With a lot of Pokémon, it’s pretty easy to see where their inspiration comes from. There are real-world equivalents that are easily identifiable. Butterfree is a butterfly, Mareep is a sheep, the list goes on like that for hundreds of Pokémon. However, there are some weird Pokémon you might not have realized are based on real animals. Some of them are cute, some are not, but all of them are really cool. Learning about these animals gives us a bigger respect for nature, and makes us wonder: what Pokémon will they come up with next?
Let’s start with a gen one favorite! Some creatures are just too weird to seem like they could be real. A lot of people understandably associate Sandshrew with an armadillo, but its evolution is also based on a real animal. A pangolin! “What the heck is a pangolin?” you might be asking. Well, a pangolin is an African anteater and the only mammal that grows scales. These guys have such long claws on their front paws (perfect for digging up tasty bugs) that they have to shuffle around on their back legs. Their armor is so thick that when they curl up into a ball, not even a lion can get through it. They just curl up and wait for the lions to get bored, and once they are gone, a pangolin just picks itself up and carries on its way.
Krookodile has a really iconic look. From its sharp sunglass like eye markings to its long thin snout. You might think Nintendo exaggerated the features of an alligator to make it look more punk, but you’d be wrong! Krookodile is modeled after a gharial! These strange looking creatures are a species of crocodile that hails from India. Their long snouts are used for fishing and of all crocodiles they are by far the most aquatic. Adult gharials can hardly even walk on land and prefer to spend most of their time basking just out of the water or swimming. They are sadly critically endangered, and only 250 or so are thought to exist in the wild. Hopefully, this Pokémon won’t soon become a fossil Pokémon with their real counterparts going extinct. But there is hope! Many zoos and conservation programs are successfully breeding gharial, so hopefully one day they can be returned to their natural habitats and flourish once more.
Shellos is a colorful little Pokémon that resembles a slug. Well, they do more than resemble, and it’s not just a slug. The blue Shellos variant is based on a particular type of sea slug called Chromodoris Lochi. These beautiful sea slugs are also called nudibranch, and there are more than 3000 identified species! With incredible differences in color, shape, and size, we hope that we see more variations of Shellos as we explore more of the Pokémon world!
We have to admit, Glorbyss looks like an entirely made up creature. But you will be surprised to learn it is actually based on a very real, somewhat unsettling looking fish. The Long-Nosed Chimera is a deep sea fish that rarely ever surfaces. So don’t expect to see one next time you’re at the beach (thankfully)! The cute and girly look of Glorbyss doesn’t translate to its real-life counterpart. This thing is almost nightmare fuel.
A furry crab sounds entirely fictional, and yet here is Crabominable, mirroring real life. See, that fuzzy crab from Alola actually exists, and its common name is the “Yeti Crab”– which we think is perfectly fitting to this strange and interesting creature. The “fur” on its arms isn’t fur at all but silky blonde setae, also known as bristles. This strange crab lives on the Arctic shelf on hydrothermal vents about 7,000 feet below sea level. Which is a really long way down. The coolest part? We’ve known about this crab for less than 15 years! Game Freak saw their chance to make a newly discovered animal into a really cool Pokémon, and they took it.
The adorable little black and pink ball that is Pyukumuku quickly became a fan favorite. It looked sort of like a sea bunny, but its real-life inspiration isn’t quite so cute. Pyukumuku is based on the Stichopus chloronotus sea cucumber. These wiggly sea creatures spend their time cleaning up junk off the sea floor. They filter water and change nutrients. While the real version isn’t nearly as cute as the Pokémon, it’s neat to see it’s inspiration out in the real world.
Stunfisk is a weird looking Pokémon, but its real-world version is even more bizarre. Actually, we might even call it scary. The fish this flatfish is named after is the Stargazer. They are named because their eyes are on top of their body. They bury themselves in the sand with just their eyes and mouths exposed and then ambush prey as it swims over their heads. These creepy fish are very effective hunters and very well suited to their predatory lifestyles.
The evolution of Wimpod was a giant change from the easily spooked off thing. The giant muscular brute seems so far removed from anything real, and yet nature again surprises. Golisopod is based on the Giant Isopod. These things are like giant undersea pill bugs. They are related to shrimp and crustaceans but are an example of how things in the deep ocean sometimes get giant. You don’t need to worry about seeing these giant creepy critters around though. They don’t usually come up to the surface pretty much ever.
This one is a bit better known but might have slipped under the radar. Drowsy is actually based on a real animal! The Malayan Tapir! These creatures in Japanese mythology were thought to eat people’s nightmares. The mythological association is why the folks at Nintendo chose to make Drowsy a Psychic type. Actual tapir thankfully doesn’t have any real psychic powers, regardless of what Pokémon and mythology tell you. Mostly they are just cute elephant faced pachyderms.
So, we heard you like Mudkips. Well, this cute little Water starter has roots in reality. The Mudkip is based on the Axolotl, also known as the Mexican Walking Fish. Unlike most newts, the Axolotl never goes through a metamorphosis, which allows them to shed their gills and walk on land. Instead, they keep their feathery little gills and remain aquatic. It’s those feathery gills that make them so cute and make them such a great Pokémon inspiration. They come in a couple colors, but our favorites are pink.