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A Rebuttal of the UC Davis Pokemon Family Tree Using the Butterflies and Moths as an Example12 by LibraSnakes13/NidorinoTrainer

Introduction With the plethora of Pokémon species introduced in recent years, there have only been a few complete Pokémon phylogenetic trees (family trees). Some Pokémon scientists have taken up the challenge of mapping out the entire tree such as the people at the Pokémon Origins website3. However, the unique world of Pokémon has made it difficult in mapping the tree such as their weird and unique characteristics and their Egg Groups. Students at UC Davis though have recently published a paper detailing the complete phylogenetic tree of Pokémon. The family tree can be seen here: while the original article the tree was published in can be seen here about halfway through the PDF file The publishing of the UC Davis phylogenetic tree of Pokémon has been met with criticism from fans as seen in /. Some have questioned the hypothesized relationship between the species such as Plioswine’s


The following paper is an informal essay that was written for fun. Though criticism is accepted, harsh comments and such will be ignored as pokemon is just a game. 2 For a TL;DR, scroll down to the last page for the family tree. 3 The website is

closest relatives being Articuno and Delibird. This paper will test out part of the phylogenetic tree to validate UC Davis’ claim. The moth/butterfly section of the tree will be tested. This section of the tree can be seen here.

The pokemon Beautifly, Butterfree, Crobat, Dustox, Mothrim, Wormadam (hence forth both will be referred as Mothdam), and Venomoth will be analyzed. Traits to be Analyzed The following traits will be analyzed4;


The primary and secondary type of the pokemon

General physical characteristics

Evolution such as number of stages and evolution level

Moves learned naturally

Egg cycles



For the purpose to avoid confusion and complications, Egg Groups will not be analyzed. I will be going with the definition that a species can only breed with itself and not with other species.

Results SPECIFIC TRAIT Type Secondary Type Larval and Cocoon Stage

Beautifly Bug Flying

Butterfree Bug Flying

Crobat Poison Flying

Dustox Bug Poison

Mothdam Bug Flying/etc.

Venomoth Bug Poison







Earliest Stage Flies Antennae

0 1

0 1

1 0

0 1

0 1

0 1

Number of Stages Level to 2nd Stage Level to 3rd Stage Egg Cycles

3 7 10 16

3 7 10 11

3 22 friend 16

3 7 10 16

2 20 N/A 16

2 31 N/A 21

MOVES Air Slash Bug Buzz Confusion Gust Leech Life Poison Fang Poison Powder Psybeam Psychic Quiver Dance Silver Wind Sleep Powder Stun Powder Supersonic Whirlwind




42 10 16


46 28 12 12 18 22


Beautifly 60 70 50 90 50 65

Butterfree 60 45 50 80 80 70


Crobat 52

Dustox 41 10 13

Mothdam 41 47 23 26

Start 42 12 24 45 34 17

29 24 45 34

44 50 38

Venomoth 59 11 31 17 47 13 25 63 Start 29 23

Start 27

Crobat 85 90 80 70 80 130

Dustox 60 50 70 50 90 65

Mothdam 70 94 50 94 50 66

Venomoth 70 65 60 90 75 90








1st 2nd Dream World

Swarm Rivalry

Butterfree Compound Eyes Tinted Lens

Crobat Inner Focus

Dustox Shield Dust Compound





Swarm Tinted Lens

Shield Dust Tinted Lens Wonderskin


Interpretation Of the pokemon listed, the one that is probably most distantly related compared to the other species is Crobat. A number of characteristics separate Crobat from the other pokemon including: 

No shared abilities

No antennae

Not part Bug Type

Final stage evolves by friendship

Has generally higher stats and outspeeds the pokemon by a wide margin

UC Davis also pins Venomoth as Crobat’s closest relative. Though Venomoth shares similar traits with Crobat such as Poison typing and shared moves like Leech Life and Poison Fang, the high amount of synapomorphic traits Venomoth shares with the other Bug pokemon include: 

Bug type

Shared abilities

Has antennae

Stats that are closer to the Bug pokemon than to Crobat

And sharing many moves with them including Bug Buzz, Gust, Quiver Dance and Silver Wind which all five of them learn upon level up

Because of which, these traits can be used to unify the five bugs into a monophyletic group of the butterflies and moths5. In fact, there are only a few viable traits that unite all six of these pokemon such as using Bug and Flying type moves and a final stage that flies6. The Butterflies Beautifly and Dustox are probably sister species due to the following characteristics 

Identical looking first stage pokemon

Very similar looking second stage pokemon

Same base stats total, also, all the individual stats are the same but rearranged

16 egg cycles until hatching

Both learn Bug Buzz, Gust, Quiver Dance, Silver Wind and Whirlwind at the exact same level. Moonlight and Morning Sun, which are similar moves, are learned at the same level. All other dissimilar moves are learned at the same level, for instance, Beautifly’s Absorb and Dustox’s Confusion are both learned at level 10 while Beautifly’s Giga Drain and Dustox’s Toxic are both learned at level 38.

Butterfree can be considered a sister species to Dustox and Beautifly for the following characteristics;  5

3 stage evolution

At the time being, other similar pokemon such as Volcarona and Masquerian are not included. Future study of these organisms need to be done in order to determine where they fit in the family tree. 6 Even this may be debatable. Real life bats and moths are not closely related yet both of their evolutionary lines evolved wings, however we can’t use this as a unifying trait. For instance, bats are more closely related to cats yet cats do not fly thus, the trait is null and void as a unifying trait.

o All three species follow the stages of larvae, cocoon and adult during ontological growth. 

Same base stat totals

Evolution levels are the same

Several moves are learned by all three of them and some are learned at nearly the same level o Bug Buzz in early 40s o Gust in the mid-10s o Quiver Dance in the mid-40s o Silver Wind in late 20s early 30s o Whirlwind in 20s It is possible that Butterfree is a sister species to Beautifly. Besides the obvious example

that they’re both based on butterflies in the real world, they share the same HP and Defense stat, the same type combination and they share six different moves upon leveling up (as opposed to five between Dustox and Beautifly). However, on the flip side of things Butterfree can be considered a sister species to Dustox because it has the same HP stat, the ability Compound Eyes, and seven moves upon level up. Because of this almost equal distribution of stats and the high amount of shared traits between Dustox and Beautifly, I’m led to believe that the two are sister species and Butterfree is a sister species to the Beautifly/Dustox group. The Moths It’s somewhat difficult to say where Mothdam and Venomoth fit on the family tree due to the random characteristics they share with the other Bug pokemon and their unique traits. However,

it’s possible that Mothdam and Venomoth are sister species albeit the date of divergence between the two was a long time ago7. The following traits unify the two pokemon 

Two stage evolution o The first stage does not fly

Higher level of evolution compared to the butterflies

Shares the ability Tinted Lens

Base stats total are close o Special Attack and HP are similar if not the same

Confusion and Poison Powder are learned upon level up

These traits are relatively weak and only when all of them are together do they display a somewhat convincing argument. Analysis was done when comparing Mothdam and Venomoth to the butterflies to see if there was a tangible relationship but the amount of dissimilarities far outweighed the similarities. Because of which, I’m currently placing Mothdam and Venomoth as sister groups8 until further evidence says otherwise. As such, here is my final interpretation of the family tree of these six pokemon. It is highly likely that I have missed something important that I should have taken to account or that I have made a mistake in my data. If you have the time, you are welcome to correct anything. However, before I accept any corrections, I would like to see references from different pokemon websites disproving any data I may have. Thanks!


Mothdam poses a particular problem since it has gone through a very high amount of sexual dimorphism. It’s possible that the female mothdam was once a moth-like pokemon similar to the male only Mothim though the lack of fossil evidence supporting or not supporting this remains unseen. 8 Volcarona might be able to clear up this mystery in the future on the placement and relationship of these two moths. However, an analysis of Volcarona has yet to be done.

Thanks for your time! ~LibraSnakes13/NidorinoTrainer

A Rebuttal of the UC Davis Family Pokmeon Tree