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Unlike the more anthropomorphic Star Wars aliens, Ssi-ruuk evolved from carnivorous dinosaurs. They'll still eat you, though now they can shoot you first.
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A phrase coined by Sci-Fi author Robert J. Sawyer, describing a certain way of characterizing extraterrestrial races. Take a terrestrial animal, make it anthropomorphic, bipedal, and sapient, but rather than deriving their behavior from humans with the occasional Furry Reminder, instead derive the majority of its characterization and culture from the terrestrial animal's behavior. Sawyer's hypothetical/satirical Intelligent Gerbils live in cities powered by erudite individuals running around in big wheels; they take water from tubes coming out of the walls and sleep in piles of cedar chips.

Could be regarded as the animal version of Rubber-Forehead Aliens, except when the non-human psychology clause of Starfish Aliens kicks in. Distinct from Alien Animals in the sense that they're not literally a terrestrial animal, but are obviously inspired by one. Compare Bee People.

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A subtrope of Beast Man, and related to Funny Animal, Civilized Animal, and the Planet of Hats. These mainly rely on Animal Stereotypes but also usually end up looking like Humanoid Aliens, for obvious reasons. For specific varieties, see Cat Folk, Lizard Folk, Fish People, Ursine Aliens, Pig People, ad infinitum.

Compare Uplifted Animal, which may be used as a Justified version of this. Evolutionary Levels are often implied - apparently if you want sapience, intelligence and organised society, they always come with two arms, two legs and an upright body plan.

For an interesting analysis and criticism of this trope, see this Tetrapod Zoology post.

Not to be confused with works featuring actual sapient earth-native gerbils (though if you need one of those, talk to Beta and she can help you out).

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Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering has a lot of these, including catfolk, lizards, elephants and insects as just a few examples. These are typically given the same creature type as their animalistic counterparts (unlike humans, dwarves, elves, goblins and the like, who get unique ones) and have personalities derived from their base animals' cultural associations — elephant people are stubborn and fastidious, dog people steadfast and loyal, insect people highly colonial, and so on.

    Comic Books 

     Comic Strips 
  • Buck Rogers has Tiger Men from Mars. And a single guy with tiger stripe tattoos named Tiger Man in the 1970's TV series.

    Fan Works 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Men in Black: While most creatures have truly alien-looking alien designs, the main recurring antagonists, the Bugs, are a race of space cockroaches.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog (2020), Sonic the Hedgehog is an alien from another planet who is clearly a sentient version of a hedgehog. Other members of the planet, such as Longclaw the Owl, the Echidna Tribe, and Miles "Tails" Prower the fox, are also sapient versions of Earth animals.
  • Star Wars has too many species to count. Multiple Star Wars alien races fall into this category: bats, lizards, moths, squid, goldfish, frogs, etc. etc etc. Cats and rabbits are some of the most common, particularly in the comics made in the 70s by Marvel. Creators tend to make up their own new species rather than going with the previously-established, constantly increasing the setting's numbers of mildly humanoid animal-like aliens. This becomes a plot point in an EU book that has Han ending up at an interplanetary pet competition. Humanoid aliens tend to have small furry pets, lizard aliens seem to prefer more insect-like pets and of course the sapient insect species like non-sapient humanoids as pets. Han notes that it's best to observe a pair for a minute if you aren't sure which one is the pet, case in point a Chadra-fan (giant rat) with a large bipedal lizard twice its size.

    Literature 
  • Alliance/Union universe has a few examples:
    • In the Chanur Novels, the Hani species are essentially terrestrial lions given intelligence and stood on their hind legs. The way that the biological imperatives of a pride-grouping species would impact a sapient culture are shown, without rubbing it in the reader's face. It's "just" background.
    • In The Faded Sun trilogy, the Regul seemed to bear a lot of resemblance to terrestrial hippopotamuses. And the dusei (singular "dus"), the companion animals of the Mri, were Ursine Aliens.
  • Animorphs:
    • The Pemalites (and their android creations, the Chee) are dog-like in both appearance and attitude. Inverted, however: it turns out that domesticated dogs were actually created when the Chee put the Pemalites essence/souls into wolves.
    • Downplayed with Andalites. They evolved from (well, technically still are) grazing, herd-based ungulates, so they are instinctually uncomfortable in enclosed spaces. But that's really the full extent of the "horse stuff" in their culture.
  • Bas-Lag Cycle: The bird-like garuda from Perdido Street Station. Most of Miéville's "Xenians" seem to fit this trope to some extent. The hotchi (hedgehogs), the vodyanoi (frogs), the grindylow (eels), the Weavers (spiders) and the beetle men (guess) are just a few examples that spring immediately to mind.
  • Doctor Who:
  • Downward To The Earth, by Robert Silverberg: The Nildoror are basically sapient elephants who, for spiritual reasons, become sapient bear/tapir creatures every few years.
  • Footfall: The Fithp bear a strong resemblance, both physically and with their "herd" culture, to elephants. This is lampshaded when the Fithp observe actual elephants in Africa and wonder why they hadn't become the dominant species on Earth.
  • Forest Of The Night: The Lodgeless Ones resemble big cats (humans tend to call them "tigers") with feathers instead of fur. They're predatory, nomadic, and rather territorial. Kargans, in Dreams of Dawn, resemble some sort of crustacean (and undergo multiple metamorphoses, and have Mirror Chemistry). In their not-yet-fully-sapient larval stage, they scavenge like crabs; when adult, they're at least partly aquatic. The briefly-mentioned Houri seem to be some sort of simian. They're tree-dwellers by choice.
  • The Four Horsemen Universe: A common format for aliens. The biggest example is the Besquith, which resemble a man-sized wolf/wolverine/bear mashup and are pack-oriented, vicious combatants who often eat what they kill.
  • Hayven Celestia: Most sapient species resemble anthropomorphized Earth animals to some extent. Geroo partially resemble ferrets and kangaroos, while ringels look a lot like scrawny raccoons.
  • Heralds of Valdemar has the hertasi (Lizard Folk) and tervardi (songbirds); there are also the dyheli (elk) and kyree (wolves), but they aren't bipeds. However, all of these are created species, mostly created by a single human mage. There are also weakly-sapient companion birds, also human-created.
  • Into the Looking Glass:
    • The first novel features the Mreee (pronounced the way a cat yowls when you stomp it's tail) who look like three-foot tall anthropomorphic house cats whose native language sounds like "cats stuck in a barrel." They subvert the "Proud Warrior Cat Folk" thing, as they are a Slave Race of the "Dreen" (or T! CH! R! as they call them- roughly translated, that means "the masters".)
    • Later books in the series introduce the Cheerick, who are almost literally intelligent gerbils. One character describes them as looking like six-foot-tall, spear-wielding hamsters, to which another character replies, "They don't really look like hamsters. More like chinchillas."
  • Known Space: The Kzin are sometimes described as resembling eight-foot humanoid cats. A more detailed description weakens the resemblance considerably, what with hairless tails, ferret-like body (with a lattice of struts instead of a ribcage), ribbed parasol-like ears, and other distinctions. Averted by most of the rest of the aliens. Some are very strange indeed, but with their evolutionary processes given a lot of thought. The Kzin themselves were one of the first alien species introduced, and Early Installment Weirdness is consequently in play.
  • Noon Universe: The lizard-like Tagorians. Also subverted with the Headies/Golovans who look kinda like dogs (with very large heads), and indeed apparently descended from some sort of alien dogs (it's commonly assumed that they mutated thanks to the fallout of a nuclear war), but their psychology doesn't have much to do with any of the stereotypical dog-like characteristics; it's just thoroughly inhuman (to wit, they are mistrustful of technology, highly enigmatic, seemingly unemotional and above all practice evolutionary pragmatism on an apparently everyday basis; the latter in particular definitely overrides any dog-like loyalty they might have had).
  • The Space Trilogy: The hrossa from Out of the Silent Planet are quite like sapient seals, only their planet's lighter gravity has made them taller and thinner. This resemblance to Earth animals make Ransom uncertain and awkward when he sees the intelligence in their eyes and tries to talk to them through panicked gestures.
  • Phule's Company: All of the major alien races can be described thusly: cats, slugs, lizards, and warthogs (just not when Phule himself is around). He even chews out Beeker, one of the few people he really has a personal relationship with, for using such terms.
  • Prostho Plus, by Piers Anthony, has semi-humanoid dinosaurs, anteaters, oysters, etc. Downplayed with the Gleep, who look exactly like Earth whales, and the Lepidop, human-sized moths and butterflies whose only other physical difference from Earth species is having teeth.
  • Sector General: James White uses this in some of his stories.
    • Hospital Station:
      • "The Trouble with Emily": The titular character is essentially a brontosaurus (she's called Emily Just for Pun by the engineers who maintain her living area, especially the crew of the tractor beams that keep her from thrashing around if she becomes agitated).
      • "Outpatient" features the staff's first encounter with the Ians, who reappear in Star Surgeon, in the form of a youngster rescued from a wrecked alien hospital ship. The Ians as a species resemble giant dragonflies as adults; the patient is in chrysalis form, which seriously confuses the staff until Conway works out why the detected vital signs are so messed up (they're getting two sets, one from the "caterpillar" form that's being sloughed off, one from the adult stage). The patient's actual original medical condition is that it can't break out of its chrysalis on its own and thus needs some minor but time-critical surgery.
    • Ambulance Ship: In "Quarantine", a youngster belonging to an unknown species is rescued from a wrecked spaceship. The medical staff find out the hard way that the new species' physiology is essentially like that of skunks, though with a mild poisonous effect rather than a bad smell.
  • Space Captain Smith includes the Ghasts, a fascist species of mansize army ants; Beetle People, whose culture revolves around collecting and rolling dung; and most of all the Yull, 6-foot lemmings who regard suicide as the highest virtue, and hence follow a samurai honour code taken to a ludicrous extreme. Admittedly, they are comedies.
  • Star Trek: Death's Angel, by Kathleen Sky, features a whole conference of these aliens: a giant blue crocodile, a koala, a cat, a bat, a lamprey, etc. With the occasional exception including a vampire and a talking pyramid. The character names aren't much more creative; the cat is Neko (Japanese for cat) and the pyramid is Hotep.
  • In Summer in Orcus, the intelligent birds of Orcus have a society which bears a considerable resemblance to Regency England, but with details that reflect the fact that they're birds.
  • Uplift: While most aliens in the setting are of the starfish variety, there are some that resemble Earth animals. Pila are Ursine Aliens. Soro are a bit like therapod dinosaurs. Synthians look like large raccoons without tails. Tytlal are pretty much otters capable of speech. And the Tytlal's patrons, the Tymbrimi, are described as having a slightly vulpine appearance, and the personality of a mythological Kitsune, though they're also the most anthropomorphic aliens in the setting, approaching Rubber-Forehead Alien levels with application of their minor shapeshifting abilities.
  • The Voyage of the Space Beagle had a cat-like alien called Coeurl (which has since appeared in other media) and telepathic alien birds called Riim.
  • The Wild Boy: The Lindauzi. There is a scene where people disagree about whether they look like cats, dogs or bears, but the cover shows them to look a lot like Earth bears. The one difference is that they have crests running from front to back on their heads and cat-like retractable claws. And if they lose their sentience, they'll go back to hunting and killing prey like grizzly or polar bears.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who has several examples: the Judoon are rhinos (who are sapient, but not necessarily intelligent), the Tritovores are flies, etc. Occasionally, there's some alien traits for the aliens: Vespiforms are wasps and shapeshifters, the Cheetah People are cheetahs and natural teleporters, the Foamasi are chameleons and are immune from radiation and can compress themselves into human suits.
  • Red Dwarf: The Cat is a humanoid who evolved from a cat that lived three million years before the show's present.
  • Star Trek: While the series tends to avoid this trope for the most part, the Xindi from Star Trek: Enterprise are consisting of six different species resembling different kinds of animals: There are The Reptilians, the Insectoids, the extinct Avians, the Arboreals (resembling sloths), the Aquatics (resembling whales or large fish) and the Primates (resembling humans, and thus are simply Rubber Fore Head Aliens).

    Radio 
  • Journey into Space: In Journey to the Moon / Operation Luna, the Time Traveller resembles a bipedal armadillo with a blue and red face, which Mitch compares to that of a mandrill. Doc estimates that he is seven foot tall. However, Jet says nine feet and Mitch says twelve feet.

     Tabletop Games  
  • Burning Wheel: The Roden are pretty much intelligent human-sized anthropomorphic rodents who divide themselves into Country Mice (kind of vegetarian Amish types who look like field-mice) and City Mice (stereotypical criminal rat-person, with Pinky and the Brain included as possible life paths) with murderous cultists and albino mystics thrown in for good measure.
  • Dungeons & Dragons has a long history of this, although the precise portrayal can zig-zag between this and Funny Animal with the odd Furry Reminder.
    • While reptiles in later editions, kobolds in the Basic/Expert/etc version of Dungeons & Dragons are often portrayed as Intelligent Gerbil versions of evil dog-people, with yapping voices and wagging tails, although their appearance becomes much more lizardlike over time.
    • Similiarly, the lizardfolk are written as emotionless swamp-dwellers driven only by survival.
    • Nycters and desmodu are both races of gregarious subterranean Bat People who live in densely-populated communities.
    • Mystara setting, including Savage Coast, is full of them. Aside of more or less standard races there are: Aranea (scheming and crafty sorcerous were-spider people), Lupins (canine humanoids, with teamworking/Lawful inclinations), Rakasta (proud, warlike Cat Folk), Tortles (bipedal turtles), Gurrash (big brutal crocodile-humanoids), wallaras (stealthy chameleon-men), and Caymars (small agile lizard kin).
    • Races of the Wild claims that Gnoll society is very much based on the social structure of hyena packs. It doesn't always agree with the way they're treated in other material, but is the only source to explicitly go into detail about them. 4th Edition plays this up even further in terms of the gnolls' combat mechanics.
    • Spelljammer had nothing but these for races, except for Scro, who fill the Monster Adventurers slot. Some fit this trope more accurately than others; the xixchil, biological Mad Scientist mantis-people, are notorious for their incredibly individualistic social mentality, and whilst they try to avoid it, sexual cannibalism is still a very real risk in their mating rituals — and the race keeps a sustainable population because, upon hatching, the strongest hatchling will devour the rest of its clutch, save maybe for one or, very rarely, two siblings of equivalent strength.
  • GURPS:
    • GURPS Space allows alien designs from intelligent gerbils (literally if you wish) to "plasma life".
    • GURPS Bio-Tech has intelligent gerbils called Tek-Rats.
  • In Myriad Song Towsers look like dogs with crystals in their fur, Troodons resemble the dinosaurs they're named after, Rhax males are basically giant spiders (and not actually intelligent), Ishato look a lot like octopi, while Elvers seem to be some cross between assorted eels and seals.
  • Traveller:
    • Aslan are aliens who roughly resemble lions. They generally behave more like the more warlike tribes among humans than like lions. They have a sense of tribal cohesion, hierarchy, a stern honor code, and so on. Canon actually says right out that they have a lot in common with humans.
    • Vargr were genetically engineered from Earth wolves to be sapient and humanoid. They're for the most part ferocious, fractious raiders, pirates and barbarians.
  • Star Fleet Battles: Lyrans (lynxes). The Kzinti are already official in-universe, giving two "cat-people" races (who hate each other).
  • Starfire: The Khanate of Orion is another touchy cat-race.
  • Talislanta: The Aeriad, Ferrans, Gryphs, Imrians, Jaka, Saurans, and Stryx are Intelligent Gerbil songbirds, rats, hawks, fish, panthers, lizards, and vultures, respectively.
  • Warhammer Fantasy:
    • The Skaven, anthropomorphic rats who live underground, constantly squabble, are disease-ridden, and don't attack anything bigger than them without having a 10-1 numerical advantage. They also reproduce like crazy and the albinos or big ones get special treatment. One of their war-machines is a giant exercise wheel with guns.
    • The Lizardmen are aloof, stubborn and set in their ways, though not strictly speaking abhorrent (in fact they're the closest thing to an always lawful good species, having been created to fight Chaos).
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Jokaero are orangutan-like aliens with an innate knack for building incredibly advanced technology with scraps of damaged machinery, but possess no real language. The Imperium Inquisition makes use of Jokaero to customize their weaponry and other equipment.
    • The (relatively) docile Tau are supposedly evolved from three-toed grazing animals, their allies the Kroot from birds, and the Vespid from insects. All are more-or-less Humanoid Aliens.
  • World Tree RPG is rife with them: Cani (dog-folk, obsessed with personal relations), Herethroy (insect-folk, community-minded, mostly farmers), Gormoror (bear-folk, honorable warriors), Khtsoyis (squid-folk, not too bright... but brighter than they let on), Sleeth (amoral, intelligent cats devoted to hunting), Rassimel (raccoon-folk with obsessive-compulsive tendencies), Orren (otter-folk with short attention spans), and Zi Ri (dragon-folk who live a looooong time... barring accidents).

     Video Games  
  • Atlas Reactor: Done literally with Isadora (short for "Isadoryble"), as she's a hamster with a chunk of Reactor stuck in her head which gave her an IQ of 6,000 - and a desire to Take Over the World.
  • Albion" The Iskai look like anthropomorphic cats that besides their appearance, resemble humans a lot, at first glance. On second glance, you realize that not only are they completely alien, but have some very bizarre, logic defying traits. This is even lampshaded at one point.
  • Battleborn: A good number of the alien species are basically sapient versions of Earth animals. To name a few, there are the Aviants (Bird People); Pendles' race, the Roa (Snake People) complete with snake tail-like Combat Tentacles that naturally molt off upon adulthood; and the Monstrous Seal-like alien race which the main antagonist of the DLC Toby's Friendship Raid belongs to.
  • Mass Effect: Notably averted, subverted, and played with. Turians are like a bizarre cross between a Velociraptor, various insects, and birds, but are not any more violent than humans, and can be very nice people. Krogan are probably the closest thing to playing this trope straight, as they are something of a cross between a T. rex and a snapping turtle, and are a definitely Proud Warrior Race. Salarians, a race of Smart Guys, are vaguely amphibian, but have numerous characteristics that lead some Protheans to mistake them for lizards, since Javik mentions they used to eat flies and lick their eyeballs in his Cycle.
  • Metroid Prime 2: Echoes: The Luminoth are a race of giant anthropomorphic moth-people that seem to have an obsession with light.
  • Star Control: Some alien species fit this trope:
    • The first game has the Ilwrath (spiders), the Mycon (mushrooms), the Shofixti (marsupials), the Spathi (shellfish), the Ur-Quan (centipedes), and the Yehat (pterodactyls)
    • The second game adds the Dnyarri (toads), the Druuge (pigs), the Melnorme (literal Starfish Aliens), the Orz (fish, or so they want you to think), the Pkunk (toucans), the Supox (plants), the Thraddash (rhinos), and the Burvixese (turtles, mentioned only).
    • The third game introduces the Doog (dogs, obviously), the Lk (more mushrooms), the Owa (jellyfish), the Ploxis (rats), and the Vyro-Ingo (crustaceans).
  • Stellaris lets you create your own alien race and empire from scratch, and the options range from Earth humans and Rubber-Forehead Aliens on one end to Starfish Aliens (including sentient plants and fungi) on the other. In between, there are numerous options for customizing your species based on real-world Earth animals, from foxes to butterflies to peacocks, though they're mostly cosmetic given that you set the species' traits separately. A gecko-based species has become particularly iconic within the fandom, associated with the genocidal Fanatic Purifiers that wish to purge the galaxy of all other alien species/xeno filth. If you have Cities: Skylines installed, one of the options is Chirpy, the mascot of that game's Twitter knockoff Chirper.
  • The Sun At Night has Laika, a dog from space who can speak human languages, and wears a high-tech suit with a blaster mounted on its back.
  • Sword of the Stars. The Hivers, Liir, Tarka, Zuul and Morrigi are Intelligent Gerbil ants, dolphins, crocodile/ape hybrids, tasmanian devils, and dragon/crow/magpies, respectively.
  • WildStar: The Chua are this both figuratively and literally, being a highly-intelligent gerbil-like race.
  • Wing Commander: The Kilrathi are a race of evil tiger-people.
  • World of Warcraft: Semi-intelligent animals pop up in various forms, such as the raptors who have been known to ornament their bodies with feathers, seem to have a vague hierarchical society and are dexterous enough to unlock and open doors with their little foreclaws.

    Visual Novels 

    Webcomics 
  • The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!: The Nemesites are giant butterfly people. Their culture does not appear to be butterfly-like, however.
  • Last Res0rt runs on this trope and plays it seriously enough to pull it off; virtually every nonhuman in the series is a furry alien of some kind. It helps that the aliens involved map to multiple critters (Talmi, for instance, seem to be a cat / kangaroo mix) as opposed to just pulling straight. And in addition to the Talmi:
    • Anyr are often dubbed horses, but have large donkey-like ears, unicorn tails, and parrot feet.
    • Vidians look roughly like Kirin, except when they look more like Eastern Dragons.
    • Zillans look like nothing so much as bipedal crocodiles.
    • Among the unnamed species (some named on the fan wiki), we have four-armed rabbits, tentacle-haired felines ("Sea Lions", perhaps?), and we never have been given a proper name for Addy's species (or for her Efreet in the Bottle) — she looks like a simple (albeit very pink) lion centaur, but she has leopard spots going down her back as well.
  • tinyraygun: The galaxy is populated by these. The Leviks, for example, are long-eared cats with short tails, with the ones from the mountain regions even sporting antlers.

    Web Original 

     Western Animation  
  • Ben 10:
    • The Loboans are space wolves from a planet themed around werewolf horror movies.
    • Stinkfly is a giant insect.
    • Ripjaws is a fish man.
    • Ben 10: Alien Force has even more, such as Big Chill (moth man), Jetray (manta ray that can 'swim' in the air) and Humungasaur (dinosaur). Though the one with truly animal-like behavior is Spidermonkey, who acts hyper and chimp-like.
    • Ben 10: Omniverse has Crashhopper (grasshopper), Bullfrag (frog), Astrodactyl (pterosaur), Ball Weevil (insect), Kickin' Hawk (bird of prey), Molestache (Mole...apparently) and Walkatrout (fish).
  • Darkwing Duck has an episode with intelligent alien cows.
  • Futurama: Occasionally featured, with the most prominent being the Hyperchicken. But due to the Sci-Fi Kitchen Sink nature of the show, it's hard to tell whether most of them are actual aliens or just genetically enhanced animals.
  • Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts: All the animals still demonstrate traits of their respective species, such as the frogs living in a river filled with lilypads or the raccoons hoarding trash and living in a landfill. The Timber Cats are arguably the biggest example, residing in trees they've carved to resemble giant cat towers, use a litter box as a prison, and having the method to summon them be opening a can of tuna.
  • Lilo & Stitch: Dr. Jacques von Hämsterviel is notably physically different from any Earth animal, but the comparisons are thrown around left and right. He's constantly referred to as "gerbil-like"; Hämsterviel himself takes offense to this (but only because he insists that he's hamster-like.) He hates when people pronounce it "Hamster-wheel", though.
  • Spider-Man Unlimited: The Bestials are Beast Folk engineered by the High Evolutionary from Earth animals.
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series features the Kzinti and the Caitians, two species of Cat Folk.

Alternative Title(s): Alien Based On Animal, Animallike Sophont

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