The Wormhole wrote:
I was shocked at the Goa'uld eating the symbionts. SHOCKED. And they are suffering a population slump because of this? How many of these things do they eat? Why do they eat them? Do they secretly hate them? Do they fear the competition and want to remain the only system lords?
According to the DVD commentary this was to address what some felt was a plot hole: if every Jaffa has a symbiote, why aren't there more Goa'uld than we see?
Those were great episodes.
Regarding eating the Goa'uld, I recall talk of a paper on evolutionary biology that used computer runs to show that with relative immortals in the breeding population of a species, evolution slows way down, virtually halting. The long-lived members are obviously extremely fit, and their constant input of the same genes into the breeding population makes it much harder for any novel mutations to spread.
The Goa'uld provide an interesting example of this, where the dominant members have been dominating (if not virtually monopolizing) the gene pool for thousands of years, even though their rate of reproduction could be very high.
Getting away from direct biology, we've got the problem that their offspring will posses their knowledge and be every bit as smart and cunning as they are, such as Tannith, Klorrel (sp? Apophis' son) . The most dangerous adversary to any system lord would be his own offspring, who would already know his secrets and any weakness he'd been concealing from the rival system lords. Given how long the Goa'uld live, and that they're fully aware that they all seek power and dominance, there's almost no way that offspring wouldn't find the oppportunity to slay their parents, given a century or two focusing on Goa'uld who most directly blocks their rise to power.
Viewed in that light, by eating their own offspring the system lords are removing the most direct threat to their continued dominance. It has elements of Jerry Pounelle, Steven Barne's and Larry Niven's books "The Legacy of Heorot" and "Beowulf's Children", based on a species of African frog that survives by eating its tadpoles. The tadpoles don't reach maturity until the parent dies (and thus quits eating them).
So in closing a plot hole, they opened up a view into an interesting dynamic. The Goa'uld figured out how not to become King Lear.
Goa'uld reproduction has never made much sense. On multiple occasions we see queens spawning symbiotes without a male. That's unrealistic in the long run. You need an exchange of genes to prevent inbreeding and other problems. At the very least, each queen's line would diverge from the others so that every Goa'uld family becomes a different species!
Anyway, Apophis referred to Klorel as his son by having "seeded" the queen, meaning that symbiote is a direct child of Apophis' symbiote via direct sexual reproduction. How do we reconcile that with the other thing?
On top of that, the thing about eating the next generation to preserve themselves... well, that's plausible, but given the apparent numbers of the Goa'uld and their apparent rate of reproduction, I'm not sure it would be enough!
and I discussed this and figured out how it could work. Basically, the Goa'uld have three genders-- male, female, and neuter. The females are the queens, naturally. They can spawn any number of offpring, and (given their apparent level of control) can select the gender-- but only when they have been impregnated by a male
. They can spawn without a male-- but the results are always neuter. With a male, they can choose to spawn more males and females for the next generation, but probably most of them are still neuter. This would comprise the vast majority of the Goa'uld we see.
Obviously, breeding females are always queens. But it also seems likely that the breeding males would comprise the body of the System Lords. A neuter might be able to seize power, but he couldn't form a dynasty. Maybe not every breeding male is a System Lord, but every System Lord has to be a breeding male (with the exception of a few queens). With their sons waiting to take their place.
So, with only a limited number of breeding males in existence, and a limited number of breedable offspring, it would be a lot easier to keep their population under control. Instead of chowing down on hundreds/thousands/millions of symbiotes in some sort of massive binging ritual, all they have to do is kill the specific offspring who are a danger to them. Which explains why it appears to be a special ceremony, and why no one else is aware of it.