What Are Tyranids? Warhammer 40k

Tyranids Warhammer 40k

The Scourge of the Galaxy: A Guide to Tyranids

The Tyranids are an enduring fascination amongst the Warhammer 40k community – and fear, for good reason! As xenos adversaries they are cunning, ruthless, and unlike any other intelligent species encountered by humanity. In this guide from dedicated 40k enthusiast Claude, we’ll uncover the origins of Hive Fleets, their deadly biological weapons, how splinter Fleets infest worlds, and what singular goal drives these alien locust swarms to endless hunger across the stars.

Extra-Galactic Origins

The Tyranids have journeyed across the cold abyss beyond galaxies over inconceivable millennia to reach the Milky Way. As this Epic-scale threat makes planetfall, their insectoid spires blacken the skies while swarms surge forth without number. But what could drive an entire species towards eternal travel through the empty cosmos? Perhaps they have systematically consumed nearby galaxies before our own, now facing starvation without new feeding grounds. Or they may be migrating from some unknowable threat even worse than stripping planets to their bedrock. While the precise truth is uncertain, one fact is clear – they have come here seeking endless nourishment.

The Shadow in the Warp

The trillions of Tyranid hive minds generate a psychic resonance across entire star systems known as the Shadow in the Warp. This phenomenon disrupts psionic communication and travel disastrously. By the time it reaches worlds soon to be invaded, it is already too late – no astropathic calls for reinforcement get through the turmoil, leaving planets chillingly alone before the swarms descend. For highly psychic species like Eldar and Geller field reliant ships, this empyric storm can induce madness on a planetary scale.

Adaptation Through Consumption

A cornerstone of their endless evolution is absorbing useful genetic material from consumed worlds. After stripping planets of nutrients, the Hive Mind analyzes new biological traits and DNA patterns across eons. It catalogues deadly flora and fauna strains for re-expression when similar resistance is met. This allows hive fleets to unleash uniquely designed bioweapons upon each new planet encountered on their ravenous voyage through galaxies teeming with life.

Termagaunt Warhammer 40k

Phases of Infestation

The Tyranids advance is heralded by organic vanguard organisms which establish cults to undermine worlds from within before black hungry Hive Ships descend from the endless night.

Genestealer Cults

Genestealers infiltrate planets using space hulks or deep space creatures as hosts to latch onto for transport through The Warp’s immaterium. Once planetfall, they begin infectious reproductive cycles, puncturing victims with viral seed DNA packages which override allegiance towards their new Patriarch. Soon, this programmed loyalty spreads across generations, embedding itself into influential government, security and power structure positions as the cult multiplies.

Psychic Beacons

When a cult population hits critical mass, a psychic homing signal fires into space from the broodlord – calling the fleet towards a ripe, infested planet now primed for helpless slaughter from their puppet children within.

Mycetic Spores

At this grim hour, seeder ships plunge into low orbit and barrage the planet with entry Mycetic capsules harboring nightmare Tyranid bioconstructs. Armored behemoths slam into the ground thirsty for slaughter while drifted spores bloom into suffocating fungal towers and fleshy tunnels surge with scythe talons. Soon the ripest worlds become overgrown abattoirs of chitin, claw and raw deoxyribonucleic sinew.


Finally, the full fleet converges after their masses have softened planetary defenses and infrastructure. Endless warrior beasts pour from biological hive ships, blotting the skies with wings, exoskeleton plates and glinting killing blades. They seek not conquest, pride or vengeance – only endless feeding into evolutionary perfection as directed by the singular Hivemind. No negotiating or bargaining can stall their organic onslaught. They cannot be frightened, gauged or swayed from their offensive hunger. Death and cannibalistic enslavement of entire planets is their sole purpose across infected galaxies.

Lictor Warhammer 40k

Synapse Command Structure

While individual creatures often act as autonomous predator units, the chain of Tyranid command ensures they operate in lethal unison according to Hive Fleet need and planetary prey.

Hive Tyrants

Massive, snake-like Hive Tyrants direct swarms during invasions using overwhelming psychic ability, tactical cunning and an intimate connection with the Norn-Queens deep in Hive fleet birthing pits. Different strains exist, though most wield bone swords and crushing talons at the fore of their children, or take wing as flying monsters commanding from aerial vantages while blasting psychic Bolts of Dominion into the fray.

Norn Queens

Norn-Queens spawn all Tyranid bioforms into existence from massive, sessile bodies which metastasize deep in the holds of Hive Ships, manipulating biological raw materials and DNA like master fleshcrafters. They house specialized reproductive and chemical / viral manufacturing sacs to tailor design organisms suited to extract local planetary nutrients once in orbit. Their massive psychic presence helps direct the Fleet although remains hidden from sight.


Serving as prime Synapse conduits for the Hive Mind’s commands, Dominatrix Tyranids link back to the birthing matrix / Norn-Queens via a long umbilical cord of neural flesh. They can then flood the battlefront with fresh birthed organisms and new genetic weapon strains as losses occur and adaptation opportunities appear. Dominatrix’s wear slabs of bony armor echoing Imperial Knight design and channel devastating psychic Warp attacks while lending their hive fleet adapting intelligence to local creatures.

Gaunts Warhammer 40k

Endless Forms Most Deadly

The core of Tyranid might comes from biologically engineered creatures spawned for optimal planetary destruction. Let us survey a few strains:

Ripper Swarms

Worm-like, limbless Ripper creatures splash into terrestrial battlezones in seething masses – flooding over terrain while stripping finite ammunition from enemies through sheer corporeal bulk. Unending and ravenous, Rippers consume biomass at incredible rates to internally process into raw nutrients which power fresh hive fleet birthing pits.


Towering as organic battle tanks or living battering rams, Carnifex strains crush fortified resistance and sow devastation with massive scything talons and fused bio-cannons. Missile barrages barely phase these thick hided beasts before being messily rent apart by implacable bone skewers or venom-doused Bio-plasmic discharge.

Mawlocs / Trygons

Serpentine chassis and tubular drilling limbs give Mawloc & Trygons impressive subterranean capability and velocity to emerge unexpectedly into enemy formations. Their fearsome maws swallow tank columns whole while lashing venom barbs knock aircraft from the skies. Trygons preemptively plant spore tunnels dripping with Hormagaunt and Genestealer strains beneath their lightning breaches to pincer bewildered garrisons.


bulbous headed brain-jellies focus potent warp energies into piercing lances which melt armor effortlessly at range. They also manifest a kaleidoscope of offensive and defensive psychic buffs across battle swarms. Offshoots of the Zoathrope genomes such as Neurothropes and Doom allow synapse manipulation from strategic positions.

Biovores / Exocrines

Both these organism strains unleash acidic compound payloads across swirling melees. Biovores launch devastating suborbital spore mines in beautiful deadly trajectories while Exocrine barrel chests hyper-compress and discharge corrosive mortar salvos which carbonize infantry terrain.

Lictor Warhammer 40k

Toxic Tendrils Spreading

And so the great devouring disc goes – stripped planets reconsumed into the Hive Fleets to descend more ravenous than before on next doomed worlds hiding temporarily across the abyss. Here the Imperium’s grim xenobiologists try deciphering evolutionary patterns within these extragalactic migrants, seeking strategies for holding back the black tide. But stranded observations indicate no pattern beyond endless hunger and astounding bodily adaptation. Perhaps the Tyranid migration is itself completely multifaceted according to consumed bio-mass across every last star system ensnared in their coiled trajectory. Only total planetary death or complete Hive Fleet destruction will conclude their shadowy, toxic tendrils spreading across the thin borderstars of galaxies not yet fatally embraced by the Great Devourer’s gluttonous dream of an all-feeding, all consuming finality.


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