Pokémon Marine Biology: From Seashore to Abyss

By lyd and TMan87. Released: 2019/03/02.
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Art by Cretacerus

Art by Cretacerus.

Welcome to this new entry in the Pokémon Biology series! I am TMan87, and together with fellow biologist Lyd, whose expertise in this field is almost unmatched, we are about to shed some light on this daunting and foreign world. Welcome to Marine Pokébiology!

The sea is a biome unlike any other: most lifeforms there are granted three-dimensional movement options, which opens up a lot of hunting and hiding strategies. But even then, diving into this realm will allow you to witness a plethora of adaptational skills and tactics you'd never see twice in two different species! The sea is an unforgiving world, and the creatures that live within can be equally ruthless...




Tman87: Mareanie looks goofy and harmless, but don't let that fool you: it's not a predator for nothing. Mareanie haunts Alola's coasts, trying to find its favorite meal: Corsola. Nobody really knows why it's constantly looking for Corsola's coral to eat (with or without Corsola at the other end), but it may be because the hard materials like calcium are a great asset to harden Mareanie's (and later Toxapex's) shell. Its mobility isn't the best though, due to it having only one "foot" to speak of, so it usually avoids deeper waters, where predators are more ferocious and likely fully evolved, a crew against which a poor Mareanie would stand no chance.

Mareanie also has a predator of its own though: Bruxish. Its tough exterior and poisonous spikes are no match for a Bruxish's stellar jaw power, and Bruxish are often found near coasts rather than in deeper waters for this exact reason. The idea that Bruxish gained the Psychic typing through adaptational evolution to gain an even better edge over Mareanie and Toxapex is currently highly debated. Some argue that all it needs is its dentition and that that's already doing a great job as is, while others point out that using Psychic is a great tool to catch Mareanie that would be out of the water, thus unreachable for a purely Water-based Pokémon like Bruxish.

But let's not stray too far from Mareanie. Its gloomy expression and slow movement are hiding one of the most cruel predatory methods of the animal reign. This Pokémon usually crawls around and feeds on Corsola horns that have detached, but when it spots potential prey, it displays incredibly aggressive behavior for its size. First, it lunges forward, head first, hoping to hit the opposing Pokémon with its main poisonous sting. If that's a success, then the game is won for Mareanie: it just has to wait for the poison to act, then finish its prey off with its 10 spiny tentacles. Once the poor soon-to-be-meal is done for, Mareanie can eat it without a care. If Mareanie didn't manage to inject its poison, it will either try to run away or retry, depending on a variety of factors like the opposing Pokémon's size and weight, if it was merely a whiff or if it really did bounce off an armor that's tougher than expected, and probably many more factors that are still unknown to this day. However, since Mareanie has poor mobility, it will rarely successfully run away from a Pokémon it angered, though the poisonous spines usually are enough of a deterrent for most Pokémon.

Finally, Mareanie shares an ability with the Staryu evolution line: the ability to regenerate its body. While not as global as Staryu, since it can't regenerate if its head was damaged, Mareanie can regrow any limbs (mostly tentacles) it lost overnight, which helps it both as an offensive tool, since it can lunge pretty recklessly without having to worry much about its own body, and as a defensive tool since "sacrificing" some of its body to escape isn't that much of a deal for this Pokémon.

Shallow Waters



TMan87: Dragalge seems like a strangely large Pokémon to lurk in shallow waters, given that it's almost 2m tall. However, this Pokémon managed to adapt to its environment and now stealthily hides in the various algae fields found in the sea. While admittedly its pre-evolution Skrelp hunts closer to coasts due to its smaller size, Dragalge still likes shallow waters where it can easily hide in the mix of mud and sand, basically rendering it invisible to any prey.

Dragalge is probably a relative of the Horsea family, as they share their peculiar "vertical" swimming stance, which is really uncommon among water-dwelling Pokémon, as well as the Dragon typing once fully evolved. It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to speculate that they have a common ancestor, though the Dragalge family seems to have evolved towards a more offensive and predatorial approach, whereas the Horsea family is more balanced or focused on defense, given that Seadra's poisonous scales (since they are said to cause "numbness" and sometimes even "fainting") are mostly used for protection, and its incredible mobility is better seen when fleeing from aggressive opponents rather than hurrying towards a prey. However, there is another strong candidate for a place in that family tree: Dhelmise. As surprising as it sounds given the vast morphological difference between the two species, Dragalge and Dhelmise seem to get along rather well, which may indicate a past symbiotic relationship. Besides, Dragalge's algae camouflage suit and Dhelmise's appearance are very reminiscent of each other, suggesting the two entities may have been the same one day. While there isn't much evidence supporting this at the time of this article, it is entirely possible that, thousands of years ago, a specific Dhelmise gave birth to, or maybe changed into, a proto-Dragalge using its seaweed in another fashion than what is currently common. Perhaps it even took control of a passing Seadra or Kingdra, fusing both DNAs together and creating the first Dragalge ever.

Hypotheses aside, Dragalge wouldn't be that fearsome of a predator if all it had was its camouflage ability. However, its most deadly weapon, used to instantly kill prey, is its incredibly potent poisonous breath. This toxin has been reported as strong enough to melt metal, which is particularly impressive and would certainly instantly render any small- to medium-sized Water-type Pokémon lifeless. But then, an enigma emerged: given that Dragalge frequently hunts near coasts, and if its toxin is that powerful, how come most coasts aren't a toxic swamp where bathing would cost you part of your body? The answer lies, once again, in evolutionary adaptation. A toxin that strong wouldn't be of use to Dragalge if it floated around for a long time after it killed its prey: the Pokémon would run the risk of wiping out every living being in the vicinity, therefore removing all potential sources of nutrition and also killing the very algae that allow it to camouflage with such efficiency.

That's why Dragalge's toxins are very powerful but also very quickly neutralized due to an agent within that reacts to seawater a few seconds after it has been expulsed, deactivating the toxin and breaking it down into harmless molecules. This way, Dragalge can still take on a variety of prey and ward off potential predators while keeping collateral damage to a minimum.




TMan87: Clawitzer is a really interesting Pokémon because its hunting method is unheard of in the rest of the Pokémon world. This Pokémon doesn't need blistering speed, razor-like jaws, or poison to catch its prey. All it uses it a little bit of camouflage... and its amazing right pincer (though some Clawitzer are left pincered). It is pretty obvious this Pokémon progressively made its pincer more and more powerful, to the point where it's larger than its actual body!

Clawitzer usually rests on the seabed, often within cavities where it can easily spot potential prey passing by. Whenever this happens, the pincer goes into action. Since it's almost entirely made of muscular tissue, Clawitzer can contract it at blazing speed. This results in the pincer quickly closing, which brutally compresses the water within, creating cavitation. In the cavitation bubble, the temperature reaches several thousand degrees Kelvin, while the pressure generated sends a shockwave around. Needless to say, by then whatever was at the other end of the pincer is at best stunned, allowing Clawitzer to easily finish it off, or outright killed by the cavitation bubble.

In fact, when testing out its power, it appeared the water pressure was strong enough to dismantle steel, which testifies to the terrifying power lying in the pincer. Clawitzer itself isn't affected due to how heavily armored this body part is, likely once again a product of evolution, since damaging itself while preying wouldn't be a very efficient strategy.

Truly, Clawitzer is only defined by its pincer. Fortunately for the Pokémon, it also has other uses. As researched, the pincer includes a small hole at the back. Expelling the water through such a small opening leads to an enormous water flow, allowing Clawitzer to dart around in the water. This is really useful both for quickly evading a predator and closing in on prey, though it'd still have to 'recharge' before firing again with the pincer. As such, it is probably used primarily to flee, though this only happens if Clawitzer is far away from its cavern. Otherwise, it can just retreat within its cavity, keeping itself out of range from larger predators. On the other hand, few smaller Pokémon wouldn't dare challenge a Clawitzer if they don't have the surprise factor going for them due to the sheer power of the pincer, so Clawitzer are usually left alone when they're near their base.

Finally, it isn't uncommon to see Clawitzer partnering up with Finneon and more rarely Lumineon, since the latter can get rid of the remnants of Clawitzer's meals by eating them, thus cleaning the pincer—something Clawitzer can't do on its own.

Deep Waters



Lyd: They may not look like it, but Jellicent are some of the smarter sea-dwelling Pokémon, something you don't quite see with its relatives in Tentacool and Nihilego. Most of Jellicent's systems are fairly undeveloped, but its neural system is one of the most developed out there. For one example, Jellicent usually follow ships and trick the sailors into taking the ship exactly where Jellicent want. They then proceed to sink the ship in order to align it perfectly with the other thousands of ships they have already sunk, creating a fortress of sorts made up of shipwrecks, several of which have been documented in deep waters already. Another thing Jellicent love to do is mimic the human lifestyle in a way, as they can float in air as well, and they often go to cities to observe the human behavior and mimic them underwater. Thus, they mold their own bodies to have human characteristics, and this is part of the explanation of the big difference in the appearance of both genders, as they probably went a bit overboard in their human mimicry. They also love to steal clothing and accessories found in shipwrecks. Male Jellicent love stealing items such as top hats and monocles, whereas female Jellicent steal necklaces, earrings, and wristlets.

Despite their hostility to humans, Jellicent may prove quite important to us in the future. You see, Jellicent is technically biology immortal. They begin their lives as a larvae form sheltered by the egg that protects them until they're ready to break free as a Frillish. After gathering enough power, Frillish will then evolve into Jellicent as per usual but here's the catch: when a Jellicent is submitted to environmental stress, sickness, or severe age, they will revert back to a Frillish, continuing this cycle forever. They are the only instance of a Pokémon known to "de-evolve". This lets them be young and potentially live forever, provided they aren't preyed upon. This method is done through the process of transdifferentiation, which changes the poll of DNA that Jellicent's cells would use, turning them into Frillish cells instead. This process also renews their telomere, which shields their DNA from deterioration, something no other Pokémon can do. Current studies are looking to examine how Jellicent can perform this biology-defying trick, or granting itself perpetual youth, but it will still take quite a while before we can adapt this technique to humans.




TMan87: As we're heading into the abyssal realm, let me warn you: the rules down there are much stricter than in most of the animal realm. Most notably, light is scarce if present at all, turning the food chain upside down: without light, very few plants can survive, which means herbivores don't have much to eat, which means carnivores are on a diet as well. One of such light sources is Lanturn. Now, Lanturn's luminescence is a case of symbiosis, a subject my colleague Lyd is very knowledgeable about. Lanturn hosts several bacteria within its luminescent orbs. Under normal circumstances, when Lanturn's light is "turned off," for lack of a better term, these bacteria feed on the Pokémon's energy reserves, taking just what they need to survive and multiply. In this case, their metabolism (notably, carbon metabolism) is relatively similar to any other bacteria, only very slow. That way, the bacterial population never reaches a critical threshold, and should they approach this limit, Lanturn will use a special set of muscles to expel some of them into the sea. Why must they not reach this limit? Because that'd activate bioluminescence. Don't worry, I'll explain: when Lanturn injects a special body fluid within the orbs, bacterial metabolism has been shown to speed up greatly, and bacterial reproduction rates rapidly increase. Once the bacterial population reaches said critical threshold, their metabolism shifts and they start producing luciferin, thereby leading to Lanturn's orbs glowing bright. It is speculated Lanturn's special body fluid is a nutrient-rich liquid such as glycogen, used to activate the bacteria's anabolic pathways and, thus, reproduction and multiplication.

Obviously there's an upside for Lanturn as well: while the Pokémon is good natured and will sometimes use its light in a charitable manner, it is primarily its hunting tool. As I said, light is scarce in the abyss, which means most Pokémon there either have no eyes (see Relicanth's body) or eyes that adapted to see when it's almost pitch black. For this kind of eyes, even a moderate light is absolutely blinding—and Lanturn's can be seen from three miles below the surface! Before going in-depth on how this Pokémon preys on small and large Pokémon alike, we need to talk about another tool it has: electromagnetism. Lanturn is part Electric-type because the Pokémon has an innate control over electromagnetism, which is a real asset in a world where you can't see your surroundings. Sensing electromagnetic waves emitted by other creatures is key both to prey and avoid predators, since every wave is different and Lanturn is very efficient at decrypting which Pokémon emits which wave. Indeed, every living being emits an electromagnetic field with its nervous impulses, something that can be intercepted and decrypted. Such waves are received by a small part of its brain then converted into visual information, kind of like what Golbat or other echolocation users do. After that, the Pokémon "sees" a 3D representation of its immediate location, complete with nearby lifeforms.

So, here's how Lanturn's hunting day plays out: it swims around, lights out, trying to sense potential prey and avoid predators using electromagnetic waves. Once it spots a prey, it tracks it down as stealthily as possible, a task made easier by said electromagnetic sense. When it gets close enough, it injects its special body fluid within its orbs, leading to rapid bacterial growth.

The bacteria inside the orbs reach the critical threshold, then begin emitting light. Keep in mind the whole lighting process lasts only a few milliseconds! As the prey lives in the abyss, it isn't used to such blinding light and is stunned, trying to process the sensory overload. This leaves Lanturn with two options to finish the job: either the prey is small enough to be swallowed whole (Lanturn can distend its mouth and stomach if needed, granting it the ability to swallow deceptively large prey), or, if it really is too much, it can shock it to death with an electric jolt. In both cases, the hunt was successful.


I hope that this article provided a different perspective on the aquatic ambient of the Pokémon world. By virtue of our species living on the land, we don't get to see these aquatic Pokémon as often as their water-dwelling counterparts, so several of their behaviors can come off as a surprise. And truly, anywhere from the shores to the depths of the sea, there are so many unique Pokémon out there!

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