On the Origin of Species: Tyrunt & Tyrantrum
In the 1960s, paleontologists John Ostrom and his protégé Robert Bakker argued that dinosaurs were active, warm-blooded animals rather than giant, stupid lizards. This period, known as the Dinosaur Renaissance, supercharged how dinosaurs appeared in media, and had a direct impact on works such as Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park and Japan’s Super Sentai series. 1992’s Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger (which would become Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers in the United States) started the trend of Japanese heroes fighting alongside robotic prehistoric creatures, a trend that would reemerge in three other dinosaur Sentai in the future: Abaranger, Kyoryuger, and Ryusoulger.
Yet despite this clear popularity of dinosaurs – both in Japan and worldwide — Pokémon did not introduce dinosaur-based Fossils until Diamond & Pearl. Red & Blue’s Aerodactyl, while monstrous, is not a dinosaur, but a pterosaur, a group of flying reptiles that lived alongside dinosaurs and died out with them. It wasn’t until X & Y that creatures of the stereotypical dinosaur body plans were introduced: the bipedal predator with a large head & tiny arms, and the long-necked, long-tailed herbivore.
The inspiration for Tyrunt & Tyrantrum are somewhat obvious at first glance: they’re based on the carnivorous dinosaur. The star of Jurassic Park and every other piece of dinosaur media. The most famous predator to ever roam the planet, waiting to devour any hapless animal that got too close. I am talking, of course, about Tyrannosaurus rex.
Tyrannosaurus rex (T. rex) was first discovered in Wyoming by Barnum Brown, assistant curator of the American Natural History Museum in New York. The American Northwest had been scoured by two feuding scientists years earlier, yet Brown had never seen a creature like this. When a second skeleton was discovered, Brown’s boss, Henry Fairfield Osborn, named the creature with a combination of Greek & Latin meaning “Tyrant Lizard King”. Fitting, as Osborn was impressed with the animal’s size and estimated dominance over other fauna when it lived.
The jaws of T. rex are large and powerful, complimented by rows of “lethal bananas”. Its teeth were long and thick with deep-set roots, preventing injury when T. rex clamped onto a prey animal with a bite force of around 35,000 to 50,000 Newtons. Then it pulled away with its muscular neck, ripping mouthfuls of flesh away and splintering bone. One good bite was all it took for an unlucky herbivore to perish from shock and blood loss. Is it any surprise Tyrunt & Tyrantrum have Strong Jaw when T. rex had the strongest bite of any terrestrial animal? Tyrantrum is noted in its Pokédex entries to have been “invincible” thanks to this powerful bite, so it behaved like a king, while Tyrunt threw tantrums when things didn’t go its way.
Okay, let’s talk about the arms. Yes, they’re hilariously tiny. But a giant predator with a bone-shattering bite doesn’t need arms. Larger arms would interfere with the neck needed to support the head. The arms have heavyset bones, and the muscles lying across the bones were powerful enough to lift almost 200 kilograms. It’s suggested that T. rex could use its arms for holding onto struggling prey or lift itself up from a resting position. Furthermore, as Tyrunt & Tyrantrum can learn Dragon Claw, it’s clear that Game Freak was aware that size isn’t proof of lacking power.
“But wait,” you might be saying. “Dinosaurs and dragons are totally different! So why is Tyrantrum a Dragon-type?” A reasonable question. In Japanese, the word for “dinosaur” is “kyōryū” (恐竜). “Kyōryū” is a combination of the characters for “fear” (恐怖 kyōki) and “dragon” (ryū 竜). Thus, in Japan, dinosaurs are called “fearful dragons”. Therefore, the Dragon-typing.
Yutyrannus huali, an early tyrannosaur from China, is the largest-known dinosaur to have feathers. Yes, some (if not most) dinosaurs had feathers: they evolved for display and/or insulation rather than flight. The area of China where Yutyrannus was discovered may have averaged 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit), so it’s not surprising that even an active predator needed some extra help in keeping warm. Some scientists say that since Yutyrannus (whose name means “Feathered Tyrant”) had feathers, it’s possible T. rex did as well. Tyrunt & Tyrantrum display downy material as collar ruffs to emphasize their royal stature, which is a step up from many modern appearances of T. rex in media. Tyrantrum’s “beard”, however, is less likely to come from T. rex: as birds of prey can attest to, it’s difficult to clean flesh & blood from feathers.
Science is still unclear as to how fast T. rex was: footprints are exceedingly rare and the legs, while powerful, might not have been strong enough to support its weight at certain speeds. The current range of estimates is wide, ranging from 5 meters per second (18 km/h; 11 mph) to 20 meters per second (72 km/h; 45 mph). Tyrantrum has a base Speed stat of 71, where the average Speed for a full evolved Pokémon is 78. That appears to be in line with the estimates for T. rex; we may never know its true overall velocity, but it may have relied on surprise and ambush rather than chasing down a hapless hadrosaur.
How heavy was T. rex? The largest specimen, FMNH PR2081 (also known as “Sue”) is estimated to have weighed around 5,650 kg (12,460 lbs.). Sure, it’s no Argentinosaurus (the largest dinosaur we have reasonable knowledge of), but Sue’s still about five to six times heavier than Cosmoem and Celesteela (which both sit at 999.9 kg / 2204.4 lbs.) Even more impressive is that Sue was practically fully-grown, and she grew from a small juvenile (the smallest known T. rex specimen is 30 kg (66 lbs.)) in just 28 years. T. rex experienced a tremendous growth spurt around 14 years of age, gaining an average of 600 kg (1,300 lbs.) every year for the next four years. Tyrunt weighs 26 kg (57.4 lbs.), which is a good enough ballpark. Tyrantrum weighs ten times that much (260 kg (595.2 lbs.) while growing almost six feet longer than its pre-evolution. Sue could have Tyrantrum as a well-sized lunch.
Game Freak took a few liberties with T. rex, as they have for all Pokémon. While they got the biting strength and feathers right, they fell short with the growth rate and location. Tyrunt can be revived from a Jaw Fossil, which can be found in Kalos and Alola, and both Tyrunt and Tyrantrum are wild species in Galar’s Crown Tundra. The problem is none of the real-life counterpart locations ever saw a T. rex! Prehistoric France was home to a different group of carnivorous dinosaurs called abelisaurs, the islands of Hawaii didn’t even exist when the dinosaurs were alive, and no tyrannosaur ever stepped foot in Europe.
I digress. Despite the inaccuracies, Tyrantrum ranks high among my favorite Pokémon, and I’m sure that’s true for a lot of players (regardless of age) who love dinosaurs. With regal inspiration, powerful attacks, and accurate design, Tyrantrum is a rightful heir of Tyrannosaurus rex. They both inspire awe and radiate power, which may help explain why dinosaurs are so beloved. They were the most successful animals to ever live on Earth and their legacy is eternal: both in their direct descendants, the birds, and the best-selling media franchise of all time. Long live the king.