Pokémon Evolution is Weird, but Pokémon Adaptation Makes Some Sense

Using Isle of Armor’s Galarian Slowpoke as a model for adaptive radiation

Charles Darwin furthered science in a big way back in the 1800’s with his field-defining work in evolution. But none of his published papers mention Pidgey evolving into Pidgeotto at level 18, or Pikachu into Raichu using a thunder stone. Satoshi Taijiri decided to take a few liberties with the science behind evolution when he first worked on Pokémon Red & Blue, but the new regional forms that have been dropping into the lineups are textbook examples of adaptive radiation.

The Large ground-finch(1) and medium ground-finch(2) have larger beaks suited for eating seeds, the small tree-finch(3) and green warbler-finch (4) have probing beaks for insects.

Adaptive radiation occurs when a single species rapidly diversifies into different forms in response to unique environmental factors. One of the best-known examples of this can be found in Darwin’s finches — a group of 17 birds, none of which are actual finches but okay.

The group’s common ancestor is believed to have inhabited the Galapagos Islands some 2–3 million years ago. The bird adapted and evolved into multiple species with unique break shapes suited for different food sources. This allows them to occupy different ecological niches and thrive, unobstructed by direct competition with each other for the same food.

Galarian Slowpoke has a bright yellow head and tail, a direct result of galarica seed particle buildup within its body. | Screenshot: Pokémon Co.

Similarly, Pokémon with Galarian or Alolan forms must have existed as a single organism before adapting to their different environments. A common ancestor of Slowpoke seems to have evolved into two distinct species, each with unique physiological traits suited for their diet. Kantonian Slowpoke is a Water-Psychic type that fishes with its strong tail, the tip of which secretes a sweet scent that helps attract prey (despite not having Sweet Scent in its moveset). Galarian Slowpoke debuted in Pokémon Sword & Shield boasting a bright yellow head and tail as a result of its Galarica seed-heavy diet. This diet keeps Slowpoke away from fishing, evolving to have a weaker tail and no water typing. Both Slowpoke are able to exist in different ecological niches because of unique diets and behaviors, just like Darwin’s finches.

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