On the Origin of Species – Tynamo, Eelektrik, and Eelektross

What if I were to tell you that there is a fish out there, in the real world, capable of not only producing a powerful electric shock, but also survives by draining blood from its prey? Now, what if I told you that it was capable of crawling out of the water and living on dry land for several days while it hunts for new victims?

Well, you’d have every right to call me a big fat liar. There isn’t any single species of fish (at least that I’m aware of) that can do all of those things. There is, however, a Pokemon that fits this description, and its name is Eelektross. Unlike last week’s Pokemon, which was based off of a single animal, Eelektross and its earlier forms Eelektrik and Tynamo are based off a wide range of real life creatures, all mixed into what could be considered terrifying if not for the charming Pokemon art style.

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Look at this face. How can anyone hate this face? (Source: Pokemon Company)

The Eelektross family is inspired by a number of animals, but the most obvious is the electric eel*. Electric eels are native to the Amazon River Basin in South America, where they hunt for fish, amphibians, and on rare occasions birds or even small mammals. The most well known feature of the electric eel is their ability to generate up to 600 volts of electricity (for comparison, the typical electrical outlet in your home supplies a meager 120 volts).

This voltage is created using three sets of organs along the length of the fish’s body: the Main organ, the Hunter’s organ, and the Sach’s organ, which together make up around 80% of the electric eel’s body. These organs contain thousands of specialized cells which store a small amount of electrical charge until the electric eel finds some prey. By discharging a few key cells, the electric eel is able to create a small current within its body, which cause nearby cells to rapidly discharge. This discharge causes more cells to discharge, and in a matter of milliseconds, the current flows through the electric eel’s body and blasts their prey, stunning it long enough for the eel to chow down.

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Electric eels: only slightly less adorable than their Pokemon counterparts (Source: Norbert Wu, National Geographic)

Now that the whole “launching bolts of electricity” aspect of the Eelektross family is out of the way, why don’t we move on to the somewhat less charming inspirations for this Pokemon. Namely, the shape of their mouths, which they borrow from one of the oldest living groups of fish: the lamprey. Lampreys are one of the few surviving groups of fish belonging to the superclass Agnatha, which are most notable for lacking jaws. Instead, lampreys have a round, sucker-like mouth lined with small teeth. These teeth are used to latch on to other fish so that the lamprey can feast on its blood.

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Certainly not the most cuddly fish in the sea (Source: Encyclopedia Britannica)

While there isn’t any specific reference of Eelektross or its family consuming blood, they are noted as having very large appetites, and Eelektross in particular is described as pulling itself out of the ocean in order to capture prey. There’s quite a few groups of fish that can survive on land, but the inspiration here is most likely the mudskipper, a fish with sizeable, almost leg-like pectoral fins. Mudskippers are native to intertidal zones around the Indo-Pacific, hopping along the shores at low tide looking for worms, insects, and crustaceans to eat.

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Mudskippers storming the beach (Source: Jon Robson)

The ability to walk on land isn’t the only interesting adaptation mudskippers have at their disposal. Unlike their underwater relatives, which are able to catch prey simply by taking a big gulp of water and sucking in the prey along with it, mudskippers have to catch their prey in their mouths, which they accomplish using what’s called a hydrodynamic tongue. Before going on land, the mudskipper will take in a gulp of water and hold onto it until they find some prey. As they open their mouth to consume their prey, the mudskipper quickly spits out this water and immediately sucks it back in. This blast of water acts a lot like the tongue of a frog, catching the prey and moving it into the mudskipper’s mouth, albeit with a much shorter range.

Electric eels, lampreys, and mudskippers are not the only influences on the design of Eelektross and its family. For example, Tynamo’s design is likely based off a juvenile eel called a Leptocephalus, Eelektrik is described as wrapping around its prey much like a snake, and Eelekross’ behavior of climbing on land and dragging prey back to the ocean is suspiciously similar to the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

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The resemblance is uncanny (Source: Pokemon Company, Universal Studios)

Nevertheless, electric eels, lampreys, and mudskippers form the main basis of the Eelektross family, and in our world, would likely be a terrifying beast. Unfortunately for Eelektross, being a fish capable of walking on land and launching bolts of electricity at prey before draining their blood is fairly passe in the Pokemon world, where animals are capable of creating whirlpools just by yawning, or destroying entire mountains during a temper tantrum, or even folding itself into a jet and flying at the speed of sound.

Footnotes

*Electric eels are not actually eels. The term “eel” refers to an order of fish known as Anguilliformes, which are typically long, slender fish with a dorsal fin that runs the length of its body and fuses with the tail fin. They also have sharp teeth and either live their entire lives in the ocean or in the case of freshwater eels (such as those in the family Anguillidae) return to the ocean in order to reproduce. Electric eels, on the other hand, are a species of knifefish, lack a dorsal fin, don’t have teeth, and live their entire lives in freshwater.

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