RandomAccess asks:

The new Dreepy evolutionary line, to me, brings up some pretty interesting questions about the Pokemon world’s evolutionary biology. They’re apparently aquatic Pokemon that lived in the ancient past that became spirits once they became extinct, and now fittingly have the “ghost/dragon” typing in the modern day. What’s interesting about this is you must wonder, why isn’t this more common, that being why isn’t there a ghost type variant of every existing Pokemon, since all Pokemon are living creatures that shed their mortal coil eventually all the same. This seems to imply that becoming a distinct ghost-type pokemon is something only some are capable of, while the rest just become normal wraiths like Pikachu did in the Pokemon Tower episode and presumably eventually pass on. Might there be some “metaphysical” (or possibly just physical, since this is just how things work in this world) laws that determine how adaptive a Pokemon’s spirit is? And judging what we know of Pokemon that are suspected to have once been the departed spirits of humans (such as Yamask and Gengar) and how different they look compared to humans, how many ghost type Pokemon might be the result of the ghost of a known or unknown species of Pokemon? Hell, if we could somehow find the spiritual version of “genes” would it be possible to trace common ancestry with their mortal relatives, and add ghostly branches to the Pokemon tree of life? The implications of this are both overwhelming and exciting.

Yeah, it’s an interesting problem.  I really love the idea of a Pokémon that’s not a fossilised prehistoric creature, like so many we’ve seen before, and instead the ghost of an extinct creature, but it does raise that question – why this Pokémon?  Why is Dreepy unique (well, not quite unique; Galarian Corsola seems similar, but they’re obviously unusual)?  I would not actually default to thinking that Dreepy became lingering spirits because of something inherent to them, though.  In folklore, people become ghosts because of something about the way they died – maybe they have “unfinished business,” or weren’t given the burial rites their culture requires, or were killed by a particular monster, or just died in a particularly unpleasant way that somehow damaged their soul and prevented them from moving on to wherever spirits are supposed to go.  In Pokémon, we often aren’t explicitly told where Ghost-types come from, but when we are, my impression is that it’s more often a magical or spiritual cause than a biological or scientific one (of course, then the follow-up question is whether we’re supposed to believe what we’re told about Phantump, Sandygast, etc. or just see it as a mystery yet to be solved).  Given what little we know, my first guess would be that Dreepy exist in their current ghostly form due to something about the nature of the event (or competing species, or predator) that drove them extinct.  Maybe their species was wiped out by something unusually sudden or traumatic, or maybe there was some Ghost-, Dark- or Psychic-type predator (now extinct itself as well) that could manipulate and damage souls, or maybe – just maybe – they were the victims of some kind of spiritual calamity, like an eruption of the spirit world into the “real” world.  That’s the sort of place my mind goes when you raise the question, at any rate. I think in the absence of anything more explicit from an official source, the “correct” answer is probably whatever you feel is the more potentially interesting.

Tony the Tiger asks:

You like old stuff, right? What are your thoughts on fossil pokemon?

In general archaeologists take pains to point out that we do not study fossils (it’s a surprisingly common mistake).  Not all “old stuff” is similarly old (unless you listen to certain ill-advised religious sects); I deal in the hundreds/thousands of years range, not millions/tens of millions.  Fossils are about as much my professional area of expertise as the moons of Jupiter are an airline pilot’s.

…as it happens, though, I am independently a layman dinosaur nerd with a basic knowledge of evolutionary biology, and I was a sufficiently weird kid that, when I started school, I wanted to be not a fireman or an astronaut but a palaeontologist.  So LET’S TALK FOSSILS.

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Pokémon and the “Insect Apocalypse”

So, recently I read this article from the New York Times Magazine about the growing evidence for a precipitous decline in global insect populations over the last couple of decades, a phenomenon that has gone largely unnoticed until quite recently (except as it pertains to a few species we care about, like honeybees) because insects are just so hard to count.  Because the available data is still quite limited, it’s hard to draw detailed conclusions about what’s happening, how fast, and how we can stop it, though it seems like a good bet that global climate change and indiscriminate use of pesticides are probably both involved.

Now, to most well-informed people this is clearly part of the ongoing social, political and technological crisis around humanity’s relationship with the natural environment of our planet, and probably brings to mind any number of ecological catastrophes brought about by human agency, the debate over what kind of action is necessary to prevent or mitigate similar catastrophes in the future, and so on and so forth.  But for me, as a lifelong Pokémon fan with an analytical bent and a more-than-passing interest in Pokémon’s origins, my mind went instead to the childhood hobby that Satoshi Tajiri dreamed of sharing with children who couldn’t experience it in an increasingly hyper-urbanised Japan: insect collecting.  The people who collected the data that sounded the alarm to the scientific community, and allowed this article to be written, are people like Tajiri might have grown up to be, in another life: amateur collectors who, for the most part, aren’t professional scientists, but still do the hard work of science while receiving little of the glory, all for the love of bugs.  They are real-world Pokédex compilers, whose contributions don’t depend on exhaustive formal education or sophisticated experiments, but on the foundational scientific skills of observation and curiosity.  Their work is Pokémon’s spiritual heritage… and everything they study is slowly dying.

And I’m not sure if Pokémon has the capacity or even the desire to pass meaningful comment on it.

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