Goa'uld, aside from being endosymbionts, are aquatic predators that reproduce by spawning large amounts of offspring left to fend for themselves with only a few surviving to adulthood (traditionally labeled r-selected species). The symbiotes are androdioecious: the two sexes are males and hermaphrodites; in the absence of males the hermaphrodites may self-fertilize. Where their reproductive cycle becomes bizarre is that only an extremely small percentage of the symbiote population are hermaphrodites, which doesn't make sense in asocial species. In androdioecious species on Earth the hermaphroditic sex makes up the majority.

Why would the symbiotes evolve this way? It seems counterproductive to an asocial r-selected species strategy.

To clarify, while several characters state Goa'uld are "asexual" others state evidence to the contrary. This is probably just because the writers weren't biologists and didn't know the specific terminology. While queens (hermaphrodites) are capable of self-fertilization, non-queens (males) have been shown capable of inseminating a queen and passing on their genetic memories. The symbiote may hijack its host's reproductive system to do so (loosely similar to real life Sacculina) and as a consequence they may pass their genetic memories to the host's offspring.


2 Answers 2


Goa'uld reproduction has always been described as "primarily asexual" but it is said queens have the ability to fertilize their own "eggs".

Most people don't even know these terms or think they're not possible or get them mixed up so I think you're getting hung up on the writing more than anything.

There is a simple solution. The Goa'uld queens are shown to be able to choose the genes and memories of their offspring. It stands to reason that at some point a few queens realized that any new queens would endanger them where as more males would not. As a result they produce mainly males... more likely asexuals if that is a possibility in their species.

Even if this were not the case I'm pretty sure a mathematician could provide you a calculation that would show you that Males would out number queens by a lot. Let's say that 10 Goa'uld are spawned per cycle and cycles go back and forth between producing queens and males...

  • Cycle 1 you have 10 males and 1 queen
  • Cycle 2 you have 10 males and 11 queens
  • Cycle 3 you have 110 males and 11 queens

Every odd cycle the numbers even out, but every odd cycle there is going to be at least 10 times more males. Now consider that the Goa'uld live for a very long time (best guess is 2000 years naturally due to the condition of egeria) and their queens probably only produce 1 or 2 cycles with queens. If they have a cycle every year, hat's 1998 times more males than queens.

Further, they probably only produce other queens very late in their life so there is no conflict or only for some plan that requires more queens. And then consider that the sarcophagus has made their life spans indefinitely long which means they are going to hold off, while at the same time as the time in the show, they are being killed off fairly rapidly comparitively to the rest of their history and you have the reason why Queens aren't spawn Queens.


The species as a whole is asexual, meaning "without sex".

Season 2 Episode 11 The Tok'ra Part 1

The symbiote does not have a gender. However, Jolinar has always been in female hosts.

Season 6 Episode 10 Cure

Symbiote queens are able to fertilize their own eggs. It is essentially an asexual process.

They don't have a biological equivalent of the X/Y chromosome pair for passing on genes. Some of the species are "queens" but it's a bit of a misnomer, as they aren't female, but merely reproduce and command other Goa'uld in a way similar to Tauri insects (and, when in a host, command like monarchs). They have the ability to produce larvae that are genetic copies, but because of some genetic trait other than sex.

The non-queens aren't males, because they don't produce sperm or any genetic material for fertilization. The queens technically fertilize their own larvae, but it's not due to the absence of males, it's because males don't technically exist in their own species.

Part of the issue here is trying to explain xenobiology in Tauri-based taxonomy.

On the homeworld of the Goa'uld, also the homeworld of the Unas, the numbers of the species were likely sustainable. Their habitat was relatively small compared to their galactic empire. There's no reason to believe the limited number of queens would have affected population sustainability. In fact, we don't know that they didn't have more queens before they started taking hosts and going mad.

Goa'uld hunger for power, and being able to control the continuation of their species is a great power. Creating more queens creates rivals. Such social conditions wouldn't have existed in their hostless days, as far as we know, and discussion of the original species that still existed on P3X-888 didn't shed any further light.

In general, we aren't told much about how the species operated during its evolutionary process. We can only make assumptions about why their space-faring generations turned out the way they did, and whether or not the explanation would fit in with what our science knows.

  • Goa'uld are not asexual, at least not based on characters from the series itself. There are goa'uld fathers who pass their genetic memory to their offspring after inseminating queens. Klorel states that Apophis is his biological father, Apophis (and not Amaunet) passes his genetic memory to Sifu, Hathor refers to Ra as both her father and her husband, and in the comics one of Ra's descendants successfully impersonates Ra using his genetic memories. The goa'uld seemingly hijack their host's reproductive systems too.
    – Anonymous
    Jul 25, 2016 at 12:38
  • @Anonymous The queen chooses what to pass on and what genetic codes. The queen also requires a sample of genetic material from their host species to improve compatibility of the symbiotic relationship, and there's no reason to assume they couldn't take that material from another Goa'uld as well. But it has Shifu was the offspring of the Hosts, not the Goa'uld, which is the definition of Harcesis. It gets the genetic memory of both parents
    – user31178
    Jul 25, 2016 at 12:43
  • "there's no reason to assume they couldn't take that material from another Goa'uld as well." That still qualifies as sexes, since one sex produces ovum and the other produces sperm. "It gets the genetic memory of both parents". That part makes less sense because it means Hathor could have simply acquired the necessary human DNA from her host's ovum without need for a stud.
    – Anonymous
    Jul 25, 2016 at 14:59
  • @Anonymous It's not ovum or sperm coming from the Goa'uld. Those are presumptions you're making. The Goa'uld not making gametes, although they can use them from their hosts in a method that's unclear (as you said, why not use their host's DNA?) You're not separating the symbiote natural reproduction from symbiote + host reproduction. Harcesis is the product of the the union of two Goa'uld hosts reproducing using only the host's bodies (as opposed to the queen reproducing through Goa'uld reproduction, using DNA from a donor host, the method we're generally discussing)
    – user31178
    Jul 25, 2016 at 15:15
  • Natural and host reproduction would both involve the production of gametes, with hijacking presumably involving endoviruses or intracellular parasites as intermediaries. Since the host DNA required to reduce the chances of immune rejection comes from sperm but not ovum, then that implies that the symbiote hijacks host sperm production (for male symbiotes within male hosts) but always produces their own ovum (for hermaphrodite symbiotes within female hosts).
    – Anonymous
    Jul 25, 2016 at 18:14

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