Newly discovered species or latest Pokémon character?

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In 2019, humanity discovered 81 new organisms, each with their own unique habitat, traits, and abilities. And—despite the controversy—on Nov. 15 people around the world were encouraged to, once again, catch them all on a Nintendo gaming system. Scientists also identified 412 new species on Earth.

Habitats endangered by global warming necessitate documenting life before it may very well disappear. With three quarters of the world’s environment already altered by humans, a staggering one million plant and animal species risk extinction.

A globalized economy hasn’t spared Pokémon either. Corsola, coral-like in appearance, has been bleached—presumably by the industrial Galar region’s acidification of the ocean waters. “Sudden climate change wiped out this ancient kind of Corsola,” reads the Pokédex entry (the veritable Encyclopedia Britannica of the Poké-world). It’s no longer a water/rock-type fighter, but a ghost-type of its former self.

A side-by-side comparison of two versions of the coral based Pokemon, Corsola. On the left is a pink and happy Corsola. The one on the right has been bleached white through toxic waters.A side-by-side comparison of two versions of the coral based Pokemon, Corsola. On the left is a pink and happy Corsola. The one on the right has been bleached white through toxic waters.

Game Freak/The Pokémon Company

Art imitates reality.

An Anthropocene extinction event is no laughing matter, of course. With much of the world’s biodiversity threatened, “we are losing species faster than we can discover them,” says Tim Littlewood, executive director of science at the Natural History Museum. Similarly, fans of Pokémon protested the latest installment of series for its failure to include the full cast of 890 capture-able characters (currently, you are restricted to a paltry 400). Their protest, nicknamed “Dexit,” urged audiences to abstain from buying the latest Pokémon Sword and Shield game for lack of a diverse Pokédex.

With the new entrants to our digital and physical environs, let us see if you can guess if these critters are a Pokémon or newly discovered species. Let the adventure begin: