The Mgalekgolo (Ophis congregatio, meaning "serpent union"), more commonly known as Hunters, are a unique gestalt of smaller creatures known as Lekgolo, which are tiny, orange, worm-like creatures that group together to exponentially increase their intelligence, strength, and maneuverability. During and after the Great Schism there was a division within the species, some aligning with the Covenant Separatists and others remaining with the Covenant Loyalists. They always come in pairs or "bond brothers." The death of one will enrage the other.
When the Mgalekgolo home world of Te was discovered by the Covenant, intent on mining its riches, they faced, instead, heavy resistance from what the humans know as "Hunters". Their physiology gave them a tremendous and unexpected advantage in combat, not only hampering, but even halting, the Covenant's advance and killing an Arbiter. The Covenant were further infuriated by the Lekgolo's destruction of Forerunner artifacts during the Mgalekgolo's routine feedings. In ground combat campaigns they were mostly victorious, despite the valiant effort of the Sangheili. The Covenant was forced to rely on orbital bombardment, a strategy against which the Mgalekgolo had little-to-no defense. Thus, to save themselves from extinction, their only choice was to agree to join the Covenant. This later came to be known as the Taming of the Hunters. Terms for their induction into the Covenant were eventually met, despite communication difficulties (which hampered the process). In their agreement to join with the Covenant, the Lekgolo worms, which fed on specific minerals, were consigned to investigate the Forerunner Dreadnought that resided in High Charity and help uncover its inner workings. Their price for this trade was access to space-travel technologies and exploration of the Covenant space lanes.
When a single colony of Mgalekgolo becomes too big, the colony will divide in half to create two independent Mgalekgolo colonies. These colonies will share an extremely close and mysterious bond, referred to only as being "bond brothers", or "mates". The armor and Assault Cannons used by the Mgalekgolo were given to them by the Sangheili after the former joined the Covenant. Mgalekgolo that have split into "bond brothers" are recognized by spiked appendages that rise from their shoulders, which means that they are bonded to another Mgalekgolo. Bonded Mgalekgolo colonies are dropped into battle together by the Covenant, as the Spartans learned: where you find a Mgalekgolo, there is always another close by. If one of the bonded colonies is killed, the other will go into a frenzied state, much like the berserk state of a Jiralhanae, or the suicidal charge of an Unggoy. If left alone for a long period of time, however, they will adopt a "split personality" of shooting followed by melee attacks.
During the Battle of Onyx, some Mgalekgolos apparently had command of lower-ranking Sangheili, signifying they may have a higher military rank in the Covenant military than previously indicated.
Hunters take the hulking bipedal form in the Covenant military. In this form, they are the strongest and most resilient species in the Covenant . They usually stand between twelve to thirteen feet tall, but when in their combat state they crouch into between eight to eight-and-one-half feet, protecting their visible, unarmored stomach and neck. Though uncommon, the Mgalekgolo can even come in larger sizes and even bigger than the standard Covenant Wraith. Their political motivation is completely unknown. Their armor has a blue luster that makes the orange-red skin of the Lekgolo worms inside very noticeable, but the colony itself is hard to spot. They always fight in pairs due to the fact that when the colony gets too big, it splits into another Mgalekgolo form, creating a powerful bond between the two bond brothers.
Hunters fight using Assault Cannons integrated directly into their armor, and they carry an enormous, and nearly impervious metal shield made of an unknown alloy derived from the same material that forms Covenant warship hulls, and weighing approximately two tons. This shield protects them from almost every form of plasma-based or ballistic weaponry available to Covenant and human infantry alike, and is a powerful melee tool capable of crushing anything in its path and allowing the Mgalekgolo to sweep away most enemies in close combat. The Hunter can also gain a surprising burst of speed when it moves in for a melee kill.
The Assault Cannon the Hunter wields operates in two modes; one firing a single explosive capsule of incendiary fluid, the other spraying the fluid out like a beam. The beam is more devastating than the single explosive shot, because this attack lasts longer and so wide spread damage can be done to more than just one enemy, or a single enemy can be badly injured or even killed.
Hunters are not a single organism, but rather are composed of multiple small, orange, eel-like beings called Lekgolo, that form a single collective consciousness and act as one, a single "hive-mind", similar to the structure of operation in the Flood. In other words they are a communal organism working together to perform specific tasks. Mgalekgolo are capable of manifesting in several different iterations according to what goal they are striving to achieve and the amount of Lekgolo worms that are present. The Mgalekgolo is the most common form seen in combat during the Human-Covenant War, but is actually one of the more rare forms in the Lekgolo society. This Mgalekgolo is employed by the Covenant as heavy infantry. Their society is predominated by this combination of being able to create exponentially more intelligent creatures, and the actual "Hunter" organism is one of the rarer and smaller forms to be found, used primarily in interaction with the Covenant hierarchy. Because of their make-up of several hundred "eels" instead of being a single large organism, the Lekgolo are one of the only species in the Covenant that cannot be assimilated by the Flood, as their unique physiology does not allow the organism to access a central nervous system or control them to any capacity. As such, there has never been a Hunter Combat Form, though the flesh of the Lekgolo can most likely be used by the Flood simply for its biomass.
The collection of eels that make up a Hunter's body are unintelligent at the most basic level, but can form complex thoughts and emerge as a conscious individual when they combine into larger masses that communicate through chemical and electrical means. The neural net that Hunters develop enables them to be incredibly strong and very sensitive to all things within a 1,000 foot line pointing out from non-combat form, and a half sphere that extends 500 feet in combat form[verification needed]. This could explain why Hunters sometimes can locate the Master Chief even when they cannot see him, or when they are facing the opposite direction. This also explains why Hunters can think and work as an effective combat unit without even using verbal communication. Hunters generally growl during battle but will sometimes talk and make remarks like the other Covenant species. Instead of using vocal chords, like other Covenant species, they vibrate their bodies to make a low rumble that is described as "more felt than heard" to produce speech.