricity generated by their prey's bodies, as well as cilia on their legs to help them detect things in their environment. One of their only weaknesses is their bellies, which has a much thinner covering than the rest of their bodies. At just over three meters tall, they don't have very many natural predators, but because of their efficiency in the arena, they are threatened by hunters who capture them for this purpose.
While this species is indigenous to Vendaxa, it also thrives on Geonosis, another Outer Rim world, imported there for the arenas. Rumor has it there is a species of acklay on Geonosis that has mutated because of that planet's pollution, larger, fiercer, and able to breathe underwater. The acklay may also have been used as living weapons in the Clone Wars, according to some reports.
Want to learn more about acklay? Check out some of the awesome books about the Star Wars world, including Star Wars: The New Essential Guide to Alien Species and Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary. There are also many sources online, like the Wookieepedia and StarWars.com.
Is there an exotic species in science fiction and fantasy you'd like to learn more about? Let us know in the comments!
Melanie R. Meadors is an author and editor of science fiction and fantasy, blogger at The Once and Future Podcast, and a professional author publicist. She studied physics and astronomy at Northern Arizona University, where no day was complete without a heated debate over relativity versus quantum mechanics. You can find her at her website, melaniermeadors.com, on Facebook, and Twitter, @melaniermeadors.