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The ethical problems with the Krogan stem from their massive birth rate: an adult female who lives for centuries pops out ~1 surviving child per Solar year and ~999 that don't survive, or a total fertility rate (TFR) in the triple digits. After the Rachni Wars, the Krogan population exploded and they temporarily became an expansionist empire until the Turians unleashed the genophage.

However, this explanation runs into several inconsistencies and logistical problems.

  1. Their total fertility rate accounting for child mortality would be in the triple digits; for comparison, the highest human TFR is 6.89 in Niger. Someone needs to raise all those offspring and teach how to speak and use tools and so forth. Communal child rearing could never account for that many offspring.
  2. The writing conflicts on their biology: Krogans are said to both lay eggs and experience pregnancies at different points. The numbers listed above make those options physically impractical and would require mass spawning like fish or amphibians.
  3. The game uses two conflicting social portrayals of the krogan depending on whether it is arguing for or against the genophage, even though the two portrayals are irreconcilable and their rate of population growth is simply impossible without a hive-like caste system like the Rachni or Salarians.
  4. Within the story itself outside the Codex, the Krogan are portrayed raising a small number of children exactly like humans rather than the dozens you would expect; presumably so players would sympathize despite the absurd numbers listed above.

I could accept an explanation where the Salarians used their tech to raise massive armies that would otherwise have died in childhood; resulting in a massive imbalance in the krogan population which, combined with the extreme poverty of their home world, led to a rise in nationalism and subsequent imperialism. But a TFR in the triple digits is blatantly absurd, ruins my suspension of disbelief and invalidates the dilemma because obviously curing the genophage would be out of the question.

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    Huh? Uh, well, to address one point of this, the Krogan homeworld was a death trap. From the Codex: Before Krogans became advanced, the number one cause of fatalities was eaten by predator. Afterwards, it was death by gunshot. And this was before they nuked their planet. I admit, I have no idea what you're talking about with selection types, and if you're trying to apply real-world science to the question, then the question is likely to be taken out back and shot. – Radhil Jun 13 '16 at 17:45
  • @Radhil: This is high school biology. K-selection means that a species invests in raising a handful of offspring to adulthood. r-selection means that a species produces countless offspring that are left to fend for themselves. To combine the two requires that a large proportion of the population dedicate their lives to raising offspring, as in eusocial insects. The problem with the Krogan reproductive rate is the logistics of childrearing: there are only so many children that a couple may raise at a time. This isn't real world science, this is basic critical thinking. – Anonymous Jun 13 '16 at 17:56
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    They were portrayed as having large communal groups after the genophage (depending on the moment, either as a clan family or a paramilitary, but I'd assume group rearing as part of either). Not a stretch the same existed before the genophage. Most of the rearing they do is limited to survival and violence, with a few specialists. So when they have equivalent pressure on their birth rate (hell planet or genophage), it balances out, and when it didn't is when everything went to pieces. This doesn't seem inconsistent, thus why I'm trying to clarify the question before using that as an answer. – Radhil Jun 13 '16 at 18:20
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    It's worth noting the full timeline here: Pre-industrial Krogans had a child mortality rate of 999/1000 due to harsh planetary conditions and vicious predators. For some time after industrialization, populations exploded until nuclear war reduced the habitability. When contact was made, Tuchanka was cleaned up and Krogans were relocated to more habitable planets. The genophage was specifically designed to reduce Krogan infant mortality back to pre-industrial levels, aka only 1 in 1000 children survive. I don't see how the high birthrate contrasts, since it still ends up being a small family. – Paul Jun 13 '16 at 19:48
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    If I remember right, post genophage kids were protected by groups made from females only - some sort of armed nursery. Males could join those female groups to mate and you could hear one male warrior saying with pride that "he believes that one of the kids is his". – Yasskier Jun 13 '16 at 20:31
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There is relatively little information on the biology and sociology of Krogan young, other than the facts of the birth rate and the genophage.

If you're trying to apply real-world thinking to the Krogan, the best analogy you could make is that of an invasive species (no pun intended). The krogan spent most of their history under one kind of pressure or another that made the vast birth rate vital to the species survival. When that pressure was removed (and it was removed twice), and the race expanded, it always ended in disaster for the point of expansion.

The discussion over how Krogan could handle that many young is limited by lack of information. Grunt, the only slight example we have, is flawed - he was engineered into maturity. The most we can determine from his lack of rearing is that Krogan instincts may drive a large part of their nature; he had a temper and a need to find a clan to belong to, without any of that being taught.

Such a discussion may be nearly useless regardless; for most of their history, Krogan death rates were as extreme as their birth rates. Tunchanka, their homeworld, was a massive death trap, and despite the inherent Krogan resiliency (redundant organs, food storage, massive physical build) the birth rate was the key to their survival. When their society developed enough to produce modern weapons and guarantee their survival, the resulting population boom became their downfall. Krogan had nothing left to compete against as a species except themselves. Competition between clans became nuclear war and killed most of the planet, and the new homeworld deathtrap was other Krogan. The in-game Codex put it best:

Until the invention of gunpowder weapons, "eaten by predators" was still the number one cause of krogan fatalities. Afterwards, it was "death by gunshot".

When the Krogan were found and uplifted into interstellar society in order to fight the Rachni, the Salarians failed to take that history into account. Once the Rachni were gone, Krogans had the whole galaxy to expand into rather than killing each other on Tunchanka for scraps. They settled anywhere they could, and it didn't much matter to them who was there first. This became the Krogan Rebellions. It wasn't an abandonment; The Salarians miscalculated, and had given them the tech to wage war and join Council space, but had not given them time or tools to adapt their society around the idea of coexistence.

This doesn't really shed direct light on the problem you have with the birth rate, but there's a few things to consider. First, Krogan young probably need to start already fairly hardy. It is unlikely there is much, if any, time when a newborn Krogan could be considered helpless as would be normal in a human newborn. The high birth rate wouldn't affect anything if young couldn't contribute to their own survival. Second, group rearing would be a necessity, and the clan structure would come into play here. Warrior training does lend itself to large groups, although the turnover would be extreme (what isn't, here), but that setup would buy space against the harsh environment for thinkers to do their thing and advance the society.

This is mostly gap-filling speculation, unfortunately, as the game spends more time studying the morality of the genophage (Mordin seems to conclude "necessary, but our fault") rather than studying the logistics of the species it affects. It is strongly implied by the in-game lore however, and the ultimate answer may be "the logistics have to work somehow, because they exist in the setting".

  • If we posit an explanation for the logistics to work out, it still comes off absurd. Since a krogan couple pops out one surviving kid every year, then they will be very quickly saturated with more kids than they could raise. To reduce the time for child rearing, krogans would need to mature much faster than humans. I will assume they reach adulthood at age 6, which opens a whole new can of worms because it means that they learn the same amount in that time as a human does in 20+ years. This should have a massive effect on their society, but we see no evidence of anything like that. – Anonymous Jun 14 '16 at 12:41
  • @Anonymous - We see little of their society as it is, and I pointed that out. This is entirely educated guessing, albeit supported as much as I can. If the numbers are that bothersome to you, perhaps the Worldbuilders stack can come up with an answer more to your liking. – Radhil Jun 14 '16 at 13:33
  • What little we do see of their society contradicts the statements about a high fertility rate. Any time a Krogan mentions having kids they speak in terms of raising and valuing one child, not dozens. If they really did produce many children at a time they wouldn't place much value on an individual child. One surviving child per mother per year is stated by Mordin to be the ideal/pre-industrial/post-genophage growth rate, which would still result in explosive population growth. – Anonymous Jun 14 '16 at 13:48
  • "perhaps the Worldbuilders stack can come up with an answer." Thanks for reminding me. I did find a question about a sapient r-selected species, but the problem is that the suggestions for child rearing are generally mass abuse and murder. Not exactly sympathetic. :( – Anonymous Jun 17 '16 at 13:36

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