Archive for the ‘TV’ Category

h1

Biology of Group Pokémon

July 23, 2012

My previous Pokémon post got be thinking philosophically about Pokémon. I jested last time about Combee being three different bees stuck together, when in reality one Combee is the set together because the two top bees are not sentient beings, and if you were to split them apart, you would not get three whole bees. Though this idea of Combee having three faces, yet only one brain is incredibly strange, I will dedicate that discussion topic to a future post, as it fascinates me.

But today, I want to  discuss this strange set of Pokémon that are groups of Pokémon, something the writers did many times.

Dugtrio

Dugtrio evolves from Diglett. But strangely, this is a case where all Dugtrio really is, is three Digletts stuck together. I quote, “a team of Diglett triplets….” though later on they mix it up slightly by saying, “Dugtrio are actually triplets, emerging from one body…” either way the fan art really did get interesting for this one.

Magnaton

Another fusion like Dugtrio, Magneton are just three Magnemite that are stuck together. Presumably, they are attached as a result of magnetic forces. Magneton does evolve, into Magnezone. Though this Pokemon looks very different, implying that each Magnemite then differentiates to serve different roles so that the final form can more efficiently get things done.

Metagross

Metagross, though it is hard to see it, is actually 2 Metang stuck together, and Metang is actually 2 Beldum stuck together. So 1 metagross is actually 4 Beldum.

Probopass

As the name suggests, this is a nose Pokemon. Probopass is the evolved form of Nosepass and is just a much larger amd mustachio-ed version of Nosepass. But, Probopass also has attached to it two Nosepass. These nosepass can actually detach and be live creatures. So the question really is, does probopass asexually reproduce by budding, thus once the Nosepass leave, another can be born in that spot, or are these Nosepass born by other means, and then just choose to attach themselves to a nearby Probopass upon evolution, much like Magneton and Dugtrio? To investigate this we could easily do some DNA testing of the Nosepass and Probopass to see if they are genetically identical.

 Weezing

I’m not sure if this one counts. Weezing is said to be two Koffing attached together, but their appearance does change a bit including size and coloration. Weezing is a really unsavory and useless Pokémon, so let’s just not discuss this further.

Exeggcute

Sort of like Combee, Exeggcute is not 6 pokemon stuck together, but rather it is the initial Pokemon, and justconsists of 6 different heads that each express a different emotion. Strangely seeds are not attached in any way, so I wonder what would happen yet they separated…

Klink

Similar to Exeggcute, Klink is two faced objects stuck together, but it seems unlikely they are supposed to both be sentient. I’m not even really sure if the two bodies can be separated even. I don’t think this one really counts, but it sort of belongs in the Combee Exeggcute family.

Thoughts.

The question I have about Dugtrio and Magneton is if they really are three Diglett stuck together or three magnemite stuck together, they should have then exactly three times the power of a single Diglett or a single magnemite. So for example, its hp, attack and special attack should all triple in the evolution if there are three working together. Actually, you would really expect all of the stats to go up with the exception of speed, which should stay the same or decrease. Yet for the most part, though they do gain some obvious strength and advantages, they are not 3 times as strong. That means this union has negative cooperativity, or in other words, by coming together they lose some powered potential power.

This is me sort of using a term strangely. Negative cooperativity in biology usually refers to when an enzyme binds a substrate, which then makes that enzyme somewhat less able to bind another substrate. So the first thing makes it harder for the second thing. Positive cooperativity also exists, and that just means if an enzyme binds a substrate, the enzyme becomes more able to bind another substrate. If I were to continue this analogy, it would be like if one Diglett had a base attack power of 55, the Dugtrio, with powers combined and helping each other, having a power of 200 instead of 55*3=165. But instead they are incredibly negative in cooperativity, so their attack power together is only 80.
But the whole idea of a single Pokémon being many sentient beings grouped together is so strange. I mean, a single Vespiquen is thousands of organisms! In real life, we would never refer to a beehive as a single being. And even if we had a conjoined twin situation, we would still refer to them as two different beings. Yet in Pokémon, we can have different sentient beings in a little group, and we refer to it as one.
Although, the idea of what an organism is might actually be hard to determine biologically. First of all, humans are a huge collection of cells. In evolution, multicellularity evolved a few times. Groups of cells living together decided to start dedicating certain groups of cells to specific jobs, in spite of having the same exact genes. One of the major cell types usually determined are the germ cells for preservation of a complete intact genome, and naturally the somatic cells, which are all the other non-germ cells. For example, the first animals were sponges, which are really incredibly complex and massive colonies of cells that have a few different cell types for feeding, signal transduction, and of course, reproduction.
Secondly, in most animals, we contain tons of cells that aren’t ours per se. We have so much bacteria inside us that are crucial for our digestion, and something and something. Microbiology has made huge advancements into understanding how our gut bacteria contribute to our physiology, and there is still an unbelievable amount of work to be done. But to refer to a human and not include his or her bacteria would be just wrong. They are such an essential part of us that we can’t ignore.
Lastly, even organisms we consider to be single celled organisms show multicellular characteristics. A few labs study how bacteria can form incredibly complex colonies as well as how bacteria can talk to each other.

Colonies of cells. Even “single celled organisms” can show incredibly multicellular characteristics. Courtesy of http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2174258/

So who am I to say a group of sentient beings referred to as one Pokemon is strange. We are all groups of organisms all working together to survive. And to a certain extent, isn’t that what society is? Not one of us can easily do all of the things needed for survival, like grow food, prepare it, protect ourselves, shelter ourselves, etc. Ancient animals realized a long time ago that by living in societies and giving certain people certain tasks, we could accomplish much more. Thus we have a positive cooperativity, or we all gain something by working together. So maybe that’s whats the true error with these group Pokemon. By forming the group, they should actually become much stronger than the sum of the parts.
h1

Biology of Bug-Type Pokémon

July 9, 2012

When it comes to Pokémon, three kinds of people exist: people who don’t know anything about them, 151ers, and people who have played more than just the first generation of games, red, blue, or yellow. (“151ers” refers to people who have only played the the first generation games and thus only know about the first 151 Pokémon.) If you are in the first category, you really are missing out on some great games, but if you are in either of the other categories, you know how truly pathetic bug-type Pokémon can be (though there are few worthwhile ones).

Metapod vs. Metapod

Currently there are 63 bug-type Pokémon, of which 15 are pure bug-types while the others are dual types (most commonly dual with poison or flying). While discussing the biology of ALL of the bug Pokémon may be out of the scope of this post, I do want to go over a few select cool ones that really show how well the writers thought about real world biology in creating these Pokémon, as well as a few obvious mistakes. Bug-types, though they are not my favorite to use, are some of the most interesting evolutionarily in all of the Pokémon games, making them some of my favorite to catch and collect. In this post, I will be focusing on a few choice bugs from the first generation of games. Stay tuned for future posts, where I will discuss other awesome bug-type Pokémon.

Caterpie-Metapod-Butterfree

A truly beautiful evolutionary line that is probably one of my favorites. You have the ever adorable Caterpie, one of the cutest cartoon caterpillars of its time, which then evolves into Metapod. Metapod is the chrysalis stage (more on this in a moment) of the developing Caterpie/caterpillar, and as you can see from the video above, is a generally useless Pokemon, but is a means to an end. Because when it evolves, it becomes the beautiful Butterfree, which the animated show really did make a glorious moment of.

Metapod Evolves

Note how different this evolution was animated. Most evolutions in the show have the Pokémon turn white and glow, then change.

Its beauty though does come from how well it outlines the basic, holometabolous insect life cycle. This cycle involves a complete metamorphosis of the animal in its lifetime, and includes four stages: embryo, larvae (Caterpie), pupa (Metapod), and finally emerges (the technical term is eclose) to imago (Butterfree). They even go to pretty good detail making the pupa Metapod actually look like a monarch butterfly chrysalis. (They may or may not have actually been going for this, but monarch butterflies are usually the butterflies people think of first.)

The only issue is that Caterpie is not what a monarch butterfly larvae looks like, with Caterpie more closely resembling maybe the caterpillar of the polymorphous moth or the luna moth.

Note that the butterfly pupa is called chrysalis, which is distinct from the moth’s cocoon. In butterflies, the caterpillar starts its pupa stage by attaching itself to a tree via a small silk pad, and then sheds its skin revealing the pupa. Around the pupa is a hard chitin (pronounced KITE-in) based shell. Chitin is a macromolecule related to cellulose in plants, but is used to give fungi support, as well as used in crustacean shells. This whole thing, pupa and shell, is called the chrysalis. Moths on the other hand spin silk to wrap around themselves before the pupa stage, making a cocoon shell for protection. So only moths have cocoons.

While the Butterfree evolution series is incredibly well done, and made for a great teaching tool for the butterfly life cycle, the first generation of games had an analogous evolution series that made absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Weedle-Kakuna-Beedrill

What a mess. First of all, Beedrill is clearly supposed to be a bee Pokémon, but while bees do have a typical holometabolous life cycle, the larvae and pupa spend their entire time in the beehive combs, fed and cared for by the adult worker bees. I’ve learned that this is apparently a recent evolutionary change as ancient animals in the family had caterpillar like larvae that moved around and ate leaves. But now they really are more like maggots, similar to flies.

Weedle is described to eat leaves and shoot a sticky silk like substance. Clearly they were going more for a moth-like life cycle, where the larvae are independent, spin silk to form a cocoon, and then emerge. Kakuna even looks fairly reminiscent of the brown moth cocoon!

I just don’t get why they would make the Caterpie/Butterfree evolution follow so closely with reality, but then make Weedle not evolve into a moth! And we all know how much cooler moths really are over butterflies.

You could argue that a final evolution moth is just not as scary or awesome as a final evolution bee (which I would actually agree with because bees are freaking awesome.) Or maybe just the idea of a moth Pokémon is super lame. Well the former can’t be true because Beedrill only has a base stat of 385 (where most gamers only use Pokemon with a score of at least 450), meaning it sucks. And the latter can’t be true because…

Venonat-Venomoth

An even bigger mess. Here we have our moth. Strangely, I would argue in the first generation, this is probably one of the better bug type Pokemon; it has a base stat of 450 and is one of very few bug types to be a regular member of a gym leader/elite four member’s team (Koga). Yet this powerful moth, which would fit much better as the last evolution of Weedle and would dominate its rival bug type, Butterfree, evolves instead from Venonat, which is clearly supposed to be a gnat.

So instead of having any kind of biology, we choose to have a gnat turn into a moth. A gnat, which is an adult insect. A gnat, which is so distantly related to moths and has no similar appearance, size, behavior, or environment, turns into a moth. Incredible.

Stay tuned, as my next bug-type Pokémon post will focus on bug types beyond the first generation, including Combee-Vespiquen, Shedinja, and maybe others.