Those who question the theory of evolution generally do it on religious grounds. But there's a non-faith-related reason to question evolution. A lot of animals are too absurd to have been shaped by any kind of natural selection process. Here's our working alternate explanation: these animals were designed by tired anime artists slaving away in Nintendo's HQ. Here are 12 creatures we're pretty sure are actually Pokémon who escaped into real life.
The Facts: Native to Mexico, these aquatic creatures are basically salamanders that never grew up. Call them the Peter Pans of the amphibian world. Also known as 'water monsters,' they're a neotenal species whose adult members never lose their gills, allowing them to remain perpetually underwater. They're also unique in that they can regenerate their limbs, including less vital parts of their brains.
Why It's a Pokémon: Oh, come on. This can't possibly be a real creature. The adorable smile, the fuzzy ear/horn things, the perfectly pointed fingers… that's a cartoon character, no question about it. Hell, put a red bow on its head and it's practically Hello Kitty's amphibious cousin.
The Facts: As adorable as these animals appear to be, they don't have it easy in their homeland of Madagascar. The aye-aye, a member of the lemur family, is considered an evil omen by the local Malagasy people. They're killed on sight and hung upside down so that any lingering evil spirit will be carried away by travelers. Their reputation may have something to do with the fact that they're the world's largest nocturnal animal — and they hunt grubs by tapping on trees.
Why It's a Pokémon:
While this critter may look a little terrifying for a Pokémon, remember that Pokémon can only speak in the syllables of their name. Aye-Aye is a Pokémon name if I've ever heard one. Moreover, this thing looks like it howls "aye aye!" constantly, especially after a super-effective attack.
The Facts: Found off the coast of Australia and New Zealand, the blobfish (yes, that's what it's really called) is rarely seen by humans — and thank goodness for that. It lives at extreme depths — anywhere from 2,000 to 3,900 feet (600–1,200 meters) — where the pressure is several dozen times higher than at sea level. To survive in these deep waters, it has essentially evolved into a gelatinous mass with a density slightly less than water — a feature which allows it to gently float above the sea floor without having to exert too much energy.
Why It's a Pokémon:
Blobfish isn't a real name! It's just not. It's just a combination of two random words to create a fictional creature, like Ivysaur, Charmander, Tentacruel and Psyduck. Also: IT IS A BLOB WITH A RIDICULOUS FACE. Not only is it a Pokémon, it's one of the more recent Pokémon, created after the designers had long since run out of ideas.
The Facts: Named after the Disney character, but clearly not an elephant, the dumbo octopus lives deep in the ocean at insane depths of nearly 15,750 feet (4,800 meters)! But unlike Dumbo the Elephant's ears, the octopus uses its fins to hover closely above the ocean floor as it hunts for prey. Eighteen different species of dumbo octopuses have been discovered so far, including one variety that measures 6 feet (1.8 meters) in length.
Why It's a Pokémon: No creature this adorable could possibly be an octopus. Octopuses are weird and tentacled and gross; this is practically a plush toy with a nose (at least I hope that's a nose). And I'm pretty sure those are just googly eyes someone glued onto the side.
The Facts: Notorious for its terrifying four-pronged penis, the echidna is a porcupine-like creature that has remained largely unchanged since prehistoric times. Native to Australia, it's unique in that it's the only mammal outside of the platypus that lays eggs. The echidna is a solitary creature that spends it's time hunting ants and other bugs; it uses its 6-inch (15-centimeter) long sticky tongue to lap-up insects, after which time it grinds them into a swallowable paste.
Why It's a Pokémon: I'm surprised Sega hasn't sued this ridiculous critter for defaming real echidnas, because we all know echidnas actually look like this (i.e., red and with bad attitudes). Sadly, if you've seen any of the masses and masses of terrifying erotic fan fiction starring Sonic the Hedgehog characters, you know that a four-pronged penis is pretty much par for the course.
Naked Mole Rat
The Facts: As its appearance and behavior suggests, this hairless species can't figure out if its a rodent, an insect, or a lizard. The naked mole rat spends its entire life underground and, quite regrettably, lives an astounding 20 years — which is unprecedented for rodents. And like subterranean insectoids, it's a species that has adapted to colonial life. The queen is the only female that breeds, and her offspring spend their days either protecting the colony or digging burrows with their powerful incisors. And because it can't maintain a steady body temperature, it may as well be considered a cold-blooded mammal.
Why It's a Pokémon: That's just Diglett. Sure, it's a Diglett that looks even more like a penis than Diglett already does, but it's still a Diglett.
The Facts: Also known as the pignose frog, it's an amhibian native to south western India. Unlike most other frogs, it features a round and bloated body, along with a freakishly small head and pointed snout. Given how ugly it is, it comes as no surprise that the frog spends the entire year underground, coming out for two weeks during the monsoon season to mate. Some individuals have been found as deep as 26 feet (8 meters) underground.
Why It's a Pokémon:
If there's one creature on this list that's possibly not a real-life Pokémon, it's this guy. But that's only because it's a real-life head-crab monster from Half-Life instead.
The Facts: In what looks like a biotech experiment gone horribly wrong, the platypus is a tragic mashup of several different species. Like the echidna, it's a mammal that lays eggs. The Australian marsupial uses its beak as a shovel when searching for invertebrates in streams and lake beds. The bill is also equipped with sensory receptors that can detect electrical signals (which allows it to hone in on prey). It's also known to eat frogs and fish. A solitary creature, the platypus is most active at night, spending most of its time under water. When mating, the male has to catch the female first by grabbing on the back of her tail.
Why It's a Pokémon: Obviously, the completely absurd platypus is the inspiration for a lot of Pokémon in general, and Psyduck in particular. Does the fact that Pokémon are derived from it make it not a Pokémon? I say thee nay — I say the Playpus is The First Pokemon, much like Captain America was The First Avenger. In related news, I desperately want to see a movie about a shield-carrying platypus who beats up Nazis.
The Facts: Okay, stating the obvious here — the proboscus monkey has a big nose. A really big nose. Zoologists aren't entirely sure what it's used for, so they figure it's on account of sexual selection; females like the big noses because it may enhance their ability to vocalize. These monkeys are also excellent swimmers, and have webbed feet. They tend to organize around harems, where a single male is accompanied by a half-dozen females. That said, the females will switch to another group when they fancy another male.
Why It's a Pokémon: "Satoshi, come one. We have to think up 100 new Pokémon for the new game, and we've only got 14. Think of something."
(sighs) "Okay… what about a monkey… wearing a hat?"
"A monkey… whose feet are where his hands should be, and hands instead of feet?"
"A monkey… with a big nose?"
(sighs) "I'll write it down for now, but we're coming back to it later."
The Facts: A stork-like bird, the shoebill looks like something that would have been right at home during the late Triassic era. Native to Africa, it lives in swamps, keeping to itself until it's time to mate, or when food gets scarce. The shoebill uses its impressive bill to sift through poorly oxygenated water in search of fish. And like other storks, it pours water on its nests to keep its eggs from over-heating.
Why It's a Pokémon: A stork-like bird, the shoebill looks like it would be right at home hanging out with Cubone, the dinosaur that wears a little skull helmet and carries a club. Also, who named the bird with the bill that looks like a shoe shoebill? TRY HARDER, SOMEBODY. You don't see Nintendo naming the bee with a drill at the end of its arm Beedrill... wait. Never mind.
The Facts: The Philippine tarsier is often called the world's smallest monkey, but it's not really a primate. Rather, it belongs to a suborder of primates, prosimians. The tarsier is so small it can fit inside the palm of your hand. It's a nocturnal creature that spends its time in and around the base of tree trunks and the roots of plants as it hunts for insects. They've also been observed to be social creatures, often huddling together and linking tails.
Why It's a Pokémon: Is there any way this little dude doesn't hate Pikachu? "I'm an adorable monkey-thing with ridiculously large anime eyes. I am tiny and eminently merchandisable. And yet that goddamned electric rat gets all the attention! It should've been me hanging out with Ash in the cartoon! Meeeeeeeee!"
The Facts: Found in Suriname, South America, the wolffish is a tropical creature that dwells in virtually every kind of environment, whether it be a deep lake or shallow stream. And these guys are huge; individual wolffish have been measured at 39 inches (100 centimeters) in length and can get as heavy as 88 pounds (40 kilograms). Some of these fish have been known to be aggressive, and local fishermen have become wary. There have been accounts of attacks on humans, and even a story about a dog that was killed by two fish after it fell into a stream.
Why It's a Pokémon: A comically goofy-looking fish with lips and fangs? Sure, that's real. Look, there's a water-type Pokémon named Alomomola, and it looks more like a real fish than this wolffish does, even though it's wearing mascara.
Image credits: Axolotl, Aye Aye, Blobfish, Dumbo Octopus, Echidna, Naked Mole Rat, Pignose Frog, Platypus, Proboscus monkey, Shoebill, Tarsier, Wolfish.
Sources: BBC Nature, Animal Planet, Arkive.