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Mareanie and Toxapex: The Crown-of-Thorns Pokémon (Pokémon Eating Pokémon Part 1)

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The sea in many ways is a curious contradiction, as it is simultaneously the womb of life and home to a fierce array of predators. It is both the source nourishment and great cruelty. Hidden underneath its beautiful foaming blue sheets are the most crafty and devious creatures ever to have been seen by men. Swarms of jellyfish dragging their forest of stinging needles through the ocean currents, packs of prehistoric sharks so fine-tuned for predation that they have gone relatively unchanged since their dinosaurs, as is a common theme with nature’s apex predators.

The Pokémon oceans are no safer. In place of jellyfish are hordes of Tentacruel who cause fish to scatter whenever to congregate (1). Sharpedo zip through the water upwards of 75 mph, slicing through hulls of ship and snaring any unfortunate prey in their razor teeth, appropriately earning the title of The Bully of the Sea (2).

But lurking just off the coast of Melemele Island in the Alola region is a particularly devious critter. The waters of Alola are host to a problematic set of predators commonly known as Mareanie and its evolved form, Toxapex. Classified as the Brutal Star Pokémon, Mareanie has an infamous reputation for feasting on Corsola.

It’s found crawling on beaches and seafloors. The coral that grows on Corsola’s head is as good as a five-star banquet to this Pokémon. (Pokémon Moon)

But this predation is not limited to mere words in a Pokédex. The Seventh Generation of Pokémon Games introduced a new mechanic known as SOS battles, in which, a wild Pokémon will call upon an additional “ally” Pokémon to aid it in battle if it’s health drops below 50%.

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However, in the case of Corsola, on rare occasion a Mareanie will appear when it calls. But instead of attacking the trainer’s Pokémon, Mareanie will instead attack the very Corsola that called it to battle, in many cases even knocking out the poor Coral Pokémon. Furthermore, to the frustration of many gamers, this is the only way Mareanie can be obtained in the game.

But it terms of sheer brutality, its evolved form, Toxapex, takes the cake:

Toxapex crawls along the ocean floor on its 12 legs. It leaves a trail of Corsola bits scattered in its wake(Pokémon Sun)

Those attacked by Toxapex’s poison will suffer intense pain for three days and three nights. Post recovery, there will be some aftereffects(Pokémon Moon)

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Toxapex, the Brutal Star Pokémon

While at first glance, these entries may seem like the typical Pokédex hyperbole, with a few word tweaks these could easily describe the real-life Acanthaster planci—the Crown-of-Thorns starfish.

Most common in the oceans of Australia, though distributed throughout Indo-Pacific waters, the Crown-of-Thorns starfish crawls along the sea floor in search of coral polyps which it primarily feeds on. Like its Alolan counterparts, the Crown-of Thorns starfish is a Poison-Type per say, as it is armed with an arsenal of toxins known as saponins. While we can only speculate on the aftereffects of Toxapex’s poisonous sting, in human, the crown-of-thorns sting can lead to a plethora of symptoms, including swelling around the site of entry, followed by a sharp sting that can last for hours, nausea, and bleeding (9). Indeed, there will be some aftereffects.

Just as Mareanie and Toxapex prey on Corsola, the Crown-of-Thorns starfish preys on coral, which, unlike the Pokémon Corsola, are sessile organisms. Considering how slow most starfish move, this is only to the Crown-of-Thorn’s advantage. Possessing as many as 21 tentacles (3), the starfish attaches itself to living coral colonies where it begins its feeding process. First, the starfish forces its stomach out of its mouth and onto the surface of the coral. It then releases digestive enzymes to break down the coral tissue. As the starfish retracts its stomach, it draws in the broken-down tissues, leaving a scar of white coral skeleton, often referred to as a “feeding scar” (4) .

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“Feeding scar” on Australian coral reef from crown-of-thorns starfish.

While not as brutal as Toxapex’s treatment of Corsola, the feeding habits of Acanthaster planci can have deleterious effects on coral colonies and coral reef ecosystems as a whole. Once a feeding scar has formed, surrounding algae will infest the wound, resulting in a crusty skeleton appearance (5). In most cases, the corals—while not in the best aesthetic state—continue to live, though with their vibrancy diminished. However, in this weakened state, some species of coral will crumble due to agitation from storms and other sources of rough waters. Moreover, in addition to invasions by filamentous algae, other organisms such as sponges and “soft corals” will move in on the feeding scars. Gradually, this cascades into an environmental shift in which surfaces where hard coral polyps would take hold are occupied by the invaders. This, in effect, deprives many fish and marine herbivores of their habitat and food sources (6).

Now consider the following PokéDex from Pokémon Sapphire Version:

“Clusters of Corsola congregate in warm seas where they serve as ideal hiding places for smaller Pokémon.” – Pokémon Sapphire Version

Perhaps a similar effect is found in Alola as a result of Mareanie/Toxapex’s predation of Corsola. This would explain Corsola’s rare encounter rate, as well as other Pokémon supposedly endemic to Alola.

Additionally, starfish populations are on the rise. Currently, the exact cause for this spike in population is unknown. Some proposed hypotheses include the depletion of natural predators due to overfishing, rising sea temperatures enhancing the development of larvae, or that simply these observed outbreaks are no more than an aggregate of starfish having previously consumed all adjacent coral colonies and thus cluster together in a single area. Regardless of the cause, the impact of these creatures remains severe, as a study of the Great Barrier Reef revealed that over a 27-year-long period, in a survey of 214 coral reefs, the reef suffered a 50.7% loss of initial coral cover (7). The damage was attributed to three main causes—tropical storms, coral bleaching, and the crown-of-thorns starfish. The starfish alone were responsible for 42% of the total coral loss.

However, there is hope. Recently, researchers have discovered a means of controlling these seemingly invincible organisms. A single, careful, injection of household vinegar into the tentacle of a crown-of-thorns starfish can render the starfish lifeless within 48 hours (8). While the death of any creature—even one that is quite a nuisance—is unfortunate, it is the hope of conservationist and environmental agencies alike that this new treatment will spare the last of the world’s reefs from the wrath of the Crown-O-Thorns.

Perhaps a similar method could be employed on the Mareanie of Alola.

Of course, you would have to find one first.

A suggestion. If you stumble across a Mareanie, don’t faint it, either with Pokémon or your mother’s vinegar.

 

Accurate Pokédex Entry (Mareanie): In Alola, much of the Corsola loss in recent years can be attributed to a spike in Mareanie populations. However, scientists have found that injections of household vinegar might be used to control their growing population.

Accurate Pokédex Entry (Toxapex): No one knows for sure why its numbers are on the rise. One hypothesis is that overfishing has depleted the oceans of Alola of Toxapex’s natural enemies, allowing the Brutal Star Pokémon to proliferate unchecked, leaving Corsola everywhere scarred and crumbling.

 

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Works Cited

  1. Game Freak. Pokémon Moon.Nintendo, 2016. Nintendo 3DS.
  2. Game Freak. PokémonSun.Nintendo, 2016. Nintendo 3DS.
  3. Caso, M.J. (1974). “External morphology of Acanthasterplanci (Linnaeus)”. Journal of the Marine Biological Associataion of India16 (1): 83–93.
  4. Current Biology
  5. Belk, D (1975). “An observation of algal colonization on Acropora asperakilled by Acanthaster planci‘.”. Hydrobiologia46 (1): 29–32. doi:10.1007/bf00038724.
  6. Wilson, S K; Dolman, A M; Cheal, A J; Emslie, MJ Pratchett; et al. (2009). “Maintenance of fish diversity on disturbed coral reefs”. Coral reefs28(1): 3–14. doi:10.1007/s00338-008-0431-2.
  7. De’ath, G. et al. 2012. The 27–year decline of coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef and its causes. PNAS109:17995-17999.
  8. Boström-Einarsson, L. & Rivera-Posada, J. Coral Reefs (2016) 35: 223. doi:10.1007/s00338-015-1351-6
  9. Birkelandand Lucas (1990). Acanthaster planci: Major Management Problem of Coral Reefs. CRC Press. pp. 131–132. ISBN 0-8493-6599-6.

 

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Alolan Rattata: A Tale of Mice, Men, and Mongoose

Do you remember the old nursery rhyme about the old lady who swallowed a fly?

For the uninitiated, the story goes as follows: There was an old lady who swallowed a fly. For what reasons she swallowed a fly we do not know. Perhaps she will suffer the consequences of her poor dietary decision. The woman, perturbed by the buzzing of the live fly she just consumed, proceeds to swallow a spider in order to catch the fly. The spider appears to successfully apprehend the fly, however, the spider has begins to wriggle and wiggle and tiggle inside her. Having learned nothing from her previous two experiences with swallowing live animals, she goes on to swallow a bird to catch the spider, then a cat to catch the bird, a dog to catch the cat, a cow to catch the dog, and a horse to catch the cow, at which she finally succumbs to her gluttonous behavior.

A child-appropriate bedtime story if there ever was one.

But ethical questions surrounding the grime nature of this nursery rhyme aside, the tale of the old lady who swallowed a fly provides great insight to the core of human nature. We tend to have limited foresight, unable to predict the consequences of our actions even when we have prior experience with them. Our carelessness towards solving problems hastily with poorly thought out solutions instead of taking the time to think critically and rationally about the situation at hand.

This tendency is best exemplified when it comes to the issue of invasive species. A similar pattern emerges every time mankind unwittingly introduces a foreign species to a new land. An alien organism is unleashed into an ecosystem that evolved without its influence. Consequently, the invading species propagates and decimates the native populations. So, in order to counter effect of the invading species, we introduce another foreign species into the ecosystem. The new invader propagates and decimates the native populations as well, and the cycle begins anew. Like the old lady, we assume that we can quell the fly’s buzzing by swallowing a spider without seeing that we’ll just to have to deal with the spider.

You’re probably thinking, That would never happen in real life. Nobody is that stupid. Allow me to point to the Hawaiian Islands, certainly no strangers to foreign invaders (See The Feral Cat Problem: The Unfortunate Truth About Alolan Form Meowth). During their expeditions, European explorers were accompanied by an uninvited guest, Rattus norvegicus, known colloquially as the brown rat. These furry stowaways followed humans on their many expeditions throughout the world, colonizing many remote islands alongside their human counterparts. Hawaii was no exception.

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Rats are essentially the crème de la crème of invasive species. One could say that they were specifically designed to conquer foreign ecosystems. For starters, rats are very adaptable and are able to live in a wide range of environments. In addition, rats eat everything. That is not hyperbole. If it has any nutritional value, a rat can and will eat it. But perhaps what makes them so successful as an invasive species is their ability to reproduce exponentially. Rats reach sexual maturity at five weeks, females ovulate every 4-5 days, and they have a gestation period of only 22 days with as many as 20 babies in a litter1. A single pair of rats can produce as many as 2,000 descendants over the course of a single year2. Indeed, if there was ever an animal best equipped to conquer the world, the rat would be it.

And unsurprisingly, once these furry invaders set foot on the pristine island ecosystem of Hawaii, there population skyrocketed as they ravaged the countryside like barbarian tribes ransacking the Roman capital. They pillaged agricultural fields, disrupted local ecosystems, destroyed native bird nests, and spread a slew of new diseases and parasites which took their own toll on the native populations, animal and human alike.

The metaphorical fly had caused quite a bit of damage, so to quell its buzzing, in 1883, the sugar industry introduced mongooses to sugarcane fields with the hope of curbing the damage done by the rat infestation.

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The mongoose is a native of India3. Like rats, mongooses are far from picky eaters. They will essentially feed on anything that they are able to successfully swallow. Hawaii with its diverse plant and animal life was an open buffet. Why stick to mere rats when you can dine on Hawaiian delicacies such as petrel hatchings, sea turtle eggs, and practically every moving object in sight.

Moreover, mongooses are able to adapt to a variety of environments, thus giving them unlimited range to hunt throughout the islands.

While their impact on rat populations has been rather insignificant, mongooses have annihilated native populations. They have all but exterminated the native lizard population4, driven several bird species to near extinction, and caused a reported $50 million in damage5. The Hawaiian goose, also known as the nene, had an estimated population of 25,000 in 1778. By 1952, that number had dropped to 306.

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To make matters worse, mongooses are surprisingly intelligent, and tend to avoid most traps, especially when prey is abundant, and it is always abundant.

And as a final piece of cruel irony to this already depressing tale, rats are nocturnal creatures, coming out mostly at night, while mongooses are diurnal, being most active during the day7. The two species rarely came in contact with each other.

[Queue Mario Fail Music]

Goes to show that a little research can go a long way. #TheMoreYouKnow

In perhaps the most obvious parallel to its real-life counterpart yet, the Alola region is also victim to the narrow-sightedness of a few individuals. Yungoos, the Loitering Pokémon, is not native to Alola, but was introduced to the islands in order to deal with the overpopulation of a “certain other Pokémon”. It has now since been revealed the “certain other Pokémon” to be none other than Alolan Rattata, now a dual Normal-Dark Type, fitting for such a destructive creature.

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Perhaps like with Alolan Meowth, the inclusion of this unfortunate real-life reference will bring attention to a critical issue plaguing the Hawaiian Islands, and maybe begin a conversation about the way we approach fixing our messes.

Maybe we should tell our children the tale of the old lady who swallowed a fly as a cautionary tale, so that they do not make the same mistakes we do.

The Feral Cat Problem: The Unfortunate Truth About Alola Form Meowth (Pokémon Sun and Moon)

Hawaii has a cat problem.

The Hawaiian Islands are no strangers to invasive species, European colonization has introduced a plethora of foreign creatures to its delicate ecosystems. Mosquito eggs stowed away in pools of water only to hatch in an environment that evolved without them. Argentinian ants added Hawaii to their list of conquer territories when cargo ships unintentionally brought them to the islands, as did fire ants who also thrived in the defenseless new world. Naturally, snakes and rats found their way aboard human ships as well, humanity can’t go anywhere without its two greatest enemies. But perhaps one of the most devastating forces to set foot on the shores of Hawaii (besides Europeans) is felis catus, the domestic cat.

Likewise, it is only fitting in a game that has already borrowed so much from real life to acknowledge the feral cat problem plaguing Hawaii in the form of Alolan Meowth.

Like its real life counterpart, Meowth is not native to the Alola region. The species was introduced to the islands as a gift to the royal family from a distant unidentified region, most likely Kanto. Through a combination of selective breeding and excessive pampering, Meowth evolved into its Alolan form which reflects its terribly destructive lifestyle. Once the monarchy fell, the Meowth turned to the wild and became what we would call a feral animal, a species that was initially domesticated but has since returned to the wild.

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In the time since the fall of the monarchy, Meowth have become quite common across the islands, much like their real-life counterparts who currently inhabit all eight Hawaiian Islands. The cats have no predators and sit comfortably atop the food chain, free to feast on an ecosystem that evolved independently of its influence and thus is open season for one of evolution’s finest predators.

While their Pokémon counterparts evolved into a different form, feral cats on Hawaii, as in most places, have remained relatively unchanged, appearing no different from domesticated cats in everything except behavior. As any cat owner knows well, even domesticated cats are fairly independent and are nowhere as needy as, say, dogs. Despite years of selective breeding, cats are still, essentially, tiny tigers that you keep in your house. This is bad news for wildlife.

For starters, in the time since their introduction, feral cats have wreaked havoc on island ecosystems. Feral cats are responsible for the extinction of 33 island species, and currently pose a threat to 8% of critically endangered birds, mammals, and reptiles. Feral cats on Hawaii have been especially devastating towards local bird populations. Exact numbers are difficult to come by mainly due to the rarity of the birds, but a recent study conducted in 2013 by the University of Hawaii, National Park Service, and the U.S. Geological survey monitored the burrows of the Hawaiian Petrel, a bird native to the island. Out of the fourteen burrows monitored, feral cats were found to be present in eight. However, feral cats are not just a problem on islands. Over 2.4 billion bird deaths have been attributed to your feline friends in the United States alone.

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As we have seen from previous gameplay trailers, the Alola region is already home to a diverse population of birds, particularly the various forms of Oricorio. It isn’t much of a stretch to assume that the presence of Meowth has had its own devastating impact on the Alolan ecosystem. Who knows how many native species have suffered at the hands of Meowth, or have even gone extinct from predation? Oricorio and its various forms may currently be endangered like many native Hawaiian species. If the games intend to continue their streak of mirroring real life, then it is quite possible that Oricorio’s endangered status may be reflected in its rarity. The player may only be given a single opportunity to capture each form, similar to legendaries and a few other Pokémon such as Volcarona and Kecleon.

However, predation is not the only threat that feral cats have introduced to the islands. Cats can serve as hosts for Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that requires cats to complete its life cycle. Feral cats can unwittingly carry the parasite from ecosystem to ecosystem, spreading its infectious eggs through its feces. This can often contaminate water sources—marine and freshwater—as well as spread on land where bird and even humans can fall victim to it.

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In the Pokémon World, we already have Pokérus which is highly beneficial. But considering that feral cats are often hosts for diseases, is it possible that Alolan Meowth will be instrumental in spreading a new PokéPathogen? Or perhaps it was Meowth that initially introduced Pokérus to the Alola region, however, due to the island’s isolation, the normally benign virus is actually harmful to the native population, similar to how island populations in our world are often susceptible to diseases that seem harmless to us since we have built an immunity to them over the years.

While it is fun to speculate on the implications of a feral species running rampant in a fictional ecosystem, the issue of feral cats is serious and needs to be addressed. Hopefully, by just the inclusion of this Alolan form, more attention can be brought to the destructive power of our feline friends when we act carelessly on their behalf.

For more information on feral cats and other invasive species in Hawaii, check out the Hawaii Invasive Species Council’s website, as they were a great resource for this blog post, as was the American Bird Conservancy.

Alola Form Exeggutor: Island Gigantism at its finest (Pokémon Sun and Moon)

I have a soft spot for Exeggutor. Despite being an unsettling freak of nature, Exeggutor in all its three-headed glory has managed to creep its way into my personal pantheon of favorite Pokémon. One of my first posts on The Biology of Pokémon focused specifically on Exeggutor, and surprisingly there is a lot to unpack just from a biological perspective. My analytical mind has always been perplexed by the anomalous existence of this strange creature. While others mocked and scoffed at its design, I always felt that there was more to the story of Exeggutor, that it wasn’t just another freak Pokémon, that there was a meaning to the madness.

Earlier this week, the Pokémon Company dropped a literally game changing trailer, revealing several new additions including new Pokémon, Z-moves, the apparent departure from the traditional 8-gym system, Totem Pokémon, and of course, Alola Forms.

And guess who was the first Pokémon to get an Alola Form.

Within minutes, the Internet was abuzz with memes mocking Exeggutor’s Alola Form. While I find a few of the memes worthy of a laugh, I can’t help but feel pity for my dear Exeggutor, finally having gotten its long overdue day in the sun, only to be mocked by a merciless fan base.

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But fear not Exeggutor, I will defend your honor.

For starters, Exeggutor having different forms depending on its environment is not a new concept. As early as Pokémon Crystal, the PokéDex mentions how Exeggutor will often grow many heads if it is living in a good environment.

  • Living in a good environment makes it grow lots of heads. A head that drops off becomes an Exeggcute.

The PokéDex entries from the Third Generation build on this, directly citing exposure to sunlight as conducive to head growth in Exeggutor.

  • Exeggutor originally came from the tropics. Its heads steadily grow larger from exposure to strong sunlight. It is said that when the heads fall off, they group together to form Exeggcute.
  • Originally from the tropics, Exeggutor’s heads grow larger from exposure to strong sunlight. It is said that when the heads fall, they group to form an Exeggcute.

The Alolan Islands provide the perfect environment for Exeggutor to thrive in, the tropical climate allows for year-round sunlight to fuel Exeggutor’s photosynthesis. Uninhibited by the winters that likely stunt its growth in more temperate regions, in the tropics of Alola, Exeggutor is able to achieve what the Alolan people refer to as its “true form”.

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In biology, there is a phenomenon called island gigantism, in which animals grow to larger lengths than their mainland counterparts once they are isolated on an island. This is often coupled with another island phenomenon called island dwarfism which is the exact opposite, the island animals become smaller than their mainland counterparts.

Island gigantism usually takes place in smaller animals, often herbivores. When a population of organisms colonize an island, the ecosystem is usually still developing and has many niches unfilled. Additionally, most of these new ecosystems lack the huge predators that many organisms faced on the mainland, as the physical distant and separation by water often make it difficult for such animals to colonize islands. Without the selective pressure of predators, in addition to a wealth of resources and abundance of ecological niches to be filled, many organisms will thrive in these environments and evolve larger bodies since they are no longer inhibited by the selective pressures of their former ecosystem.

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A great example of island gigantism is the Giant Tortoise, found in the Galapagos Islands. These massive creatures have no natural predators and can live upwards of one hundred years, with the longest recorded in captivity having lived to be 170 years old. They can weight up to 880 lbs. (400 kg to the rest of the world) and reach lengths of more than 6 ft. (1.87 m).  It is thought that they had evolved larger bodies in order to go longer periods without food and travel distances to obtain it.

Exeggutor is a classic case of island gigantism. Fewer predators reside on the Alola islands, and with an excess of sunlight, Exeggutor is free to push the limits of its evolution.

In fact, if you look at Alolan Exeggutor from an evolutionary perspective, its design starts to make more sense. Take, for example, its outrageously long neck. While at first it may seem out of place, if not, a major weakness, it also serves a very important purpose—photosynthesis. Exeggutor, being a plant, requires sunlight in order to complete the redox reactions that produce its food, glucose. With a longer neck, Exeggutor is able to reach above the treetops of the canopy and capture all the sunlight it needs. Additionally, Exeggutor has few, if any predators, while on these islands, so the selective pressures that would normally act against such a trait are not present, and thus, Exeggutor can evolve its neck to as far as its physical limitations allow it.

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Another interesting aspect of Alolan Exeggutor is its tail, which is said to contain a fourth head that independently controls the tail. This is important because its three main heads are too high to reach the lower sections of its bodies, so in battle, the tail head can defend its base when the top heads are unable to. Another perk of having a fourth head close to the ground is that it can also keep an eye out for potential dangers while the top half of Exeggutor is busy basking above the treetops.

As absurd as Exeggutor’s Alola Form may appear at first glance, it is perfectly evolved for the Alolan ecosystem and serves as yet another example of how well the Pokémon World can reflect our own at times. So the next time you see a derogatory comment or a meme mocking the Coconut Pokémon, remember how amazing this freak of nature truly is.

#ExeggutorLivesMatter

For more on Exeggutor, check out the original post, Exeggutor: A True Freak of Nature.

Mew vs. Arceus: Why Evolution is a Fact in Our World and the Pokémon World (10th Post Special)

“It is said to have emerged from an egg in a place where there was nothing, then shaped the world.” – Arceus entry, Pokémon Platinum Version

“Because it can learn any move, some people began research to see if it is the ancestor of all Pokémon.” – Mew entry, Pokémon Crystal Version

In the beginning, the explanation for the great diversity of life in the Pokémon World was answered upon the discovery of Mew, a rare Psychic-type once thought to be extinct that was found inhabiting the rainforests of South American. Research on the Pokémon, including several attempts at cloning, revealed that Mew contained the genetic code for all Pokémon and could learn every move. This evidence led many researchers and players to believe that Mew was the ancestor of all Pokémon and therefore the first Pokémon. While larger questions still went unanswered, such as the origin of life on the Pokémon World, as well as the Universe itself, descent from the common ancestor of Mew prevailed as the dominant theory in the scientific community (of Pokémon).

Fast forward to Generation IV, where the reason and rationalism of the previous generations is replaced by myth and legend. It is in these games we encounter the Foreign Building in Hearthome City, for all intents and purposes a church, the first we’ve seen in the Pokémon franchise. Moreover, there are whispers of a Pokémon that shaped the universe with its thousand arms, a creature that existed before time and space. Local legend refers to him as the Original One, most know him by his other name—Arceus.

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A great debate ensued. This new revelation contradicted the current scientific understanding of the origin of Pokémon. Whereas genetics suggested that all Pokémon descended from Mew, Sinnoh myths claimed that Arceus existed before the Universe, subsequently making it impossible for it to have descended from Mew. How was it possible that a Pokémon created the Universe yet escaped the necessity of creation itself? Was Mew really the ancestor of all Pokémon, and if so, did that rule out the existence of the Original One?

Similar questions were asked in our own world when Charles Darwin unleashed The Origin of Species to a deeply religious public in 1859. Even today, despite overwhelming scientific evidence, the Theory of Evolution is still challenged by major segments of the population and is frequently the subject of many pointless debates. I call them pointless because they often operate on the faulty premise that both sides are of equal consideration. They are not. Comparing evolution to creationism/intelligence design/ [insert whatever new creationism euphemism is currently in use] is akin to comparing the heliocentric model to geocentricism. There simply is no debate to be had. The very idea of the Sun revolving around the earth is daft and should not be entertained, lest you give the two geocentrist still left the validation they need to spread this false idea.

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However, being a person who derives strange pleasure from applying biological concepts to the fictional universe of Pokémon, I was always destined (or rather, obligated) to cover the topic of Pokémon Evolution and explain the subject that’s been explained ad nauseum since its inception—that Pokémon Evolution is not evolution.

Now, I could repeat what you’ve surely heard a thousand times. Pokémon evolution is not representative of real life evolution and is more akin to metamorphosis than anything else and actual evolution takes place over the course of millions of years, etcetera. But there is so much more to the discussion. Where does Arceus fit into all of this? Is there a scientific explanation for Pokémon evolution? And does Darwinian evolution have its place in the Pokémon World after all?

These are the questions we will seek to answer in this tenth post special. Brace yourself, a whole lot of knowledge is coming your way.

 

Arceus, God, and Creation Myths

Warning: There is a disturbing lack of biology in the following section. Reader discretion is advised.

One of the first questions a child asks their parents is “Where do babies come from?”. It is also one of the first questions that a child doesn’t always receive a direct or clear answer to. Our parents will often hand us a dumbed down version of the true story if we are lucky, if not that, the origin of infants is chalked up to storks, secret supermarket aisles, or divine gifts from above.

Earlier peoples were infantile in that they also asked similar questions but on a much grander scale. Where did I come from? What is my purpose? How should I live my life? Many men have cried out to the heavens only to receive silence, and in that silence they often made best with the information they had and constructed narratives that could offer explanations to these burning questions.

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The Merriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of World Religions defines a creation myth as a “symbolic narrative of the beginning of the world as understood in a particular tradition and community.” It continues, “Creation myths are of central importance for the valuation of the world, for the orientation of humans in the universe, and for basic patterns of life and culture.”

In essence, creation myths provide the answers that the Universe—indifferent to our existence­­­—does not. In that sense, the purpose of creation myths does that differ much from that of science in that they both try to make order out of the chaos of this world we’ve been thrust into. Granted, science does it considerably better.

In the Western World, the prevailing creation myth of our day and age comes from the biblical account of creation found in the Book of Genesis. These scriptures make up the foundations on which modern creationism stands upon, yet nearly every word conflicts directly with our current understanding of biology. The Bible claims that Adam and Eve were the first humans and the ancestors of our entire species, yet modern science tells us that not only did various other hominids exist at the same time as anatomically modern humans, but a single male and female couple does not contain enough genetic diversity to sustain a stable healthy population. For Christians in particular, this conflict has great ramifications. If there was no Adam and Eve then there was no Original Sin, and if there was no Original Sin then there was no need for Jesus of Nazareth to die on the cross, thus effectively rendering the entirety of Christianity pointless in one fell swoop.

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Here lies the main dilemma—believe in the godless scientist and their big Satanic words, or believe in God. It should be no surprise that when faced with this dilemma, many choose to cling to their faith rather than facts.

Similarly, in the case of Mew vs. Arceus, both claims cannot be true. Arceus cannot be the creator of the Universe if Mew is the ancestor of all Pokémon, as Mew would by definition have to exist prior to Arceus who we have already mentioned, hatched from an egg before the universe even existed.

However, there is a solution to both of these dilemmas.

It is true that a literal interpretation of Genesis cannot be reconciled with the Theory of Evolution, in fact I’ll even be bold and flat out say that the Book of Genesis is completely incorrect in regards to anything remotely scientific. From God removing a rib from Adam to create woman, to the Great Flood leaving no geological evidence of its occurrence, to Jacob’s version of “artificial selection”, the entirety of Genesis offers nothing but ludicrous claims with little to no evidence backing them up and no rational person should even consider using it as a guide for anything near the realm of science.

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But that was never the intended purpose of the creation accounts.

As I mentioned earlier, creation myths not only served to explain what could not be explained at the time, but they also played a central role in providing purpose for humans. What the Book of Genesis lacks in actual science it makes up for in its humanity. Within its pages are examples of how humans should and should not live, what their place in the world is, and a comprehensible explanation for the chaos they find themselves surrounded by.

The Bible

Likewise, in the case of Arceus and the Sinnoh myths they provide explanations for the relationship between humans and Pokémon, as well as the origins of human emotions from the Lake Trio.

Additionally, upon closer examination of the Sinnoh Creation Myth, we’ll find that it shares many of the basic themes of other creation myths. For starters, there is an aspect of primordiality, in which the ingredients of creation are present in some form of undifferentiated matter. In the case of Arceus, the primordial matter can be interpreted as the Unown, which many theorize are what the PokéDex entries described as the “thousand arms” that Arceus used to shape the universe.

Also present in many creation myths is an aspect of dualism, usually presented as a form of antagonism between two forces. This conflict can be found between Arceus, an analog for God in this universe, and Giratina, who is often thought to represent Satan, as it was banished by Arceus for being too destructive.

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Lastly, there is often an element of sacrifice involved. This can sometimes include the dismemberment of a primordial being, such is the case with China’s P’an Ku, who by the way, hatched from an 18,000-year old egg, much like a certain other Pokémon who hatched from a primordial egg. After P’an Ku hatched, his shell and body became parts of the world. His limbs became the mountains, his blood formed the rivers. While there is no information from the games of this sacrifice from Arceus, in the anime movie Arceus and the Jewel of Life, Arceus gives up the Splash, Meadow, Earth, Zap, and Draco Plates (which grant him immunity to these respective types) in order to create the Jewel of Life and bring life to the world.

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Furthermore, if we compare the PokéDex entries of Arceus and Mew, we’ll find that Arceus is described in a more mythical sense:

  • It is described in mythology as the Pokémon that shaped the universe with its 1,000 arms.
  • It is told in mythology that this Pokémon was born before the universe even existed.
  • It is said to have emerged from an egg in a place where there was nothing, then shaped the world.

Meanwhile, Mew’s entries, while referring to its mythical status, is written in a more scientific fashion, including evidence which the scientific community has used to hypothesize that Mew is the ancestor of all Pokémon:

  • Its DNA is said to contain the genetic codes of all Pokémon, so it can use all kinds of techniques.
  • Because it can learn any move, some people began research to see if it is the ancestor of all Pokémon.
  • A mythical Pokémon of South America which had been thought extinct. A growing number of people have seen it recently.

It is abundantly clear that the Sinnoh Creation Myths, much like the Biblical Accounts of Creation found in Genesis, are not intended to be interpreted as a literal step-by-step process for how the universe came into existence. These creation myths are just that—myths. They are not to be taken literally, nor do they necessarily conflict with current scientific understanding.

Whether or not you believe in the existence of a god (or Arceus) does not negate the fact of the evolution, both in our world and in the Pokémon World. In that way, the title is a bit misleading because this is not a matter of one being correct or a better explanation, but rather they answer two very different questions. Science answers how, while creation myths answer why.

 

Pokémon Evolution ≠ Darwinian Evolution (or any evolution at all)

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As mentioned in the introduction, the process of evolution as depicted in the main-series games is not an accurate portrayal of Darwinian evolution. The Pokémon Company is not entirely at fault. Over the years, evolution, much like theory, has become a part of everyday vernacular and as a result of its colloquial use has gained additional definitions beyond its intended scientific use.

Quite simply, evolution is the process through which organisms change over time. When I say organisms, I’m referring to a population, not an individual. Individuals do not evolve. A chicken will remain a chicken until the day it dies. Yes, it may grow from a chick into a chicken but it is still a chicken. Nothing the chicken does in its life will affect its offspring*.

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*However, recent research into genetics suggest that this may not be entirely true. The budding field of epigenetics is starting to reshape the way we think about how traits are passed and expressed from parent to offspring. The more we research into this issue, the more it appears that parents can influence their offspring through the choices they make in their life. For more check out this TED-Ed video on the matter, as well as my own take on Epigenetics and Eeveelutions.

This is just one of the many misconceptions about evolution being perpetuated by the opposed and ignorant alike. Here are a few more:

Evolution is a belief/faith/religion/cult/worldview/ “just a theory”.

Evolution is a fact. Despite what many opponents will claim we can observe evolution in real time under controlled laboratory conditions just like any other science. That is in addition to the mountains of evidence from genetics, comparative anatomy, the fossil record, geographic distribution and much, much more. Theory when used in a scientific sense is not synonymous with hypothesis, which is what most people mean when they use theory casually. A scientific theory is essentially an explanation drawn from repeated testing and observation through the scientific method. It is a conclusion that uses current knowledge and is open to change when further knowledge is acquired.

Evolution is concerned with the origins of life and the Universe.

The Theory of Evolution gives an explanation for the vast diversity of life on Earth. Nothing more. That is all it ever sought to explain. The origin of life is a nonissue. The explanation could be God, aliens, abiogenesis, or even panspermia, but evolution would still be true. As for the origin of the Universe, that’s not even biology. If you want to dispute the Big Bang go find an astrophysicist.

Evolution happens to individuals.

If you ever sat in a biology class and looked to the wall and saw a poster of a fish walking out of water or a diagram of an ape transforming into a man and thought that was how evolution worked, then you have been grossly misinformed. Not only are these depictions inaccurate, they are comical in their inaccuracy. Unless that fish is a mudskipper or lungfish it will never see terra firma in its life. An ape will remain never start walking upright permanently nor suffer extreme hair loss. As stated earlier, individuals do not evolve. For a better visual representation look at a phylogenetic tree, however even those can be misleading if one does not know how to properly interpret one.

And lastly…

Evolution is guided or goal-oriented toward progress.

This one is mostly likely due to our tendency toward anthropomorphism (attributing human characteristics, personalities, and desires to nonhumans). Organisms do not choose to evolve. There is no endgame of evolution. Humans are not the pinnacle of evolution. Matt Ridley put it nicely in his book The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature, “Evolution is something that happens to organisms. It is a directionless process that sometimes makes an animal’s descendants more complicated, sometimes simpler, and sometimes changes them not at all.”

Another misconception that opponents of evolution like to throw around is claiming that while microevolution is possible, macroevolution is just ludicrous. What they fail to understand is that there is no difference between the two other than time. To set the record straight, microevolution is evolution that happens in a short time scale which usually yields small changes. Macroevolution occurs over long periods of time and usually, but not always, results in major changes. Again, there is no difference except for time.

What probably throws most people off about macroevolution is the concept of speciation, when one species branches off into a new one. For some reason, certain people cannot fathom the idea of an organism accumulating many small changes over millions of years to gradually become something entirely different. To better understand, imagine that you have a pile of Legos in various shapes, sizes, and colors. You begin with a single red brick. Let’s say a hundred years pass, not very long in evolutionary terms, and you add another brick. Its slightly different but still similar to what it was. Another century passes and you add a third brick. Still different but still similar to the previous model. You continue to add a single brick every hundred years for, let’s say, ten million years. At the end of this ten million-year process the structure that you have is unrecognizable when compared to the starting brick, or any of the earlier permutations. The changes at the time may seem trivial but in the long run they add up.

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Granted, my Lego example is a simplified (and somewhat inaccurate) version of what actually takes place. Moreover, it does not take into account the four main evolutionary forces which drive these changes—mutation, gene flow, genetic drift, and natural selection.

To understand these mechanisms of change, let us construct a scenario using Pokémon. For the following scenarios, my Pokémon of choice will be one of my favorites—Shuckle.

Mutation

Mutations are simply random changes in an organism’s DNA. These changes can be caused by mistakes in DNA replication or by external factors such as exposure to radiation or certain chemicals. Most mutations are harmless, a few are deleterious, but on occasion they can turn out to be beneficial. In our scenario, a mutation arises in an individual that causes its shell to be blue instead of red.

Mutation

Natural Selection

Now suppose that in this instance, the Shuckle with a blue shell is able to hide from predators better because its new color provides camouflage in the blue mountains it inhabits. That individual is able to survive until it reaches an age where it can reproduce and pass on its mutation to its offspring. This is called natural selection. After a few successive generations, selective forces of the environment cause the mutation to become fixed in the population since those blue-shelled individuals have an increased chance at reproducing. This increased survivability is called fitness.

Natural Selection

Genetic Drift

However, selective forces are not the only factors in play. Life is full of unexpected events that happen by chance. In this instance, suppose that a horde of ravenous Pokémon trainers sweep through the area and randomly capture a decent portion of the Shuckle population. By pure chance, the catching spree disproportionally affects the blue-shelled individuals. For that generation, those blue-shelled Shuckle are not able to reproduce and therefore the following generation will have fewer individuals with this particular genotype. These random changes that vary from generation to generation are referred to as genetic drift.

Genetic Drift

Gene Flow

Lastly, suppose that the current population of Shuckle contains mostly red-shelled individuals, when suddenly there is an influx of Shuckle migrating from the forests at the base of the mountain where blue-shelled individuals are dominant. This influx of blue-shelled individuals increases the frequency of the blue shell gene in this population. This moving of populations is referred to as gene flow.

Gene Flow

Together, these forces over time can result in many possibilities. Selective forces could continue to favor blue-shelled Shuckle until the mutation becomes fixed in the population, a natural disaster could strike causing a bottleneck effect in which a few remaining individuals determine the look of future generations, additional mutations could arise and in a few thousand years, a speciation event could occur.

This is how true evolution would take place in the Pokémon World. That is not to discount the process depicted in the games, in fact, there are a few possible scientific explanations for the in-game process of evolution.

The first is that Pokémon, upon leveling up, undergo metamorphosis, a process in which an organism undergoes a transformation from an immature form to an adult form in two or more distinct stages.

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There are two types of metamorphosis–complete and incomplete. Complete metamorphosis is perhaps one most are familiar with, a prime example often used is the life cycle of a butterfly. During complete metamorphosis, the organism, usually an insect, goes through the distinct stages of egg, larvae, pupa, and adult or imago. Three-stage evolution lines could in fact be the process of complete metamorphosis, especially in cases where the Pokémon in question go through these said stages. All Pokémon hatch from eggs after all, and most Bug-Types follow a similar life cycle. This is not exclusive to Bug-Types either, the Larvitar line for example is also based around a cycle of complete metamorphosis, as is the Bagon line.

Tyranitar

Likewise, incomplete metamorphosis could be represented in the games as two-stage evolutions. During incomplete metamorphosis, the individual goes through several immature stages as nymphs, essentially smaller forms of their adult selves. They continue to molt until they reach adult size. Pokémon such as Krabby or Kricketot would most likely “evolve” in this manner, as their real-life counterparts are also prone to molting.

However, not all Pokémon evolution can be explained by metamorphosis. In our own world, few creatures besides insects undergo metamorphosis, and there are additional ways Pokémon can “evolve” besides through leveling up. Elemental stones also play a huge role in transforming Pokémon, as do a number of other factors.

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Enter epigenetics.

As stated in Mew’s PokéDex entries, Pokémon do in fact have DNA and it is reasonable to assume that it operates in the same manner as it does on earth. Quite simply, current genetic material can be modified by external sources, i.e. elemental stones, friendless, time of day, other Pokémon in their party, etc., resulting in a changed organism. This is the case with Eevee who exhibits a special type of phenotypic plasticity called polyphenism. (For more, check out Eevee Epigenetics)

Despite being an inaccurate representation of the process it seeks to imitate, Pokémon “Evolution” is fascinating nonetheless. But even though this in-game process can be explained away by other processes, there is still an abundance of evidence supporting evolution does take place in the Pokémon World, as it does in our own.

The Evidence for Pokémon Evolution

Genetics

Perhaps the most convincing evidence of common descent is that found through comparative sequence analysis. Through this process, DNA of different organisms is compared. Essentially, the greater the similarity in DNA, the closer two organisms are phylogenetically. If there are fewer similarities, they are phylogenetically distant.

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Similarly, through DNA evidence it can be concluded that Mew is indeed the common ancestor of all Pokémon because:

  1. Mew contains the genetic code of every Pokémon.
  2. Mew is one of a small handful of Pokémon that can learn every move, the only others being Arceus (whom we’ve established is part of a larger mythos) and Ditto (whom for there is significant evidence suggesting that it is a botched attempt at cloning Mew).
  3. Through Pokémon breeding we know that moves have a genetic component and thus can be passed down to offspring as egg moves.

Additionally, all Pokémon share a key aspect in their development—they all hatch from eggs. Even the myth of Arceus cites the Original One hatching from an egg that existed before the Universe. The fact that all Pokémon enter the world through the same means suggests that at one point their original common ancestor also hatched from an egg, and thus all its descendants hatch from eggs. And that common ancestor is most likely Mew.

Artificial Selection and Experimental Evolution

While forming his Theory of Evolution, Charles Darwin derived his idea of natural selection from recognizing how breeders selected certain traits and allowed those individuals to breed and pass on those selected traits to their offspring. This was essentially the same principle he hypothesized occurred in nature, only guided by human will and desire instead of what best allowed for the dog to survive.

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Without knowledge of the genetics behind it, Darwin realized that dynamic diversity could spawn from a common ancestor.

Animal breeders of all kinds have been artificially selecting certain traits over others. Domestication is probably the pinnacle of artificial selection, completely transforming a wild animal to suit our own needs.

Many opponents of evolution love to cry out that evolution is not “real science” because you can’t observe it taking place, but we do. Everyday scientist study and observe the evolution of populations in real time. Thanks to advancements in genetics, we can sequence DNA and track the evolution of populations under laboratory conditions just like any supposed “real science”.

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Some of the largest breakthroughs in these fields have been through studying creatures such as drosophila (fruit flies), guppies, microbes, and typically other small organisms with short lifespans and that reproduce quickly.

Likewise, the Pokémon World has its own form of artificial selection in which tens of thousands of trainers conduct their own experiments in everyday—Pokémon Breeding.

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Pokémon Breeders go to extreme lengths to obtain desired individual values (IVs), natures, and egg moves. Serious breeders can go through hundreds of eggs until they hatch a desired outcome, only to continue the process through further inbreeding until they have the perfect Pokémon. Furthermore, the species of the offspring is matrilineal, passed on by the mother. This is similar to mitochondrial DNA which replicates separately from the nucleus and is only passed onto offspring through the mother. Because of this, we are able to trace all our ancestry back to a Mitochondrial Eve. Similarly, a Pokémon’s ancestry can be traced through analyzing its maternal side, which we know to always be the same species as itself.

Every time a trainer pedals down their respective egg hatching route, they are unknowingly participating in the act of artificial selection, and therefore furthering the evidence of evolution in their world.

Geographic Distribution

How certain species are distributed across continents and islands can offer valuable insight into their origins. One of the clearest examples in our world is found in the similarity between organisms in South America and Africa.

As any child knows from studying a globe, the eastern half of South America seems to perfectly fit in with the western part of Africa, as if were part of a grand puzzle. We now know from plate tectonics that this childhood hypothesis is correct, however, there is more evidence suggesting these two landmasses were once connected which can be found by studying the organisms of past and present. South America has monkeys, Africa also has monkeys. South America has big cats such as cougars and jaguars, Africa has big cats such as leopards and lions. South America has toucans, Africa has hornbills. South America as caimans, Africa has crocodiles. At one point in its history, South America (and the Americas in general) were home to huge megafauna such as giant sloths, while Africa still retains most of its megafauna such as elephants and giraffes.

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The similarities suggest that at one point when the two continents were connected, these species probably shared a common ancestor that underwent speciation once the landmasses separated and there was a physical block between populations, resulting in species that mirror each other across the ocean.

Likewise, a similar phenomenon can be found through the various regions of the Pokémon World. Every region has its own bird Pokémon, fish Pokémon, rodent Pokémon, dragon Pokémon, and perhaps most notoriously, its own Pikaclone. Additionally, each reiteration is specifically suited for its region’s environment.

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Take for example, the starting bird Pokémon for each region. Kanto is a temperate region with a mostly urban environment. As such, it is only natural that small sparrow-like birds such as Pidgey and Sparrow evolve there. Johto shares these bird Pokémon with Kanto, as well as a number of Pokémon, will still having its own native bird, Hoothoot, which would thrive in the more rural region of Johto. Tailow of Hoenn is equipped with a massive wingspan in proportion to its body length and is clearly built for lengthy flights, which makes sense since the majority of Hoenn is made up of islands separated by great lengths of ocean. Over in Sinnoh, a colder more northern region, Starly has evolved bulkier down for colder weather. Pidove lives in the urban center of Unova, so its feathers match the grey of the city. Lastly, Fletchinder of the Kalos region has evolved with a Fire-Typing in order to better resist the attacks of the Fairies that run rampant throughout the region.

The Fossil Record

When an organism dies, most of the time its body decomposes and becomes part of the earth once again leaving no trace of its existence. However, under certain circumstances, a process known as fossilization will occur in which the bones of an organism are replaced with rock and preserved over a long period of time. Today, we can use the fossil record to track the evolution of a particular group of species.

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Fossils are found in sedimentary rock which is often arranged in layers of silt and other sediments from the time it first settled. These layers are referred to as strata and can be used to decipher the chronological order of fossils. The lowest strata contain the oldest rock and hence the earliest fossils, while the highest strata contain the youngest rock and therefore the most recent fossils. To determine a more specific age, scientists use a process known as radiometric dating. Specifically, the amount of naturally occurring isotopes, variations of an element with a different number of neutrons, is compared to its decay products, resulting in a constant rate of decay which can be used to date a wide variety of materials.

Surprisingly, paleontology is one field that the Pokémon World has us beat on. Despite the fact that Pokémon scientist have yet to crack the elusive mystery of where Pokémon Eggs come from, they have achieved the technology possible to revive fossils back to their past selves, allowing for a level of unprecedented study that modern-day paleontologist and evolutionary biologist have wet dreams about. There is no ambiguity on what color their dinosaurs were or what their behavior patterns were like, they can observe them all in real time.

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Furthermore, when compared to their modern-day contemporaries, it is clear that some fossil Pokémon are perhaps the direct ancestors of the Pokémon we see today. Take for example Kabutops and Scyther. They both have razors for hands, similar body design, and while they may not share any typing, it is certainly not unprecedented for an aquatic species to evolve into a terrestrial one. In our own world, arthropods which both of these Pokémon take inspiration from, were some of the first pioneers of the land as their lungs easily adapted to receiving oxygen from the air rather than diffusing it in its dissolved form through the water.

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Another example is Archeops, a proto-bird Pokémon based off the real life Archaeopteryx which is thought to be one of the earliest birds. The PokéDex even refers to Archeops as the “First Bird” Pokémon. It is highly possible that most, if not all, Bird Pokémon are descended from Archeops or are at least close on the phylogenetic tree.

Archeops and fossils

There are many more possible lineages. It is a popular fan theory that Aerodactyl is an ancestor of Crobat due to similar coloring, while it is more probable that Aerodactyl is more closely related to dragons. Carracosta and Blastoise certainly share characteristics, their water typing being just one of them. And who’s to say that Omastar isn’t a distant predecessor to Gastrodon?

Like our own fossil record, there are limitations. We may never discover some organisms because their bodies were too soft to be fossilized or they lived in an environment not conducive to fossilization. Fossils that we might have discovered may have been lost to shifting tectonic plates or erosion. However, we continue to study the best we can using the knowledge that we do have, and when we uncover new information it only betters our understanding of the world.

In regards to Pokémon, every new generation is likely to bring with in new fossils that will also increase our understanding of this vast and complex world. Who knows what we will learn from this next generation. Time will only tell.

Three Animals That Need Pokémon Based on Them in Generation 7

With the announcement of Pokémon Sun and Moon Versions, the Internet, as the Internet does, has been abuzz with wild speculations of the new Pokémon to be introduced with this latest installment in the Pokémon franchise. Now, there may be those individuals who will gripe and complain about the ridiculous number of Pokémon there are now, lamenting the days of old when there were only the original 151, such glorious and creative designs those were. I’ll never forget the elegance of Grimer, or the originality of a seal Pokémon aptly named Seel. But my sarcasm aside, I’ll be the first to aid that the prospect of yet another generation does give me some anxiety, as I already have trouble keeping track of the current 722 Pokémon and their respective types, but on the bright site each new generation just gives me more material.

From my earliest days, the animal designs of certain Pokémon intrigued me, and pulled me into this wonderful world. Things as simple as a reference to an animal’s taxonomy in its name would excite me, and fill me with a certain sense of pride for recognizing a subtle nod back to the real-life creatures they were based on. Pokémon does not hide the fact that it frequently borrows designs from Mother Nature, in fact the franchise itself had its origins in bug collecting. But looking over the various generations of Pokémon, I’ve found it egregious that Six Generations in and some animals who obviously would make great Pokémon have not the honor. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Gen VI, but until then, I’ve constructed a list of three animals I think deserve a Pokémon the next generation.

  1. The Bombardier Beetle

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It is a travesty that after six generations that there is not a bombardier beetle Pokémon. Never has there been a creature more fit for the Pokémon World than a beetle than shoots burning chemical compounds out its butt. Descriptions of this insect sound remarkably similar to those found in some PokéDex entries, for example, the National Center for Science Education writes, “This beetle defends itself by shooting boiling-hot fluids out its rear end at its attackers.”

Side note: In skimming the surface of bombardier research, I actually uncovered a controversy I was not previously aware of dealing with creationist and fans of intelligent design pointing toward the existence of the bombardier beetle as another example of irreducible complexity. Here’s a link to the article that debunks the claim pretty extensively. I encourage everyone to check it out.

The chemistry behind how the bombardier beetle produces its blast is fascinating to the say the least. Each beetle contains two reservoirs storing hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinone, which at combined in a chemical reaction that can produce heat close to the boiling point of water and the gas produced in this reaction projects the liquid forward at the target, often being fatal to fellow insects an leaving larger creatures, such as overly curious entomologist, with a nasty scald.

Out of all the animals on this list, this is the one I’m most hopeful will finally receive its due homage. The Bug-Types are in need of a strong species that can hold its own in competitive play, and with the right design and move set, a bombardier beetle Pokémon could prove to be a major competitive powerhouse.

  1. The Dolphin (Pink River Dolphin)

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How is it possible that six generations into the franchise it has never crossed anyone’s mind to have a dolphin inspired Pokémon? Seriously Game Freak, we have a whale Pokémon, a shark Pokémon, a sea turtle Pokémon, plethora of fish Pokémon, Pokémon based on extinct marine creatures, we even have a manta ray Pokémon, yet no cetaceans except for Wailmer and Wailord.

An obvious candidate for design is the well-known bottlenose dolphin, they’re the ones that are usually jumping through hoops and giving rides to tourists. However, as loveable as these creatures are to the public masses, my favor falls a lesser known species that sadly doesn’t get enough attention – the Amazon River Dolphin, also known as the Pink River Dolphin.

Unlike their extroverted bottlenose cousins, Pink River Dolphins tend to be solitary creatures, roaming the Amazon basin alone only to occasionally group together in small pods. They have a very diverse diet, feeding on fish, crabs, and even turtles. However, as is the case with most creatures of the water these days, they are under threat due to habitat loss, pollution, and fishing nets. While there isn’t enough data for an official label, these creatures are becoming increasingly rare, and could very well disappear in the near future. (For more information, please visit the World Wildlife Fund’s page on the Pink River Dolphin)

I personally believe that aside from the obvious ethical issues with Pokémon battling, the overall message in Pokémon games is to bond with and understand these marvelous creatures, and in a way they stand as analogues to the fauna of our own world. It may just be wishful thinking on my part but I tend to believe that games can influence how we think and behave in real life, and perhaps the simple inclusion of these animals may raise awareness and garner the attention it deserves, so that future generations are not deprived of its magnificence and beauty.

  1. Gold Lion Tamarin

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Once again I choose yet another animal under threat. What can I say? I’m a conservationist at heart.

This endangered New World Monkey is currently under siege by deforestation, with approximately 3,200 individuals left in the wild. I’m typically not the type of conservationist to equate aesthetic appeal to ecological value, but the Golden Lion Tamarin is my self-admitted “guilty pleasure” in this regard. I mean, just look at it and tell me you wouldn’t want one as a pet if it were legal and didn’t have various ethical questions surrounding such ownership.

Now, I’ve been hearing rumors that the new region could be based on Brazil. If that is the case, then the inclusion of a Golden Lion Tamarin is almost guarantee, since they are not only native to the country’s rainforests, but have become somewhat of a national icon, it’s even on their money.

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There is nothing that would make me happier than seeing on the cover of Sun Version a glimmering Golden Lion Tamarin-based legendary, its glowing mane shining like the sun of its game’s namesake.

Those are my picks for animals that deserve their own Pokémon doppelgängers. List yours in the comments and don’t forget to share and subscribe!