In Stargate SG-1, it is mentioned that there are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of Jaffa warriors, each with their own Goa'uld symbiote. It is also often mentioned that there are relatively few adult Goa'uld (system lords, minor Goa'uld, Tok'ra, etc.), quite a bit less than the Jaffa anyways.

X-shaped scar on belly


Given that Jaffa require Goa'uld symbiotes in order to survive, and relatively few matured Goa'ulds (who live for thousands of years, no less) exist, what happens to the others?

3 Answers 3


Here's what we know:

  • The Goa'uld have a hierarchy. According to Selmak of the Tok'ra, only "dozens" are system lords. The rest of the implanted are lieutenants and lesser Goa'uld.
  • When the situation calls for it (and sometimes for purely ceremonial reasons), Goa'uld have no problem killing or even eating their own larvae (like in the conference of the system lords)
  • Goa'uld commanders never bother to recover the symbiotes of Jaffa fallen in battle
  • Goa'uld have a genetic memory, and any larvae that are the offspring of a Goa'uld that have acquired a certain piece of knowledge will inhereit that knowledge.
  • A Goa'uld queen can produce tabula rasa offspring at will (like the ones that were used to produce the drug Tretonin)

It is never specifically stated in canon but:

All of the above points to the existence of a lesser class of Goa'uld who are implanted into Jaffa and allowed to die with them. Perhaps their brains are tabula rasa.

Why, one may ask?

  • Ranking Goa'uld are simply too important to travel passively into battle in the belly of an expendable soldier. They seem to mature in well guarded incubators such as priestesses.
  • If all Goa'uld were given human hosts, who would do the work? There'll be a lot of spoiled, arrogant and despotic human figures walking around with few unblended humans to tend to them.

According to the Stargate wiki, while it doesn't summarize the Goa'uld lifecycle, all Jaffa need a symbiote before puberty or they will die due to a failing immune system. The same section in the wiki specifies that they can host a symbiote for seven years. After that, the symbiote matures and must be removed and the Jaffa needs a new symbiote.

This essentially disproves any comments or statements made anywhere that Goa'uld larvae are rare. I think the rarity would refer to adult Goa'uld. In the episode Last Stand, at the Summit of the System Lords, each System Lord was eating live Goa'uld larvae each night.

A competitive instinct seems to be part of their habit of eating their young. The more they eat, the less competition they have.

It's not that larvae are rare. It's that the mature Goa'uld don't let many larvae survive to take a host.

  • They looked fully-grown to me. Which makes some sense, no reason to waste Jaffa...
    – Izkata
    Commented Jan 26, 2012 at 12:54
  • I did not intend to suggest that larvae were rare, rather adult ones were. I have (hopefully) clarified my question.
    – Chad Levy
    Commented Jan 27, 2012 at 2:31
  • Adults are rare (or just the implanted ones) because so many of them are eaten by Goa'ulds in human form. If you like, I can rephrase in my answer. But I was basing all I said on facts in the series and not on supposition or conjecture or creating theories that have no basis in the show.
    – Tango
    Commented Jan 27, 2012 at 2:35

After doing some minor math a by what is considered Teal'c's year of birth, the average age of implantation at age 10 and the fact that Teal'c said that he was carring his 12th larva in the pilot episode a Goa'uld matures at some where between 8 to 9 years. My personal favorite would be nine since Teal'c carried that symbiote for some time more till he needed another one and that is only because that symbiote was given to his son who stayed on Culak where he could get another one shoul he need it.

  • Welcome to scifi.stackexchange! I feel, what you are doing is emphasizing the question Paperjam raised: There are a hell lot of larvae going around/are needed - what happens to them? Could you extend your answer to address that question?
    – Einer
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 9:54

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