Another race, superior to ours
Foresaw the catastrophe
Fled to space and fled the tragedy
Now they're here again, with a simple claim
Alien, alien attack
They want their planet back
The ultraterrestrials are an alien race that, well, isn't really alien. In fact, they originate from Earth, just like us humans, but their civilization is so much older and more advanced than ours that they have no trouble hiding from us (for whatever reason). The term was coined by the ufologist John Keel in his book, Operation Trojan Horse, in 1970, wherein he claims that the UFOs, various supernatural phenomena (like The Mothman), and religious narratives imply the activity of an almighty High Energy Being co-existing with humans on Earth.
Contrast Advanced Ancient Humans, when it's humanity itself that developed early, got advanced, then for whatever reason disappeared or fell back into primitiveness. If the species is human, but not obviously so at first, it may be Original Man. Contrast Earth All Along, which includes a reversal of this trope: human spacefarers encounter a strange planet with strange lifeforms. It turns out that a lot of time has passed, and this strange planet is actually Earth.
Ultraterrestrials often reside inside the Hollow Earth. Still others hang out in Atlantis, or a place that's said to be the inspiration for it. Compare/contrast Transhuman Aliens and Transplanted Humans. Often a form of Precursors. Inverse of Humanity Came from Space.
- DARLING in the FRANXX has the Klaxosaurs, who are ultimately nothing more than the biomechanical weapons of the "Klaxo sapiens", a highly advanced race that was almost completely wiped out in an Alien Invasion over sixty million years ago.
- Darwin's Game plays with this: Greed creatures are thought by Game Master to originate from a very divergent timeline of the Earth, though technically they're still aliens to the timeline the manga takes place in.
- And then bent even further, as they're from a potential future of the manga's timeline, which they're trying to make a certainty, sort of inverting the deal.
- In the nasty, gorn-filled hentai OVA series Demon Beast Invasion, the eponymous villain was originally an advance scout for his race that was this trope (they'd left Earth 100 million years ago due to environmental changes making it unlivable for them); numerous retcons gradually transformed it into a transdimensional Eldritch Abomination, though.
- The Dinosaur Empire from Getter Robo are the highly evolved survivors of when Phlebotinum Killed the Dinosaurs.
- The Pillar Men of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Their creation of vampires starts out the plot, and eventually the Pillar Men themselves emerge from thousands of years in hibernation.
- The Mysterious Cities of Gold: The Olmecs actually are a remnant of the time of Mu and Atlantis, likely humans mutated by accident or on purpose.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Supplementary material shows that most of the Angels are from Earth, and actually predated humans. The 1st and 2nd Angel, Adam and Lilith, are extraterrestrial, the former creating the other Angels and the latter creating all other life on Earth. Earth was originally meant to be inhabited by Adam and his children, but the Precursors screwed up and accidentally sent Lilith to Earth as well. Since they could not coexist together, Adam and his children were voluntarily shut down by the Lance of Longinus (a failsafe created in case this event happened). Hence, they have been asleep/dormant for the past four billion years, until the Second Impact woke them up.
- In Outlanders, the invading aliens were originally from Earth. They were not happy to find squatters on the Sacred Mother Planet.
- The Nontolma from Sgt. Frog are pre-human inhabitants of Earth who live in the deepest oceans and prefer to be left alone to observe and record the goings-on of the surface world.
- Blake and Mortimer has Little Green Men that are actually the descendants of humanity after one nuclear world war too many. Where mankind has mastered the atom, they mastered time, and are trying to alter the past so the Earth doesn't turn into an irradiated wasteland (unfortunately, their plan for this involves bringing back Basam Damdu, the villain of the first book who managed to Take Over the World for a relatively long time).
- The DCU has Paradise Island/Themyscira, home of the Amazons; Gorilla City, home of gorillas genetically enhanced by aliens; and Aquaman's Atlantis. The land of Skartaris used to count, being a Hollow World, but then got retconned as being a Land of the Lost (1974)-style Alternate Universe. According to one story from Arion Lord Of Atlantis, at least one alien race is descended from Atlantean space explorers. This might be an explanation for why there are so many human-looking alien races in the DCU.
- The first twist in the Disney Ducks Comic Universe story Threat from the Infinite is that the hostile aliens Tz'oook, who had been looking for something on Earth, actually originated on Earth, only to escape on a colony ship after their hyperpolluting civilization caused the Permian-Triassic Extinction Event waiting for the world to fix itself, and now they're back and want their planet back, but lacking the numbers to face humanity they're looking for their ancient cities and use the technology there to cause civilization-collapsing devastation and then move in. The second twist is that they're actually from a parallel universe, having accidentally and unknowingly crossed the interdimensional boundary... and their Earth did not fix itself, and is now a dead world.
- Gold Digger lives on this trope. Digging up artifacts from such civilizations is the whole point of Gina's character. Of course, that 'verse being a Fantasy Kitchen Sink means that actual aliens, magical creatures from Another Dimension, and plenty else besides show up all the time. One major example is the planet Jade, a world in Another Dimension populated by dragons, werebeasts, and numerous other magical fantasy beings. The catch is that Jade is actually an artificial world constructed by a race of Precursors, and none of the creatures living there now are native to it. Almost all of them originally came from Earth and migrated to Jade when the Age of Magic was coming to an end.
- Marvel Universe: The Eternals, the Deviants, and the Inhumans are each an offshoot of pre-modern humans who were genetically modified by extraterrestrial aliens long ago. Lost Worlds of this type are also a staple of the company's "giant monster" and science fiction stories in the '50s, although not all of those stories are still considered canon in the Marvel Universe.
- The Many from The Others (1995) are a collective of humanoid races who evolved on Earth convergently with humanity. Klone is implied to actually be a conventional extraterrestrial alien, but the series was Cut Short before his story could be told.
- Isaac Asimov:
- "Hostess": Old age is the result of a Mind Virus, carried by either a set of mindless pseudo-genes, or a parasitic mind (it had been republished with a few edits). The parasite is compared with the snake from the Garden of Eden.
- "Kid Stuff": According to the elf, his race had evolved before even the dinosaurs. For thousands of years, they lived alongside humans as "fairies", but a few centuries ago, when they saw that, despite their telepathic powers, Muggles Do It Better, they had a bad case of inferiority complex and withdrew to Avalon.
- In the writings of Richard Sharpe Shaver — which he and many others believed to be fact — the Earth was once home to a super-advanced civilization living in ancient cave cities who abandoned this world to travel to anothernote , leaving their machines behind to be discovered millennia later by inquisitive humans, who would gradually evolve into the noble Teros and the wicked Deros. The Deros would later inspire the evil dwarf-like Derros in Dungeons & Dragons.
- In the Acorna Series, the character is a member of a humanoid race of unicorns, descended from more traditional equine unicorns and the Sufficiently Advanced Aliens who rescued them from being hunted to extinction on Earth in the Middle Ages.
- The fairies from Artemis Fowl have got magic and have technology 50 years ahead of ours... and they live within the Hollow Earth, to boot.
- In Callahan's Crosstime Saloon, the Harmonians (including Mike, Mary, and Lady Sally) are humans from the far, far, far future, sent back in time to make sure theirs is the future that comes to pass. While they still appear physically human, their psychology is markedly different from growing up in a true Utopia.
- A staple of the Cthulhu Mythos. Deep Ones, Ghouls, Serpentfolk and Sand Dwellers are all roughly humanoid and presumably originated on Earth; the Cthonians could also possibly be of terrestrial origins, but their being full-fledged Eldritch Abominations makes this hard to determine. The Great Race is actually a subversion, as while their host bodies originated on Earth, the possessing intelligences that are the actual Great Race projected themselves through time and space from elsewhere and else-when.
- In the story "Devourer" by Liu Cixin, the emissary of the reptilian Devourer Empire eats a human to find out whether we are worth preserving as livestock, leading another to question how he was able to do so without poisoning himself. The answer is revealed at the end: the Devourers are descendants of Earth dinosaurs, who left following the K-T extinction event. The emissary argues that they have more of a claim on Earth than humans do, since they were here first.
- Humorous version from one of the spin-off Dilbert books, in which Scott Adams postulates that all the smart people in the world have hyper-evolved to resemble grey aliens and are the real cause behind UFO sightings, but in fact have all just gone off to live in Switzerland.
- Ken MacLeod's Engines of Light trilogy is set in the Second Sphere, an area of space colonized by successive waves of intelligent Earth-evolved life forms, starting with hyperintelligent giant squid and uplifted dinosaurs who fly around in saucers and happen to look a lot like grays.
- In Man After Man: An Anthropology of the Future, the descendants of those humans sent off to colonize distant stars while Earth's ecology recovers return after 5 million years, exploit and alter the planet more than humanity did the first time, and then leave for some alien-rationalized reason.
- Mindwarp: The aliens that hound the heroic kids for the first six books are revealed to not be aliens but rather a genetically engineered super soldier/successor race from the future.
- A non-sapient example in the Rifters Trilogy. Most life on Earth is descended from Martian Mike, but some life had already evolved near hydrothermal vents. Billions of years later, a geothermal energy program accidentally brings some of this life, dubbed βehemoth, to the surface — it turns out that when it isn't spending most of its energy surviving on the sea floor, it's more efficient than any equivalent terrestrial life form and can easily outcompete them. This plus the fact that it can live in almost any sufficiently warm and non-salty environment (including inside of other living cells) results in the rapid spread of a microbial technically-not-Alien Kudzu.
- In Rod Allbright Alien Adventures, Rod initially believes that his Disappeared Dad was an alien. Upon meeting him in space late in book 3 (The Search for Snout), he finds that his dad's actually a scientist from Atlantis who traveled into space before it fell, became immortal, and had adventures on alien worlds before returning to live on Earth (and then he disappeared because an alien he'd ticked off on his adventures found him and wanted to harm his family).
- In Sinister Barrier by Eric Frank Russell, Earth is populated by Vitons, Energy Beings who exist outside visible spectrum and feed upon human emotions: from pain and anguish to joy. Oh, and when they die, they turn into ball lightning. However, it's never made clear if Vitons originated on Earth in parallel with humans, if they created humans or if they came from another planet and enslaved humans — people who think of Vitons in their presence are killed to maintain the Masquerade, and thus the researchers tend to die quickly (until the cataclysmic reveal halfway through the novel).
- Solar Warden: The secret government program is aware of hundreds of alien races but has had contact with only three, which they call the Nordics, Greys, and Saurians. Except the Nordics are actually humans from about 11,000 years in the future. And so are the Greys, except they're from about a million years in the future. Even the Saurians turn out to be from Earth, as they have evolved from dinosaurs.
- In The Space Odyssey Series, Floyd speculates one of these to be the ones who buried the Monolith in the Moon... but then debunks it when he realizes that humanity would have found evidence of their existence already.
- In the Strange Highways short story "Hardshell", the titular character and his species are neither aliens nor genetic experiments gone wrong but rather evolved alongside humanity.
- In The Stress of Her Regard and Hide Me Among the Graves, "vampires" are actually a form of Silicon-Based Life that had dominated the Earth in the very distant past but had gone dormant when organic life became prevalent. They'd still be little more than inert rock had a bizarre human experiment not managed to revive them.
- Doctor Who:
- The most prominent examples are the Silurians and Sea Devils (both of these names are technically Fantastic Slurs; the Doctor Who Expanded Universe uses "Earth Reptiles" and the 21st-century series the taxonomically dubious Homo reptilia as alternatives), who are terrestrial and aquatic races of an intelligent dinosaur species, from around 300 million BC, who put themselves into suspended animation in fear of a planetary disaster that failed to occur. They appear in the old-school serials "Doctor Who and the Silurians", "The Sea Devils" and "Warriors of the Deep", and several 21st-century episodes. Various encounters with humans on a large scale have led to tragic results, but in the 21st-century show Madame Vastra, a Silurian Lady of War living covertly in Victorian England with her human wife, has become a sympathetic recurring character.
- There's also the Fendahl, whose skull crashed on Earth long before humans existed and psychically guided human evolution for thousands of years so that it could have a suitable host.
- The revived series does a purer form of this trope with the Silence, who have secretly ruled Earth "since the wheel and the fire", but always went unnoticed because you forget their existence as soon as they leave your field of vision. You don't just forget, but anything they say is treated as a post-hypnotic suggestion, including "You should kill us on sight" spliced with the footage of the Lunar landing, meaning humans kill the Silence without ever knowing it. It's finally revealed that the Silence actually fail to qualify for this, as they are time-travelling humans from the far future who were biologically altered by a religious cult to serve as confessional priests.
- The First People are a subversion. They're actually contemporary humans using a Time Machine.
- The Observers play this trope straight, except for the fact that they come from the very far future. As such, they are telepathic, can travel through space and time at will and "function at highly attenuated time".
- The Outer Limits (1995): In "Double Helix", a seemingly alien race seeded Earth with their DNA about 60 million years ago, which eventually resulted in the evolution of humanity. The sequel episode "The Origin of Species" reveals that the race in question was the first intelligent species to evolve on Earth and that they eventually left the planet and returned eons later.
- The Kromaggs in Sliders are thought to be aliens at first, but it turns out that they are a parallel evolution of hominids from another Earth. Two Earths are known to have produced Kromaggs: Earth Prime (the militant kind, who were driven out by that world's humans) and Earth Double Prime (a mirror of Earth Prime, where the Kromaggs are docile and are in the process of being exterminated by that world's racist humans).
- In the final episode of Space: Above and Beyond, the Chig ambassador claims that his species evolved on Earth before humans did but left before the atmosphere became suited to oxygen-breathing life (the Chigs are methane-breathers). Well, specifically, the Chigs evolved from humble anaerobic bacteria that evolved on ancient Earth, who then got spread to space by an asteroid impact, then meteorites created from the impact eventually spread to another solar system, where they continued to evolve. Consider that there was a gap of billions of years between when anaerobic bacteria evolved and when complex multicellular life evolved. Technically their DNA line is billions of years older than ours, but much of this was spent as just frozen bacteria spores on meteorites for billions of years after that, so in the present day they're roughly at the same evolutionary level as we are.
- Stargate-verse: The Ancients/Alterans are eventually revealed to be a subversion, as although they lived on Earth millions of years before modern humans evolved, they actually originated from a planet in another galaxy.
- Star Trek:
- Gary Seven from the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Assignment: Earth" is from a race of humans raised on another planet, returned to Earth to guide human evolution.
- In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Distant Origin", the starship encounters an ancient civilization of Earth dinosaurs. However, the theory that dinosaurs originate on Earth quickly gets branded as heresy, since it conflicts with the dogma that they have always been in their current region of space.
- Stingray (1964) has various aquatic races of Fish People, Apparently Human Merfolk, and others living deep under the sea, and coming into the contact with surface people for the first time.
- The antagonists in the Ultraseven episode "Envoy of the Nonmalts" claim to be this, stating that they were the original inhabitants of Earth before being driven underwater by humans invading from outer space. The episode leaves it up in the air as to whether they were telling the truth or using this claim to justify their counterattack against the Ultra Garrison. The Heisei Ultraseven series reveals they were telling the truth, and that the Ultra Garrison had wiped them out to prevent the word from leaking.
- The aliens in The X-Files were actually ancient native Earth lifeforms that left for a few millennia and decided to come back. Much to their horror, they found that those pesky apes had built a civilization and replaced them — so they set out to re-colonize Earth, using the Government Conspiracy to aid them.
- The andean Pucara red giants in Rifts, unlike pretty much every other non-human, non-mutant sentient species in the setting (which usually originate from Another Dimension), turn out to be this (of course, they're from South America, which is weird even by Rifts Earth standards). There's also the True Atlanteans, who are Advanced Ancient Humans/Precursors who'd left Earth millenia ago (called "True" because Atlantis is currently home to myriad aliens and monsters and ruled by a Proud Merchant Race Eldritch Abomination), and Psi-X Aliens, who look like The Greys (and considered just another extra-dimensional race) but are actually mutants genetically engineered as a failed experiment to unlock the secret of Psychic Powers by Dr. Desmond Bradford.
- Many of the aquatic horrors from They Came From Beneath The Sea! are species of sapients that evolved in the depths of the ocean before or alongside humanity and who now want to conquer the land for themselves.
- Assassin's Creed: The Precursor race known as the Isu, The Ones Who Came Before, or "First Civilization". They more or less looked like humans but had triple-helix DNA and a sixth sense. They didn't just evolve before humans — they took primate races and artificially uplifted them using genetic engineering to serve their needs as a Servant Race. Subsequent conspiracies then filled in the fossil record gap this created with fabrications (i.e., we really jumped straight from Homo erectus to anatomically modern humans, then they filled in the missing links). They then dominated humans with their superior technology and physical capabilities. A slave revolt greatly depopulated them, after which a catastrophic natural disaster finished off those who were left (ironically preventing them from saving the planet, including the nascent human civilization on it). Humanity survived but got dialed back to hunter-gatherers and forgot their origins. The legacy of the First Civilization lives on, however, in the form of their DNA mingled with some human bloodlines, plus a number of artifacts scattered throughout the planet, some small enough to fit in the palm of a hand, and some as large structures.
- Crysis: The Ceph, although they don't quite fit the trope perfectly. Yes, the Ceph are genuine extraterrestrials who originated from another galaxy, but they established colonies on Earth at least 65 million years ago which then went into hibernation. So no, they're not exactly Ultra Terrestrials, but they've been on this planet for so long they might as well be.
- FromTheDepths: From the Depths invokes this with the final faction the average player encounters during the first campaign. The Scarlett Dawn initially appear to be a standard Alien Invasion complete with spaceships and laser beams. However reading into their lore They actually originated on Neter and left thousands of years ago due to a Climate Catastrophe they may have been responsible for causing. They returned to Neter after all this time because they couldn't find a single habitable planet out in space.
- The backstory of Girls' Frontline features the "Derelict" civilization. Very little is known about them, or even if Earth is their planet of origin, but their abandoned facilities that are scattered around the globe have yielded only one mummified corpse, that is at least compatible enough with Earth biology that their genome could be mapped and hybridized with human clones by a secret project (this appeared to yield no appreciable changes in the hybrids). Most believe they either went extinct or simply abandoned Earth.
- Iji: The Komato, and by extension the Tasen, originated from Earth, which they called Origin. They don't realize this until after they Alpha Strike its surface into a charred wasteland. We learn a way into the game, and it changes how some of them think.
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess eventually reveals that Zant, Midna, and the true forms of the Shadow Beasts are descendants from a tribe of sorcerers that were banished from Hyrule to Another Dimension by the Light Spirits on orders from the gods. In fact, this trope is Zant's motive: he wants to reclaim Hyrule for the Twili, fulfilling their ancestors' ambitions.
- Sonic the Hedgehog: Unlike other media adaptations, which depict the characters as either aliens that happen to resemble cartoon animals or evolved animal beings from the far future, Sonic and the other animal characters exist in a modern-day Fictional Earth, with the term "Mobius" non-existent save for old translations of game manuals. Along with Sonic and company, the past featured an ancient Echidna clan having housed the powerful Chaos Emeralds and caused events that created the god-like Chaos, another tribe of Echidna build powerful robots called Gizoids, there's a powerful entity living in the Earth's core named Dark Gaia who will destroy the planet when its time comes, and there's a cute and tiny race of creatures called Chao.
- The whole plot of Stasis: Bone Totem ultimately revolves around the Cayne Corporation discovering the remnants of an ancient alien species in ruins deep below the surface of the sea, and then trying to clone them in order to study them. Naturally, it turned into a case of Gone Horribly Wrong.
- Implied with "The First People" in the Super Robot Wars Alpha saga (though it's also suggested The First are Advanced Ancient Humans): their origins are Earth-based, having created a pair of planetary defense systems called the "Gan Eden" to protect the Earth from The End of the World as We Know It, such as a meteor shower and the "STMC". While The First left with the Gan Eden pair to seed life on another planet in the galaxy, a fraction of them stayed on Earth to mingle with humanity; modern humans in the present of Alpha are The First's descendants, specifically those who are classified as "Psychodrivers", as they carry their ancestors' unique Psychic Powers.
- Tales of Maj'Eyal has the Sher'Tul, who were a mysterious Precursor race with advanced technology and magic that are, to this day, very poorly understood by the current races that reside on Eyal. They initiated a crusade against the Gods and drove the Gods to virtual extiction. They then disappeared for unknown reasons, but there are references In-Universe that "the Sher'Tul are not gone, just hiding".
- In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs on Earth also propelled a number of them into space. "Crazy space radiation" caused them to gain human-level intelligence. Eventually, they mastered interstellar travel and (in some of the timelines) returned to Earth. There's also a village of intelligent gorillas, whose origin is never explained.
- The dragons in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, although they left Earth for another planet in the Middle Ages. The Bigfeet are also intelligent, though their society is relatively primitive (they like to live in caves). The Furmians are a race of anthropomorphic animals uplifted by aliens who are responsible for our legends of werewolves, tengu, the Minotaur, and many other mythical animal-people.
- In Schlock Mercenary, seventy-three million years ago, a passing worldship with the mass of a star disturbed the solar system's Oort cloud. Eight million years later, a sophont dinosaur species called the Feathrell evolved on Earth and managed to develop basic electricity, radio, and astronomy just in time to spot the comet that humans would later call the Chicxulub impactor that had been sent their way by said disturbance. Thankfully, some of the inhabitants of the worldshipnote who followed the philosophy that it was easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission had left behind an unauthorized probe equipped with a Subspace Ansible which detected their radio transmissions containing desperate pleas for help and said inhabitants also decided not to ask for permission before spending the colossal amount of energy needed to teraport the entire Feathrell civilization across two hundred thousand light-years of intergalactic space to safety onboard their worldship.
- The ahuman and solipsist transapient A.I.s from Orion's Arm are ultraterrestrials to an extent — they were originally created by humans, but after losing their cyberwar against the pro-human transapients, they were exiled from Earth. When the (trans)humans and pro-human A.I.s finally reached the systems the ahumans had passed through, they found apparently alien artifacts — which turned out to be just stuff that the ahumans had built.
- Several examples from the SCP Foundation:
- Played with in the form of SCP-1000. They were the dominant species on Earth before humanity. Then humanity destroyed their civilization and wiped its own memory of those events through an unspecified means. Now the SCP-1000 want to be "let back in." They also happen to be what people know as "Bigfoot".
- As it turns out, turnabout is fair play. SCP-2932 claims that the "Children of the Night" had previously overthrown a race known as the Fae.
- Unrelated to any of the above, SCP-2735 was the dominant lifeform on Earth billions of years ago until oxygen-breathing life came along.
- Gargoyles creator Greg Weisman mentions that there was a "Lost Race" that existed before humans, gargoyles or Oberon's Children and died out sometime after they came into being.
- Inhumanoids has ancient monsters emerging from the bowels of the Earth to make war on the surface world. There were also the benevolent Mutores, an alliance of Treants and Rock Monsters who protect nature and want to keep the Inhumanoids imprisoned. Both Mutores and Inhumanoids had existed on Earth since ancient times.
- In science there is a thought experiment called the Silurian hypothesis (named after the above mentioned race in Doctor Who). It speculates other intelligent life could have evolved on Earth millions of years ago, but erosion and continental drift would destroy any direct evidence of their existence.