I love rodents. While many people find them disconcerting or even disgusting, I think they are adorable, at least most of the time. I have a very strong connection to them; they’d be my Patronus if I had one. This is partially why Raichu is my favorite Pokemon. It’s also because Electric is my favorite type. Do you see where this is going? Basically, I love all of the electric rodent Pokemon, sometimes known as the Pikachu family or Pikaclones.
But there is something that has been bothering me. It’s something that only a rodent-obsessed person like me would think about. I started wondering… are the electric rodents actually rodents? At least based on scientists’ biological taxonomy? Let’s find out!
Here are all of the electric rodent Pokemon in existence (at the time of writing) and what they are based on:
- Pikachu (Mouse)
- Raichu (Mouse)
- Pichu (Mouse)
- Plusle (Rabbit)
- Minun (Rabbit)
- Pachirisu (Squirrel)
- Emolga (Flying Squirrel)
- Dedene (Dormouse/Jumping mouse)
- Togedemaru (Hedgehog/Porcupine)
- Morpeko (Hamster)
If you need a visual aid, you can see all the rodents in the pictures below.
From left to right, you can see: Minun, Pachirisu, Plusle, Pichu, Pikachu, Raichu, Dedene, Emolga, Togedemaru.
And don’t forget Morpeko, who is shown below!
Take a close look at the different rodent Pokemon, and you’ll notice something. Some of them have big front teeth (like a beaver) and some don’t. And this is where the question of their rodent status comes in. Those big front teeth are extremely important because they are literally what identify species as rodents.
In biology, rodents belong to the scientific order of Rodentia. To be classified as a rodent or placed in Rodentia, the animal needs to be a mammal with continuously growing incisors that are used for gnawing (Britanica). What are incisors? Well… they are the big teeth I mentioned earlier!
If you look at pictures of all known electric rodent Pokemon… you’ll see that many of them lack these teeth.
The only ones that have them are Parichisu, Dedene, and Morpeko. On the other hand, Pichu, Pikachu, Raichu, Minun/Plusle, Emolga, and Togedamaru do not. Because of this, they would not be considered rodents based on our established scientific criteria.
But it actually is more complicated than that.
Pikachu is based on mouse, Dedene is based on a dormouse, and Morpeko is based on a hamster (and maybe a guinea pig?), which all have incisors in real life. But Togedemaru was inspired by a hedgehog or porcupine, and Minun/Plusle are based on rabbits.
Technically, hedgehogs are not rodents. They may be adorable and rodent-like, but they do not have incisors and are classified as part of the Eulipotyphla order. If Togedamaru is based on a porcupine, that would change things since porcupines ARE rodents. However, Togedamaru doesn’t have incisors, so it wouldn’t count as a rodent either way. I know this is needlessly confusing, but isn’t it interesting? I sure think so.
Wait… what about Plusle and Minun? Aren’t rabbits considered rodents? They technically are not, which will probably come as a surprise to many people. Yes, rabbits have incisors; just think of Bugs Bunny. However, the truth is that instead of one set of incisors, rabbits have two! As well as some other different skeletal features. Because of this, rabbits belong to the Lagomorpha order (Berkeley).
Based on the Rodentia criteria, let’s look at a list of our electric rodent Pokemon again:
- Pikachu X
- Raichu X
- Pichu X
- Plusle X
- Minun X
- Pachirisu ✔
- Emolga X
- Dedene ✔
- Togedemaru X
- Morpeko ✔
Only three of them meet the mark. I find it ironic that Pikachu, the most famous “electric rodent” Pokemon that inspired many others, isn’t a rodent. I mean, that doesn’t make him any less adorable, though. Oh, a quick note. There are some rumors that the animal pika is what actually inspired Pikachu’s design. But even if that’s the case, pika are not rodents; they’re Lagomorpha like rabbits!
Wait, There’s More!
If you thought this was the end of my analysis, you are mistaken 😀 I’m going to dig even deeper to satisfy my rodent obsession. We’ve already established that only three electric rodent Pokemon would pass the incisor test.
But what if there is another criterium I overlooked? As stated earlier, the definition is of a rodent is “a mammal with continuously growing incisors that are used for gnawing.” The key word in this is definition is mammal.
The question is: are most Pokemon mammals? The definition of a mammal is “animals such as humans, dogs, lions, and whales. In general, female mammals give birth to babies rather than laying eggs, and feed their young with milk” (Collins dictionary). Only monotremes, such as platypus and echidnas, are mammals that lay eggs.
Anyone who has bred Pokemon in the games knows that every single one of them, besides Legendaries or genderless Pokemon, lay eggs. But mammals can’t lay eggs, except for monotreme. So, besides reptiles, amphibians, sea creatures, insects, and birds, this means every Pokemon is either a monotreme… or not a mammal at all. And if Pachirisu, Dedenne, and Morpeko are not mammals… can they still be considered rodents?
Sorry for all of the questions, but I think it’s crazy how one small characteristic can exclude an entire group of animals so easily.
Then again, does it even matter in the end? The world of Pokemon is fictional and its scientific nomenclature has no basis in reality. Therefore, the answer is no. It doesn’t matter. It may seem silly to have written a whole post about it, but as someone who loves animals, especially rodents, I thought it would be fun to explore this. I never realized how broad yet limiting biological definitions can be. I wonder if there is some kind of biological encyclopedia in the world of Pokemon, and if there isn’t… I would gladly volunteer to work on it! Maybe I can be Professor Oak’s assistant ❤
The whole electric-rodents-not-actually-being-rodents thing doesn’t affect how much I love them all. Raichu will always be my favorite, and all of the other lightning-spouting mousies have a special place in my heart.
Before I end this post, I want to indulge my rodent obsession one last time and show off my pet guinea pigs, the cutest rodents in the whole universe (yes, even cuter than Raichu). When they finally make a full guinea pig electric Pokemon, my life will be complete – whether or not it has those rodent-defining front teeth.
Musser, G. (2020, April 04). Rodent. Retrieved June 14, 2020, from https://www.britannica.com/animal/rodent
Introduction to the Rodentia. (n.d.). Retrieved June 14, 2020, from https://ucmp.berkeley.edu/mammal/rodentia/rodentia.html
Mammal definition and meaning: Collins English Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved June 15, 2020, from https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/mammal