No, poor Squishy.
It's so sad! He needs a little comfy bed and a blanket to wrap up in and someone there to just pet his head and say everything's gonna be alright, poor Squishy poo.
Wow, that's much worse than I was fearing. And all of the ones we've met so far are direct decedents of Nel (Serinar, Dannathion, Siderion, Nameria, Ruthian).
It's probably even worse than this: the Red Dragonflight waged a genocidal war against the black dragonflight, specifically targeting all potential broodmothers. Wrathion also participated. So even assuming the remaining individuals are fully unrelated (unlikely) there are probably only a couple females tops in the remaining 15.
With 2 females there are only 26 potential reproductive pairings between unrelated dragons. Throwing in Nel only raises this to 28. There are also only 92 potential non-reproductive pairings that could improve social stability among these (hopefully) unrelated dragons.
I'm confused. The population model in the other journal showed how even in a species with binary gender, same-sex attraction isn't necessarily an issue even in fairly dire circumstances.
However, the binary gender model doesn't appear to apply to the Warcraft dragons at all, so even that isn't an issue. Since dragons appears to be culturally, instinctively, and biologically capable of handling multiple mates & consorts, a non-reproductive relationship doesn't come at the expense of a reproductive relationship. There no need to wait for "stability", as there's no cost to these interactions, only benefits in terms of stronger bonds within the flight and stronger offspring in general.
Ultimately, Nel's problem is even bigger than just the fact that his species is on the brink of extinction. A dragonflight was more than a species— it was a community, a culture, a civilization. He needs whelps badly, but he ultimately need more than whelps. He needs broodmothers and broodfathers, teachers, healers, historians, fighters, warders of the earth, etc. He needs a strong interconnected flight that trusts and can rely on each other, which can confront the enormous challenges they face as a unified force.
Having offspring is necessary, but not sufficient: the offspring must survive, they must learn to be true black dragons, to avoid the corruption, regain their culture and fight for their place in the world. This requires a strong flight. This requires strong bonds between the remaining dragons, in addition to the need for more offspring. So anything that starts to repair the mate / consort bonds, engender trust, and strengthen the relationships is a step in the right direction.
Of course, this is all pretty much a moot point for Neltharion and the Black Dragons we've seen so far. All of the ones we've seen are closely related to Neltharion and to each-other, so they're all probably culturally, biologically, and instinctively ineligible to be mates or consorts to each-other regardless of gender, for rather obvious reasons.
“I hate to rain on the party, Gramps,” said Serinar. “But black dragons who aren’t related to you are still quite nuts. They don’t have your genes to cure themselves with."
This has a very dark meaning. You see, the only ones that have officially been cured are the ones related by blood to Neltharion. Which means if Nefarian and Onyxia had survived, they too would have been cured of the evil.
And also it is a fan speculation, though it is often treated as fact more than fiction, that Nefarian and Onyxia did in fact have sex with each other despite being brother and sister. That also means that many of the black dragons born from their union have some genetic problems.
The other issue is that the black dragons who are not directly related to Neltharion, as in they were from black dragon ancestors who existed prior to the creation of the Aspects, when they were corrupted, it's very hard for them to become uncorrupted by Neltharion himself. Though Nel has some connection to them through his own attunement as the flight's leader, it's just harder for those who aren't related to him to be cured of the madness. Whereas the ones who are related kinda act like fragments of Neltharion himself. When Neltharion is cured and is good, it means they are cured and good.
But again, some of these dragons can't mate with Neltharion. Now, maybe some who are like grandchildren times 30 might be able to because there's enough genetic diversity in them to allow such a mating, but still have some genes from Neltharion to allow them to be cured when he was. But given the state of the Black Dragonflight right now, and the fact that they are close to being functionally extinct, yeah...this is going to be a huge problem.
Well, the high level situation is even worse than the situation at the allele level.
Ultimately, the black dragonflight is going through an extremely serious Population Bottleneck, so there'd be a pronounced founder effect, along with a significant increase in genetic drift and inbreeding. Their small population size also leads to inbreeding depression and insufficient genetic diversity to adapt and evolve to handle changing environments.
Aside from the initial loss of genetic diversity, this situation can setup a positive feedback loop due to the way inbreeding increases expression of damaging recessive or homozygous traits. This increases susceptibility to disease and the incidence of genetic disorders, and also decreases birth & growth rates while increasing the mortality rate and susceptibility to disease. This reduces the population further.
Even if this doesn't result in extinction, it could easily result in the black dragonflight diverging very far from the original black dragon genotype and phenotype. This may result in them ultimately becoming something other than black dragons after multiple generations, with unknown consequences for their duties and attunement to earth and Azeroth.
Their choices seem equally bleak: avoid inbreeding and go extinct immediately, or inbreed and probably go extinct anyway. The latter path may only extend the pain, and probably violates their moral & cultural sensitivities.
Of course, the latter wouldn't be possible if closely related individuals do not produce viable offspring. It's conceivable that the Titans put in such a safeguard against inbreeding, given the dangers. If so, such offspring either can't be produced in the first place, or are sterile.
Outbreeding with a different flight might help, but that assumes the other dragons are the same species and are genetically compatible. This is possible, but it's unknown if this is true in-universe. Even if so, there may be some cultural inhibitions against it. Beyond that, the dragons of other flights are unlikely to want to mate with Black dragons, given their reputations and brokenness.
In addition, the other flights have much larger populations, so their traits may swamp out the traits of the black dragonflight. This would essentially lead to the extinction of the black dragonflight at a practical level, if their culture, attunement, and traits are overwhelmed by the influx of new genetic material.
Probably the saddest aspect of this is that Neltharion actually had what he needed to save his flights: a large population of unrelated adult dragons.
Per Hammer, the 2000-strong army of Twilight Dragons was almost entirely composed of dragons stolen from the other flights. Even assuming a quarter of these were originally blacks or stolen from the same clutches, this yields at least 1500 unrelated dragons.
Assuming sex balance, this was at least 562,500 potential breeding pairs between unrelated dragons, not including the black or Netherwing flights. This would have been more than enough genetic diversity to maintain the species indefinitely.
It's implied in Hammer that black & twilight dragons can interbreed, which would have provided a straightforward way to increase genetic diversity in the black flight.
Of course, the possibility of breeding in the corruption the Twilight Dragons carry would have been a serious problem. However, it's been stated that converting a black dragons to twilight dragons is the easiest of the possible conversions. And the knowledge of how to do so was known to Deathwing, and as such should be buried somewhere in Netharion's mind. If this process could have been reversed, it would have provided a direct way for Nel to grow his flight without compromising their integrity as black dragons.
In Hammer the other flights are described as only having a few hundred adults. So the Twilight army probably represented the single greatest concentration of draconic genetic diversity on Azeroth.
This would have brought Nel into conflict with the other Aspects & flights: they'd want their dragons back, but the black dragonflight would need them as black dragons for their own survival.
Unfortunately, Nel obliterated them all. So the potential salvation of the black (and possibly other) dragonflights now lies at rest in the black dragonshrine, along with the rest of the wreckage that follows in Nel's wake.
My god, the Poor Squishy even more!
And it's getting to the point where a lot of us are wondering if Neltharion is going to turn into a loner. As in, he knows he's the only one who can take this job.
We feel he'll at least know he's going to be forever alone, though.
He does need someone special.