10 Pokemon Characters Inspired By Real Wild Animals | BBC Wildlife


The Pokémon universe is made up of over 900 different weird and wonderful creatures. These are often based on plants, animals, and even mythological creatures from our own world.

The connection between play and the natural world started early. Pokémon is the brainchild of Satoshi Tajiri, who was an avid insect collector as a child – this is cited as the inspiration for the game’s “Gotta catch ’em all” concept. children can experience the same joy in taxonomy, even in a virtual environment.

Themes of ecological vulnerability, extinction, and climate change were also incorporated into the game, along with a focus on the wonders of the natural world. Here are some of our favorite Pokémon-real animal pairings, plus some fascinating facts about the animals themselves.

10 Pokémon characters inspired by real wild animals

1. Dragalge/Leafy Seadragon (Phycodurus eques)

Pokemon Dragalge

This aquatic character is based on a leafy seadragon (Phycodurus eques), a species of marine fish found off the coast of Australia. Although the resemblance is close, unlike the Pokémon, which spray an incredibly corrosive poison, sea dragons are completely harmless and calm. They instead avoid predation with their elaborate camouflage that allows them to blend in with the floating seaweed.

Leafy Seadragon (Phycodurus eques), Australia. © Alastair Pollock Photography/Getty

2. Drowzee/Malaysian tapir (Tapirus indicus)

pokemon drowzee

With its short, flexible trunk and barrel-shaped body, this Pokémon looks a lot like a tapir. Tapirs are not a single species, but a whole family, currently consisting of four different species from different geographical locations.

Drowzee is perhaps the most similar to the Malay genus (Tapirus indicus) because it also has a body made up of two contrasting colors, but not as vibrant! These large mammals stand around 1m tall and are herbivorous, using their prehensile trunks to pluck fruit and vegetation from branches.

Malayan tapir (Tapirus indicus). ©Getty

3. Krookodile/gharial (Gavialis gangeticus)

Pokémon Krookodile

Although Krookodile is (unsurprisingly) based on crocodilians in general, with its long, narrow snout widening at the end, it may look more like a gharial (Gavialis gangeticus).

Gharials, also known as fish-eating crocodiles, can be found in freshwater river systems in India and Nepal. Although quirky, their long snouts are perfect for catching fish. Instead of stalking prey like other crocodilians, gharials use these specialized snouts to sense vibrations in the water around them and catch passing fish.

Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus), Chambal River, India. © RichLindie/Getty

4. Dewgong/dugong (Dugong dugon)

Pokemon Dewgong

Although it also has attributes similar to a narwhal and a beluga, as the name suggests, this creature is based on the dugong. Dugongs, also known as sea cows, are plump and calm sea mammals that can be found munching on seagrass in the warm coastal waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Despite their name, they have no close connection to cows and are close cousins ​​of manatees. However, the animal and Pokémon character don’t look much alike, as Dewgong prefers lower temperatures instead, living on icebergs in freezing oceans.

Dugong (Dugong dugon), Marsa Alam, Egypt. © Sven Gruse/EyeEm/Getty

5. Mankey/Barbary Macaque (sylvan macaca)

Pokemon Mankey

Although perhaps not so similar in appearance, with its odd round body and pig-like snout, this character nonetheless appears to be based on an ape, and some have suggested a Barbary macaque. It is an agile climber and a social animal, living in large colonies in the treetops. If its tail is anything to go by, however, it looks more like a New World monkey than a macaque.

Like Mankey, New World monkeys have prehensile tails, which differentiates them from their African and Asian relatives. They use these tails as an extra hand, grabbing branches and vines, and even supporting their entire body weight. Mankey also only has three fingers on each hand, unlike all primates who almost all have five… He is difficult to classify!

Barbary macaques. ©Getty

6. Psyduck/platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus)

Pokémon Psyduck

The inspiration of this Pokémon is beyond doubt. After all, what other creature has both hair and a duckbill? Like the platypus, this character is also semi-aquatic, found in freshwater lakes, ponds, and rivers.

Given their uniqueness and strange combination of characteristics, when a platypus specimen was first examined by scientists, they actually suspected it was a fake, a chimera of different animals sewn together. Perhaps unsurprising for an egg-laying mammal with a poisonous beak and spurs, and perhaps why it inspired a wacky psychic creature that so strongly resembles a rubber duck!

7. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Caterpie/Caterpillar (Papilio glaucus)

pokemon caterpie

The animal on which this Pokémon is based is particularly fascinating. This is because it displays vivid examples of mimicry. On its thorax, it has two colored spots that look a lot like eyes. These have evolved to deter any potential predators, who will see them and think they are spying on a snake! He associates this with an organ called the osmeterium that turns around when threatened, resembling a flickering serpentine tongue and completing the illusion.

Eastern tiger swallowtail caterpillar (Papilio glaucus). © JasonOndreicka/Getty

8. Poliwag/translucent tadpoles

Pokemon Poliwag

In appearance and habitat, this Pokemon is indeed close to a translucent tadpole (the tadpoles you’re much more likely to see are pictured below). These transparent tadpoles are not of any particular species of frog or toad, but are actually albino, or lack certain particular skin pigments.

This gives them a slightly ghostly appearance and lets you see their organs at work inside – and that’s what the spiral on Poliwag’s underside actually represents, a neatly coiled intestine! Unfortunately, due to their visibility to predators, these tadpoles often do not survive for long.

Tadpoles. © Pauline Lewis/Getty

9. Wooper/Axolotl (mexican ambystoma)

Pokemon Wooper

Wooper is also inspired by a larval-looking aquatic animal, the axolotl. However, unlike tadpoles, axolotls never undergo metamorphosis – the process of transformation into a mature adult form. Axolotls are very unusual and instead retain their larval characteristics into adulthood, remaining gilled and fully aquatic.

This contrasts with other salamander species which in most cases lose their gills when they become mature. Unfortunately, these incredible amphibians are becoming extremely rare in the wild, due to fishing, pollution and habitat loss.

The axolotl (mexican ambystoma) is an endangered aquatic salamander in its natural habitat, Lake Xochimilco in Mexico City. The species is however widely used in scientific research all over the world. © aureapterus/Getty

10. Chromodoris of Shellos/Loch (Chromodoris Lochi)

Pokemon Shellos

The inspiration for this particularly outlandish-looking Pokémon is an equally bizarre animal – a brightly colored and patterned sea slug called Loch chromodoris (Chromodoris Lochi).

Sea slugs, or nudibranchs, are a fascinating collection of animals, coming in an extraordinary variety of colors and shapes, from bright pink with a mop of taste buds (Okenia rosacea) to bright orange with black spots (Thecacera pacifica). In a fun twist, the latter species is sometimes referred to as the Pikachu sea slug due to its resemblance to the beloved Pokemon!

Loch Chromodoris (Chromodoris Lochi) sea slug, North Sulawesi, Indonesia. © hansgertbroeder/Getty


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