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Dying Race
"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. Compare Adam and Eve Plot.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     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.
  • The Saiyans in Dragon Ball Z. There are only 8 pure-blooded Saiyans left (4 in the original manga) after Frieza destroys the planet Vegeta. It's turned around somewhat by the time of Dragon Ball Online, as most humans have some Saiyan blood in them at that point.
  • The Emishi from Princess Mononoke, a rare historical example (and separate from the Ainu), who have been pushed back far from the Yamato people's borders almost out of Japan. It's hinted that Ashitaka's village may be their very last, and with him gone, they don't expect to live much longer.
  • As indicated by the title, humankind in Humanity Has Declined is gradually fading away, even if they still have a few good years ahead of them.

     Comic Books  
  • Both the White and Green Martians in DC Comics are Dying Races. None still live on Mars and 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.
  • At the beginning of the X-Men event "Second Coming", the mutant species was declared to be this, as their lowered numbers (181 at the time) weren't sufficient for natural propagation.
    • Averted in the aftermath of Avengers Vs X-Men, as the Phoenix's power has been used to restore the species.

     Fan Fiction 

    Film 
  • In the 2009 Star Trek movie, the Vulcans become an endangered species when their homeworld is destroyed by a black hole. Their numbers are reduced down to a scale of thousands (from presumably at least a few billion)
    • Although Enterprise showed they have dozens of planets.
  • 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 ten each of the 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 and Kira.
    • There's also Aughra, but there very well may only have been one of her ever anyways, and she's even more immortal than the Skekis and Mystics are
  • In The Chronicles of Riddick, the titular character Riddick is a Furian. The leader of the Necromongers (aka the Big Bad) tried to exterminate the Furians because of a prophecy which foretold he would be destroyed by one.
  • In Galaxy Quest, it's revealed late in the movie that the Thermians' home world was destroyed by Sarris, and the reason that they recruited the main characters was to avert their species' extinction.

    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.
  • Most races in The Lord of the Rings:
    • 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 behaved just like a dying race.
    • The Ents 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.
    • 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.
  • Thomas Burnett Swann used this in most of his novels for all the mythological creatures that were being displaced by encroaching humans.
  • Michael Moorcock has a few:
    • The people of Elric's race in The Elric Saga. The Melniboneans used to rule the world, but now they're just a remnant, trying to cling to scraps of their former glory.
    • And the Vadhagh in 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, Millennium.
  • 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 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 tendency to fight each other to the death. They aren't built to be cooped up together, but don't have many other options huddling in the mountains.
  • 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.
  • The Neanderthals in The Extraordinaires.
  • The Eldritch in M.C.A. Hogarth's Paradox universe, the genetic modifications that gave them their longevity caused severe fertility problems, more than one child is uncommon and inbreeding is becoming an issue. But the thing is, many of the Pelted races of the Alliance had similar issues, and they've used their technology to alleviate the problem, it's just that most Eldritch are isolationist xenophobes.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire the magical races tend to be this. There are only a few dozen giants left, as are their mammoths (whom they use for riding) and unicorns. Special mention goes to:
    • Dragons, who are extinct at the beginning of the series. The last few that hatched were badly degenerated and barely the size of dogs. But there might be hope for them, now that Danaerys managed to hatch three healthy specimen.
    • In A Dance with Dragons we find out that the Children of the Forest still exist, but are slowly dying out over the course of centuries.
  • In the Codex Alera books, the Vord Queens end the book series as a Dying Race. The primary Vord queen woken in the second book was forced to make all her daughters sterile because they inevitably turned on her due to her contamination. With her death in the final volume, the only Vord Queen left in Canea is sterile and can't make more of herself: Once she dies the Vord are finished.

     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.
    • However, there may be a ray of light for the Asgard. Among the things they gave the Tau'ri is a computer core that contains all the knowledge of their race, which might also include the minds of each Asgard. If the Tau'ri ever figure out how to fix the Asgard's cloning problem, it's possible that their race could be revived.
      • Also their's still a group of Asgard in Pegasus galaxy called the Vanir who didn't give up.
  • 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...
    • The Markab went from thriving race to virtually extinct over the course of a single episode, thanks to a plague that many of its victims refused to acknowledge having caught, as an old folk tale claimed that only the sinful could catch it.
  • 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.
    • The 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.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Changeling race is slowly dying, due to a synthetic plague engineered by Section 31 to bring about a Changeling genocide. In the series finale, Odo returns to the Great Link to cure his people of the Section 31 virus and avert the genocide.
  • Earth: Final Conflict: the Taelons are dying.
    • As are their "cousins" the Jaridians. Both races are the result of an Atavus cult leader draining most of the race from their "core energy" and infusing his small group of followers with it. This group (augmented with Kimera DNA/energy) became the Taelons, while what's left of the Atavus became the Jaridians. No wonder the Jaridians hate the Taelons.
  • 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.
    • In "The Leisure Hive", the Argolians are a dying race, having been afflicted by a Sterility Plague in the aftermath of their twenty minute war with the Foamasi.

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

     Tabletop Games  
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Humanity. Their vast interstellar empire has devolved into a brutal theocratic dictatorship and is slowly shrinking and beset on all sides by aliens and monsters, all their best technology is slowly being forgotten, their Physical God Emperor is half-dead and being sustained by a life-support machine that is falling into disrepair and will eventually fail completely. They are still extremely powerful, with legions of fanatical soldiers, genetically-engineered Super Soldiers, Titans and legendary heroes capable of amazing feats. The human race is going down, but the sheer size of the Imperium means that it will take thousands of years for the end to come, and even then, they're more than capable of dragging their destroyers down with them.
    • The Craftworld Eldar are this trope traditionally as well. They suffered a calamity that destroyed their empire long ago, and now they exist as scattered remnants wandering space seeking purpose. Although the status of how far gone they are Depends On The Writer: Gav Thorpe, who did most of their older fluff, said that they're as low as a dozen Craftworlds with a dozen million each, whereas new writer Phil Kelly says that there are hundreds of Craftworlds with populations ranging from a few hundred million to almost a billion. Matt Ward (if you actually acknowledge him or anything he writes) seems to agree with Kelly, with his Craftworld Iyanden supplementary codex describing the troubled craftworld as "definitely rising from the ashes".
  • 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 kingdomsnote . The Slann used to be a dying race in older editions. It was subsequently retconned to make the Lizardmen slightly less grimdark.
  • "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 RuneQuest.
  • 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.
  • Exalted: The Dragon-Kings (dinosaur-folk) has been dying for thousands of years now. Due to the way the Dragon-Kings reincarnate, they can't expand beyond the number of available souls, and that number has suffered enormous periodic drop offs throughout the history of Man. Even among those who remain, the devastation of their culture (and past life memories of their grief) means that the vast majority are never educated past the feral first stage of their life.
    • The Fair Folk are in a similar boat; the majority of them invaded Creation during the Balorian Crusade and were subsequently all but wiped out by the Realm Defense Grid, leaving scant millions remaining. This combined with how they "reproduce" slowly and their original home is being occupied by a ravenous offshoot, they've largely fallen into melancholy/

     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 one of them is "as powerful as one of your (human) armies".
    • It also doesn't help that for them to continue to survive in the world of Runescape, one of them must be sacrificed in a ritual every 500 years, meaning that even if no one manages to kill any of them, they'll still go extinct. It's just a matter of time.
    • 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.
  • The Forsaken in World of Warcraft are undead and so incapable of reproducing. While they can reclaim some undead from the feral Scourge, for the most part their population is in constant decline. Recognizing this danger, Sylvanas has recruited the remaining Val'kyr to create new Forsaken soldiers out of their fallen enemies and allies.
  • Waking Mars exhibits this with the Sentients, a race of ancient Martian spaghetti-things that were forced into stasis underground by some ancient cataclysm that made Mars the Red Planet we know today.
  • 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.
  • As of Guild Wars 2 humanity is viewed as this by the other races of Tyria. Ascalon and Orr have been dead for centuries, Cantha has withdrawn into isolation, and Elona is enslaved by Palawa Joko, leaving only Kryta as a free human state. Many view them as overly conservative and tied down by their faith in silent gods. Humans, of course, disagree with this notion. All the same, developers have noted that every other race in the setting has been steadily expanding and growing despite their hardships. Humans, on the other hand, have been in a steady decline.
  • The dwarves in Dragon Age are stuck in a Hopeless War with the darkspawn that has already reduced a once-thriving kingdom to two city states. They'd be doing better if their own traditions didn't bar a chunk of the population from serving in the conventional military (or getting any kind of decent treatment).
  • In Shin Megami Tensei IV, The Fair Folk. They are desperate to survive, and only barely manage to do so by recovering the Holy Grail (Dagda's Cauldron) from the Angels and summoning Lady Danu to help restore everyone. However, she has become Black Maria in order to protect them, and can no longer reclaim her old position. It falls to recurring ally Nozomi to accept the fate of becoming the new Lady Danu in order to save them from extinction.

    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 Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures 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  
  • The Atlanteans in Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Although they are granted close to eternal life, their culture is slowly dying away as their memories fade. They can't even read their own language any more or even use their own technology.
  • The Manhattan Clan in Gargoyles awoke in the 20th Century convinced that they were the last of their kind. However, The World Tour Story Arc revealed that Gargoyles exist all around the world and are even prospering in some areas.

     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.note 
  • When an Endangered Species' numbers have declined to only a few individuals, such that they lack sufficient genetic diversity to perpetuate themselves for long, those few are known as "endlings".


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