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Forgive the lack of better words in the title, because, yes, they seem to be aware of their surroundings to the degree that they react negatively to certain species, so they are sentient in the way a dog or a cat is.

The question is, do they have a civilization with social constructs, etc...as other aliens encountered in Star Trek?

In DS9 episode "Trials and Tribble-ations", Worf states that Klingon warriors were sent throughout the galaxy and to the Tribble homeworld to eradicate all Tribbles.

Any level of licensed canon is fine (books, comics, screen, video games (mainly thinking STO).

I think out of scope for me would be old or current RPG materials and board games, but interestingly in the Modphius RPG "Star Trek Adventures" you can play as a Tribble.

6
  • 4
    I'm not suggesting your question doesn't have merit, but other than "homeworld", what do we call the planet of origin of a species?
    – DavidW
    Jan 11, 2020 at 21:52
  • katyfulfer.com/tribbles
    – Valorum
    Jan 11, 2020 at 22:04
  • yeah agree @DavidW - that part may not be helpful to the question, it's just the term that made me think of the question in the first place. I removed the bit about the use of the term homeworld applying generally to civilizations. Good comment
    – NKCampbell
    Jan 11, 2020 at 22:07
  • 1
    @releseabe SROS?
    – NKCampbell
    Jan 11, 2020 at 23:46
  • 1
    STOS: Original Series.
    – releseabe
    Jan 12, 2020 at 0:12

2 Answers 2

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It is likely that Tribbles are nothing more than equivalents of animals.

According to reference from Memory Alpha,

Tribbles were small, non-intelligent lifeforms originating from Iota Geminorum IV

and even the Star Fleet Medical Reference Manual, which lists life forms in four categories ("humanoid", "intelligent", "parasites", and "plants") lists Tribbles in the "parasites" category rather than in the "intelligent".

And if we take a descrpition of what a civilization is, i.e. if quoting from Wikipedia

A civilization is any complex society characterized by urban development, social stratification imposed by a cultural elite, symbolic systems of communication (for example, writing systems), and a perceived separation from and domination over the natural environment.

Civilizations are intimately associated with and often further defined by other socio-politico-economic characteristics, including centralization, the domestication of both humans and other organisms, specialization of labour, culturally ingrained ideologies of progress and supremacism, monumental architecture, taxation, societal dependence upon farming and expansionism.

it is clear that all these things require a biological complexity and especially intelligence, that Tribbles don't possess.

They also had a very rapid metabolism, being able to reproduce and give birth to a new generation in about twelve hours. Their lifespan is never explicitly stated, AFAIK, but given this accelerated biological course, it is likely that the don't live very long, and their life-cycle to be based on quantity rather than quality; under these circumstances, their evolutive strategy don't seem to even need more than the basic vital functions required for feeding and reproduction; and, in fact, always as reported by Memory Alpha,

An entire half of a tribble's metabolism was solely devoted to reproduction.

It is true that even animals can have some form of social structures, even complex (think about mammals but especially insects), but even in the cases of highly intelligent animals like in example other non-human primates, we don't define their social structures as "civilizations".

The fact that they have an homeworld, well, it simply means that there is a world where their species initially developed and that can be considered their place of origin, without implying nothing more than this.

2

As presented in the various series ("The Trouble with Tribbles", TOS, "More Tribbles, More Troubles", TAS, and "Trials and Tribble-ations", DS9), Tribbles are cute, fuzzy equivalents of house flies - all the metabolic energy that could have gone into making bigger (or at least smarter) brains goes into making as many baby tribbles as possible.

As Dr. McCoy explains throughout the episode:

KIRK: Both. How many of these did Uhura give you?

MCCOY: Just one.

KIRK: But you've got, er, eleven.

MCCOY: You noticed that, huh? Here. This ought to take care of it.

KIRK: How do they? How do they?

MCCOY: I haven't figured that out yet, but I can tell you this much. Almost fifty percent of the creature's metabolism is geared for reproduction. Do you know what you get if you feed a tribble too much?

KIRK: A fat tribble.

MCCOY: No. You get a bunch of hungry little tribbles.

Then later in the same episode:

KIRK: Doctor McCoy.

MCCOY: Yes? Did you want to see me, Jim? Don't look at me. It's the tribbles who are breeding. If we don't get them off this ship, we're going to be hip deep in them.

KIRK: Explain that.

MCCOY: The nearest thing I can figure out is they're born pregnant, which seems to be quite a time saver.

KIRK: I know, but really

MCCOY: And from my observations, it seems they're bisexual, reproducing at will. And, brother, have they got a lot of will.

And then:

MCCOY: Jim, I think I've got it. All we have to do is quit feeding them. We quit feeding them, they stop breeding.

And as Spock points out:

SPOCK: Surely you must have realised what would happen if you removed the tribbles from their predator-filled environment into an environment where their natural multiplicative proclivities would have no restraining factors.

JONES: Of course. What did you say?

SPOCK: By removing the tribbles from their natural habitat, you have, so to speak, removed the cork from the bottle and allowed the genie to escape.

JONES: If by that, you mean do they breed quickly? Of course, that's how I maintain my stock. Breeding animals is not against regulations, only breeding dangerous ones. And tribbles are not dangerous.

KIRK: Just incredibly prolific.

Based on these descriptions, it's clear that tribbles occupy roughly the same ecological niche as small mammals like mice and rabbits on Earth - herbivorous prey animals who rely on crazy high reproductive rates rather than intelligence to survive. They instinctively recognize danger and signal an alarm, but they're not sentient as such.

Also based on these descriptions, they're the ultimate r-strategists, spending no energy nurturing offspring after birth; they just pump out as many as they can as quickly as they can. That implies little to no social structure - there's no bonding, there's no hierarchy. It'd be like a bunch of house flies, just a great mass of critters all lumped together, not an orderly society.

Klingons obviously have something in common with their natural predator(s), whether it's a scent or something else, so they instinctively react.

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