The STAR WARS galaxy is inhabited by several million sapient spacefaring species. Humans are the most numerous and dominant species, with apparently millions of major and minor colonies galaxywide. Most of these people are indistinguishable from the terrestrial humans (Homo sapiens), however there are also many galactic citizens who have minor physical features outside the range of human diversity on Earth. There is also an astonishingly great number of species that resemble humans in basic form, despite having completely different biological origins.
This page considers how these populations relate to each other
and to the baseline humans.
Some cases must represent a genuine and direct biological connection.
In many instances the physical differences are just as trivial as the
differences between human races on Earth
with respect to skin tone and minor facial details;
these people are almost certainly in the same species
as modern terrestrial humans.
In other instances the differences are slightly greater,
placing the sapients in a separate species within the Homo genus,
or perhaps a related genus within the same taxonomic family.
(Those species would relate to Homo sapiens
like horses relate to donkeys, or lions to leopards.)
These species are examples of what biologists call
In other cases the beings in question have a fundamentally different
biology, despite having some features similar to humans.
They belong to a completely different
taxonomic class, order, phylum or even kingdom.
(Eg. reptiles or plants which happen to have
the same gross body form or facial configuration as humans.)
Such species cannot be related to humans through a common evolutionary ancestor,
Their existence can only be rationalised through more subtle arguments.
The existence of these beings may be due to what biologists call
For the purpose of this page, I divide the humanoids (human-shaped sapients) into two classifications:
I describe example species and races as illustrations of the diversity and mimickry of humans in STAR WARS. This document does not purport or aspire to catalogue all humans and non-humans appearing in the canon and official literature. That task is be impossibly large.
It has been established that humans were amongst the first sapient species to develop hyperdrive in the STAR WARS galaxy [see eg. Essential Guide to Vehicles & Vessels; SWAJ #8: The Gree Enclave]. Corellians were amongst the first to do so, but humans were already present throughout the galaxy, which implies that they had slower means of interstellar transport for a long time earlier.
The isolation of pre-hyperspace colonies must have ensured gradual evolutionary drift from the baseline human population. In some cases, the new characteristics would be adaptive, suiting the people to environments that were slightly different from the long-forgotten human homeworld. High technology would lessen these natural selection effects, because technological humans dwell in an effectively artificial environment, but deliberate genetic manipulation remains a possibility. Drifts in the aesthetic instincts of mate-selection can also cause human features to evolve in an isolated population. Through these mechanisms the humans of the era of slow interstellar travel must have diverged in their genetics.
Racial characteristics, like the superficial differences between some populations of humans on Earth, should be obvious across the galaxy. With further divergence, the people of some worlds would no longer be able to produce healthy, fertile children, if they were somehow brought together in marriage. Thus humanity would be divided into distinct species, as was the case with the coexistant neaderthal and "modern" humans on Earth. Greater differences would even result in divergent genera.
The presence of multiple species of humans in STAR WARS has interesting implications for the setting of the saga. The origins of humanity are regarded as a mystery in Palpatine's civilization, and the tales are deliberately separated from terrestrial existence. However the genetic diversity of these humans requires that they have been spread throughout their galaxy for at least as long as Homo sapiens has been on Earth today. This suggests that STAR WARS is set in our future, even though in the narrator's point of view it all happened "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away". If this isn't the case, then humans must have been taken from Earth by unknown agents in prehistoric times, and it might even be necessary to invoke backwards time travel.
Grand Admiral Thrawn is the most famous example of a people who call themselves the Chiss. They dwell in the "Unknown Regions", which presumably means that they have settlements on a world circling a straggler star that has ended up outside the main galactic disk.
All of the Chiss observed to date have pale blue skin, black hair, and red eyes. The eyes are sometimes described as being luminous, but it would be more realistic to suppose that the skin of the eye has a highly reflective sheen or is flourescent in red light.
In all other respects, the Chiss appear to be baseline humans.
One of the most interesting signs of their biology is the fact that Thrawn bled with red blood [The Last Command, p.424]. If his blood were a different colour, then it would have been necessary to assign him biological origins completely separate from the haemoglobin-using vertebrates of Earth, and his huamn-like form would have been very hard to explain. Fortunately he bleeds like any other human man (and he appears to have vital organs in the same part of the thorax). Therefore it remains possible and likely that Chiss are truly human.
A second important point arising from the redness of Chiss blood is the strong difference between this colour and the hue of Chiss skin. Terrestrial humans who are albino or whose racial derivations make them poorly pigmented appear pale pink because of the colour of blood within their largely colourless surface tissues. Humans with skin colour other than pale pink must have strong pigment. The colour of Chiss skin pigment is probably significant. It may indicate something about their usual environment (eg. the ambient sunlight) or it may be a case of Darwin's "sexual selection" (runaway evolution of a feature that has no adaptive value except in the aesthetic preferences of members of the opposite sex, as in the bright plummage of some species of birds).
A final clue to the humanity of the Chiss comes from the suggestion of cloning Grand Admiral Thrawn, which was the fear or hope of many in Spectre of the Past and Vision of the Future. Either the technology of the cloning tanks acquired from Mount Tantiss [exposed in Dark Force Rising] is general enough to work with a wide range of species (which would be a remarkable accomplishment for something to mimick an organ that is as species-specific as a womb), or else Chiss wombs are nearly identical to human wombs.
Grand Admiral Thrawn bled redly.
Spiker, one of Jabba's swoop hoodlums, shares Thrawn's distinctive physical characteristics.
The Massassi1 were isolated red-skinned humans dominated for thousands of years by the Sith. It appears that "Sith" was an exclusively Massassi culture until they were encountered and subjugated by exiled Dark Jedi. The Massassi interbred with the immigrant human Sith, thus proving them to belong to the same species. Therefore the Massassi skin pigmentation and fleshy tufts on the chin and brows are merely racial characteristics, and are no more significant than the eyelid structure and skin colour differences between some races on Earth.
The Sith mage (formerly Dark Lord) Naga Sadow eventually took refuge on Yavin 4, accompanied by many Massassi followers. Over time he used his powers to alter the Massassi biologically so that they became more physically strong and athletic, but less visibly human.
However it seems likely that other groups of Massassi merged with the general human gene pool after contact between the Galactic Republic and the Sith. (Even if the Sith Empire was empty after Sadow's downfall, the brief but violent Massassi attacks on Coruscant and other worlds could have seeded countless illegitimate offspring.) In the Skywalker era there are numerous individuals who bear Massassi-like characteristics, such as the fleshy chin tufts. They were rendered originally and most distinctively by artist Edvin Biukovic (RIP). In order of publication, examples include:
According to some interpretations of the wording of Golden Age of the Sith #4, "Massassi" might have been the name of merely the warrior caste. The reference mentions "Massassi warrior class", which might mean (1) "warrior class of the Massassi race" or alternatively (2) "warriors = Massassi, of the [anonymous] race." In these commentaries I continue to use "Massassi" as a collective biological term, since there is no other suitable name for the whole race/subspecies.
The shade of Marka Ragnos recounts the interbreeding of the baseline human Sith Lords with their subjects, during the period when the Sith held a local empire in isolation from the Galactic Republic.
Three possible examples of crossbreeds between baseline humans and Massassi descendents. Gade Yedan from The Phantom Affair and Mazzic from The Last Command, rendered by Biukovic. Norym Kim, member of The Imperial Interim Ruling Council in Crimson Empire II, described as a "human-like Myke."
Apparently another racial variation, species or subspecies of human. Eeth Koth, a member of the Jedi Council in The Phantom Menace is the speciment officially named as a Zabrak person, but Sith apprentice Darth Maul also looks as if he belongs to that race. Maul is said to come from Iridonia [Episode 1 Journal: Darth Maul] but the name of the planet may have nothing to do with the name of his species.
Both known examples are bald on the front and top of the head, and this may be a common characteristic of their people. Short horns sprout from the forehead and temples, although the pattern of horns differs between Koth and Maul. It is not yet known whether the different arragements signify differences of race, health or age. There is at least a difference of grooming: the skin is pushed back around the base of Maul's horns, like ill-tended fingernails stripped of their quick, whereas Koth's horns are covered by smooth, unharmed skin.
Darth Maul's eyes are coloured red whereas Koth's eyes are like those of a baseline human. The difference may be a sign of different breeding or ill-health in Maul, but considering Maul's other proclivities it seems more likely that his eyes are coloured by deliberate (and extremely delicate) tatoos. By the time of Return of the Jedi Palpatine had developed a similar eye colour. It is probably an idiosyncratic adornment or a result of disease, because Lord Vader had blue eyes when he died, despite being a far more advanced Sith than Maul.
In all other ways the Zabrak are indistinguishable from Homo sapiens. The horns imply that they're in a different species, but they might still belong to the same genus.
Jedi Councilor Eeth Koth is defined as a Zabrak.
Darth Maul is another horned near-human. He bares tatoos and his horn configuration is different from Koth's, but they may belong to the same or closely related species. [TPM]
According to the profiles in Dark Empire Sourcebook and Essential Guide to Characters, Han Solo's friend Shug Ninx was a human-"alien" crossbreed, which probably means that he is an inter-species hybrid. His father was a human from Corellia, and his mother was of the extinct or near-extinct "Theelin race". This latter group must have been at least close enough to Homo sapiens to produce a partially viable child, like the creation of a mule from a horse and a donkey. Like a mule, Ninx is probably infertile. Alternatively, the Theelin people might be a race within Homo sapiens, but in that case there would be no grounds for calling them "aliens" nor for official prejudice against their crossbreeds with baseline humans.
Shug Ninx looks like a straight-haired caucasiod human except for the reduction from four to two fingers per hand, and mottled skin patches, particularly around his mouth. These presumably are traits of the pure Theelin. There may be other minor Theelin characteristics which are not manifest in Ninx. The different number of digits might seem extreme, but it is well within the scope of relatively harmless genetic defects in baseline humans; whereas among the Theelin it would be considered a normal condition, and four-fingered children might be singled out for corrective surgery.
Oss Willum in the Tales of the Jedi series represents a race known as the Vultan. His body appears to be entirely the same as a baseline human, with pale olive skin. His only obvious distinction is the mass of fleshy cartilage folds and ridges covering the top and back of his head. These ridges don't seem to perform any vital function. They may provide fat storage or protection against certain kinds of head injury. It is said [in Tales of the Jedi Companion, p.103] that the head folds protect the head against some injuries, though this subsepcies characteristic might have evolved for other reasons. Interestingly, the females have fleshy strands radiating out from the head, rather than folds parallel to the surface. Such visible dimorphism seems likely to play a role in courtship.
On their home planet of Vulta they "blossomed" from agricultural feudal economy to high-technology civilisation fourteen thousand years before the Palpatine era [TOTJC]. By that point they must have been distinct from baseline humans. Therefore their agricultural prehistory must have lasted much longer, from whatever prehistoric time when baseline humans first became stranded there.
Oss Willum is defined as a Vultan man.
Zona Luka is evidently female, and the tresses of flesh on her head match the published description of Vultan females. Her skin is the same tone as Oss Willum's. Her feet have only two toes though, which is unlike unmutilated, undeformed baseline humans. More ridged structures are visible on her upper torso, reminiscent of what Willum has on his head. Her white eyes, lacking pupils and irises, may signify blindness (which is not an obstacle to a Jedi or Sith career).
Vector Prime describes the start of an extragalactic invasion by a group known as the Yuuzhan Vong. Their advance scouts have been infiltrating the STAR WARS galaxy for years (eg. Nom Anor in Crimson Empire II). Transmissions for the galactic civilisation would not have been hard to miss for any travellers approaching the galaxy; the choice of invasion time was probably dictated by the disorder and vulnerability occasioned by the removal of both the Jedi and the strong central government of Palpatine's regime. The galaxy would have been unassailable at any other point in its history; the Yuuzhan Vong probably have less than a decade before the Galactic Republic / Empire regains enough strength to justify its usual complacency.
Physically the Yuuzhan Vong are human except for slight differences of height, mass and distribution of hair [Vector Prime p.23]. They carry different values and culture, which are at one extreme of the range of human possibilities, but they appear to be the same in all other ways.
The similarity demands explanation. It seems likely that the invaders are indeed members of the same species or genus as the humans of the Skywalker galaxy. The origins of humanity in STAR WARS are lost in prehistory and the species has spread across one whole galaxy, so it is easy to imagine that humans may have colonised other galaxies in the long-forgotten past. If the STAR WARS galaxy is not our own then there must have been at least some intergalactic travel importing the species from the Milky Way, deep in the prehistory before the establishment of the Old Republic.
If they are human or near-human then the existence of the Yuuzhan Vong constitutes a vital point of data about the status of all human species in the STAR WARS milleu.
Nom Anor as rendered in Vector Prime and Crimson Empire II, bare and cloaked in his presumably living attire respectively.
The unified government of the Galactic Republic lasted over twenty-five thousand years, and before the final union took place the human population must have already been spread in stellar and interstellar nations throughout the galaxy. Some human cultures survived at least hundreds of thousands of years in the recorded past. Humans could easily have been present in some parts of the galaxy throughout an even older prehistory.
The pervasiveness and technological power of humans means that they cannot help being a major part of the environment for evolving sapient and non-sapient beings. Even if evolution ceased or slowed for humans themselves, due to their technological control over their surroundings, the mere presence of this species must have affected the evolution of younger sapient species that were not properly protected by the declaration of sanctuary worlds. For a low-tech species confined to its homeworld, humans are profoundly dangerous and a gateway to a literal galaxy of offworld resources. The ability of sapients to interact successfully with humans could become an important determinant of survival, prosperity and reproductive success in the less advanced species. Some species may evolve features enabling them to exploit humans in a directly organic manner. Others may be adapted for subconscious psychological manipulation of humans. Judging by the onscreen canonical evidence, many sapient species are adapted to mimick human beings.
After contact with the relatively resource-rich humans, the evolution of a species' facial features and vocal organs may have tended towards human resemblance, for the sake of empathy and communication. Within the species, those less able to satisfy with and communicate with the dominant galactic species would not be as successful as competitors resembling humans.
The Falleen are a reptillian species that is basically confined to their homeworld, although their youths habitually wander the galaxy seeking of experience and fortune (presumably). In terms of facial features and general build they resemble humans, but there are telltale reptillian characteristics: they are supposed to be cold-blooded; they have finely scaled skin; they have a horny spinal ridge.
Some of the human-like features are very noteworthy for a reptile: eg. head hair, a naval, and what appear to be mock mammeries (in the case of females). These features are almost certainly evolved to mimick and attract empathy and favourable attention from humans and near-humans.
The Falleen also possess potent pheromone glands that convey conscious communications between their own kind, but which have a powerful and compulsive subconscious effect on humans and (we can assume) related species. These pheromonal effects induce animalistic attraction and cloud human judgement.
It is therefore clear that the Falleen have evolved to become sapient sexual parasites upon humans. They resemble humans in erotic ways that are far from the normal function of reptiles. They prey upon reproductive instincts, and they become powerful in a way that is not unlike the non-sapient tactics of cuckoo chicks in the nest of another bird family, or flowers that are shaped to confuse and entice mating insects. The Falleen adaptations may have taken hundreds of thousands of years to develop, so we can predict that they have been visited by humans for at least that span of prehistory.
Prince Xizor exercises his pheromones to influence humans.
Xizor's neice Savan has a surprising number of mammalian attributes, for a reptile. These are most likely adaptations to aid Falleen females as they prey upon human males.
Another Falleen female, from Alien Encounters. Curiously, the accompanying text indicates that "Falleen females are visually almost identical to males; the most notable exception is that their spinal ridge is usually smaller and a brighter green in colour." No mention of pelvic structure or mimick mammeries. visually
This page is not intended to deal with every minor human-like species invented in the literature; there are better books for that purpose. One such book, Alien Encounters, includes one especially interesting example of a pseudohuman species. The Zelosians are supposed to be superficially indistinguishable from humans (aside from the colour of their eyes), but their entire biology is plant-like at a cellular level. Their origins are a mystery, but according to the published profile the Zelosians themselves believe that they were created deliberately by genetic engineering. If so then their natural mimicry of the human form is a matter of design rather than coincidence or long-term evolutionary adaptation.
Zelosians: human-shaped plants, according to WEG.
The Twi'leks are a hairless species shaped like humans, originating on the arid world of Ryloth. On their homeworld their existence is primitive and they live tenaciously in underground cities. They have been subject to offworld slavery for thousands of years, and the representation of Twi'leks in the literature suggests that most Twi'lek emigration is due to slavery or criminal involvement. Twi'leks are famed for their wit and cunning.
Thus they are a generally disempowered people. They depend on external forces, particularly the human-dominated greater galactic civilisation. This probably accounts for their more human-like attributes. Over the ages, those Twi'leks with the most human-like faces would be better at evoking empathy and successfully communicating with the numerically- and economically-dominant humans. (Proto-twi'lek faces might have been much different.) Likewise the Twi'leks that matched the physical posture of humanoid species would have least difficulty interfacing with conventional galactic technology, and the species would evolve towards a generally humanoid body form as well.
However some fundamental physical differences are retained in parts of the body that aren't directly involved in the use of technology or the manipulation of humans. The most conspicuous such feature is the pair of "head-tails", tentacle-shaped, prehensile, cerebral appendages sprouting from the back of the skull. "Lekku", as they are properly called, are completely beyond the scope of human brain and limb development, and would require substantial differences in embryology. (It is this attribute that proves that the Twi'leks cannot have sprouted from the evolutionary tree of true humans, unless there was some very profound deliberate genetic engineering.)
The sensuous lekku serve a communicative role among the Twi'leks, with a wide range of subtle and articulate body language. They may once have been closer to the front of the Twi'lek face to facilitate communication, and the present swept-back position may be an evolutionary compromise with the need for human-empathy via a humanlike face. Male Twi'leks still appear to grow an additional pair of relic tentacles under their chins, which may still be expressive. Obese Twi'leks develop massively fat-laden lekku, in proportion to their overall body weight. Infant Twi'leks have only short, bud-like lekku, making them appear more humanlike than the adults.
Twi'leks of various genders and stages in the life-cycle, as shown in Tales of the Jedi: Redemption.
With two examples in Jabba's palace, the Twi'lek females have fewer non-human features than males of their species. Most noticeably, females lack the fleshy tendrils seen on males' chins.
The STAR WARS canon and spin-off literature is full of examples of biologically distinctive sapient species which have converged to the humanoid form in terms of figure and/or facial features. In some cases this may be due to the evolutionary influence of humans. In a few cases genetic engineers may be responsible. Some species may match the human form by pure coincidence, and they would adapt to human-made technology easily.
Species which differ from humanoid form will feel clumsier with human tools, which would impede their propagation throughout the galaxy in many subtle ways. This effect would be analogous to the technological influences which render left-handed humans more vulnerable to accidents, giving them shorter life-expectancies. Conversely there are specialised technological niches which are unsuited to humans (eg. podracing, which employs species with suprahuman reflexes for the sake of bloodthirsty entertainment). Unless a non-humanoid species can produce all of its own technology or has compensating physical or mental gifts, its members are unlikely to be inclined towards space travel or settlement beyond their homeworld. This may explain the great variety of STAR WARS sapients which have human-like limbs and hands but vastly different heads.
The Cathar Jedi Silvar. Macus Kayniph, Black Sun official in Crimson Empire II.
In the novel The Joiner King [p.19], Princess Leia attempts to reassure Han Solo about his aging and the slowing of his reactions specifically. At this time, Solo is aged in his mid-sixties. His wife expects him to live 40 more years, or perhaps 50 if he takes care of himself. This implies that life expectancy for a human male is about 110 years.
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