Sapience level Varying sapience
Average height Varies by subspecies
Diet Omnivore
Social unit Swarm
Population status Abundant
Danger rating Lethal
Subspecies See list below

More Warhammer 40,000 species

Tyranids are an extragalactic alien race, whose sole purpose is the consumption of all forms of genetic and biological material in order to evolve and reproduce.

Tyranids are a nomadic alien race comprising many genetically engineered forms created from harvested bio-mass. They are known as the "Great Devourer" and also "Shadow In The Warp" after the effect of their hive mind on FTL travel and communications. They seek to consume all in their path, draining all planets of every resource. The Tyranids are actually an extragalactic species, born somewhere beyond the void that separates the galaxies of the Local Group. Tyranid Hive Fleets travel through space by using gigantic, organisms genetically engineered to travel through a vacuum known as Hive Ships, which move in groups which can be likened to very large locust swarms. Hive Fleets consist of millions of biomechanical craft, each serving as host to an untold number of symbiotic organisms.

Typically, Tyranid Hive Fleets move in formations known as Tendrils, migrating to nearby inhabited planets after consuming all the biological and organic material on a recently invaded planet and breeding, often reproducing many times their original number. Hive Fleets travel with superluminal speed by using the specialized psychic power of selectively evolved Hive Ships, they manipulate the gravity fields of star system to achieve faster-than-light travel. The massive Warp presence of the Tyranid Hive Mind, however, manifests itself in that realm through the Shadow in the Warp phenomenon. The current collection of Tyranid Hive Fleets have migrated to the Milky Way Galaxy, presumably after overpopulating or overfeeding in other nearby galaxies of the Local Group. Given that each Tyranid Hive Fleet has approached the Milky Way from a different direction, this may imply that the Tyranids have consumed a disturbingly large number of nearby galaxies.

Anatomy and appearanceEdit

The Tyranids are all of a basic genetic stock, characterized by six limbs, both an endoskeleton and an exoskeleton, external skeletal features distinct from an internal skull, carapace plates on their head and a series of spiracles on their heads and at the base of their tails. The assimilated DNA structures and resources of the planets invaded by Tyranids warp them into a multitude of genera, all of which have an extremely rapid rate of evolution. Tyranid matter is constantly reabsorbed into biomass reclamation pools, called Digestion Pools, and "tyraniforming" devices, called Spore Chimneys, to create new varieties mixing with new assimilated DNA structures of the races of the invaded planet.

The digestion and absorption of a planet and its lifeforms by the Tyranids happens over three stages:

  • The first is marked by the spread of Spore Chimneys which spew genetic material across the planet. The genetic material enhances and speeds up the rate of reproduction of the indigenous floral life and quickly converts these lifeforms into Tyranid genetic structures that allow them to be easily digested.
  • The second is through the creation of Digestion Pools, which allow for a collection of genetic material on a planet by breaking down the newly formed Tyranids into their basic genetic material.
  • The third stage is when Hiveships take the material and produce new evolutions and mutations of Tyranids. This material is sent to the Hiveships via Capillary Towers. All of the material at the Hiveships are processed by Norn-Queens, a biological factory type creature, whose job is to produce advance species and units to further aid in devouring future enemies.

These creatures evolve and spawn from a variety of geno-organisms in the ships' reproductive chambers. All these creatures are born to service the ship, and the ship in turn exists only to service the needs of the Hive Fleet.


All Tyranid technology is based entirely on biological engineering. Every function is carried out by living, engineered creatures, each of which collectively forms the Hive Fleet, directed by a single Hive Mind.

Tyranids possess a common psychic bond, known as the Synapse. This bond enables the Tyranid swarms to think, perceive, and act as a single great super-organism, providing nearly seamless co-ordination and control within a Tyranid invasion force so numerous and extensive that it would be completely uncontrollable otherwise. Within the Tyranid swarm there is no idea of individualism as each unit is linked to the next in a form of swarm consciousness. There is only one reason for the creation of any of the forces involved in Tyranid armies; to implement the will of the swarm, be it a Hive Tyrant or Ripper Swarm. This consciousness is commonly referred to as the Hive Mind.

From the smallest feeder organisms, to the microbes that decompose new biomass; from the sessile and rooted flora-like forms, to the huge tendril-like shoals of the Hive Fleets, every Tyranid organism has a place within the will of the Hive Mind. The lesser and smaller creatures are mindless and instinctive animals, plants and bacteria, performing functions with no conscious oversight or commitment, while larger and more complex creatures can make decisions appropriate to the situation and form an integral, if minuscule, part of the Hive Mind's distributed sentient awareness.

The Hive Mind is the psychic embodiment of the Tyranid instincts and racial imperatives to devour and destroy. It is not a single mind capable of small, conscious thought the way a Human's mind works, but instead it is a grand agglomeration created from the psychic presence of untold billions of Tyranid creatures. It is a nightmarish and unfathomable intelligence that allows Tyranids to coordinate and adapt as if every Tyranid creature is merely a part of a single massive organism, one which is utterly focused on consuming all other life.


The Tyranid forces are constantly changing and evolving at an unnatural speed. It is unlikely that all types of Tyranids have been seen by the Imperium, and still less likely that they will ever all be seen. The most frequently seen species are:


Biovores are sluggish, bloated Tyranid creatures whose only task is to grow and launch Spore Mines towards the enemy. They are the equivalent of an artillery tank of other species. Biovores are relatively rare amongst the Tyranid horde, as the Hive Mind prefers combat that involves a bloody melee. However, as the Tyranid invasion pressed deeper into the Galaxy, Biovores were created by the Hive Mind as a means to neutralise the long range weaponry used by its enemies. Biovores supposedly contain genes assimilated from Orks.

Spore Mines grow deep inside a Biovore's body, and are then launched via a powerful muscle spasm through the Biovore's dorsal aperture and hurled across the battlefield. An internal gas bladder in the Spore Mines inflates allowing them to drift down towards the ground, where they do not detonate upon impact but when they sense the proximity of a non-Tyranid lifeform. A Biovore and can fire three types of Spore Mines: fragmentation, bio-acid or poison.


Carnifexes are hulking, powerful Tyranid creatures used as living battering rams. They are often armed with the most powerful Tyranid Bio-weapons, and are used in shock assaults, spaceship boarding actions, massed battles, and for battering through fortified positions and tank formations.


Gaunt is the genus for a number of the smaller Tyranid subspecies - including Termagants, Spinegaunts, Hormagaunts and Gargoyles. The Gaunt species are smaller and less physically powerful than most other Tyranid organisms, but they are extraordinarily adaptable and always attack in large numbers. They are a fully mutable species, and some are grown with extra wings, adrenaline/venom sacs and even bizarre bio-weapon symbiotes, including the dreaded Spike Rifle.


A Genestealer is a species of Tyranid used as the ultimate shock trooper. Their purpose is to advance ahead of a Hive Fleet and pinpoint potential planets for the Tyranids to devour. They are amongst the most deadly creatures in the Galaxy, combining high cunning, lightning-fast reactions and movement, with large, extremely sharp claws that can rip through the toughest armour in seconds.

Hive TyrantEdit

Hive Tyrants are monstrous Tyranid creatures created to be commanders of the Tyranid swarm. They embody the Hive Mind completely and act as the primary Synapse conduit through which it enforces its will over lesser Tyranid creatures. Hive Tyrants are extremely powerful, large and strong monsters three times the height of a man that can tear through plasteel or ferrocrete as if they were glass. They excel in both close combat and ranged fighting, and in fact every part of their body is perfectly designed to maim and kill. They are highly mutable, with individual Hive Tyrants display a wide range of physical characteristics, biomorphs, and bioweapons.

Unlike most other Tyranid creatures, Hive Tyrants are completely self-aware, incredibly intelligent, and can learn from their mistakes. Some posses an instinctive cunning that borders on tactical genius. Though in the end they are still ultimately slaved to the Hive Mind but their relationship with it is closer than that of any other Tyranid creature. This makes them terrifyingly psychic and able to manifest deadly psychic powers in battle, including being able to invigorate the Tyranid swarm, destroy the foe's morale, or shred the enemy's minds.

Hive Tyrants are essentially immortal, as their experiences, character and knowledge are stored within the collective consciousness of the Hive Mind. So should one be slain in battle, a replacement body can be grown and imbued with the same experiences etc as its predecessor.


Lictors are Tyranid creatures that act as specialist scouts and vanguards, roving ahead of the Tyranid swarm to seek out and locate potential prey. Lictors are masters of stealth and can move swiftly through even the densest terrain without any sound. They are covered in a Chameleonic Skin that changes colour to blend in perfectly with their background and renders them all but invisible to the naked eye.

They are not instinctively aggressive, like other Tyranid creatures, but are opportunistic hunters that will stalk their prey from the shadows, avoiding situations where they would be outmatched, until they choose to strike. They will often pick off their prey in ones and twos while they are separated from reinforcements. Lictors have in fact been known to wait motionless for days, completely unnoticed by their victims, until the right time to strike.


Norn-Queens (also known as Splicer-Beasts) are the productive parts of the Tyranid swarm. They live upon massive Hive Ships in huge chambers at the centre of the Hive Fleet and ingest genetic materials, churning out all the countless types of creatures that make up the Tyranid Hive Fleet. All Tyranids have links back to a Norn-Queen, as the only way for Tyranids to reproduce is via this cloning technique. It is said that they lead the Tyranid forces and direct the evolution of the Tyranid race.


A Ravener is a Tyranid species adapted for fast assaults, surprise raids and swift pursuits. To achieve this, they are capable of burrowing under the ground for long distances and moving over all manner of terrain at alarming speeds. They have spade-like Scything Talons for digging, snake-like bodies for agile movement, and thorax-mounted weapon-symbiotes.

Raveners have highly sensitive auditory and visual senses that can detect a broad range of vibrations and energy bands, allowing them to hear small tremors on a planet's surface and also giving them the unique ability to "see" energy-forms emitted by Vox transmissions, sensor-stealth technology and even Teleport Homers. They can effectively hunt prey by detecting an ungaurded signal and tracking it back to its origin. Thus the enemies technology is turned against them, and any concealed outposts or infiltrators are not hidden from a Ravener.


Rippers are small, maggot-like species of Tyranids which serve as the primary means of devouring bio-mass from a planet. They are the most numerous of Tyranid creatures, and in great swarms they can pull down and consume creatures many times their own size. However they are completely mindless and will perish if they lose a synaptic link with the Hive Mind.

During the final stages of a planetary invasion, they scour the entirety of a planet ingesting all biological material on the planet and leaving only an empty and desolate wasteland. Eventually, the Rippers will become bloated full of biomass, unfit for combat. At this point, they simply crawl into reclamation pools where they and the bio-mass they've fed upon are broken down and absorbed by the Hive Fleet.


Warriors are synaptic foot troops of the Hive Fleets. Warriors are among the most important Tyranids in battle, as not only are they powerful and deadly creatures, they are synapse creatures, directing lesser creatures and forming the focal points of the Hive Mind. They are large creatures but smaller than the massive Hive Tyrants. They are fast and powerful, with the capability to be strong at ranged combat or in close quarters in a similar fashion to the Hive Tyrant.


Zoanthropes are a type of Tyranid created solely to harness the potential psychic power of the Hive Mind, in effect a type of psychic artillery used in Tyranid planetary invasions and a synapse creature used to relay the commands of the Hive Mind to lesser creatures.

Originally believed to be a mutant strain of Tyranid Warrior due to the close physical resemblance, more recent encounters with the Zoanthrope strain have reported a different physical structure apparently engineered by the harvesting of lifeforms present in the path of the Hive Fleets. Various evidence points to these later incarnations of Zoanthropes being improved by Eldar DNA. Zoanthropes have atrophied bodies and limbs supporting bloated heads so heavy they should snap their own necks under their weight - but, energised by psychic forces, they appear to overcome their mortal limitations and levitate, drifting over the battlefield.

Despite their seeming frailty, Zoanthropes are lethal opponents. Zoanthropes possess batteries of psychic power they can use to both defend themselves by projecting a constant psychic barrier or launch assaults that are powerful enough to destroy enemy battle tanks, boil through adamantium plates, or even fell mighty Titans. However, Zoanthropes are predisposed to sedentary behavior, a stance adopted to conserve their psychic power, when not in the presence of the Hive Mind. They also care little for happenings beyond their immediate reach and prioritise their own survival above all else.