• Bella Terhune

Fossil Pokémon and Their Origins

Hello again, Pokémon fans! Today I will be talking about fossil Pokémon and the ancient animals that inspired them. Fossil Pokémon are Pokémon that are designed after prehistoric creatures and must be restored from fossils. They are cool Pokémon, but maybe you do not know what animals, dinosaurs or otherwise, these Pokémon are based on. Sometimes the connection is obvious, and sometimes it’s less so. I will present the fossil Pokémon of every generation and then tell you a bit about the animals that inspired their designs. I hope this article teaches you something new about fossil Pokémon or prehistoric creatures! Let’s go!


Omanyte and Omastar


Omanyte and Omastar are based on ammonites, ancient nautilus-looking creatures that lived from the Devonian Period until the K-T extinction at the end of the Cretaceous Period, about 420-65 million years ago. They look like nautiluses with their distinctive swirling shells and tentacled bodies coming out of them, but ammonites are more closely related to octopuses and squid than nautiluses. Ammonites had many chambers inside their shells, and the outside of their shells had a variety of patterns depending on the species. Medieval people thought ammonites were fossilized snakes, called them snakestones and carved snake heads onto the fossils.


Kabuto and Kabutops


Kabuto is based on horseshoe crabs with its small eyes and domed top shell. Horseshoe crabs, having been around for nearly 250 million years, are quite ancient. They are not crabs but arthropods, more closely related to spiders than crabs. Kabutops is more complicated. It’s body looks somewhat like eurypterids, ancient sea dwelling creatures that lived from the Devonian Period 467 mya until the end of the Permian Period 250 mya. Like Kabutops, they had long, tapering bodies with large, clawed forelimbs for grabbing prey. It’s wide head with the back-pointing spines looks like a trilobite’s. Trilobites existed for 300 million years until the end Permian extinction and are closely related to horseshoe crabs.


Aerodactyl


Aerodactyl is based on the pterosaurs of the Mesozoic Era. Pterosaurs, commonly miscalled dinosaurs, were flying reptiles that first appeared in the Triassic Period around 228 mya and died out along with most of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous during the K-T extinction. Aerodactyl has the wing membrane supported by the elongated fourth finger and the long, narrow head of pterosaurs. It shares more features with early pterosaurs than later ones: a toothed jaw, no head crest and a long tail with a rudder-like structure on the end.


Lileep and Cradily


Writing this article taught me something new, too: Lileep and Cradily are not based on plants but living marine animals, called crinoids, with ancient origins over 500 million years ago! In my defense, they look a lot like plants. The crinoids that Lileep and Cradily are designed after have many feathery stalks radiating from its center and used to gather food as well as a long stem and a holdfast, which looks and acts like a root system in plants. They were much more diverse in the past, but a few hundred species are still around today. Cradily looks similar but with its center turned into a head and its holdfast turned into a stubby body and legs.


Anorith and Armaldo


Anorith and Armaldo seem to be based on a particular Cambrian arthropod called Anomalocaris. Anomalocaris is a strange-looking animal: it looks kind of like a shrimp with big eyes; two long, limb-like structures near its mouth; frills coming out of both sides of its body and big eyes, likely the most complex of its time. Anomalocaris is even thought to be one of the earliest apex predators in its undersea ecosystem. Armaldo takes design aspects from Anomalocaris and adds some of its own, but Anorith looks almost exactly like it, except much cuter.



Cranidos and Rampardos


Cranidos and Rampardos are designed after the pachycephalosaurs of the Cretaceous period, 144-66 mya. Pachycephalosaurs had lean bodies, but they are famous for their extremely thick skulls, likely used for headbutting would-be predators for protection or other pachycephalosaurs for rivalry or mating. Despite their theropod-like body shapes and dangerous skulls, these dinosaurs were herbivores in the ornithischian group of dinosaurs. Many had extra spikes surrounding their thick heads, similar to Rampardos, pictured above.


Shieldon and Bastiodon


Shieldon and Bastiodon are based on Cretaceous ceratopsians, specifically the later ones with large stocky bodies, a head frill protecting their necks and those famous face and/or frill horns. Early ceratopsians such as Psittacosaurus had small, lean bodies with small, round heads and tail bristles; they don’t look much like their latter brethren. Ceratopsians ate plants with their parrot-like beaks, and they used their horns to defend themselves against predators. Bastiodon, seen above, has a much more vertical and square-shaped head than actual horned ceratopsians, whose long heads could be up to ten feet long. Bastiodon’s horns also point sideways while ceratopsians’ horns point forward to stab threatening predators.


Tirtouga and Carracosta


Tirtouga and Carracosta draw inspiration from ancient sea turtles, specifically Archelon. Archelon is the largest turtle ever discovered at nearly fifteen feet long and over two tons. It is not as closely related to modern sea turtles as scientists once thought. Archelon lived in what is now the central United States, once covered by a shallow sea. Both Carracosta and Archelon have a thick beak and strong jaws to eat hard boned and shelled marine prey. Unlike Carracosta with its hard shell, Archelon had a soft shell similar to that of a leatherback sea turtle, another turtle from which Tirtouga and Carracosta may have taken inspiration.


Archen and Archeops


Archen and Archeops, probably my favorite fossil Pokémon, are based on small, feathered dinosaurs such as Archaeopteryx, the namesake of these two Pokémon. Archaeopteryx, one of the first birds, lived in the Jurassic Period 150 mya. It had more advanced feathers than the downy feathers that other dinosaurs such as T-rex likely had, but it could not fly, only glide somewhat. Archaeopteryx and Archeops have many features not seen in modern birds, such as a toothed jaw, clawed hands, and a skeletal tail. Dinosaurs like Archaeopteryx were the only ones to survive the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous Period, and they went on to evolve into modern birds.



Tyrunt and Tyrantrum


Tyrunt and Tyrantrum are no doubt based on one of the most famous dinosaurs: Tyrannosaurus rex. Tyrannosaurs,the group to which T. rex belongs, evolved in the late Jurassic and thrived throughout the Cretaceous Period. Tyrannosaurus was a ferocious carnivore with teeth that could grow up to a foot long. Some scientists believe that tyrannosaurs were covered in downy feathers, a theory alluded to in one of Tyrantrum’s Pokédex entries. There have been many debates over whether T. rex was a hunter or a scavenger partially because people struggle to reconcile the monstrous, majestic T. rex and with a life of scavenging. The general conclusion is that Tyrannosaurus did a mix of both.


Amaura and Aurorus


Amaura and Aurorus are based on the Jurassic and Cretaceous sauropods, specifically Amargasaurus. Amargasaurus lived in Cretaceous Argentina, home to many of the largest sauropods to have ever lived. All sauropods had small heads, long necks and long tails, but Amargasaurus is special because it has two sets of backwards facing spines running down its neck. Scientists have long believed that these spines supported parallel neck sails, but that theory has recently been challenged; some believe that these spines supported a neck hump rather than a sail, a debate occurring with other dinosaurs with curious vertebral spines. Aurorus’ sail is inspired by both Amargasaurus’ possible sail and the aurora borealis/australis.


Dracozolt, Arctozolt, Dracovish and Arctovish


These four are a funny case: they are based not on specific ancient species or even groups but the idea of mismatched and incorrect fossil restorations. Scientists in the past often put together fossils from different species and put together fossils from the same species incorrectly because they knew so little about these creatures. Some people even did these things on purpose to make fake evidence for fantastical creatures such as mermaids. Famous examples include paleontologist E.D. Cope’s original Elasmosaurus restoration with the head placed on the tail, and the American Museum of Natural History Museum’s Apatosaurus that had the head of a Camarasaurus for a long time. These half and half fossil Pokémon are amusing representations of these paleontological errors.


There you have it: all the fossil Pokémon and the ancient animals that inspired them! I hope that you found this article interesting and that you learned something new about Pokémon and prehistoric creatures today. I learned a lot while doing research for this article, and I’ve always loved reading about dinosaurs and other prehistoric life. I will be back in a few weeks with another Pokémon article for you all!