Real Animals that should be Pokémon – Travel Edition!

Preliminary note: Thanks to a great illustrated encyclopaedia of animals (well, vertebrates) I found at my parents’ house, I’ve found hella more potential Pokémon and the only limiting factor now is finding the time to research and write about them. Anyway the more I put out, the more likely it is that I’ll be able to smugly pat myself on the back when mid-October rolls around and something I’ve written about was actually a Pokémon hit!

If you read this blog for the proper science and don’t care for Pokeymans then please accept my apologies and I’m sure Becky (and a guest post we’ve got lined up) will see you through this difficult time.


I am nothing if not a pragmatic trainer of Pokémon. I understand the importance of getting around Japan France Kalos when considering which real-life species should be put through the Poké-converter. As well as the usual need to Surf, Dig and Fly across the region, from October 12th we will have the ability to actually ride our captive friends, which is frankly awesome. To celebrate this, here’s a special Transport Edition for “Real animals that could (and should!) be Pokémon”.


Irrawaddy Dolphin

Scientific name: Orcaella brevirostris — Poké-name suggestion: Delforca
Transport mode: Surf

Irrawaddy dolphinWhy hasn’t the much loved dolphin been honoured with a Pokémon yet? I’d be surprised if one cetacean or another didn’t make it into the Pokémon X and Y as a rare surfable. I think the beady eyes, snub nose and knowing smile of the Irrawaddy dolphin would make it a great Pokémon.

The domed forehead contains an internal organ called the melon. All dolphins have a melon which is made of fatty tissue necessary for echolocation. High frequency clicking soundwaves are generated near the blowhole which are then focussed and directed by the melon so they travel straight forward relative to the dolphin. The incoming transmissions are received by the lower jaw and directed to the brain. From this, the dolphin can figure out how close it is to bumping into a rock or snatching up some tasty fish.

The Indian government has recently stated that because whales and dolphins are so intelligent they should be regarded as “non-human persons” and not kept in captivity for performance purposes. But are there ethical qualms about riding a non-human person for personal gain? Not in the Pokémon world – let’s do it!



Poké-name suggestion: Scincus — Scientific name: Scincus Scincus
Transport mode: Dig

This is the sandfish. I don’t want to blow your mind or anything, but it’s not actually a fish. Instead it’s a skink, related to the more famous blue-tongued variety. It received the unusual name from its ability to move through sand as fluidly as if it were swimming. The temperature of desert sand even a few centimetres below the baking surface stays cool throughout the day, so the burrowing is a cooling mechanism as well as an escape from predators.

Rather than using its legs for burrowing, the sandfish dives in headfirst then tucks its limbs down by its side and uses its thick core muscles to undulate through the sand. Figuring out just how the sandfish skink does this so efficiently is paving the way for potential new sand-swimming robots which could be used in landmine detection or earthquake studies or, if we all wish really hard, mechanical landsharks.

This affinity for underground escapades makes Scincus the perfect Pokémon to Dig you back to safety if you venture too far into a dungeon and aren’t entirely coping. Plus it has the potential for amazing evolutions – perhaps a Fire/Ground Komodo dragon?



Scientific name: Terathopius ecaudatus — Poké-name suggestion: Rapteur
Transport mode: Fly

After picking up HM02 Fly, I tend to get impatient about choosing a Pokémon to use it on and end up resorting to the moderately boring normal-flying sets which are usually one of the first Pokémon you can catch. Waiting it out can give some really great fliers though, and here’s one possibility for future games.

The bateleur sounds to me like some sort of exotic weapon but is actually French for “street performer” because of the way it rocks its wings side to side in flight like a tightrope walker trying to maintain balance. Unsteady as it may first look, flying is definitely not a concern for this eagle. It can stay on the wing for eight hours at the time hunting or scavenging for food – shrews, antelope and anything in between are on the menu for the bateleur.

The male’s idea of courtship would land him a restraining order in the civilised world. He finds a bird he likes then divebombs her from above and makes near-deafening wing claps to impress her. Somehow this behaviour is irresistible to the female bateleur and if she’s impressed enough, she’ll mate with him for life.

As birds go, the bateleur is on the larger side but certainly not big enough to actually ride on. However this is not a problem because like Texas, everything’s bigger in the Poké-verse. How else would you be able to ride owls, swallows and sparrows across the Johto, Kanto and Hoenn skies?



Scientific name: Vicugna vicugna — Poké-name suggestion: Prellamo
Transport mode: Ride

Game Freak have so far released one Pokémon which can be ridden – a Grass type called Gogoat. We still don’t know how useful riding will be (compared to a bike) or if there are going to be other rideable Pokémon but I certainly hope so!

If this is the case, I think we’re going to see a lot more ungulate Pokémon. When I found the vicuña I thought it would be a great prevolution for a llama or camel rideable Pokémon.

The vicuña is the national animal of Peru and has many adaptations for thriving in the Peruvian peaks. As well as massive hearts and lungs for maximising oxygen uptake at high-altitudes, the vicuña has a warm luxuriant coat made from hairs which are the among the finest known in the animal kingdom at 12 micrometres thick. This had made it a prime target for poachers and indeed their population went through a bottleneck of just a few thousand animals in the 1960s and 70s. Thankfully, intense conservation efforts successfully brought the vicuña population back up to 350,000 and rising. Yay!

Hope you liked this extra-nerdy issue of animals that could and should be Pokémon. If you have any suggestions, animal or otherwise, get in touch via the comments or tweet me @EmilyCoyte

Em x


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