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My (admittedly poor) recollection of the scene is this:

  • The camera is doing a visual close-up of the soil. I forget if this was the part showing small, flowing rivulets of black goo.
  • The soil is visually barren (except for the goo if that is indeed this part).
  • One of the human characters walks across the soil.
  • As they lift their boot, a worm appears. I remember it as a centipede rather than a worm, but that's not too important.

So, was the worm in the soil and was exposed by the person walking over it? If so, why hadn't it become mutated at some point in the past? Or was it transferred from the person's boot, perhaps picked up from outside and stuck in the groves?

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good question, and on a related note, I'm also curious why the scanning devices deployed by the geologist -- which were looking for life forms -- did not detect the worms. –  Shiz Z. Jun 23 '12 at 0:19
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@ShaneFinneran - Good point. One of the pups flies into the room to scan it as soon as they open the door. The worms reanimate while its still flying around in there. Perhaps it was calibrated to ignore "small" lifeforms to keep it from constantly pointing out bacteria and other tiny organisms. –  David Harkness Jul 1 '12 at 14:20

2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

"We've changed the atmosphere of the room" - Dr. Shaw

Presumably the door acted as an air lock. Maybe the room was sealed off to halt the biological processes of EVERYTHING in the room (which is why the head is perfectly preserved), and the worms where already in the soil. By breaking the seal for the room, the biological processes are able to continue - maybe there was some sort of cryogenic freezing happening because of the room being sealed.

Once the seal is broken, and the biological processes have started again, the "black goo" begins to ... "unthaw" (for want of a better word), the worms begin to crawl around in the room.

At least, that was my interpretation of it.

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I agree that the room was probably hermetically sealed. If that were the case, any living organism would have died, including the worms. Perhaps the worms would have had time to gnaw on the head a bit first, but I doubt they could have survived for two thousand years without oxygen or food. It's not like it was a stasis chamber which the Engineers clearly had elsewhere. –  David Harkness Jun 22 '12 at 20:31
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30,000 years ago a squirrel buried some seeds in a Siberian river bank. Russian scientists discovered the Pleistocene seeds in the permafrost and successfully grew them in the lab, they produced flowers, fruit, and went to seed. Israeli scientists have grown 2,000 year old date palm seeds found in the excavation of an ancient mountain fortress. So in science fiction, it's plausible alien goo and alien worms could do something similar after only 2,000 years. –  Hugo Jun 24 '12 at 9:04
    
I watched it again. For a split second the camera focuses on the soil before David puts his foot down. It looks like you can see two immobile (inert?) worms. Or rather, when he lifts his foot up one of the worms flips out of the soil and starts wriggling. The other is hard to make out but seems to start moving as well. Dunno how they survived David putting his full weight directly on top of them, but whatever. I'm satisfied that the crew didn't bring them in from the ship or outside. –  David Harkness Jul 1 '12 at 14:17

My take is that the black DNA-altering ooze transforms whatever it contacts into a gnarlier version of the original, e.g., the worms in the soil in the room give rise to the swimming alien worms of unusual size in the black liquid on the floor. The concept of the sealed door to the room halting all biological processes until it is opened makes sense to me.

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I'm in total agreement about how the black goo affected the worms. While it may be possible that the sealed room preserved the worms in the soil as if they were in a stasis chamber, I'm hopeful that someone actually remembers seeing exactly the scene I'm talking about. –  David Harkness Jul 1 '12 at 8:08
    
I totally recall the scene and had the same question. The above answers pretty much hit the nail on the head, but I would throw in the extra theory (from the Prometheus forums) that the worms were left in the room as a type of 'booby trap' - guaranteed to mutate and begin the cycle upon exposure. –  Nobby Jul 1 '12 at 11:36

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