Two new “Pokémon” have garnered quite a bit of attention following the release of the latest trailer for Pokémon Sun and Moon. Within seconds of release the Internet was abuzz with speculation. What is Type: Null? Are Ultra Beasts even Pokémon? Is UB-01 Lillie?
I considered waiting until more information was released, possibly even until the games themselves came out, to write about synthetic biology throughout the Pokémon Games, but as I was reading through my daily Reddit feed I had a revelation of sorts and I couldn’t contain myself. I will still write a more extensive post on synthetic biology in the future, probably after I’ve had a chance to play through the game and familiarize myself with all its details. But for now, I will focus on the two new “Pokémon” we’ve been introduced to.
Let’s start with Type: Null. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one scratching their heads once it was revealed. It’s typing was Normal yet it said Type: Null above? Weird? Even after rewinding the trailer I believed that it was a massive flop on some poor video editor’s part for leaving in the working name for this new Pokémon. But I eventually realized that in fact the Pokémon Company had thrown us yet another curve ball.
As many people have pointed out, Type: Null appears to be a chimera. However, most of the fans that brought up this point seemed to be referring to the mythical beast. While Type: Null does appear to draw inspiration from the mythical part-lion part-goat part-snake beast, I would argue that Type: Null is very clearly a botched attempt at creating a tetragametic chimera. In biology, a chimera is an organism composed of cells originating from different zygotes, or fertilized eggs. This is different from a hybrid, which is often the result of two different species crossbreeding to create a single zygote.
In animals, a chimera can typically be achieved through one of two ways. The first is by combining multiple zygotes. This can occur naturally in the womb in rare occasions, allowing the resultant organism to be its own twin in a sense. The second involves the transplant of cells or organs from one organism to another. For example, heart cells could be implanted inside of a pig in order to grow functioning heart tissue. This may seem like science fiction but there are currently efforts to do this exact thing. And despite a recent ban in the funding of such experiments by the National Institutes of Health, researchers are still pursuing human-animal chimeras1. This will come into play later, so keep that in mind.
Most chimeras are not visibly identifiable, in fact you could a chimera (or even be one yourself) and never know. However, resulting organisms on occasion exhibit unique traits, such as hermaphroditism, having both male and female genitalia. Pigmentation and fur color are also common changes.
But the games obviously have links to alchemy.
Well, that may be well a true. There is a great deal of alchemy references scattered throughout the games. But there has also been quite a number of biology references as well. Oricorio (Darwin’s finches), Alola forms (divergent evolution), and let us not forget the themes of invasion, particularly in respect to introduced species such as Rattata, Meowth, and Yungoos. While alchemy does play a role in the game’s lore, this particular region seems to have a lot more going on just from an ecological and biological viewpoint than previous installments. Look at this blog’s archive for evidence. I haven’t been able to write a non-Sun and Moon article in ages due to this constant stream of new information.
Additionally, what is alchemy but a proto-science of sorts? It is essentially the precursor to chemistry in an age before scientific knowledge became widespread. And chemistry often plays a huge role in many fields of biology, including genetics and the budding field of synthetic biology.
So Type: Null is a chimera, perhaps both in a mythical sense and a genetic one. But what about UB-01?
We know little about Ultra Beasts except for that they possess mighty powers and could pose a threat to humans and Pokémon. Additionally, we are told that the newly revealed Aether Foundation is performing extensive research on these mysterious creatures and that there may be more than one of them.
Very clearly, it is implied that Ultra Beasts are not Pokémon. The description choses its words carefully, deciding to say that they pose a threat to humans and Pokémon rather than humans and other Pokémon. Additionally, UB-01 is not even listed with the other Pokémon on the website but instead with the characters. Weird.
Moreover, UB-01’s description tells that evidence of a survival instinct has been observed in this creature and that it’s movements resemble that of a girl. And UB-01 just so happens to have a striking resemblance to a certain female character who is described first and foremost as mysterious. That is no coincidence.
In light in this evidence, many have concluded that UB-01 must be Lillie. And in the context of alchemical themes already present, such a transformation seems likely. However, I don’t think that Lille is UB-01, and this is why I believe Ultra Beasts might change the Pokémon World forever.
UB-01 is a Human-Pokémon chimera.
Or, possibly, a hybrid, depending on how it was made. But the core concept is the same. UB-01 shares the genetic material of a Pokémon (possibly many Pokémon) and a human. That human is likely Lillie.
Moreover, I believe that there is some connection between the Ultra Beasts and the Aether Foundation. It is possible that this organization may have created the Ultra Beasts in an attempt to create a creature with the mind of a human but the powers of a Pokémon. One might say that this could be the ultimate being.
This may sound farfetched, but there is precedent in the Pokémon World for these types of experiments. As early as the first generation we have Porygon, the Virtual Pokémon, an entirely manmade Pokémon. Then we have Mewtwo, a botched attempt at creating the most powerful Pokémon from the genetic template of the very first Pokémon. In Generation V we have Genesect, an ancient Pokémon modified by Team Plasma. What’s more, we already know from several PokéDex entries that Pokémon do in fact have DNA it appears to operate in the same manner as it does in our world. And considering that there is an extensive history of experimental testing concerning Pokémon, is it really too much of a stretch to assume that someone would attempt to bring the two creatures together as one. Many already speculate that humans are in fact Pokémon themselves, or at least descended from them similar to how humans are descended from a common primate ancestor. And in our own world there have been attempts to reunite our kinds.
The Humanzee, a hypothetical hybrid of human and chimpanzee, has been the inspiration of many science fiction stories and internet legends. However, there is at least one documented attempt at creating such a creature in the 1920s by scientist Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov, who conducted experiments to impregnate female chimps with human sperm. His attempts failed, but many still believe that such a hybrid is genetically possible under right conditions.
There is appears to be a consensus across fan forums that the Aether Foundation is not as benevolent as they seem, but what if it goes further than some simple Shyamalan twist? Why do you think they have their ow artificial island in the Alola region? Perhaps to perform experiments which would otherwise be illegal or at the very least frowned upon if they took place on the land. Maybe their intentions started out as pure, perhaps creating the chimeras in the hope of providing needed human tissues and organs in Pokémon, only to later turn toward more morally ambiguous intentions.
One final thought. Back to the humanzees. A big ethical questions which has prevented many researchers from attempting this has been whether or not this result being would have, for lack of better words, a soul. Many predict that such a creature would at best come out mentally retarded, and thus it would be immoral to knowingly bring a being who may or may not have a soul into the world only to suffer out what would probably be a short and agonizing life.
The website mentions a curious detail about UB-01. No one knows whether it has a will of its own or any emotions.
Just a thought.