Real-life Species that Should be Pokémon – Part 2

Hey! In the last post I mentioned three critters which I’d have loved to see adapted into the Pokémon universe in the upcoming Pokémon X & Y games. However three really wasn’t enough so I’ve got another batch lined up and ready to go.

Leaf Insect

Latin name: Phasmatodea order (including stick-insects), Phyllidae family — Poké-name suggestion: Sudoleafo

I want one so badly! [Leaf insect, Phylliidae order]
I want one so badly! Look at the mimicry of the central midrib line and smaller leaf veins, and how the legs look like chewed up bits of leaf.
Sudowoodo is a rock-type Pokémon that pretending to be a grass-type and featured heavily in the Gold/Silver games (which incidentally I think are the best of them all). It made me accidentally learn about the prefix pseudo- and also how not to spell it. I don’t think rocks can pretend to be foliage in this universe, but the bugs certainly can, and staggeringly well.

The leaf insect is the more flamboyant cousin of the stick insect and many of them are parthenogenic, meaning females can produce offspring without a mate if none can be found. Some species push the parenting of their offspring onto other species while they get on with the tricky business of eating and looking like leaves. Extatosoma tiaratum tricks ants into guarding their eggs by coating them in sticky food treats. The eggs are carried into the ants’ nest, where the outer layer is chewed off and the rest is discarded.

Baby leaf insect pretending to be an ant. [E. tiaratum nymph]
Baby leaf insect pretending to be an ant. [E. tiaratum nymph]

Once hatched, the baby leaf insects even look and smell like ants so they don’t get swarmed and destroyed as they make their way out into the world.

Thorny Devil and Horned Lizard

Latin name: Phrynosoma (various) and Moloch horridus — Poké-name suggestion: Thorgon / Lizthor

Thorny devil is thorny. [Moloch horridus]
Thorny devil is thorny. [Moloch horridus]
Rather than brainwashing ants as part of their breeding cycle, these spiky reptiles prefer to eat them by the thousands every day.

The thorny devil [from Australia] and horned lizard [from North America] are not as closely related as they look – their spiny defenses are good examples of convergent evolution. Their tough skin may keep the ants from biting and stinging, but it’s not always enough to stop for a hungry desert predator, so they each have evolved other strategies to stay alive.

The horned lizard’s trick is probably the better known because of its unusual and repulsive nature; it will actually squirt blood from their eyes in self defense! This technique has the great name “autohaemorrhaging”, and I’m sure you want to see a video, so here you go.

Horned lizard is horned (keratin over bone) [Phrynosoma species]
Horned lizard is horned (horn = keratin over bone) [Phrynosoma species]
The thorny devil is not aggressive and relies on deception. The rather prominent bump you can see on the top of its neck is actually a false head. If threatened, it can dip down its real head so the bump appears where the real head would normally be. Sounds unlikely but apparently the predator will really go for the fake head instead!

If these guys were to venture into the Poke-world, I’d choose them as either Fire / Ground or a Ground/Poison types, and if the bloody eye trick could be turned into a new Pokémon move, so much the better!

T4 Bacteriophage

Latin name: Virusesarentallowed latinnames — Poké-name suggestion: Porygon V (the V is for Virus)

This is an actual electron microscope image of a model of the T4 bacteriophage virus, made out of
This is an actual electron microscope image of a model of the T4 bacteriophage virus, made out of “diamond-like carbon”.

Being a vertebrate and a mammal, I have a huge bias towards the macroscopic scale. I know that most humans are the same, and viruses aren’t even really alive (the “species” in the title doesn’t strictly apply here) so I can’t completely blame Game Freak for excluding bacteria and viruses from the Pokémon collection thus far. But given that their repertoire has included magnets, a living nose (ohgodwhy) and ice-cream, it’s a little disappointing!

Meet T4, a virus which infects bacteria. The virus cannot replicate on its own, so it injects its genetic information directly into the victim bacterium and forces it to do all the hard work of copying new viruses. It doesn’t take long before the bacterium is so full of new viruses, it bursts open and new viruses begin the process all over again. This is called the lytic cycle.

But this isn’t always the case. Sometimes the phage takes a long-term stealth approach instead, fusing its DNA with that of the bacterium, where it will lie dormant for many generations. Each time the bacterium replicates, the viruses’ DNA is copied too and passes into each new cell. The bacteria are far from safe because the lytic cycle can start up again at any point.

There’s plenty more awesome stuff in nature which wouldn’t look out of place in the Pokémon universe and I’ve had some good suggestions already for a potential part 3, but I’m certainly still open to ideas!

Em x


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