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Humans Are Not the Dominant Species

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On that day, mankind received a grim reminder. We lived in fear of the Titans and were disgraced to live in these cages we called walls.

For the last several thousand years, humans have been the dominant species on Earth. They've only gotten more dominant with time.

This trope occurs when that's not the case.

Humans exist, yes, but they live under the rule of another species. One common way this trope occurs is in Earth All Along works where animals evolve to the point where they challenge humanity for the dominant species.

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Examples only count as this trope if the following apply:

  • It's on a relatively realistic Earth or Earth-like planet
  • It doesn't take place in prehistoric times before humans became the dominant animal.

Compare to Vichy Earth, where alien invaders conquer Earth; Animal Is the New Man, where animals took over the Earth when the humans fall; and Robot War, for cases where it's machines that ascend mastery over humanity. Contrast with This Is My Human for when animals simply think that they're dominant over humans and Mistook the Dominant Lifeform, for when a non-human species is mistaken for the dominant species by an alien species.


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Examples:

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     Anime & Manga 
  • Attack on Titan: Humans have been nearly extinct for over 1000 years, driven inside cities surrounded by massive walls that protect them from huge cannibalistic humanoids they call Titans. The main goal of the protagonists is to reclaim the world that has been overrun by these monstrocities. Only that's not the case at all. The people inside the city have all been brainwashed and then conditioned to believe that the rest of the world has been destroyed. In reality, the Titans were a weapon deployed in an ancient war and the rest of the world outside of the main setting is relatively fine. In fact, later on, the Titans on the entire island nation they inhabit are exterminated and the story becomes a battle between rival nations.
  • Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress: Humanity hides from the kabane (zombies that develop iron-hard bones and transmit the infection by biting) within vast fortified cities, with armored trains providing the only means of transport and communication between cities. Unfortunately, the walls are by no means efficient at keeping the kabane out, so more than one city ends up falling to them. The Kabaneri are humans that have survived infection and have greatly increased physical abilities but now feed on blood, leading to justified mistrust from humans.

     Comic Books 
  • In Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog, hundreds of years ago a species of aliens sent DNA bombs to kill all of humanity while saving the other species. Instead, the DNA bombs made humans "de-evolve" into a crueler, four-fingered species known as the Outlanders, while animals evolved into Funny Animals and Petting Zoo Persons. Over the years, Mobians have become the dominant species while Outlanders and humans live in seclusion.
  • In "A Dream of a Thousand Cats", a short story in the third volume of The Sandman, a housecat discovers that cats were once the dominant species on planet Earth, growing to enormous sizes while humans served their needs. But the humans grew resentful and, collectively dreaming together, created a world where humans are the dominant species and cats are their pets. A group of housecats now roams the Earth, spreading this gospel of their former glory and implore all cats who hear them to dream back the old world.

     Film — Animation 
  • The Good Dinosaur: The film's premise is that the dinosaurs never became extinct, and formed a primitive farming society. Humans are still animalistic, behaving mostly like dogs.
  • The 1973 French feature Fantastic Planet has humans living in a Mouse World amid the giant blue-skinned, red-eyed Draags. Humans are called Oms (homme being French for man), and they are teased, tormented and killed by the Draags mostly For the Evulz. Young Draag Tiwa makes a housepet out of an Om named Terr, who also narrates parts of the story.
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     Film — Live Action 
  • The central premise of the whole Planet of the Apes series. The first film depicted a world where humans were reduced to the state of animals, with civilized apes ruling the world and hunting humans for sport. The infamous Twist Ending reveals this planet is actually Earth in the far future. The various sequels/prequels and the reboot showed how the fall of human society allowed apes to ascend to dominance.

     Literature 
  • Played with in Tailchaser's Song. According to the cat Creation Myth (which true), the world was created by a cat for cats. Humans came into existence when one of the first cats beat and deformed a haughty prince into a "m'an". The world is now dominanted by humans, however cats still think that humans are their servants.
  • Wings of Fire takes place in a world where dragons rule over the lands. Humans, or "scavengers" as dragons call them, are considered an endangered species and only live in a few select areas. Originally, humans were more dominant, however that changed when dragon began creating kingdoms and living under queens. Dragons look down upon humans and see them as weird, dumb, and mostly good for food or blood sports.
  • Planet of the Apes has the astronauts Ulysses and Antelle explore a planet where humans live like animals, and civilized apes hunt them for sport or conduct medical experiments on them. The Twist Ending is different from the more famous film adaptation: the planet, Soror, is completely separate from Earth. But when Ulysses escapes and returns to Earth, he finds that apes have conquered humanity while he was away, presumably just like they did on Soror.
  • In The Pendragon Adventure series, the planet Eelong is populated by two species, the Klee and the Gar (humans). The Klee are Cat Folk who rule the planet and keep humans as either pets or slaves, seeing them as no more than animals. The plot of Black Water involves the secret human city of Black Water, where free humans are secretly gathering and preparing to rebel against their Klee overlords.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy universe we are merely unknowing experimental test subjects being monitored and controlled by otherdimensional beings who assume the forms of white mice. A more profound question is how the dolphins got here and left, since they are also superior to us.
  • Colin Wilson's Spider World series is set in a post-apocalyptic world where telepathic giant spiders and various insects are the dominant species.
  • In Tooth and Claw, Dragons and Humans share the planet—not always happily, but they've achieved an uneasy peace. Both have civilizations which have reached steam-powered technology and the basics of an industrial revolution. Neither one could reasonably be described as dominant—though the dragons certainly considered themselves superior and more civilized. The book doesn't really explore what humans might think of all this.
  • In The Laundry Series, humans are still the most populous species on the Earth, but are only the third-most powerful after the Deep Ones (who live in the depths of the oceans) and Chthonians (who live in Earth's mantle).
  • Destroyermen takes place in an alternate universe where the K-T extinction event never happened. As a consequence, the world is dominated by three or four other intelligent species, mainly the Lemurians (semi-humanoid primates, but descended from Madagascar lemurs instead of the great apes) and Grik (descended from therapod dinosaurs). The only humans in the setting are those that have crossed from our timeline over the centuries due to a recurring Negative Space Wedgie, or descendants of same.
  • The Long Earth: The central premise is that there are an infinite number of alternate-dimension Earths, but ours is the only one where humanity evolved. There some Earths where humanoid species (some resembling yetis or elves) have some primitive societies, but nowhere near as dominant as humanity.
  • The Human Aliens of Helliconia's eponymous planet were living under the rule of phagors who were better suited to the planet's cold climate. Then Helliconia's parent star got caught in orbit around another star, giving rise to warmer seasons when humans can rule over phagors instead.
  • In Dragaera, the Long-Lived, elf-like Dragaerans and their eponymous continent-spanning empire have been the dominant political and magical power on the planet for almost 200 000 years, while the human "Easterners" have a few small kingdoms of their own and are generally seen as second-class citizens within the Empire. Oddly, both species call themselves "human" In-Universe, a relic of the fact that the Dragaerans were created through genetic manipulation by the Jenoine Abusive Precursors.

     Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: The setting Council of Wyrms is set on an extensive island chain known as the Io's Blood islands. These are entirely ruled by dragon clans, and while various species of humanoids also live on the islands they do so as vassals and servants of the dragons, who are also the playable characters in this setting. Other lands beyond the seas exist in the background and are known to be inhabited and ruled by humanoids such as humans and giants, but the focus of the setting remains first and foremost on the Io's Blood islands and their dragon rulers.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • Naya, the jungle-covered shard of the plane of Alara that embodies Green mana, is inhabited by three intelligent races — humans, elves and the nacatl Cat Folk — in addition to an assortment of building-sized animals collectively referred to as the Gargantuans. In the distant past, the nacatl of the Empire of the Clouds were the undisputed rulers of the plane, with the elves becoming Naya's dominant power after the Empire's fall. In a very real sense, it can also be said that the true rulers of the plane are the Gargantuans, who travel the jungle as they please, trampling their way through any building or city they come across and with the intelligent races having very little ability to do anything about this. However and whenever one looks at it, however, humans have always been a rather unimportant race in Naya.
    • This is played to different degrees in the two incarnations of the plane of Tarkir.
      • In the original timeline, four of the five clans that ruled the plane were dominated by humans, with Tarkir's numerous other species — djinn and efreeti, the elephantine loxodon, goblins, the doglike ainok, orcs, ogres and the aven Bird People — being secondary in influence, importance and numbers to them. The exception to this was the Sultai Brood, a clan of necromancers, merchants and sorcerers who ruled the swamps and lowland jungles. The Sultai were firmly ruled by the serpent-like nagas and the rakshasa tiger-demons, who made up the clan's ruling class and chief sorcerers — the queen of the Sultai, Sidisi, was a naga herself. Within the Sultai, humans were strictly second-class citizens at best and chattel at worst.
      • In the new timeline, the clans were destroyed and replaced by the five dragon broods. In the wake of that, the dragons became the plane's undisputed and tyrannical rulers, while Tarkir's many humanoid races were all relegated to being the subjects and soldiers of the warring dragon clans. The one exception to this are, again, the rakshasas, whose unpredictable nature and sorcerous power allows them to maintain a degree of power and independence that the other humanoid races can't.

     Video Games 
  • Primal Rage: After a meteor strikes the Earth and causes a massive cataclysm, ancient deities (mostly resembling dinosaurs and giant primates) arise from an ancient slumber and conquer the world. Humankind regresses into tribes which serve these deities and becomes so primitive that they now refer to their planet as "Urth".
  • In SimEarth, it's possible to decide which kind of lifeform will become the dominant one (birds, reptiles, dinosaurs...).
  • The Mutant Football League manual states that mutant humans were kept in zoos until only 10 years ago when they revolted and demanded they be allowed to play in the MFL. They had no other demands.

     Visual Novels 
  • Hatoful Boyfriend is set in a post-apocalyptic future where a pandemic of a deadly form of bird flu nearly wiped out humanity. In response to this, the humans developed a counter-virus in an attempt to kill the birds that carried the disease. However, this new virus ended up giving the birds it infected human-like intelligence rather than killing them, leading to them becoming the dominant creatures on Earth as more and more humans died from the bird flu. The surviving humans, who developed a resistance to the disease, are forced to live apart from civilisation as hunter-gatherers.

     Web Comics 
  • Drowtales: The world is firmly dominated by the fae races (chiefly the nearly-extinct elves and their descendants, the drow) who maintain their position thanks to being the only ones able to use magic, their ancient and advanced civilizations and, in the case of the drow, numbers. The other sapients — the various nations and ethnicities of the "goblins" (a collective term for humans and orcs), the catlike ferals, the driders and a handful of others — are unable to meaningfully compete with them on either an individual or national scale and are largely relegated to the sidelines both in-story and in-universe. The orcs and humans have had the surface world mostly to themselves ever since a magical apocalypse forced the elves underground, but they're still the regular targets of drow raids for slaves and resources, and easily pushed aside when the drow start recolonizing the surface.
  • This hasn't happened yet in Freefall, but Dr. Bowman, the resident Chessmaster, has already started a sociological experiment aimed at determining how well humans respond at being a minority.

     Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-1000 are The Remnant of a nocturnal hominid species with incredible Organic Technology and nuclear weapons. At some point humans not only fought back against their domination (70% of the population died in one day as they slept), they managed to purge that they'd ever existed from human memory. They're better known to muggles as Bigfoot.

     Western Animation 
  • Subverted in Rick and Morty's second episode, "Lawnmower Dog". The viewer is lead to believe that cyborg dogs have taken over the earth, usurping humans as the dominant species. Instead, it turns out that it was All Just a Dream designed to convince the leader of the dog rebellion that taking over the Earth would make them just like the humans, leading him to decide to colonize another dimension instead.
  • Adventure Time is set in the Land of Ooo, implied to be Earth After the End. For the first few seasons, Finn is the only human left, but as the show goes on, a handful of other human characters show up, and one supporting character is revealed to have been a human once. The Islands story arc in season eight reveals that humans have settled in a group of islands isolated from the rest of Ooo. They actually have extremely advanced technology compared to most of the rest of the world, but are too insular to attempt to retake the rest of Earth, or even let their own citizens leave.

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