In the game mass effect the Asari are an alien species...no one truly knows their shape and real form, but they do apear as sexy females to many other species, humans included.

The asari can reproduce with most life forms thats why they have this illusory tactic , which seems impossible. So, Instead I'm going to ask what else could drive any life form to evolve complete illusion abilities?

By real illusion I exclude chamaleons and octopus as they can only change color and "act". And it doesn't have to be shapeshifting. Think more along the lines of induced and controlled visive hallucinations or something like that.

  • $\begingroup$ If you're concerned with Mass Effect itself, and not just the general idea of this illusion, you should be aware that asari still look the same even when viewed as a holographic image. This really limits the solution space because they still have to fool the camera. $\endgroup$
    – Kevin
    Apr 8, 2018 at 17:43
  • $\begingroup$ illusion or not, I always find dr. Liara "black hole" fascinating... er I mean it got powerful suction... only cons is she needs to cool down so must reposition myself everytime ;D $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Apr 9, 2018 at 1:51
  • $\begingroup$ You are asking how such a species could evolve, but in Mass Effect it is stated that the Asari were genetically engineered by the Precursors. $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    Jun 29, 2018 at 4:15

3 Answers 3


Others have covered the 'why', with Asari being brood parasites for sentient beings, but perhaps some idea of 'how' might be useful.

As @Kevin points out, the illusory effect is present even in pictures of Asari. This would rule out any sort of shape-shifting or pheromone production from the Asari at the point of viewing.

However, there's a very interesting parasite called Toxoplasma gondii which reproduces in the digestive tract of cats. When it infects other animals (like rats, mice or even humans), it manipulates their brain chemistry to like cats (presumably find their smell attractive, can't find more detail).

If asari have a similar infectious mechanism which alters a host's brain chemistry to find asari attractive, this would mean that any infected sentient would see a picture of an asari and find them attractive.


Edit: I've had some thoughts as to how this mechanism might have evolved. From our current experience, people seem to make the assumption that each planet hosts one sentient human-analogue species. However, if you look back at our evolutionary history, only a very brief period have we spent it alone. Throughout the vast majority we have shared it with other, competing hominin species. This would likely be true of prehistoric asari. So, perhaps this brood-parasitic mechanism evolved as a method of competing with rival prehistoric asari species, which would provide a significant advantage. Roll forwards to the present day, and the brood-parasitic asari species have wholly outcompeted the non-brood-parasitic species.

  • $\begingroup$ I think this is by far the most scientifically sound answer, the parasite may not have been initially capable of infecting all the different races but eventually an Asari would encounter an individual with a weakened immune system and through them the parasite would evolve to become compatible with their physiology and propagate through their species. $\endgroup$
    – Cognisant
    Apr 9, 2018 at 3:46
  • $\begingroup$ Thnaks :) it's the only option I could think of that would still function when the asari wasn't still present. I've had some thoughts about why it might have evolved too, which I'll add to the answer :) $\endgroup$ Apr 9, 2018 at 8:44
  • $\begingroup$ No more creepy than cats. $\endgroup$
    – Alice
    Jul 4, 2018 at 8:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Alice Very true, although at least cats aren't trying to sleep with us (despite suggestions from some of the more questionable corners of the internet...) ;) $\endgroup$ Jul 4, 2018 at 10:03

Nest parasites.


But some invaders manage to slip in with ease, none more mystifyingly than the ant nest beetle.

Adult beetles stride into an ant colony in search of a mate, without being harassed. They lay eggs, from which larva hatch. As far as scientists can tell, workers feed the young beetles as if they were ants.

When the beetles grow into adults, the ants swarm around them, grooming their bodies. In exchange for this hospitality, the beetles sink their jaws into ant larvae and freshly moulted adults in order to drink their body fluids.

Social organisms are superentities. Where they exist they dominate. A good evolutionary strategy for an creature which is not of the social organism's species is to ingratiate itself into the society of the social organism, benefitting from its protection and resources.

This is what the Asari do. They are nest parasites of intelligent social species. Their "attractiveness" is interpreted as sexual by humans but is something more primal - it is an induced perception of desirability or charisma which makes members of social species feel like the Asari individual should be a valued part of the society or family or mate group. Much in the way the ant nest beetles are perceived by the ants.

Social insects are bound together with sound and smell cues. For intelligent social species (which would be all spacefaring species) it would not be surprising that the neural mechanisms which hold together social species might have evolved convergently, and so all be susceptible to the same mechanisms the Asari evolved to trick the social species they evolved with on their homeward.

The prediction: intelligent asocial creatures (a rarity I would think) would be immune to the Asari. But synthetic social species might not.

The question - why would Asari reproduce in the company of a member of the social species? If a member of the parasitized social species accepts the Asari as a mate, that means he or she has been well and truly tricked. The hustle is effective and that Asari individual is safely ensconced in a social nest. Resources and protection will therefore be available to the next generation as well, and with those things ensured it is a good time to reproduce.


They are Actually Reproductive Parasites

The Asari in Mass Effect have adapted to project some sort of influence over other species that makes them sexually attractive to members of other species. For instance, in a cantina you can over-hear a conversation between a human, a turian, and a salarian. They all find different aspects of the asari stripper attractive, which becomes even more odd when the salarian agrees since salarians don't have a libido! When an Asari reproduces her daughter contains none of the genetic information from the father, the Asari physiology simply uses the other partner's genetic code to randomize her own (through some sort of physiological hand-wavium). It is suggested in this overheard conversation that maybe she is using pheromones of some sort or possibly telepathic manipulation.

So what does this mean? I think Asari are actually physically adapted to breed out competing species, kind of like how the Cuckoo will lay an egg in another bird species nest that will hatch, kill the other chicks, and then be raised by the other species parents. The Asari live for 1,000 years, if they only even have a kid every 10 years after age 80 that's still 92 children. Lets say each partner they have is a member of the opposite species who never has a child of their own. That is 92 partners from another species that never actually sucessfully produced offspring. This is only if they mate every decade, they seem to be physically capable of pumping out 4 to 5 times more children over a life time. each of those children does the same, and each of their grand children do the same etc etc. You quickly have tens of thousands of Asari born and tens of thousands of alien partners who never actually sucessfully mated, thus meaning that tens of thousands of their own species were never born. Worse, like the Cuckoo, the asari children are supported and raised by the alien parents effort and resources. perhaps not only do Asari adults exude pheromones and utilize telepathy to manipulate affection from their victim, but the child does so as well on the parent. The parent is blissfully unaware that they are helping a competing species reproduce while not passing any of their own genetic material on to better their own species.

I'm not saying Asari are actively trying to wipe out competing species, its even possible that they aren't actually consciously aware of this evolutionary trait. It could simply be a way that they evolved to crowd out competition that they have no actual control over. The Asari already conceal the fact from the galaxy that a small percentage of their population are not only lethal to mate with, but actually become more powerful and more addicted to the act every time they do so. It is not a big stretch to think that maybe they are also concealing the fact that their races promiscuity and willingness to mate with other species is actually a hardwired evolutionary trait to reduce foreign populations and increase their own. On a long enough time-line they could potentially end up out breeding and rendering all competing races extinct or at least vastly outnumbered, especially since a 1000 year long lifespan means that potentially thousands of members of different generations of the same lineage may all be alive at the same time.


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