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I'm working on a story that involve numerous types of species being pitted against one another, each one similar to humans but differing due to an evolutionary "theme".

These "themed" humanoid species are similar enough to interbreed like us (only to produce sterile offspring), and come from an environment with the same gravity and atmosphere as humans. However, I'm curious what kind of environment would be needed to evolutionarily drive an ancient primate species to evolve into a race of giant, human-like warriors who excel mostly in just combat, whether it's in hunting or fighting amongst themselves and other human-like species. They fall behind humans in various ways due to being such a specialized species, but are at least supreme in combat and comparable in intellect.

Generally, they're faster, stronger, and have greater endurance than humans, but this would all come at some kind of cost that humans don't have to deal with as much. The only cost I'm not willing to compromise is intellect, which I was hoping to keep on par with humans. Ideas I've come up with involve them having poor adaptability or a restrictive diet, something that wouldn't allow them to take over their respective world, but plenty capable of defending their numbers against other races, creating and using an array of fantasy-type weapons, like swords, axes, bows and spears, as well as armor. Also, I was hoping to make them tall and extremely robust (often almost 7 feet tall and 500 pounds), a set of traits that already somewhat pop up now and again in humans. With this species however, it's the standard.

This is all I have definitively down so far. I have a few other ideas floating in my head, but for now I'm just listing the basics. I don't want to make the mistake of bloating my questions on here again.

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    $\begingroup$ "What Environmental Factors Would Lead To The Evolution Of A Large, Warrior Homonid Race?" I fail to see why a race of Large Warriors would all be gay? Assume you mean "hominid" $\endgroup$ – PcMan Apr 17 at 17:26
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Driving Forces

If you're talking about a creature that is already smart enough to use tools and work together to hunt and gather, the most likely reason that they would become so large is an abundance of resources and constant competition with other members of the species. The use of weapons, traps and cooperation can overcome larger or tougher predators or prey without the constant resource cost of feeding large muscles (we are as we are because working smart pays better dividends than working hard). We have evidence of prehistoric humans hunting mammoths and woolly rhinos, and there doesn't seem to have been much selective pressure for humans to increase in size. However, if these hominids were constantly forced to defend their territory against other, equally intelligent hominids, you might see an evolutionary arms race to produce the toughest warriors that the environment would bear. Of course, selection pressures could just as easily go the other way and produce smaller, more food-efficient hominids that can beat their larger brethren through numbers rather than brute force.

As far as environment, it would probably require an environment with high biological productivity, so most likely a tropical forest or wetland, or possibly a coastal region with plentiful fishing. If resources were more scarce, or more variable there would likely have been a strong selective pressure to stay small, as the larger an organism is, the more food it needs to sustain itself. One way to get around this is for some feature of the local environment, flora or fauna to actively aggregate resources for you. As an example, if water were scarce and your hominids were to prey upon those trying to drink from rivers lakes or watering holes, the movement of their prey would do a great deal of their work for them.

If you're going big, you're also going to wind up with a species that tends to reproduce more slowly, and develop more slowly than smaller cousins, so they aren't going to be able to sustain a high attrition rate. Combat will either need to be restricted to males (in this case the disparity in mortality rates will favor polygamy) as is seen in lions or gorillas or combat will have to be mostly "ritualized" with very few fights actually being to the death, as you see in most big cats. Remember, for every fight to the death that you expect an individual to experience in their life, you have just halved whatever portion of the population is engaged in fighting.

Limitations

The limiting factor with a large-bodied hominid, as with any large animal, is population density. Any given environment only receives so much sunlight and water, and will only produce edible biomass at a finite rate. As your organism gets larger, it needs more and more territory to sustain itself. If these organisms gather together in family or community groups, not only does this increase the size of the territory they need in proportion to their number, but it also increases the distance they must travel each day in search of food, especially if they all travel together. Ultimately groups will reach a size where there are simply not enough hours in a day to gather food for them all, and the group will have to split up.

These larger stronger hominids will require not just more calories per person, but possibly more calories per unit mass, meaning that though they are individually more fearsome, they would live in smaller groups. Gorillas, which are very similar in mass to your proposed hominids live in groups of about 10-12 individuals. By contrast it's estimated that prehistoric human groups consisted of typically around 25-50 individuals. One possible consequence of this is that they may be less socially intelligent than humans, as their group dynamics will tend to be simpler all else being equal. Of course, they could all be machiavellian schemers waiting for the perfect moment to stab each other in the back, so that even though the social network has fewer connections, each connection is more complicated, and requires more attention.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is basically the argument I would have made, along with potentially a less-developed civilization (possibly resulting in the 'warrior race' being annihilated by superior weaponry in any direct confrontation) because better social cohesion and technology will still make metabolically expensive size and muscles untenable. $\endgroup$ – jdunlop Apr 17 at 8:50
  • $\begingroup$ Every depiction of a "warrior race" in science fiction or fantasy is always some sort of hulking brute, but in reality, the most dangerous warrior race would probably be something small, fast-breeding and short-lived that can out-specialize its competitors (better equipment and logistics) and sustain levels of attrition that the brutes could never even contemplate. $\endgroup$ – Shawn O'Neil Apr 17 at 9:45
  • $\begingroup$ @ShawnO'Neil - we are that most dangerous warrior race. Once your enemies can throw a rock with a sling, being a huge dude is no defense. $\endgroup$ – Willk Apr 17 at 19:01
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Specialty Ecological Niche:

In your world, you say there are numerous human-like species, but your extra-large dedicated fighters (I'll call them 'Ogres') don't dominate everything. The fact that there are numerous species of humanoids allows your Ogres to have a specialty niche that they fill as other races do all kinds of other work. Your Ogres are symbiotic mercenaries.

Numerous races are good at many things, but your Ogres are good at fighting. They likely started out with a close inter-relationship with another species (halflings) that weren't good at fighting but could meet the other needs of Ogres. There would be real evolutionary pressure to evolve good warriors on a world with many intelligent species.

Ogres are so good at fighting, and so mediocre at everything else, that many species came to adopt/hire Ogre mercenaries to protect them from rivals or attack enemies. Hiring Ogres almost became obligatory - if you didn't have some, you were at a disadvantage in war. But the very inability or unwillingness of Ogres to seize power from their host species meant they were also trustworthy mercenaries. Ogres know they aren't craftsmen, and every attempt to dominate others has led to disaster. The best they manage to do on their own is be very good bandits with some slaves.

Everywhere you go, there are a few bands of Ogres defending the locals (or attacking the locals at someone else's behest), living off the fat of the land, and generally being really good at fighting. They don't develop unique tech (imitators/adopters). They aren't exactly lazy, but if life is good, they co-evolved to be calm and unambitious around halflings. Perhaps they tend to be highly protective of smaller people - when not fighting, Ogres might even be kind and gentle. Ogres should be aggressive in battle, but not elsewhere - not so smart and ambitious that they want to rule.

They would likely have more strength but less endurance than humans (humans are actually pinnacle endurance hunters) and likely have a preponderance of fast-twitch muscles. They would have good gross motor skills but generally poor fine motor skills. Fighting would tend towards explosive episodes of combat, overwhelming enemies and then resting to prepare for more fights. They might tend to fight a lot of duels between armies and fewer days-long mass battles. The ubiquitous presence of Ogres on battlefields means other species would co-evolve their war behaviors around Ogre behavior (everyone turns out for Ogre duels and half the time the rival armies let these fights settle the conflict). A large mount (like a yak or bull) would be useful to give them the mobility and range to be good fighters. They would probably be fine with fighting other Ogres (territoriality/tribalism) and might have more loyalty to the species they serve than other tribes of Ogres.

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They are hybrids.

One of the parent races lives in the far North. They are huge because hugeness helps keep warm, and also facilitates catching marine mammals. They have been in the North and reproductively isolated a long time, and the hugeness evolved before they were routinely using tools. They were semiaquatic giant carnivorous polar apes. They are fast and canny and very strong but not particularly fierce with each other, because they spend long weeks crammed together in ice caves where evolution favors a peaceable nature.

More technologically advanced races in the south would from time to time capture one of these ice giants as a slave or trophy. Their docile nature makes them good slaves. Occasionally an ice giant produces a child with one of the human captor variants. Like mules, most hybrids are sterile but very infrequently one is not. https://www.paducahsun.com/news/kentucky/mule-gives-rare-birth-to-miracle-baby/article_814117db-99e6-58a4-8d11-16b971565d5a.html

The hybrid has the physicality of its ice giant parent but not the docility. It is competitive and fierce like its small parent.

The owners of this miracle baby see its potential and it soon has siblings. The small people among whom these hybrid humans live see the advantage that these giant and ferocious persons will bring to their community as soldiers. They set about selective breeding and inbreeding, cultivating these traits. They intend to develop by breeding and training an army of hybrid supersoldiers who can defeat any opponent.

They succeed. Careful what you wish for...

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