aka: Explosive Breeders
There must be thousands of them! Kirk:
Hundreds of thousands. Spock:
One million, seven hundred seventy-one thousand, five hundred sixty-one. That's assuming one tribble, multiplying with an average litter of ten, producing a new generation every twelve hours over a period of three days— Kirk:
And that's assuming that they got here three days ago— Spock: Also
allowing for the amount of grain consumed and the volume of the storage compartment—
A creature which reproduces at an alarmingly fast rate. Often, there will be only one to start with, suggesting that it can reproduce asexually. If not asexual, the creature may employ Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong
to extend its list of potential mates to outside its species or employ Express Delivery
to bring on the next generation immediately. In extreme cases, there may be more total weight
of offspring after a few generations than there was weight of available food. Which is completely impossible
. Rabbits and rodents tend to show this trope. Truth in Television
to an extent— but often comically exaggerated.
Often the real reason to fear a Ridiculously Cute Critter
, Small Annoying Creature
, Adorable Evil Minions
, or a Killer Rabbit
especially if they employ the Zerg Rush
on their foes. If they pose a threat more due to eating all available food in the area then they are a Horde of Alien Locusts
Compare Mook Maker
. Contrast Endangered Species
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- A Visa commercial showed a man buying a pair of rabbits for his daughter. After the man fills out a check, the pet store owner takes so long to verify it, the rabbits "get busy". The pet store gradually overflows with their offspring.
- An advertisement for Volkswagen featured cars breeding until they filled a city's streets completely. The model in question? The Rabbit, of course.
Anime and Manga
- The man-eating rabbits in Petshop Of Horrors.
- Yu-Gi-Oh!: Early on, Kuriboh's main strength comes from its ability to multiply into the thousands in the course of a single turn, allowing them to swamp even the most powerful opponents with self-destruct attacks.
- It does require a Spell Card called "Multiply" in order to do this; the version of this card in the actual game has a much less powerful effect.
- BioMeat: The eponymous creatures. Unfortunately for everyone, they're also Extreme Omnivores.
- Digimon: In the second movie note , the villain replicates himself several million times in just a few minutes. This is justified in that he's on the internet, and is explained as being a type of virus. Furthermore, the copies don't have nearly the same resistance to damage that the original does, as a Spam Attack destroys everything except the original.
- Scarfies in Kirby of the Stars
- Naruto features creatures called Onbaa in episode 185. After Naruto spends most of the episode with a baby Onbaa clinging to his back, they, in Tsunade's words, "mate like rabbits" outside of the village; courtesy of a flock of eagles, everyone in Konoha, human and animal alike, has a baby Onbaa clinging to them by the end of the episode.
- A human example is Mother of Champions from DC Comics. Her power is to conceive a litter of 25 children each time she has sex, who complete gestation in 3 days, after which she gives birth. These metahuman offspring are superhumanly strong, but age ten years for each day they're alive, so they are used as expendable cannon fodder by the Chinese government — she has no contact with them once they are born. She has apparently given birth to thousands of these offspring, sports a perpetual pregnant belly, and relies on a robotic chair with six insectile legs to carry her around, as she gets too large to walk on her own.
- Myth Adventures: In Phil Foglio's comic adaptation, there's a Running Gag about small dragons that reproduce on contact with water. One of them happens to get into a market stall demonstrating umbrellas, and after that they keep showing up everywhere, until at the end of the scene the original owners are forced to round them all up. (The artist added even more dragons when the comic was reprinted as a graphic novel.)note
- An issue of Star Trek: Alien Spotlight focuses on tribbles. In this version, they are at least semi-intelligent, and use their breeding offensively. There's also the implication that their breeding caused some sort of disaster, possibly due to lack of resources. And they did the breeding in response to Klingons ("rufflefurs") threatening the humans that showed up.
- TRON: The Grid Bugs.
- Sammael in Hellboy reproduces two copies of itself for each one that's killed.
- The... host-thing in Slither. Literal explosion, too. Poor Brenda.
- The Crites in the Critters sequel were also rapid breeders.
- Gremlins: The Mogwai/Gremlins. Don't get them wet.
- In Godzilla (1998), the species of the mutant lizard was capable of laying up to two hundred eggs asexually, threatening to replace humans as the dominant species on Earth. Imagine if the original Godzilla was capable of that?.
- Alien series: The Xenomorphs. Give the queen somewhere cozy and warm and she'll carpet it with eggs.
- A literal Explosive Breeder, in fact.
- Tremors: Shriekers, the second stage of Graboid life-cycle are this.
- Played for laughs in Fantasia 2000. In the Noah's Ark sequence, when the animals disembark, there are still two of every kind, except for the rabbits - twenty or thirty of them hop by an astonished Donald Duck.
- The guinea pigs in the short story "Pigs is Pigs" by Ellis Parker Butler (and the Disney cartoon adaptation).
- The Mote In God's Eye examines this in detail with the Moties; not only do they breed rapidly, they're biologically unable to avoid breeding. Their race has been destroying itself in apocalyptic wars and rebuilding from the ashes of their world for hundreds of thousands of years.
- In David Eddings' The Elenium, the insect-like Seekers would, if permitted, cover the Earth with their eggs and feed all life to their offspring.
- Fragment: One reason the island organisms pose such a danger to the global ecosystem is that they're all this trope.
- Ringworld: City Builders are extremely fertile, such that every act of mating within their species automatically results in offspring. Females also go into heat periodically, making abstinence all but impossible for them. They consciously subvert this trope by mating with other sorts of hominid.
- Henry Huggins: One of the books in Beverly Cleary's series has Henry buy a pair of guppies, only for the guppies to breed until his room is covered in fishbowls and feeding fish takes up all of his free time.
- The Rolling Stones by Robert A. Heinlein: Martian Flat Cats. One flat cat produces a litter of eight kittens every thirty days or so. Not so bad comparatively, unless you're on the spacegoing equivalent of a RV and your trip lasts almost six months.
- The Gryphons in The Wayfarer Redemption were born pregnant - with nine more Gryphons. Gorgrael's advisor intended them to only breed for three generations (Giving a total of 820 Gryphons), but Gorgrael found a way to make it self-sustaining. Since he kept the pregnant generation away from the front lines until they gave birth, getting rid of them was a serious problem for the heroes.
- The space spiders (Organism 8198) from Into the Looking Glass are an interesting example. They were created as a bioweapon against the Dreen, and in any other environment they eat and breed at barely subsistence level. If they do have Dreen to eat, however...in only a couple hours, one spider dropped onto one dead bioform can multiply into a tidal wave of scuttling purple death that eats every Dreen on the field while leaving everything else unharmed. It's fully as awesome as it sounds.
- Galaxy of Fear: The Swarm introduces thumb-sized drog beetles. A well-fed pair of them is noted to produce ten eggs in a day - and once the eggs have hatched, it only takes a day for the offspring to be ready to breed. In small numbers they're fairly harmless and docile, but in enormous swarms they will eat people alive.
- This was humanity's great advantage against the elves in the Ryria Revelations. Elves were better than humans individually in every way: stronger, faster, tougher, more technologically adavanced, and better at magic. But where humans could replenish their numbers in decades, elves needed millennia. As one character put it, "[the elves] were drowning in a floodtide of humanity"
- The Grendels of the Lisa Shearin SPI Files series lay 20-30 eggs per clutch, and lay three clutches every breeding cycle. Even though they only breed once or twice a century, the fact that the newborns are fast enough to dodge bullets and strong enough to kill and eat a grown human (And the adults are even nastier) makes one wonder how humanity managed to push them out of their native habitat in the first place.
Live Action TV
- Star Trek: The most famous example is the tribbles, which did mention that they reproduce asexually. In fact, they are actually born pregnant, and as long as they're fed, they'll keep making more tribbles. Word of God states that the tribbles were based on the rabbits in Australia note . Ironically, these creatures were instrumental in identifying the actual villain in the episode. It's probably a good thing the Klingons and tribbles instinctively hate each other, since otherwise they would have wiped out all life on several planets. Nuking their homeworld was probably a bit much. "Do they still sing songs about the Great Tribble Hunt?"
- Sanctuary: The Nubbins. Basically tribbles with eyes and teeth, plus the ability to become mostly invisible. Oh, and they're sexually juiced up from lots and lots of pheromones, which also affect humans.
- In an episode of Father Ted, Dougal got a pet rabbit, and promises Ted he'll be careful with it. Cut to a week later, and there are rabbits all over the room, and neither Ted nor Dougal even notice.
- On a season-finale episode of Hoarders, a Truth in Television example played out for a man who'd let his three pet rats — one male, two females — escape from their cage months earlier. He didn't have the heart to let them starve, or to separate the females from the litters they'd hidden in the walls, so just kept putting down food for them. Result? A ruined house from which over three thousand fancy rats were removed by humane-society workers.
- The Nanites, on Mystery Science Theater 3000.
- The Basil Brush Show used this as a Running Gag. In one episode. They bought two rabbits. However as the scenes pass, more and more appear.
"There's these two here... And those two there! How did that happen?"
- Referenced in Hogan's Heroes when Carter catches a rabbit and suggests they keep it as a pet.
Carter: One rabbit won’t be too much trouble, will it, Colonel?
Hogan: Carter, my boy, I must tell you the truth – there is no such thing as one rabbit.
- In Prickly City, Kevin is the Lost Bunny of the Apocalypse. This is awkward when you are given form that calls for you to list your siblings.
- Garfield: Played with in an early strip, in which the eponymous cat tosses a pair of coat hangers into an empty closet. It only takes until the end of the same 'strip for them to multiply until they fill the closet to bursting.
- Another strip does the same thing with bunny slippers left under the bed.
- Moria, Angband, and other related Roguelikes have several mostly low-level monsters which, as the in-game descriptions say, "can breed explosively." The most notorious of these are the worm masses, in all their annoying color variants. Even worse is in ADOM, where creatures get stronger as you kill more of them.
- Dwarf Fortress has cats, which can actually breed so fast that if you dump a bunch into hell itself they will still breed faster than they are killed. Their, ah, fruitfulness, would not be a problem by itself, as only a very few animals need to eat yet and cats aren't one of them — so they're an infinite source of meat and leather, if you don't mind violating conservation of matter. However, unlike most animals, cats adopt their owners rather than the other way around, and once this happens, they can't be butchered, and killing them in some other, completely unintentional fashion will give their pet dwarf a bad thought. Keeping them, on the other hand, will wreak havoc on your framerate — and of course, they'll breed more kittens. The massive framerate issues from an uncontrolled cat population has been nicknamed a "catsplosion".
- Birds and rabbits have been added to the animals dwarves can keep. Rabbits actually have some form of population control— they need to graze on grass or fungus in a pasture, or they'll starve to death. Despite this, "releasing" them into cavern pastures full of fungus has had the expected results of rabbits breeding faster than they could be killed by wildlife, and on occasion even killing particularly puny Forgotten Beasts on their own (Physical Hell doesn't grow grass or fungus, so the rabbits starve too fast to Zerg Rush the demons).
- Birds on the other hand do not require food yet, they lay and incubate eggs in large clutches, and it is theoretically possible to surpass the population cap many times over by having forty female turkeys (a dozen or so eggs per clutch) and one male, and enough nestboxes for a massive birdsplosion.
- Space Monkeys in Space Quest V. They actually exploded a space station they were in.
- One of Knights of the Old Republic's sidequests has the player dealing with an invasion of gizka — small cute critters with an exponential breeding rate that are basically the Star Wars counterpart to tribbles — on their ship. They're apparently considered pests on many worlds and many different traders in the game stock gizka poison.
- Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando: The Protopets. They also reproduce asexually by spitting their offspring fully formed from their mouths. If you miss even one of a group of them, they will do just that the second you turn your back, often ending up with more than there were originally. It's no wonder that they were the focus of the villain's plot.
- Diablo 2: Some of the beetles, particularly the ones in hell, however, they don't have fast maturing rates, and the kids act much differently then the parents in terms of attack plans, making it more of a Mook Maker.
- The Flood. The carrier forms literally explode to disperse infection forms. The infection forms also mutate their hosts implausibly fast. The Flood are like a macro-scopic version of The Virus.
- The Grunts. Their homeworld is a Death World where natural flame geysers are but one hazard among many. One way the Grunts cope with this as a species is by breeding very rapidly. When taken out of that environment, they have to be given contraceptive chemicals in their food and breathing gas to keep their population growth manageable. However, these restrictions are lifted in times of serious war when the Covenant need more light infantry.
- Quest for Glory: The antwerp is a literal Explosive Breeder.
- Cerebus' in God of War could spit out Cerebus Seeds, nasty little puppies that would grow into full-grown Cerebus', and spit out more Seeds... One mini-boss fight in the game was basically trying to kill a small group of them before you got overwhelmed.
- The Palm OS game Space Trader has the Tribbles. Woe betide you if you're carrying food goods while they're on your ship. If you can find the tribble collector, though, you could sell them off for some serious credits.
- The Gonarch in Half-Life, also qualifying as a Mook Maker. Apparently the final stage in the life cycle of Headcrabs, it is essentially an enormous quadrapedal exoskeleton with an equally enormous testicle dangling from it, from which it spawns an endless amount of underdeveloped Headcrabs until Gordon kills it.
- Unholy War: The Prana Devils. Their out of battle ability is to produce another prana unit. In battle, they lay eggs with hatch into baby pranas that chase the opponent.
- The krogan of Mass Effect used to be this trope in order to withstand their Death World home planet. Scanning one former krogan colony world showed that they reached critical overpopulation in one generation. If it weren't for the genophage, they could easily have overrun the galaxy. The genophage reduces them to one live birth in a thousand (the rest being stillborn). If they didn't kill each other so fast this would leave them with fairly stable population growth rate.
- In Mass Effect 3 a character comments that a fully fertile, healthy female can have, wait for it, a thousand children in a year. Like the insects of Earth, on their homeworld most would die, but off Tuchanka and with significant medical technology, and with clans wanting to have troops with which to wage war... Krogan also have very long lifespans. They do not follow the Immortal Procreation Clause at all.
- Salarians, to some extent. Females lay dozens of eggs automatically every year. If these go unfertilized they become males. If fertilized, they become females. Salarians have short lifespans of forty years, so they must mature fairly quickly. However, they also self-regulate; they only fertilize ten percent of their eggs and write up complicated reproduction contracts around those instances. Even so, all the worlds they colonize have high populations.
- There are also Pyjacks, which are much like the Gizka before them in KOTOR. These were formerly called "space monkeys" in Mass Effect 1 and have become a major pest on the Krogan homeworld.
- Starcraft: The zerg. In fact, their gameplay mechanics are based around in producing millions and millions of little creatures.
- Here's a fun experiment: Take any two compatible Pokémon, and leave them at the Day Care. Once you have your egg, time how long it takes for the next one to appear. Repeat ad nauseum.
- If one of them has a different Trainer ID (was traded for), but they're both the same species, breeding will go insanely fast, and the Day Care owners will even comment that they seem to like each other a lot.
- In Epic Mickey, Oswald the rabbit has 420 Bunny Children. They're adorable and eat mooks.
- In Bio Metal, a computer analysis apparently shows the titular monsters increasing in such a number that, if their planet is not destroyed within 32 hours, they would take over the entire galaxy!
- Creatures: Norns. Especially a genetic variant known as Fast-ager norns, who reach adulthood within seconds, live forever and are incredibly fertile. Many Fast-ager norns also go through pregnancy extremely fast, leaving them ready to breed almost immediately. If it weren't for the population limit preventing new eggs from hatching, they'd crash your game.
- In Galactic Civilizations, the Torians and custom races with the same Super Ability breed four times as fast when they're happy. This tends to cause morale problems due to overpopulation, but on the other hand boosts your income (more people = more taxpayers) and makes it hard to invade your worlds unless the enemy has Spore Ships.
- The Minecraft rabbits mod allows two rabbits to breed a baby rabbit when placed in close proximity. The issue it that this gets going exponentially when put in a small enough space.
- In The Guardian Legend, one of the enemies in the labyrinth areas is a blue spider that if left unkilled, turns orange, then red, then it splits into seven identical copies of itself. These individual copies can split even more, making things a little... complicated.
- Early builds of Scribblenauts had bunnies that spawned infinitely if two bunnies are next to each other until it crashed the game. Today, they still do that, but only until the budget bar fills.
- The X Parasites of Metroid: Fusion, asexually-reproducing spores that can infect anything, kill the host, and take on its form and skills. Their numbers were kept in check by the Metroids, so it turns out exterminating them in Metroid II: Return of Samus wasn't such a smart idea.
- Star Control has the Shofixti, a sentient rodent species. At the time of Star Control II, due to the war against the Ur-Quan, their species is down to one male and six females. Bring them together and the species repopulates within a few weeks, and gives you a cheap supply of crewmembers for your fleet.
- The Spathi heavily exaggerate this, being a former prey species with few natural defenses. While it's not elaborated on, one prominent Spathi captain remarks that he grew up with over 18 thousand siblings. The day his mother called him by name was one of the happiest days of his life.
- Mother Maiamai of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds has exactly 100 babies that you must thoroughly search Hyrule and Lorule in order to rescue.
- The Grid Bugs in the I/O Tower mission in Bally/Midway's TRON constantly breed as you try to fight your way through them to enter the Tower before the timer runs out.
- Many RPG's have generic "Slime" monsters (Dragon Quest's slimes don't count) that multiply when you fight them meaning you have to kill them all before they multiply again. (Though sometimes they only multiply a certain amount of times before stopping)
- Ultima V in addition to the slimes, has Gargoyles guarding Blackthorn's Castle's parapet, which are unstoppable. They will multiply until they fill up the entire screen, have a lot of Hit points, and deal a lot of damage.
- Zapper: One Wicked Cricket has the magpie, six of whose eggs you have to collect on each level including the final boss fight for a total of seventy-eight. She also shoots her eggs at you during the battle.
- Chakona Space has the Faleshkarti, when they reach maturity they become obsessed with sex, sex triggers a hormone that decreases their intelligence, and the only way to slow the hormone's progression is to get pregnant. Also, they're Hermaphrodites so every single one of them can give birth. When the Federation makes contact with them every inch of land on their homeworld is covered with arcologies and the oceans had been converted into massive algae farms. Federation geneticists eventually discover a way to prevent the neural degradation and lower their sex drives, which was rather fortunate as they were breeding more quickly than they could colonize new planets
- Erins (pronounced EE-rihns), Females can reproduce at will and the species has two ways of reproduction (for females anyway).
- The lowly cabbage aphid is listed in the Guiness Book of Records as "Most Fertile Animal". It is estimated that if all the descendants of a single female survived to breed, within a year they would produce a mass of offspring weighing many times that of the entire current world population! Made worse that it happens to be a plant pest that can wipe out a grove of plants in a severe infestation...thank heaven for ladybugs!
- The aphids are asexual breeders, not needing a male to reproduce. And to top things up, baby aphids are born pregnant-they start churning out offspring of their own within minutes of their birth!
- Homo sapiens (humans) actually downplay this trope; our population skyrocketed in recent centuries because we so thoroughly conquered all competition and our environment. It's difficult to call humans explosive breeders when it takes nine months to produce a single, initially-helpless (for YEARS) offspring from two viable members of both sexes.
- In fact, humans exemplify the opposite species survival strategy of most explosive breeders. Humans produce few offspring, but are quite long lived and are not easily killed off or preyed upon.
- How fast is the human population growing? About than 50 years ago, the number of people on Earth was just 3 billion, less than half of the current (as of 2013) 7 billion plus. Since the rate at which our population is growing is also increasing, its not unlikely that many people will live to see the population triple as well. Since fertility rates in developed countries tend be drastically lower that undeveloped or developing ones, most projections have the population leveling off at around 10-11 billion by 2050, and declining thereafter.
- The infamous Australian rabbit incident. In 1860, a dozen rabbits were released there, for "adding hunting as a spot of home." It backfired. In only ten years they had multiplied to over 600 million rabbits, which eradicated native marsupials, caused erosion by overgrazing and preyed on small livestock such as poultry.
- Truth in Television for many, many animals. These animals tend to be lower on the food chain, so most of their offspring get eaten. That's why the planet hasn't been overrun yet. Moving one of these species to a new habitat that lacks their natural enemies, though, is a bad idea. Case in point: rabbits, sheep and mice in Australia.
- Some microorganisms have a gestation period measured in minutes. Which is why they mutate so fast. What takes the average macroorganism (maturity at four years) to evolve — say, seventy generations for it to be well entrenched and spread through the population — takes the average bacterium one day.
- Many invertebrates facilitate this trope by breeding parthenogenetically, eliminating the delay imposed when a mate must be located. Aphids and rotifers are probably the best-known examples of this.
- Rats tend to go everywhere humans do. When the rats arrived on ships in Pacific and Caribbean islands and started taking over, humans tried to solve the problem by importing mongooses as predators - thus creating a new problem when the mongooses devastated native fauna.
- Ignorant human fishermen inadvertently invoke this trope when they cut starfish in half, thinking they're eliminating the competition for mussels and oysters. Too bad the pieces of a bisected starfish can regenerate, creating two hungry echinoderms...
- Internal parasites must invoke this trope in spades, as only a tiny fraction of their eggs or larvae will be lucky enough to make it into a new host organism. Tapeworms, the uber-example, are basically a continuous strand of gonads with an anchor at one end.
- All mites are born with a half dozen embryos already inside of them. Each one has one male embryo, and a handful of females. The females all take turns being impregnated by their brother. When they're ready to be born, they eat their way out of their mother, and leave their brother to die.
- Their extremely short reproduction cycle is one of several reasons why Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies) are very useful as model organisms, e.g. for genetic experiments.
- In population biology, "k-selected" species are limited by competition for resources in their environment, which is why they invest heavily in a few offspring to insure their survival. "r-selected" species are in environments which allow rapid population expansion (e.g., flowers in spring time). They have as many offspring as possible but invest little to ensure individual children's survival. The "Explosive Breeder" is r-selected.
- Truth in Television for many fish, but special mention goes to the Ocean Sunfish ("Mola Mola"), which can lay up to 300 million eggs in one spawn!
- Chickens, which lay eggs every single day. Fortunately most farmers keep the roosters separate so they don't fertilize the majority of the eggs, and of course the eggs are mostly eaten. And they're completely helpless in the wild and the wild Red Junglefowl they were bred from are just seasonal breeders.