Over 900 unique and wonderful creatures inhabit the Pokémon world. These frequently take inspiration from real-world flora, fauna, and even mythical creatures.
The game’s early development was rooted in its relationship to the outdoors. The “gotta catch ’em all” premise of Pokémon is said to have been inspired by the fact that the game’s creator, Satoshi Tajiri, was a passionate insect collector as a kid. He cared deeply that young people, even in a digital setting, share his enthusiasm for taxonomy.
The beauty of nature is emphasized, and themes of ecological fragility, extinction, and climate change are interwoven throughout the game. We’ve compiled some of our favourite Pokémon with their corresponding real-world animals, as well as interesting information about these creatures.
Phycodurus eques (dragged/leafy seadragon)
This fishy fellow takes after the leafy seadragon (Phycodurus eques), a native to the waters off Australia’s coast. Despite the superficial similarities, sea dragons are completely harmless and mellow, while Pokémon spray is an impressively corrosive poison. Instead, they are safe from predators because of their complex camouflage, which allows them to blend in with drifting seaweed.
Malay tapir (Tapirus indicus) or drowse.
This Pokémon looks much like a tapir, with its short, pliable trunk and round, barrel-shaped body. The tapir family consists of four recognized species found in varying habitats around the world.
Drowzee resembles the Malayan tapir the most (Tapirus indicus), to which it is most closely related, thanks to its bicolour coat. These giant herbivores reach heights of about 1 meter and use their prehensile trunks to strip fruit and vegetation from trees.
The gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) or crocodile.
With its long, narrow snout that widens at the tip, Krookodile most resembles a gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) among all the crocodilians on which it is based.
Freshwater river systems in India and Nepal are home to gharials, also known as fish-eating crocodiles. Their long snout may look bizarre, but it serves them well when fishing. Gharials use their sensitive snouts to detect vibrations in the water and catch fish as they swim by, rather than stalking their prey like other crocodilians.
The dugong (Dugong dugon).
As its name suggests, this beast takes inspiration from the dugong, though it also shares some characteristics with narwhals and beluga whales. In the warm coastal waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, you can find dugongs, also known as sea cows, chowing down on seagrass to put on weight.
Despite the name, these animals are more closely related to manatees than they are to cows. However, Dewgong and the Pokémon character share little in common, as the real-world animal prefers cooler climates and makes its home on icebergs in the icy depths of the ocean.
Macaca sylvanus, or the Mankey/Barbary macaque
Some have suggested that this character is based on a Barbary macaque, a type of monkey with a round body and a pig’s snout like this one. It lives in large colonies high in the trees and is a skilled climber. However, if its tail is any indication, it is more closely related to a New World mankey than a macaque.
New World mankeys, including Mankey, are distinguished from their African and Asian ancestors by their prehensile tails. They can even use their tails to support their entire body weight while clinging to vines and other perching objects. However, unlike most primates, who typically have five fingers on each hand, Mankey only has three. He defies easy categorization.
Ornithorhynchus anatinus (commonly known as the psyduck)
There’s no denying where this Pokémon got its ideas from. What other animal, after all, has hair and a bill similar to a duck’s? Similar to the platypus, this character can be found in freshwater environments such as lakes, ponds, and rivers.
Given their one-of-a-kind qualities and odd mix of traits, scientists initially thought platypus specimens were phoney chimaeras made by splicing together parts of other animals. Considering it’s an egg-laying mammal with a bill and toxic spurs, this is perhaps not surprising. It may also explain why it served as inspiration for a bizarre psychic creature that looks a lot like a rubber duck.
The Eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) or “caterpie” caterpillar.
The inspiration for this Pokémon is a fascinating animal. This is because it exhibits remarkable mimicry. It has two coloured spots on its thorax that are strikingly similar to the eyes. These have adapted over time to ward off predators by fooling them into thinking they’re looking at a snake. The osmeterium, an organ that flips out when the animal senses danger, gives the impression of a writhing serpentine tongue.
Politics, or see-through tadpoles
This Pokémon resembles a translucent tadpole in appearance and habitat (the more common tadpoles are shown below). These transparent tadpoles aren’t a rare subspecies of frog or toad; rather, they’re albinos or lack certain skin pigments that give them their typical colouration.
This makes them appear ghostly and reveals their working organs on the inside; the spiral on the underside of a Poliwag is meant to represent the animal’s neatly coiled intestine. These tadpoles are easy prey for larger animals, so they don’t tend to live very long.
Ambystoma mexicanum, the whooper/axolotl
Axolotls, an aquatic mammal that resembles a larva, are another source of inspiration for Wooper. While tadpoles transform into fully grown adults through a process called metamorphosis, axolotls never do. Axolotls are truly unique, as they continue to look like larvae even as adults, keeping their gills and living entirely in water.
In contrast, gills are typically shed by adulthood in most other salamander species. Sadly, due to fishing, pollution, and the loss of their natural habitat, these incredible amphibians are becoming increasingly rare in the wild.
Threatened with extinction in Lake Xochimilco in Mexico City is the axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum), a species of aquatic salamander. However, the species is widely used in laboratories around the world.
The Chromodoris lochi (Shellos/Loch’s)
The brightly coloured and patterned sea slug known as Loch’s Chromodoris (Chromodoris mochi) served as inspiration for this peculiar Pokémon.
Nudibranchs, or sea slugs, are a fascinating group of animals due to the wide range of colours and shapes they come in. Some species, like the bright pink Okenia rosacea, have a head full of papillae, while others, like the bright orange Thecacera Pacifica, are spotted with black. This last group of creatures looks so much like the popular Pokémon Pikachu that they’ve earned the nickname “Pikachu sea slug.”