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"A thousand years they have ruled. Yet now, there are only ten. A dying race, ruled by a dying Emperor, imprisoned within themselves, in a dying land."

Don't worry, David Morgan-Mar. We've got this one.

A race of sentient beings is past its prime. There are only a few of them left, and they're slowly dying out.

This may be for any of a number of reasons. It may be caused by Creative Sterility - or it may cause it. It could be the result of a Depopulation Bomb or Gendercide. Sometimes the race is almost immortal, and thus suffers from the Immortal Procreation Clause. The race may live in a time that's Just Before the End. They could be dying out because another race has Gotta Kill Them All; if humanity is the target, it's Kill All Humans.

Whatever the reason is, the dying out may be viewed as a tragedy, because someone appreciates the Uniqueness Value of the Dying Race and so regards them as an Endangered Species.

Sometimes the race will be trying to save themselves. This might lead to Only You Can Repopulate My Race. If they accept their fate, they may want to Fling a Light Into the Future.

If the race is reduced to just a single individual, that is the Last of His Kind, not this trope. But then again maybe There Is Another, too. See also Humanity's Wake for when humanity is made extinct. Contrast Racial Remnant for when a race doesn't die out completely.

Examples of Dying Race include:


Anime and Manga

  • Animal X - Minato is working hard to propagate his dying race.
  • Metroid: It's kind of implied in the manga that this is why the Chozo trained Samus to be a warrior when they adopted her.
  • The Shadow Angels in Genesis of Aquarion.
  • The Borrowers in The Borrower Arrietty.
  • This is something that worries the vampires in Karin. There are more vampires dying than there are children being born. The protagonist's parents are looked up to by younger couples since they have three children while most other parents only have one at most.


Comic Books

  • Both the White and Green Martians in DC Comics are Dying Races. None still live on Mars, and as far as I know, there's only one Green Martian (the Martian Manhunter) and a handful of White Martians (including Miss Martian) left (at least outside of the Phantom Zone). Technically, they aren't separate species, just separate races, so even if there were more White Martians left, the Martian species as a whole is dying out.
  • While Superman is no longer the Last of His Kind, there are so few Kryptonians left after the New Krypton storyline that the species as a whole is doomed.


Film

  • In the 2009 Star Trek movie, the Vulcans become an endangered species.
  • In Children of Men, the human race is unable to reproduce as almost everyone is infertile.
  • The race of aliens in Dark City are definitely this; it's the reason the city was built in the first place.
  • In The Dark Crystal There Are three dying races: The Skeksis, the Mystics, and the Gelflings. At the start of the movie there are only a handfull Skeksis & Mystics left; and only one Gelfling. At the end of the Movie both the Skeksis and the Mystics are gone. And only two known Gelflings are left to rebuild the world: Jen en Kira.
  • In The Chronicles of Riddick, the titular character Riddick is a Furian. The Necromongers (aka Big Bad) tried to exterminate the Furians because of a prophecy which foretold they would be destroyed by one.


Literature

  • The aliens in Isaac Asimov's Blind Alley.
  • The Martians in Roger Zelazny's classic story, A Rose for Ecclesiastes.
    • As much existential as it is biological in this case.
  • Nearly all elves ever because... it was used by JRR Tolkien. Although the Elves weren't dying, since they are technically immortal, they were going into the west, which is what happens when you kill an elf. However this meant their society in Middle Earth behaved just like a dying race.
    • The Ents from The Lord of the Rings are a much better fit even than the Elves. Although they're nearly immortal, the fact that all of their females have vanished means they can't reproduce themselves, and therefore they are on a slow but inevitable road to extinction.
      • Everyone in that setting is dying. Elves are leaving, Ents are unable to reproduce, Dwarves are... the one dwarf we hear from jokes about how rare dwarven women are. Goblins and Orcs find themselves dying off in droves after the fall of Mordor, reduced to being monsters under beds and gremlins that mess with machinery. The last Balrog and the last Giant Spider die and retreat from the world, respectively, in the course of that story, and the last of the Giant Flyers that the Riders use dies as well. The time of human heroes is over and will never recover, which means that even humanity is doomed to a slow, sick death. The only ones untouched are the Hobbits, and even they are breeding only slowly, and growing increasingly human-ish.
        • Though really, the humans aren't all that doomed - the elves even acknowledge that it is time for them to become the rulers of Middle-Earth, and that they will decide its future. The remnants of the Dunedain (and therefore the Numenoreans) may be almost gone, but humanity in itself is (as of the end of the books) on the rise. The hobbits remain and do not really decrease, thanks to their peaceful ways and philosophy of enjoying life.
  • Thomas Burnett Swann used this in most of his novels for all the mythological creatures that were being displaced by encroaching humans.
  • The people of Elric's race in The Elric Saga.
  • And the Vadhagh in Michael Moorcock's The Swords Trilogy (at first).
  • John Varley's Millenium. The future human race can't reproduce because their DNA has been damaged by pollution. This also appears in the Film of the Book.
  • The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia. Mattie's quest is to save an ancient race.
  • The alien race that the AIs have contact with in Arthur C. Clarke's Sunstorm.
  • In an early Discworld book, one troll mentions that they were a dying race. This is not mentioned in later books.
    • It's suggested that vampires not wanting to become this trope is a major motivation for the foundation of the Uberwald Temperance League. With human technology and civilization on the ascent, they know it's their only chance.
  • In the sequel to The Sparrow Children of God the Runa uprising against their Jana'ata overlords nearly wipes out the entire race. The only hope of survival is a "reservation" system which will allow the 1500 or so Jana'ata remaining to repopulate without having to rely on eating the Runa.
  • Dragons in The Inheritance Cycle.
  • An alien race known as the Takoi in a Star Trek Choose Your Own Adventure novel. The reader is given an option on risking himself to save them. It doesn't work.
  • The protagonist of The Man Who Fell to Earth comes from a planet suffering a debilitating drought; about 300 of his kind are left, and he must establish himself on Earth as a businessman powerful enough to have a rescue ship constructed and launched to bring them to Earth, where they can blend in with humanity and thrive.
  • The Neanderthals from the Earth's Children series are, of course, destined for extinction, although it's hinted that at least some of their hybrid offspring may interbreed with modern humans and so have descendents.
  • In the Harry Potter universe, the giants can be considered as such: Wizards have killed many of them, and the few that are left have a tendancy to fight each other to the death.
  • The Star Trek Novel Verse portrays the Andorians as this. Their complex four-sex biology is failing them and their window of fertility has dropped to only four or five years. The Andorian culture has reorganized itself around Arranged Marriage for quads of young people who are genetically compatable. Unless their genome can be repaired, the Andorians face extinction within fifteen generations. Note that events in later stories - Star Trek Destiny most notably - make the problem even worse.
  • Kantri of Tales of Kolmar are just starting to enter this phase in Song In The Silence. Five thousand years ago the total population of sentient "greater" Kantri was cut in half and the remaining two hundred retreated to isolation on an island. In that time their numbers haven't rebuilt at all, in fact the opposite is true, though the dying is very slow. The species is just becoming collectively dispirited and there are fewer mated pairs and fewer births all the time; they live long, but not forever. Only a few of them recognize that it's happening in that book. In later books it's solved, and they manage to flourish.


Live Action TV

  • Eon from Ben 10 Race Against Time is trying to save his dying race by taking over Earth.
    • Another Ben 10 example is the Highbreed, who consider themselves so superior to other races that they want to destroy all life in the universe because their race is dying out due to... get this... inbreeding.
  • The Asgard from Stargate SG-1, who survive only through cloning, and have found that every new generation of clones suffer a slight degeneration. Then, after thousands of years of cloning, they decide to commit mass suicide instead of dying slowly and give all their knowledge and technology to humanity.
  • The unnamed aliens from UFO.
  • Quatermass and The Pit features a dying race of alien Ancient Astronauts who apparently attempted to genetically engineer humanity to become their successors.
  • Babylon 5 - Several examples:
    • The Minbari - fewer are born with each generation and the greatest of their souls are no longer found among them, for their souls are being reborn into humans (a large plot point in the series).
      • We later get a full explanation for this: The Minbari were, at one point, introduced to a Half-Human Hybrid time traveler, who mated with a minbari and so did his descendants. At the present time, the windfall his genes caught has begun to turn and the human DNA sequences are gradually being removed from the Minbari genome by outbreeding. When the Minbari reach first contact with humanity (which by an extreme coincidence happens to be the very same time traveller), they find pieces of those genetic sequences (who were originally human in the first place) in his genome and reach the above conclusion.
    • The Narn and the Centauri are both said to be dying races according to Kosh. However, this is more philosophical than literal - Kosh meant that both were trapped in a cycle of revenge and fixated on each other's deaths to their own detriment, and were therefore (from a Vorlon point of view) on the path to eventual destruction. Both the Narn and Centauri are in fact populous and relatively vital.
    • The Hyach are a more literal example; though there are still quite a few of them around, their genome is slowly collapsing due to having become dependent on a counterpart species that is no longer around because the Hyach killed them all.
    • And many of the "First Races" are dying races...
  • Battlestar Galactica - Humans. It is eventually subverted tough.
    • Cylons play it straight after the resurrection hub is destroyed.
  • Star Trek the Original Series pilot "The Cage" (and two-part episode "The Menagerie"). The Talosians are condemned to eventual extinction because their power of mental illusions acts like a addicting drug. They consider their dreams to be more important than reality, so they gave up travelling, building, and creating. They can't even repair the machines left by their ancestors.
  • Star Trek the Next Generation episode "Up the Long Ladder". The inhabitants of the planet Mariposa reproduce by cloning and are suffering from a disorder called replicative fading that occurs when DNA is cloned too many times. If not corrected, they won't be able to reproduce.
  • Star Trek the Next Generation episode "When the Bough Breaks". The inhabitants of the planet Aldea have become sterile as a side effect of their planetary cloaking device. The Aldeans decide to steal children from the Enterprise to carry on their civilization.
  • Earth: Final Conflict: the Taelons are dying.
  • Farscape's Ancients, the ones who gave John the wormhole information.
  • In between the old and new series of Doctor Who, the Doctor used "the Moment" to wipe out all the Time Lords, leaving just him, an Opposite Sex Clone genetic anomaly that may or may not "count", a handful of part-human hybrids, and, at least for a time, his arch-enemy the Master.


Music

  • The Squonk in the Genesis song of the same name.


Tabletop Games

  • Craftworld Eldar from Warhammer 40000. The Dark Eldar, meanwhile, use mass cloning and Uterine Replicators to replenish their numbers and avert this.
    • In regular Warhammer, the Elves are dying off due to the various catastrophes that have hit them over the millennia. Dark Elves, again, don't seem to have this problem (presumably they breed at least fast enough to make up the numbers from their sacrifices). Dwarves are also dying, and have stayed in decline since the destruction of their greatest kingdoms[1].
  • "Dying Race" (by that exact name) is a racial disadvantage in GURPS Aliens: "For whatever reason, the race's death rate has exceeded the birth rate. If this trend isn't reversed, the race will be extinct in a few generations."
    • The Jarrel in GURPS Aliens have it. However, they are trying to recover and start growing again.
    • It was eliminated on 4e on charges of not actually being disadvantageous. You can still simulate it by taking other disadvantages, you'd just actually have to earn your points.
  • Stormbringer supplement Stormbringer Companion, adventure "The Crystal of Daerdaerdarth". Valyk's Island holds a race of creatures known as the Kay, who were created using sorcery by the Melnibonean wizard Earl Valyk thousands of years earlier. They're in decline because 80% of their breeding females die soon after birth.
  • Trolls in Rune Quest.
  • Dwarves of the Forgotten Realms may or may not be this trope, depending on which products you credence. Some of the 2E products suggest that dwarf males may be marrying human women (and breeding true) as a counter to their own race's slow birth rate and scarcity of females.
  • In "B4: The Lost City", an early D&D adventure, the weird underground humans of Cynedicea are this trope.
  • The Doreen, Kraken and Scurrilans from Fifty Fathoms. The Doreen habitats were destroyed by the recent apocalypse, the Kraken were hit hard by first said apocalypse and by the Big Bads later. There have never been more than 200 Scurrilans, and Scurrilans don't get along with anyone, even each other.


Video Games

  • The Krogan from Mass Effect due to the "genophage", a biological weapon that reduces the number of live krogan births to a fraction of its normal level. This actually turns out to be carefully tuned to keep their population stabilized rather than to cause extinction; because krogans are from a Death World, they're Explosive Breeders and live around a thousand years (if nothing kills them first). This meant that their population exploded once removed from their natural environment -- until the genophage leveled things out. Given that krogans are almost universally Blood Knights who are fond of We Have Reserves, their culture hasn't quite caught up with their new biology yet.
    • It actually becomes a plot point in the second game, as Mordin's loyalty mission is rescuing a former colleague of his who is working to cure the genophage so that the krogan can breed again. Mordin reveals over the course of this mission that the krogan were adjusting to the genophage and their numbers were increasing again, so the salarians put the genophage on them again to control their numbers. The genophage causes only 1 in 1000 babies to be born alive. You do have the option to save the genophage's data at the end of the mission, though.
      • The third game makes curing the genophage a plot point. You can either do exactly that, or sabotage the effort. If both Wrex and Eve are alive, it's hinted that their stabilizing influence will keep the Krogan from becoming a threat to the universe if you cure the genophage. If either or both are dead, then it's strongly suggested that the Krogan Rebellions are going to start up again if you give them the cure.
  • Runescape. The Mahjarrat is the perfect example, as there are only nine of them confirmed alive, and each on of them are "as powerful as one of your (human) armies".
    • The Dragonkin, creator of dragons, has only three individuals, Sakirth, Sithaph and Strisath left. However, they appear to be males...
    • The Light creatures hiding in the depths of the swamp caves are the remains of the once proud race of Myriad.
    • Only 15 Skavids and a handful of Aviansie remain on Runescape.
  • World of Warcraft. The Forsaken. Sort of. They are unable to reproduce, thus they wouldn't be able to maintain their numbers as the undead become... redeadified.
    • As of Cataclysm they've hijacked the Scourge's Valkyr to make more Forsaken undead, so whether this is still true is up to scrutiny at this point.
    • Warcraft has (high) elves as a dying race too but not for the reasons mentioned above: While reproducing slower than humans, high elves were doing relatively well until the setting's Zombie Apocalypse hit them. Unlike other elf tropes though, Warcraft elves appear capable of recovering...if only they could catch a break.
    • The Night Elves are no longer immortal after the destruction of the World Tree. However, with the sweeping changes and threats to Azeroth recently, their culture has changed from their static ways of druid sleep into a far more active one; becoming a dying race has them more active and powerful than ever before.
  • In Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, the bestiary entries of various monsters state that their races are dying. The goblins were already slowly vanishing from the world before Gabriel started killing them in droves. The last Ogre also dies by Gabriel's hand. The only Dragon left in the world is a corpse animated by necromancy and Gabriel kills that too. He even kills the last Old God Pan. The Aghartians fell long ago to the Lycans, and Gabriel destroys the last remnants of their civilization the Titans as well as the last Aghartian Claudia thanks to Mind Control. By defeating the Lords of Shadow, Gabriel (seeing a pattern?) also breaks the power of the Lycans, Vampires, and Necromancers.
  • The Prophets of Halo were already rapidly declining when the war with humanity started. The Covenant Prophets all come from the gene pool of a single ship launched from their now-destroyed homeworld, meaning they have to be very careful to avoid inbreeding. Then High Charity, their major population center, was consumed by The Flood. According to their file on Waypoint, there are less than a thousand members of their species left in the whole galaxy.


Webcomics

  • The Martians in Irregular Webcomic, who are down to three living specimens - all apparently male.
  • The Mirrakae in Linburger.
  • The Bradicor in Schlock Mercenary.
  • The Harlzoids briefly show up in the backstory of Spacetrawler. They are finished off by food poisoning from an improperly-calibrated food synthesizer.
  • In DMFA it's stated that fewer and fewer Angels are being born, and this has caused much alarm in the Angel community.
  • The Dark Elves of Drowtales have all but vanished by the time the story takes place, having been replaced by their children, the titular drow, who evolved to better survive in the Underworld. The ones that are left have largely given up hope of ever seeing the surface again.
    • Among the drow the Beldrobbaen Clan, more or less a nation onto itself, is in a similar state, having lost an entire generation of children during a demonic accident. Since then entire houses have died out and the clan is widely thought to be on its last legs.


Western Animation


Real Life

  • Once a species declines too far, a process called mutational meltdown can set in, whereby mutations accumulate and become widespread faster than natural selection can remove them from the population. As a result, more defects accumulate until the species is doomed to extinction.[2]

Notes

  1. Not at all helped by their obsession with grudges that constantly cause them to go from one war to the next
  2. The exact point at which this would occur is a bit nebulous, but it's theorized that at least 3,500 genetically different (i.e. not related) individuals are necessary for a population to thrive. Less than that, and the population is likely doomed.
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