Pokémon Biology: Under the Sea

Panelists included bugmaniacbob, Birkal, Chou Toshio, Bummer, Pocket, and macle. Avatars by Bummer. Art by Ken Sugimori.
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Despite how much we already know about them, as biologists, Pokemon still continue to fascinate us. Typically, those who live within the world of Pokemon are focused on the competition and fighting potential of these pocket monsters. However, there are those of us who prefer to study their physiology and anatomy above strategical tactics. Who are we? We are Pokemon biologists: a group of die-hard scientists who travel the world of Pokemon in search of new discoveries. The popular Pokedex is filled with past information that is either horrifically outdated or filled with unfounded mythology. We seek to discover the truth about Pokemon through well-formulated hypotheses and tests.

Today, some of the top Pokemon biologists in the world have gathered to share more of their research with the public. Lately, we've been focused greatly on marine biology. As a result, the information we'll be sharing today will give you an in-depth walk-through of Pokemon that live in saltwater ecosystems. For reference, I (Birkal) am represented by Rotom, while Bummer is depicted by Heracross. Also, Pocket is indicated by Slakoth, Chou Toshio is represented by Gyarados, and bugmaniacbob is characterized by Anorith. Finally, macle is personified by Seismitoad.


Kingler is really one of those species which shows how size obsession and selective breeding can together turn into a slippery slope. Plenty of observations have, to the joy of male enhancement salesmen everywhere, confirmed that the individual with the largest pincer wins the most ladycrabs. It's a fact.

But what's been less emphasized is that this social climate among these snipper colonies has resulted in males who have difficulties with their overall performance, as the sheer weight of that claw puts a strain on their bodies. They may hit like a truck, but they're also nimble as one. Ever seen a Kingler fight a Floatzel? It's a hilarious sight.

Kingler are built tough. They are a Pokemon species that live in an unforgiving environment, where tides constantly crash down and shove them onto rocky shores. The delicate and meek perish in the hands of their more ambitious kin or from the relentless waves. Although its mighty pincers weigh them down, they are deceptively fast; they move in spurts and ambush their prey by surprise. Their large pincers also give Kingler a surprising wing-span, allowing them to clamp down on Pokemon 6 feet away from its body. The Vicegrip is nigh unbreakable, allowing their smaller and more dexterous claw to start slicing through skin and muscle. Against a more resilient or sturdy prey, Kingler may slam it to the ground to knock it unconscious. Their powerful legs can also pin their food down while feeding. Kingler can even overcome Cloyster with incessant bludgeoning of their enormous claw, although many Kingler usually give up before succeeding in the kill!

Kingler are aggressive toward each other; they only know how to communicate with one another through the snapping and slamming of their pincers, mostly for intimidation. Male Kingler would pound their large pincer to the ground to win the approval of females. Kingler's large pincer is a keystone to its survival. The smaller pincer begins growing when Kingler loses its large pincer due to wear and tear from crab fights or clubbing too many Cloyster: a small pincer would emerge from the ligament that just lost its large pincer. Kingler come out bigger after each molting period—yes size matters!

In the non-Pokemon world, the most famous example of extreme asymmetric claw dimorphism is seen in the Fiddler crab, whose males, also possess an enormous claw the length of the carapace (the rapid eating movements of the smaller claw make it look like its playing a fiddle on the bigger one). However, the males use this thin "fiddle" to show off to females and spar with other males for mating rights. In other words, the Fiddler's fiddle is used for the crab manifestation of penis fencing (in reality, because crabs mix gametes outside the body, there is no penis, so I guess they have reason to try to compensate), the eternal male condition of "mine's bigger" egotism. However, unlike the Fiddler crab, Kingler have no visible sexual dimorphism, with the females also possessing the enlarged left claw. So, either the claws were specialized for a different purpose, or female Kingler have massive penis envy.

Moving away from crabs in search of an explanation, one will find that specialized claws are not at all uncommon adaptations in crustaceans. For instance, lobsters use a variety of different claw types for different tasks—they have a thinner "cutter" claw used for tearing through meat and limbs or holding prey down, and a thick "crusher" claw used for smashing the shells of crabs and other shellfish. They also have smaller claws on their second and third pairs of legs used for neatly and accurately rasping meat off of shell or bone, and bringing them to the mouth. Fiddler crabs use their smaller claws for this "fine work."

Looking at Kingler's claws, it's safe to say that unlike the thin and ornamental fiddle of the Fiddler crab, Kingler's thick, large, muscular claw was meant for smashing—the extreme version of the lobster's "crusher,", only with 10,000 extra horses, this beast was clearly meant for smashing through some serious shellfish. Most likely, Kingler's massive claw and resulting 130 base Attack were evolved for bashing through Shellder's tough shells of base 100 Defense, a task it's quite effective at in the Seafoam Islands where both species were initially discovered. It's quite literally an incredible CRABHAMMER.

Since Kingler's claws are so impressive, often people forget about its skeleton. Kingler has an exoskeleton (external skeleton) made of Chitin. This exoskeleton is so strong, it is able to reflect bullets. In primitive times, people used the exoskeleton of Kingler to make armor to protect them. Over time, I questioned "Why is their skeleton so hard?" I have come to this solution: a long time ago, Kingler and Crawdaunt lived in a similar area. Crawdaunt loved to fight and would challenge the Kingler. Because Kingler's claw is so heavy, Crawdaunt would usually kill the Kingler before the Kingler could raise the claw to attack. Eventually, all the softer shelled Kingler died off, leaving only the Kingler with hard shells alive to reproduce and create a generation with even harder shells.

Kingler is, or appears to be, a fairly bog-standard crustacean, if such a thing exists. Oddly, Kingler appear to be purely carnivorous, where one would expect such a creature to eat more or less anything it came across, in accordance with the relative difficulty of obtaining sufficient food and competition with other carnivorous Pokemon in the seas around most regions. Indeed, there was one particularly famous experiment performed which involved throwing Kingler into a saltwater pool covered by an algal bloom—regrettably, the Kingler always fainted as soon as they touched the algae. The experiment has not been repeated.

In any case, Kingler appear to be relatively specialized predators. It is one of the few Pokemon with the physical strength and tools necessary to break open the shells of well-protected Pokemon such as Shellder and Cloyster—which are certainly beyond the skills of such Pokemon as Seadra. However, this theory is not without its flaws, not least that in most regions, Kingler appear to live in entirely separate areas to their supposed shelled prey, with only Unova as a known exception. As such, it is more likely that native populations will feed more commonly on those universal fodders, Corsola, Magikarp, and Tentacool, while its ability to survive for longer without feeding would give it an advantage over other undersea predators such as Lanturn and Seadra. Kingler will also encounter Staryu, Horsea, and Chinchou in its natural habitat, but its great unwieldiness would almost certainly stamp out any hope it had of feeding on those particular creatures.

Indeed, we must talk about Kingler's claw, as that is one of the most interesting things about it. While there is surprisingly little knowledge available on Kingler and its complex communication methods, tolerance of high salinity, and other vague observations made over the years, one particular point has been endlessly repeated, apparently without any further investigation—that Kingler has a 10,000 horsepower crushing force in its larger pincer. Leaving aside the bizarrely well-rounded number, we must give leave to question this value on a common sense basis. A hydraulically operated Jaws of Life will rarely exceed 10 horsepower for the pump—multiply that power by 1000, and if true, it's a wonder that Kingler's pincer does not shatter on impact. Certainly, I do not know of any organic molecule that could withstand such pressure.


Jellicent undergoes a stunning transformation through its life cycle. Upon fertilization, the eggs of female Jellicent begin to develop into larvae seeds, which are then released and anchored onto the seafloor. These larvae then grow into microscopic polyps, which bud off from each other, multiplying in numbers. Certain environmental conditions trigger the radical metamorphosis from a vegetative stationary existence to a mobile pulsing creature—the medusa. These medusas rapidly grow in size, and in a matter of days they develop into visible Frillish! Eventually they mature into the spectacular Jellicent that sailors and marine Pokemon fear. The thought of a microscopic polyp growing into a 7-foot undulating terror always gave me convulsions!

The anatomy of Jellicent is poorly studied, but it seems to exhibit a simplistic structure—primarily an epidermis lining the outer body, the gut which opens to the external environment, and the gelatinous space where their simple nervous system reside. No gas-exchange chambers or circulation system are found, mostly because the nutrients can easily diffuse uniformly throughout Jellicent's body, thanks to the large gut. Of course, this invertebrate creature lacks no musculoskeletal structure either. Despite the relative simplicity of their nervous system, Jellicent seem to have a central nervous system capable of learning and memory, thus making it possible for trainers to tame them.

Jellicent's eyes and mouth are curious accessories that brings up more questions. From what we know, their rudimentary eyes detect light to know which direction is the ocean's surface. It is also rumored that Jellicent can co-exist in the plane of life and death—the eyes can see the glimmer of life energy of living organisms from the vast life-less dark ocean. This is how Jellicent can sniff out their prey. The pair of eyes and mouth may also contribute in its eccentric feeding. For one, its eyes are necessary to hex its prey. The mouth expels pressurized water towards the direction they detect life force to stun its prey; it may also have the ability to draw the life force into Jellicent. Studies have reported that male Jellicent can even detect the pink bioluminescence emitted by female Jellicent, most probably to approach and release their sperm. I only have respect for Jellicent that are simple in body plan yet mysteriously complex!

While Jellicent appears to be a non-threatening Pokemon, it happens to be a fierce predator. Jellicent poisons its potential meal and drags it into its hidden underwater caves, allowing it and its offspring to consume it without fear of other predators attacking. How can such a cute Pokemon do this? Jellicent happens to have microscopic harpoon like structures around the outside of its body called nematocysts. When Jellicent touches its prey, the nematocysts shoot out of its body and poison its prey. Jellicent in different regions have adapted different types of toxins to capture the prey. Humans are looking for an anti-toxin. Jellicent gather around the tropical coasts during the spring to reproduce. With the increase number of Jellicent, humans have had more encounters with the Pokemon. On average ten people a year are severely injured by Jellicent. With the death of youngster Joey and his beloved Rattata, the public has become severely afraid of the ocean. Hopefully with new advances in Jellicent anti-toxin, people will be able to swim in the ocean without fear of Jellicent.

Ah, Jellicent. A Pokemon to whom an increasingly large number of frankly bizarre traits are often attributed, and subject to some of the more panicky Pokédex entries. If the slightly worrying current Black entry is to be believed, then the seas south of the Castelia peninsula ought to be somewhat choked with wrecked ships, and yet the Royal Unova appears to be able to make a daily cruise through these waters without any kind of complaint. In any case, such aggressive behavior toward entities much larger than themselves would suggest a fiercely territorial nature, but such does not appear to be the case—any number of sampling studies have shown multiple Jellicent coexisting in the same vicinity of water, though of course with significantly higher numbers of Frillish.

Of course, to bicker about what we apparently already know is all very well, and there are certainly cases of Jellicent having overturned smaller fishing or even research boats in reliable literature. However, this is to ignore the biggest puzzle facing us when we are forced to examine Jellicent—how does it work? It has distinguishable mouthparts, and optical facilities, so must in some respect have a working central nervous and in all likelihood digestive system. This is complicated, however, by the fact that a significant percentage of its body is nothing but water, and its unusual feeding habits—which have, even to this day, been chalked up to the rather fanciful explanation that it is feeding off its victims' "life energy", whatever that may be.

As one of those who refuse to chalk up peculiar observations to the doings of wizards, I find this mystery particularly compelling. Jellicent's poisons are, in the view of most, remarkably potent—one would think that such would be counterproductive for a Pokemon that can only feed on living prey. Furthermore, I would see the fully developed mouthparts as evidence of it needing to, at least, ingest some sort of organic material. I am not certain of the conversion rate of life energy to matter, but I am certain it could not be sufficient to build the entirety of Jellicent's complex anatomy under any reasonable time-frame. Oh, and I am unconvinced that the mouth exists purely to render the organism able to say its own name.

As far as gender differences go, Jellicent exhibit some of the most extensive ever recorded. While one would assume that the blue color of the male Jellicent was a useful camouflage technique, this argument rather breaks down when one observes the somewhat alarming pink coloring of the female. Furthermore, the female's mouthparts are visible above its flotation ring, whereas the male's—which is bigger and more pronounced—is hidden below. Whatever the evolutionary reasons for this are, it has led some to consider whether, like Nidoran and Tauros/Miltank, whether the females ought to be considered a different species altogether to the males—this argument is still ongoing.

The standard Pokémon metabolism is essentially the same to any other living being, where food is digested into smaller components which the organism uses to support its life. However, Jellicent isn't bound by such feeble limitations. It actually knows how to tap into the very source of life itself. So, since it completely lacks a digestive system, it therefore deemed it appropriate to equip itself with other traits to make its hunt for prey much more manageable, thus becoming a royal pain within its oceanic habitat.

There is little known about the few species who feed upon life energy, or spectralvores as they're now apparently called. Expeditions to Jellicent nests usually result in more wrecks adorning their home, and bred individuals aren't as vicious in their diet as their wild counterparts. It may not even be an entirely biological dilemma since more and more people are suggesting that it can only be explained through metaphysics. The most popular theory right now? It steals and converts raw existential energy to fuel its own physical presence and body functions. Shockingly enough, none have been able to repeat the process in a lab environment.

The cnidarians (jellyfish, corals,, anemones, and others) are a bizarre group of creatures, but Jellicent would be considered bizarre even in respect to the other members of the phylum. The strangest feature is its pronounced sexual dimorphism, unusual in a group of animals that are usually hermaphrodites, with all members capable of reproducing asexually as well. While there are some cnidarians, some species of corals for instance, that are "male" or "female" (releasing only sperm or eggs), they all live the same immobile, filter-feeding lifestyle that leaves literally no need for sexual dimorphism of any kind aside from "release sperm" or "release eggs". Why a free-floating medusa would need to evolve notable sexual dimorphism was a great mystery to scientists in the past.

The female Jellicent is especially strange, as its pink coloration makes it an easily discovered target for many predators; both in and above the water. Many sea creatures use red coloration, but this is usually used in moderately deep sea environments where the "red" wavelength of light rays are unable to reach, leaving these creatures an infuriatingly difficult-tospot, dark color to the naked eye. Jellicent, including the females, are found in great numbers at the surface of the water, although they are capable of adjusting the air in their bodies to sink to impressive depths. So what's with the pink colors?

The answer is a very bizarre evolved cycle of reproduction, fitting of a cnidarian. Like all cnidarian Pokemon (other species include Tentacool, Tentacruel, Corsola, and the once thought to be extinct Lileep and Cradily), Jellicent has the odd ability of making hard shelled eggs. However, Jellicent takes it one step further, and reinforces the eggs to allow them to act as parasites to predators—or perhaps it would be better to think of them as "seeds," and the Jellicent as a "fruit."

It turns out that Jellicent are completely capable of feeding and mating at greater depths, where both blue and pink colors are difficult to detect, and they can live relatively undisturbed. They only come to the surface specifically to be preyed upon—for the purpose of reproduction. Once a female Jellicent [[I felt it was necessary to specify in this day and age]] successfully takes sperm into its body, it produces tough eggs inside its body, and swims to the surface. There, it waits until it is attacked (and ingested) by a predatory bird or fish. At this point, the "seeds" are eaten by the predator, and will eventually pass through the predator's digestive tract and be released into the water, where they will eventually hatch into the medusa that will become fully-formed Frillish. With this ability, Jellicent are able to spread to new areas and form new colonies more efficiently.

Meanwhile, the parent Jellicent will regenerate from its uneaten body parts, usually reproducing asexually into 3 or 4 new Frillish. On a side note, Jellicent's endurance and recovery abilities used in battle evolved for the purpose of this asexual reproduction method. The only limitation on this incredible life force is the great energy drain that results. The loss of body parts and process of forced regeneration results in a great loss of energy, and the feat cannot be repeated until the medusa feeds enough and grows enough to stabilize its condition. So after the Jellicent has "been eaten," the resulting Frillish sink to greater depths to regenerate.

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