Pokemon Sword and Shield's Worst Pokemon Are a Reference to Actual Prehistoric Mistakes

Pokemon Sword and Shield's Worst Pokemon Are a Reference to Actual Prehistoric Mistakes

When Gideon Mantell accidentally mixed up early Iguanodon fossils, at least no living creatures suffered.

Pokemon Sword and Shield has two things in abundance: References to U.K. history, and disturbing new Pokemon. If you nose around the Galar region for long enough, however, you'll find a character who helpfully combines these two things into one of four abominations.

Most Pokemon games let you resurrect Pokemon from fossils you find somewhere around the region. Even Red and Blue lets you resurrect an Omanyte (wrong choice) or an Aerodactyl (correct choice). But Sword and Shield add a British twist to the revival process by way of a "paleontologist" named "Cara Liss." Sound that name out carefully, because it's a big reason why Sword and Shield puts you face-to-face with some of the most twisted Pokemon birthed to date.

While traveling through the Galar region, you might come across four fossils. These skeletons are vaguely labelled "Drake," "Bird," Fish," and "Dino." When Cara Liss splices them together with her handy-dandy science machine, you wind up with one of four mixed-and-matched prehistoric beasts that just… don't look right at all. Even the PokeDex entries for these monsters suggest every moment they're alive is virtual torment. One can't eat because its mouth is on top of its head, another can't breathe unless it's underwater, and another can barely breathe at all.

It's clear Cara Liss just smushed together the fossils without fear of God or Arceus. Hilariously/horrifically, even the aforementioned PokeDex entries read like bad science. One ancient Pokemon, Dracovish, has the head of a fish and a lizardlike body with thick legs that should theoretically let it run at 40 kilometers per hour—except it can't breathe air very well. All of the PokeDex entries for these chimeras suggest "Wow, what an inefficient body. No wonder these Pokemon went extinct, huh?"

Cara Liss and her mad science are likely a shout-out to the 19th century paleontology rush that seized the U.K., Europe, and America. Huge strides were made in the discovery and naming of dinosaurs, but the fiercely competitive nature of the field and a general misunderstanding of dinosaur anatomy led to several phony dinosaurs being "discovered." This usually happened after skulls wound up on the wrong bodies: The brontosaurus is probably the best-known example.

The brontosaurus kerfuffle happened because of a war between two American paleontologists, but the U.K. has its own famous dinosaur mix-up. In 1822, a doctor named Gideon Mantell discovered one of the earliest fossils while visiting a patient in Sussex. (Some accounts claim Mantell's wife, Mary Ann, found the fossil.) The fossil was actually the tooth of a dinosaur that would later be named "Iguanodon."

More Iguanodon fossils were eventually unearthed, but the beast's body remained something of a mish-mash. The early depictions of Iguanodon—which you can still find statues of in London's Crystal Palace Park—show a reptile that lumbered on four equally-sized legs. (Iguanodon was a biped with short forelimbs.) The statue shows Iguanodon's famous spiked thumb on its snout; Mantell and other early paleontologists first thought the claw was a rhino-like horn.

While these mix-ups were detrimental to science, at least living animals weren't made to suffer. Sword and Shield's freakshow fossil Pokemon aren't so lucky. Not only are they alive and hating every moment of it, Pokemon trainers force them to eat curry and play fetch. The game doesn't even grant them the dignity of a quiet life in a lab or a zoo habitat.

Meanwhile, modern scientists are growing dinosaur faces on chicken embryos. It's fine; don't worry about it. I'm sure we'll be having some incredible real-life Pokemon battles a hundred years from now. Pass the time until then by reading our guides on where to find all the TM and TR moves in Pokemon Sword and Shield.

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Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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