For five glorious generations of Pokémon games, Dragon-types reigned supreme. With their only weakness being Ice and other Dragons, these creatures were unmatched in competitive play as well as in nature. They were the apex predators, sitting comfortably atop the trophic pyramid without a fear in the world.
That is until Generation Six rolled along.
Suddenly the game changed, as life is a constant struggle for survival, and a new elemental-type was introduced – Fairy, and in one fell swoop the hunter become the hunted. No longer could these Dragons loaf around lazily on top of the food chain, they had competition. While other Dragons crumbled and humbly abdicated the throne, one took matters into its own hands.
An isolated population of particularly rotund and bulky Dragons evolved in the region of Kalos. Heavily populated by the notorious Fairy-Types, selective pressures favored certain traits more than others, and through the power of evolution the strange gooey Dragonite rip-off we see today came into existence. At first glance one would assume that it’s the farthest thing from a Dragon, the first type that comes to mind is Poison with its purple skin and green dots all covered in a slimy mucus coat. And that, my friends, is the point.
In biology, we call this phenomenon mimicry – when two or more organisms share a superficial resemblance but are not taxonomically related1. This adaptation is often used by one species to trick its predators into believing it is another, more harmful and potentially dangerous species. Non-venomous milk snakes, for example, mimic the coral snake, a venomous species, in order to deter predators. This resemblance is achieved through mimicry of its color pattern – red touch yellow bad for a fellow (coral snake), red touch black you’re alright jack (milk snake). Although, most predators don’t have the advantage of a cute rhyme to remind them which is which and opt to stay far away from the both of them.
This type of mimicry, when a harmless species adopts the color patterns and warning signals of another, is called Batesian mimicry, named after Henry W. Bates, an English naturalist who first discovered this phenomenon in Brazilian forest butterflies of two distinct species2.
For our pseudo-legendary friend, this adaptation is vital to its survival. The region of Kalos is rife with Fairy-Types, all deadly to Dragons such as Goodra and its pre-evolutions. Its struggles become more challenging considering that Fairies have an immunity of Dragon-Type moves, which leaves most Dragons defenseless as their biggest strength is often their offensive game.
Unable to fight off the Fairies, most Dragons fall victim to their weakness and die off, but one line managed to survive.
Goodra is by far the most bulky of the Dragons, which is no coincidence. A glass cannon such as Haxorus with all its energy invested in Attack would prove useless and ultimately fatal when up against a foe who is immune to such moves. In short, Defense and Special Defense would be selected over a strong offense (though Goodra does maintain a decent offense for other Types). A similar selection would occur in regards to its coloration, as purple and green are associated with Poison-Types, and would increase the fitness of those individuals that had the trait. By mimicking this Fairy weakness, predators would be sure to stay clear of Goodra, thus allowing it to survive in a Fairy-Dominant region such as Kalos.