This article is about the fictional races found within the Mass Effect universe. These races are explored in the novels Mass Effect: Revelation and Mass Effect: Ascension, and the video game Mass Effect, Mass Effect Galaxy, and Mass Effect 2. Other than the following, there is also mention that dozens of other intelligent races are known to Citadel space and the galaxy; these races are left unidentified, but new races may appear in subsequent storylines.
The Citadel houses the main governing body of the Milky Way galaxy. Of the dozens of sentient races across the galaxy, the vast majority recognize the authority of the Citadel and its ruling Council. The Council's duties include regulating trade and keeping the peace between the member races of Citadel space. All races keep their own form of sovereign government and the Citadel Council generally does not interfere unless in matters that affect the galaxy as a whole.
The Citadel Council consists of the three most influential races in the galaxy: the asari, salarians, and turians. The asari and salarians were the founding members of the Council, and the turians are the most recent race to achieve a Council seat. Depending of the player's choice near the end of Mass Effect, either humanity may be granted a seat on the Council, or the Council is reformed by the Alliance to include a human seat.
The asari are a purely female-appearing humanoid race that hold one of three permanent seats on the Citadel council at the start of the game. All asari are mono-gendered, although they display, from a human point of view, female characteristics, with the ability to bear and nurse children. Their dual reproductive and nervous systems allow them to mate with any species or gender, with whom the offspring is always another asari. The asari are capable of participating in and enjoying physical sexual contact, however, to produce offspring they form a mental and spiritual connection with their partners, and by doing so draw genetic material which is combined with their own to produce offspring resulting in an offspring that is primarily asari in genetic makeup, however may possess recessive traits from the "father" species. For example, a child that is the result of a union between a krogan and an asari might inherit krogan disease resistance. Sexually, the asari could be considered xenophilic, as not only are they indiscriminate in regards to the races of their mates, but prefer to mate with other races, believing that the genetic and racial traits of other species, when combined with asari genetic make-up, is of benefit to the asari race as a whole. Conversely, they tend to attach a stigma to those born "pureblood" between two asari, as they believe that nothing is gained when two asari procreate (although most are too polite to openly speak of their prejudices). The mating of two asari also seems to increase the chance that the offspring will be an Ardat-Yakshi, a sterile individual with a genetic disorder that kills mates during melding, rather than a gentle linking of nervous systems. Their homeworld of Thessia is composed of an interconnected system of city-states, similar to those of ancient Greece.
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