The “Science” of Partners: Part 5 – Even More Symbiotic Relationships

Other Pokemon in symbiotic relationships

Mantine and Remoraid

Shellder and Slowpoke

Pancham or Butterfree and Heracross

Paras or Joltik

Honourable mentions

Although I only planned to make four parts in this series, I have found that there are many symbiotic relationships in Pokemon, so I will give a few honourable mentions.

Mutualism

Plusle and Minun – These two often seen as partners, as their positive and negative charges complement each other.

Plusle (right) and Minum (left)

Bulbasaur and its bulb – Bulbasaur gains nutrients from its bulbs ability to photosynthesis, and the bulb gains the ability to move around and collect more sunlight.

Shelmet and Karrablast – When traded at the same time, the two swap “shells” and are able to evolve.

Tropius and its bananas – Tropius gets a nice, convenient snack. The bananas are able to grow happily on Tropius and drop their seeds across a wide geographic area due to Tropius’s movement. Another method of spreading seeds is through Poo (yes, many trees have been planted from seeds in poo), so these banana seeds might be specially adapted to resist Tropius’s digestive juices in order to get pooed out.

Tropius

Pokerus – The Pokerus survives and spreads thanks to its host, and the host gets the ability to power EV train.

Tangela – Tangela, and its evolution Tangrowth, are able to use the vines that grow in it to scare of enemies. The vines have a nice place to grow, and may avoid predators due to Tangelas movement.

Illumise and Volbeat, Nidoking and Nidoqueen – According to the Pokedex, these Pokemon are different species. If this is the case, they are in a mutual relationship because they rely on each other to breed,*

Commensalism

Roserade, Torterra and Bellossom etc. and their plants – Based exclusively on the data provided, these plants do not seem to pose a threat to their Pokemon hosts, nor do they provide a benefit. However, they could potentially be an example of all three different symbiotic relationships mentioned, but we just don’t have enough information.

Lotad and small land Pokemon – Lotad will sometimes ferry smaller Pokemon that can’t swim across lakes or rivers. It does not seem to receive a benefit, but does it out of the goodness of its heart. Lotad likes to float around anyway, so it isn’t detrimental to help out. When a commensal relationship entails one partner using the other for transport only, it is called Phoresy.

Lotad carrying a mudkip

Ledian – Ledian sleeps in a leaf at night, which provides it protection. The leaf does not seem to be effected. This is the same for numerous Pokemon that live in trees, such as bug or flying types. The technical term for this is Inquilinism, where one partner receives a permanent house and the other is unaffected.

Corsola and small sea life/humans – Large Corsola colonies provide hiding places for small sea life to find protection in, and sometimes humans can even build floating villages on their backs (Pacifidlog). The Corsola don’t seem to mind either interaction, but they also do not gain a benefit.

Corsola

Parasitism

Vileplume and its flower – The flower on Vileplume’s head is so huge it affects Vileplume’s mobility, as it is too heavy to hold up. It is unclear whether the flower provides a benefit. In saying this**,

VIleplume

 Conclusions

Clearly, there are many examples of symbiotic relationships in the Pokémon world. These are just a few of the many potential relationships, but there are probably many, many more!

*I am not convinced that they are different species. In the past, species were categorized by morphology (How they look) instead of genetics, but not all species that have similar DNA look the same. Occasionally throughout history this has meant two species that were in the same genetic family weren’t recognized as such. I am convinced that these examples of Pokemon would be shown to have the same DNA, and that is why they can have babies of both male and female types. If this is the case, they would not be in a symbiotic relationship because the male and female counterparts would be the same species.

**Gloom seems to benefit from the scent its flower releases, so they could also be in a mutual relationship.

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the images in this post, nor do I own any of the Pokemon mentioned

The “Science” of Partners: Part 4 – Parasitic Symbiosis

Part 4: Symbiotic relationships are defined as a relationship between two species where at least one party benefits from the other. Parasitism is when one partner benefits from the relationship, but the other partner suffers. Today I want to talk about the prime example of Pokémon Parasitism; Parasect. I would also like to mention Joltik as a potential parasite. For more information on other Symbiotic Relationships in the Pokémon world, have a read about some Mutual or Commensal relationships.

Paras and Parasect

Paras

Originally, Paras was a cicada-like bug Pokemon that went about its business as merry as can be. Somewhere along the line, a Paras or a Parasect came in contact with a specific type of mushroom spore, which attached itself to the bug Pokemon. Any eggs produced from the original Paras or Parasect were exposed to these spores, and all resulting offspring were also infected.

The fungus that is attached to Paras sucks nutrients from Paras’s body, but also has some mind-controlling abilities and is able to tell Paras where to go to get more nutrients. The mushroom fully engulfs Parasect and also has complete control over its mind. What makes this a parasitic relationship is that the mushroom slowly sucks the life out of Paras and Parasect, taking over its body until death. Paras and Parasect receive no benefit from the mushroom, but it is not a Commensal relationship because the mushroom is heavily detrimental to the Paras. It is, in essence, a case of ’Till death do we part, where only the Paras will die.

Parasect

So what is this mushroom? In Japanese, it is called Tohchukaso, but this is really just a blanket term for many types of parasitic fungi. The Latin name for this genus is Cordyceps, and consists of about 400 different species of parasites. They mostly infect insects or other small animals with exoskeletons by replacing the host tissue with their own. This will eventually lead to the death of the insect, but the fungus doesn’t mind because it has plenty of time to produce spores that will infect other insects. The most interesting (or disturbing) thing about these fungi is that, like in the case of Parasect, they are able to alter the biochemistry of the insects brain so much that they can cause it to nestle itself in a prime position (e.g. On a nice fruit tree) where it will wait for its own death. The fungus can then share its spores with fruit that other insects eat, and they will also become infected. It is a seriously morbid relationship, so ultimately we should feel rather sorry for Paras and Parasect.

An infected ant

There is no escaping this fungus, so Paras and Parasect are doomed to a life of mind-control and nutrient loss. Even its name denotes what a sad relationship this is. It is, indeed, an example of Pokemon parasitism.

Joltik

Joltik

Joltik is a tiny, 4 inch long electric bug that cannot generate its own electricity. As a result, it attaches itself to larger electric Pokémon (maybe things like Zebstrika) in order to absorb some of their electricity. Now, before I start, I have not read anywhere that explicitly states that Joltik is a parasite, so this is just speculation.

There are a few reasons I think Joltik is a parasite. Firstly, it is based on the real life tick, which is known for attaching to animals (and occasionally humans) and sucking out their blood. The bites can be itchy or painful, and pose absolutely no benefit to the host at all. I have personally had to pull ticks off a dog, once, and there is nothing pleasant about them.

Tick

The Pokedex says Joltik “Sticks onto large-bodied Pokémon and absorbs static electricity” (B2). While this doesn’t say the host Pokemon is detrimentally effected, I would assume it is because the Pokemon is based on a tick. Also, because electric Pokemon generate and need their own energy, Joltik is taking it and the host would need to generate more (Unless Joltik only takes a negligible amount). Furthermore, in the episode “Crisis at Chargestone Cave!”, Joltik is shown to be “stealing” electricity from other electric Pokemon because all of the electrically charged stones have been removed from the cave. In this case it is more that the word steal implies the host Pokemon does not what its own electricity to be absorbed by Joltik, suggesting Jotik may be a parasite in this situation.

Of course, with such little evidence, it is also possible that Joltik is actually just in a Commensal relationship with other electric Pokemon, whereby Joltik benefits and the other electric Pokemon remain unaffected. However, it is very difficult to tell in this situation.

 

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the images in this post, nor do I own any of the Pokemon mentioned

The “Science” of Partners: Part 3 – Commensal Symbiosis

PART 3: Symbiotic relationships are defined as a relationship between two species where at least one party benefits from the other. Commensalism is where one partner benefits from the relationship and the other remains relatively unaffected. Today I want to talk two different examples of Commensalism, Pancham and other Dark type Pokemon, and Butterfree and Heracross, so we can understand how Pokémon work so well together. For more information on other Symbiotic Relationships in the Pokémon world, have a read about Mantine and Remoraid or Slowpoke and Shellder.

Pancham and Dark Pokemon

Pancham

Pancham is a fighting type panda that is slightly too cute to be taking seriously by enemies. Of course, it tries to act tough, but to very little avail. However, its evolved form Pangoro is a huge intimidating fighting/dark Pokemon that “charges ahead and bashes its opponents like a berserker” (Y) and is definitely a Pokemon you wouldn’t want to anger on a dark night. Pancham may be eager to evolve into Pangoro at level 32, but there is one hitch to its evolution.

Pangoro

Pancham can only evolve into a Pangoro where the trainer has another Dark type Pokemon in the party. The other Pokemon that requires this is Mantyke, which requires Remoraid. Remoraid benefits from Mantykes evolution and relationship, but the Dark Pokemon don’t benefit from Panchams evolution. The Dark type Pokemon in the party remain completely unaffected, but Pancham benefits from evolution. This is an example of a Commensal symbiotic relationship as only one partner benefits.

However, this is a difficult topic as we haven’t yet seen Pancham evolve into Pangoro outside of the games. One theory about Panchams evolution is that it is ‘lead astray’ by the more rowdy dark type Pokemon and adopts its secondary Dark type due to bad influence. This doesn’t prove that the other Pokemon benefits from the relationship, but it does suggest the other Dark Pokemon may not necessarily be passively involved. That is to say, the other Dark type Pokemon may be deliberately influencing the outcome of Panchams evolution, but whether that is just for fun or for benefit, I cannot say until we know more about this method of evolution.

Dark type Pokemon

Regardless of whether the Dark Pokemon has an active or passive influence on Panchams evolution, this is still currently classed as a Commensal relationship, until we are able to know more about the specificities of this particular relationship.

 

Butterfree and Heracross

Butterfree’s physiology is similar to a real life butterfly (oh, expect for its magic powers). The primary diet of butterflies is flower nectar, but many also feast on pollen or tree sap. Butterfree also has a sweet tooth and likes to make a meal out of tree sap, but it has the small problem of not being able to access the sap on its own.

Butterfree

This is where Heracross comes in. Heracross is an extremely tough bug type Pokemon with powerful claws and horn, which it uses skilfully to open up tree trunks to access the sap inside. While it enjoys the sap itself, it also allows Butterfree access to the sap. There are many real life examples of animals that share a similar symbiotic relationship. Puffins nest in abandoned rabbit holes, and Titan Triggerfish move large rocks to access food, allowing smaller and weaker fish that can’t move rocks to feed as well. Like the real life examples, Heracross and Butterfree seem to be in a commensal relationship, where Butterfree benefits from access to sap and Heracross remains unaffected.

Heracross

However, in episode 119 “A Sappy Ending” (AKA Getting Buggy With it) where we see this relationship, a Butterfree that had been feeding on tree sap is almost attacked by an aggressive Pinsir. Heracross jumps in front to fight the Pinsir, but it is unclear whether it is attempting to defend its food source or the Butterfree. This poses some problems

It is very rare in the animal kingdom for one species to actively defend another if that species poses no benefit to them. Ultimately, animals act selfishly not altruistically, especially if the two animals aren’t even genetically related. However, it is very common for more aggressive Pokemon to defend their territory. If this is correct, Heracross and Butterfree awould still be considered to be in a Commensal relationship, because Heracross would have acted the same way regardless of Butterfree’s presence.

Butterfree and Heracross eating sap

On the other hand, Pokemon seem to be much more altruistic towards other species than real life animals. Trevenant actively wanted to defend Bonsley and Sudowoodu is XY episode 38 “Forging Forest Friendships”, and Absol is known to deliberately appear in order to warm people of approaching disasters. If this is the case, Heracross could be acting altruistically, meaning it is not completely unaffected but its relationship with Butterfree. Alternatively, Butterfree may offer Heracross a benefit we don’t know about, such as Heracross benefiting from Butterfree’s safeguard. This would mean they were in a Mutual relationship, but I do not want to say this conclusively because we do not have enough evidence it is the case.

It is easy to see that both Pancham and Butterfree benefit from their partners presence, suggesting that these are examples of Pokemon Commensalism. What I really like about Butterfree, is that this also shows a benefit that doesn’t involve evolution. Do you know of any other Commensal relationships in the Pokémon world?

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the images in this post, nor do I own any of the Pokemon mentioned.

The “Science” of Partners: Part 2 – Mutual Symbiosis

PART 2: Symbiotic relationships are defined as a relationship between two species where at least one party benefits from the other. Mutualism is a form of symbiosis where both parties benefit from interaction. Today I want to talk about Slowpoke and Shellder so we can understand how Pokémon work so well together.

Slowpoke and Shellder

Slowpoke

Slowpoke is a dopey little pink thing that is known for its complete lack of intelligence. All in all, Slowpoke doesn’t do much, preferring to sit around making drawn out, unintelligible noises and occasionally fishing something out of the ocean with its tail (probably by accident).

Shellder

Shellder is a clam-like Pokémon who hides away between two clam shells, with only its tongue poking out. It can swim in the water in a similar manner to a butterfly but has a bit of trouble with movement on land. However, occasionally a Shellder will clamp on to the end of a Slowpokes tail and, low and behold, a Slowbro evolves!

The great thing about Slowpoke and Shellder is that there is an entire episode of the anime dedicated to understanding the symbiotic relationship between these two Pokémon. In episode 66 “The evolution Solution”, Ash and Co. meet Professor Westwood, who is attempting to understand why Slowpoke evolves into a Slowbro when a Shellder clamps on to its tail. Due to the typical kerfuffle with team rocket, Jesse’s newly caught Shellder clamps onto Prof. Westwood’s Slowpokes tails and they collectively evolve into Slowbro, allowing Slowbro to use on Mega Punch Team Rocket and blast them off again. Prof. realises that the reason the two Pokemon collectively evolve into Slowbro is because both Pokemon benefit from the partnership; Slowpoke is balanced by the weight on its tail and can stand on its hind legs to free its arms, and Shellder gains land mobility. It is clear that these two benefit from each other and are an example of Mutualism.

Slowbro

The funny thing about these two Pokémon is that it is not a true form of evolution (neither in a Pokémon nor a biological sense) because both can revert back to their previous form if the Shellder lets go of Slowpoke/Slowbro’s tail. In a sense, it is a similar sort of evolution as mega-evolution, where the Pokemon temporarily changes form due to a held item. In this case, however, it is not a held item that causes the change, but another Pokémon. The cool thing about this partnership is that they can stay this way perpetually, if they would like.  Another funny thing is that the two are referred to as a single entity, despite having two separate brains and bodies. They also have different forms of evolution in the anime to the game, where in-game evolution occurs with a level 37 slowpoke WITHOUT the presence of a Shellder. Shellder cannot evolve into a Slowbro in-game, despite being necessary in the anime. This is somewhat different to an ordinary symbiotic relationship,  because they can exist quite well without each other, and they aren’t even neccisarily better off with each other. However, they can still enter into a symbiotic relationship none-the-less.

Slowpoke and Shellder evolve

Slowpoke and Shellder also have another side to their relationship. If a Slowpoke is holding or wearing a Kings rock and a Shellder bites onto its head, the two collectively evolve into Slowking. Aside from Shellder now having land mobility and Slowpoke being able to walk on only two legs, Slowking also adds another aspect of their symbiotic relationship. I had to read this a few times, because it seemed ridiculous to me, but it is true to the Pokedex! “When (Slowpokes) head was bitten, toxins entered Slowpoke’s head and unlocked an extraordinary power“(Firered) and “Every time (Slowking) yawns, Shellder injects more poison into it. The poison makes it more intelligent” (Crystal). So the toxin Shellder excretes actually makes Slowking ridiculously intelligent. This benefits the Slowpoke, because intelligence is often quite handy for survival, but it also benefits the Shellder, because being attached to a more intelligent Pokémon may provide extra safety. Now, technically, the secreted substance wouldn’t be toxic to Slowking unless it was harming it also, but it may be toxic to other Pokemon. This could be why Shellder doesn’t clamp on to other Pokemon and make them evolve. If Slowpoke is the only Pokemon that isn’t negatively affected by Shellder’s toxins, it may explain why these two are such good friends.

Slowking

There are lots of examples of real life organisms that benefit from each other’s secretions (it sounds worse than it is). Many soil microorganisms benefit from nutritious protein and sugar secretions from roots. In one case, the Rhizobium bacterial species use these secretions and, in return, convert nitrogen into a form the plant can use. Like Slowking and Shellder, this is a Mutual symbiotic relationship.

So Slowpoke and Shellder are in a complicated symbiotic relationship, with many different facets and benefits. In the case of Slowbro, the two Pokemon benefit from balance and land mobility, and with Slowking, intelligence and land mobility. However, it is best the two Pokemon stay as one, because “Slowking undertakes research every day in an effort to solve the mysteries of the world. However, this Pokémon apparently forgets everything it has learned if the Shellder on its head comes off.” (ORAS). Yes, if Shellder leaves Slowking, the newly devolved Slowpoke forgets everything it learned. It makes me wonder whether a Shellder stops biting my head the day after exams, because I know that felling all too well.

 

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the images in this post, nor do

The “Science” of Partners: Part 1 – Mutual Symbiosis

 

PART 1:

Life is filled with creatures that are out to get each other. In a paper-scissors-rock style cycle, predators, game and plants are all affecting each other in a bid to stay on top. This competition keeps the ecosystem in balance. The ecosystem thrives off this balance, and suffers when the balance is thrown out of order. In the Pokemon world, Pokemon are often in conflict, too. Zangoose and Seviper have been at each other’s throats for millennia, and Pidgeot has no problem scooping a Caterpie up for a tasty morsel.

However, not all animal and plant relationships have to be competitive. When two animals enter in to a relationship where both benefit, this is symbiosis, and it is one of the more pleasant parts of balance. There are three main types of symbiosis:

Mutualism – Both parties benefit from the relationship.

Commensalism – On party benefits but the other remains unaffected.

Parasitism – One party benefits to the detriment of the other.

In a Mutual Symbiotic relationship, species will not compete but instead work together to benefit both parties, such as bees and flowers. A bee will drink the nectar of a flower for nourishment, and in return will help the flower by carrying its pollen to other flowers for pollination. Both parties benefit. Pokémon are not excluded from symbiotic relationships. In fact, they are rather good at showing just how great it is to work together. I am excluding Pokemon of the same species that work together (such as three Diglett evolving in to Dugtrio) because Symbiosis only refers to relationship between different species.

Mantine and Remoraid

Mantine, the kite-like sting ray, is often seen with a happy little Remoraid tucked safety under its wing. According to the Pokedex, “It is not bothered by the Remoraid that hitches rides”, and “it doesn’t care if Remoraid attach to it for scavenging its leftovers”. Mantine is much larger than Remoraid and may find it easier to catch food, so Remoraid benefit greatly from hitching a lift on the underside of Mantine’s wing. It is easily able to glean food scraps that it may not have been able to get otherwise, and for no effort. Not only that, but Mantine offers protection to the smaller and more vulnerable Remoraid who “cling to Mantine to feed on the big Pokémon’s scraps. This is an adaptation to avoid foes“. Mantine can also leap 300 feet out of the water away from predators such as Sharpedo. Not only that, but if I was a Remoraid I would latch on to Mantine solely for the joy of jumping 300 feet (a football field) so I could pretend to fly.

This is similar to a real world relationship. The Remora (hey, hey that sounds familiar!), or Suckerfish, is able to suction onto stingray and sharks for the same reasons as Remoraid attaches to Mantine (except for the, you know, flying part). However, prior to gen IV, Mantine wasn’t known to benefit from Remoraid’s attachment (more on this later). If only one partner benefits from the relationship, and the other is unaffected, it is known as a Commensal relationship. The Remora is an example of as the host animal remains unaffected this (although, there is much debate among Biologists about that, as it may clean parasites off the skin). In the case of Pokemon, Remoraid reaps the benefits and Mantine just doesn’t mind.

However, we know that Mantine and Remoraid aren’t an example of Commensalism. In gen IV we discovered that Mantine has a baby evolution, Mantyke; the mini stingray with a terrifying face on its back. Mantyke is unique in the sense that is the only Pokemon that requires a certain Pokémon in the party for in-game evolution. When a Remoraid is in the party, Mantyke can successfully evolve into Mantine. Without Remoraid, Mantyke would be unable to evolve, and without Mantine, Remoraid wouldn’t be protected or have as much food. The two are in a perfectly working Symbiotic relationship.

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the images used in this post, nor do I own any of the Pokemon mentioned.

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