An alien species' sex system is very bizarre in comparison to terrestrial ones
. Perhaps it has two sexes that are not identifiable as either "male" or "female" in terrestrial terms, or perhaps it has three or more
sexes, each of whom is indispensible for the species' reproduction process.
Of course, Earth has a few bizarre examples of its own. Some species of fungi have more than two sexes (although only two at a time are required for reproduction). There's a species of fish that only has one sex, and among seahorses, the male bears the children
. But this only scratches the surface of what writers can imagine.
Supertrope of One-Gender Race
. Frequently overlaps with Bizarre Alien Reproduction
. May lead to Pronoun Trouble
. Compare Extra Parent Conception
, Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism
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- Sillage has an alien species that apparently requires two "females" and a "male" for procreation.
- In Phil Foglio's Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire's "The Gallimaufry" storyline, a male alien Pog member named Qvakk states that he loved Oort, another male member of his race/species, and was "gonna take him home, make lots of eggs".
- The Soft Ones in Isaac Asimov's The Gods Themselves have three sexes: Rational/left, Emotional/mid and Parental/right, which reproduce by fusing their bodies together and "melting".
- Known Space: The Puppeteers, who are already fairly strange looking, claim to have three "sexes", one of which is non-sentient, technically a different species, and serves as a host for a the embryo created by the two others. In actuality, this is a subversion. They're merely prudish about admitting that they're a parasitoid species
- The dominant race of the Empire of Azad in Iain M. Banks' The Player of Games has three sexes: One is male, the "apex" has ovaries and "a kind of reversible vagina"/ovipositor, and the female has a womb. The only non-sexual difference between the sexes is the eugenically bred-in lowered intelligence for non-apices. Sexism here sees females as breeders and domestics, males as workhorses and disposable soldiers. The females were assumed to be little more than incubators, and even recent research showing that they modified eggs implanted in them by a kind of endogenous retrovirus didn't help their social standing. More females than males appear to compete in the Azad tournament, notably.
- Bruce Coville has a couple of examples:
- The My Teacher is an Alien series mentions one species that requires "seven genders [sic] to produce an egg, and three more to hatch it".
- More ambiguously, Tar Gibbons from Rod Albright Alien Adventures insists on gender neutral pronouns because referring to it as male or female is offensive to it. No details are given.
Rod: So, is that closer to a boy or a girl?
Gibbons: Hmm... it's closer to a pippik than anything else.
- "Venus and the Seven Sexes" (1949), a short-story by William Tenn, features a seven sexed species that passes gametes in a chain: sex 'D' receives from sex 'C' and transmits to sex 'E'. The sex of the offspring is determined by the sex of the parent which receives/completes the fully fertilized gamete. One sex is tasked with coordinating the family.
- The Tralfamadorians from Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five claim to have five sexes; also, because they can see through time as well as space, they claim humans have seven sexes. It doesn't really make sense from the human perspective when some of the "sexes" are "male homosexuals", "women over sixty-five" and "baby". However, it could be that the other 5 sexes we don't percieve contribute to reproduction in ways we aren't aware of/can't percieve in the dimensions our senses work on. Each human would thus have 7 individuals who contributed to the act of procreation even though we can only detect 2.
- Bob Shaw's "Warren Peace" has the Squelchers, an alien race with no less then six different sexes, each one with its own unique appearance, and with a reproductive cycle where each sex fertilizes the others in turn. The forms look so different that, to the vast majority of the universe, the species only consists of the fourth sex, which resembles an orange haired saggy sasquatch (kind of like a blown up balloon that's developed a slow leak) with multiple eyes in a ring around its head (usually covered by its fur), oversized feet that let it wade on water, and two giant red nipple-like gamete sacs positioned one above the other on its torso. The fifth sex, the only other one mentioned, is described as being indistinguishible from a tree, except for the presence of a pair of two dual-pronged ovipositors (they look almost identical to staples) sprouting from its trunk.
- Chanur Novels: The stsho have three sexes, called "gtst", "gtste", and "gtsto". If emotionally disturbed, they will undergo "phasing" and change sex as well as personality.
- In The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex, the Boov aliens who attempt to enslave the human race have 7 sexes that translate in English to: girl, boy, boygirl, girlboy, boyboygirl, and boyboyboyboy.
- Star Trek Expanded Universe:
- In the TOS-era novels by Diane Duane, there is one race, the Sulamid that is described as a bundle of bright purple tentacles about six to seven feet high, topped off with a sheaf of pink-stalked and tentacled eyes with triangular pupils and a purplish, "bloodshot" look. According to Dr. McCoy, they have twelve sexes, and all of them claim to be male, especially the ones that bear the children. The Enterprise has at least two of them among the crew, Mr. Athende in Maintenance and Lt. Meshav, from Data Management.
- Andorians have four sexes in the EU. There isn't any evidence of this within the Live-Action TV canon though: It's based on a throwaway line that Andorian marriages consist of four people, but that could just as easily imply polygamy.
- In Octavia Butler's Lilith's Brood books, there are male and female Oankali, but the third gender Ooloi does the genetic mixing.
- In Piers Anthony's Cluster series, the Spicans have three sexes - impact, undulant, and sibilant - of which all three are required for reproduction.
- One science fiction story (name forgotten) features an alien species with five sexes, all of which are involved in the conception and raising of a child in their own way. The meat of the story involved an individual of the "siring" sex taking a "nurturing" partner to court to get custody of their offspring.
- In Last and First Men, the Last Men, our many-millions-of-years descendents, have evolved and/or engineered themselves to have several different sub-sexes.
- In the Marsbound series, the "Martians" (who aren't actually native to Mars) don't appear to have fixed sexes. Their reproduction is described as a wrestling match with several participants—and the winner gets to be the mother.
- The Jokka created by M.C.A. Hogarth have three genders, anadi (female), emodo (male), and eperu (neuter). They can also change genders up to twice in their lives, the causes aren't entirely clear.
- In the novel Silent Runners, aliens nicknamed "pupfish" evolved with three sexes: males, females, and pouchers. All three are necessary to reproduce: males fertilize females, who produce underdeveloped larvae that are deposited in a poucher (like marsupials), where the larvae receive the poucher's chromosomes and continue their development. The species is also superfecund, with a female able to birth the larvae of multiple males at once, and multiple females can deposit in the same poucher. The author worked out a pretty detailed analysis of the biology behind this.
- Star Trek:
- In one of the Star Trek: Enterprise episodes there was a race that had Male, Female and a third intermediate sex ("Cogenitor"). Trip develops a friendship with the third person in a trio of aliens and had a difficult time when he finds out that the cogenitor sex is treated as an inferior.
- In Star Trek: Voyager, Species 8472 has five sexes.
- Alien Nation has Male + Female + Catalyst. Catalysts are very rare, but necessary somehow. Once mating has happened, the egg spends sometime in the mother's egg pouch and sometimes in the father's egg pouch.
- The Goa'uld in Stargate SG-1 are a two-sex race that doesn't match up with Earth norms. The majority of Goa'uld appear to be sterile and asexual (they tend to be identified by the sex of the host), with a very small minority being queens that produce larvae asexually.note
- Doctor Who : The Sonatarans are a monosex clone race of male-presenting soldiers, so two genders is "a bit further than they can count". The first Sontaran we met mistook Sarah-Jane for another species, and deemed human reproduction "inefficient" when corrected. In their first revival appearance, the Sontaran commanders acknowledged Martha as female but were sexist about it. It's now a Running Gag that "heroic" Sontaran Strax has difficulty with this and keeps defaulting to male pronouns.
- The Droyne in Traveller have three sexes: Male, female, and enabler, the enablers being required to give off scent during a mating session. Droyne also are casted in the manner of social insects and each caste has only one sex. Droyne language focuses more on caste then on sex as that is more important in their psychological framework.
- The Grekim from the RTS Achron have three genders (octo, pharo, and sepi). They also have three 'classes' (basic, pod class, and ligo class). Any two different genders can mate to produce a member of the third gender of the same class or the next one up. E.g. a pharo and a sepi can produce an octo or an octopod, or an octopod and a pharopod can produce a sepipod or a sepiligo. This is actually the species' primary method of producing units in the game. Ligo units cannot mate (or 'progenerate'), but can 'split down' into two basic units of the remaining genders. E.g. an octoligo can split down into a pharo and a sepi.
- Cthulhu Saves the World has party member Paws, a cat-like alien, explain that his species technically has every member as a unique gender. However, for sake of convenience, he allows the party to refer to him as "he".
- Done with two different species in the X-Universe.
- The Boron have three sexes: male, female, and Lar. The presence of a Lar during reproduction is highly valued, though not strictly necessary.
- The Paranids have eleven genders, and while not all of them are required for any individual act of reproduction, the combination of parents will affect the development of the young.
- Schlock Mercenary has the inhabitants of Qlaviql who have three genders... male, female and muftale. Their reproduction apparently involves male and female producing the embryo and then transferring it to the mufter to carry it to term. Given that all genders appear to be present in their Ruling Council, they may have managed some level of equality though another Tricameral assembly in the real world most certainly was not.
- One clade in Orion's Arm has four genders, three passing on a different type of tissue (plant/animal/technological), and one acting as a womb. The rest of civilized space recognizes six genders, approximately defined as male, female, hermaphrodite, female pseudohermaphrodite, male pseudohermaphrodite, and genderless.
- The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans consists of males and hermaphrodites instead of males and females. In the event that a hermaphrodite cannot find a male to mate with, it can self-fertilize.
- The Iberian minnow, Squalius alburnoides, consists of two distinct but linked lineages, one consisting only of diploid males and the other consisting of triploid males and females. The diploid males mate with triploid females to produce only diploid male offspring.
- Fungi have over 36,000 sexes, but only two are needed at any one time to reproduce.
- The white-throated sparrow is moving towards four genders. Males and females are either white-striped or tan-striped. White-striped males are big philanderers that don't care for their young, butt into others' territory and have high testosterone. White-striped females are aggressive nymphomaniacs who palm off the child-rearing responsibility onto their mates. They're monogamous, though. They always mate with tan-striped birds and the tan-striped birds are more devoted parents, less aggressive and not as horny. And it looks like the chromosome responsible for these differences is turning into a sex chromosome.