In the last installment of the Science of Slowbro, we explored the different types of symbiosis exhibited by Slowbro and Slowking. We came to the conclusion that Shellder was a parasite in the Slowbro evolution, but there was mutualism exhibited by Slowking.
So what about the new regional Slowbro and Slowking types revealed in Pokemon Sword and Shield, Galarian Slowbro and Galarian Slowking? Let’s take a look.
Pokemon Sword and Shield’s Galar region introduced Galarian Slowbro, another version of Slowbro whose symbiotic evolution with Shellder exhibits an interesting new form — a Slowbro with a pistol Shellder fused to its arm.
According to the Pokemon Sword Galarian Slowbro PokeDex entry, the origin of Galarian Slowbro was sparked by a chemical reaction caused by the Shellder biting Slowbro, which set off the spices inside Slowbro’s body:
> A Shellder bite set off a chemical reaction with the spices inside Slowbro’s body, causing Slowbro to become a Poison-type Pokémon.
The Pokemon Shield PokeDex entry for Galarian Slowbro would suggest that Slowbro has more control than Shellder in their symbiotic relationship:
> If this Pokémon squeezes the tongue of the Shellder biting it, the Shellder will launch a toxic liquid from the tip of its shell.
Slowbro seems to be in full command of Shellder in this scenario, as it is touting Shellder as a pistol and squeezing its tongue down as a trigger. However, a closer look at the official Pokemon Sword and Shield information page for Galarian Slowbro reveals that Shellder still exhibits some control, although in an unconscious manner.
> The Shellder sometimes unconsciously bites down harder on Slowbro’s arm, causing an itch that drives Slowbro to start swinging its arm around indiscriminately and smashing its surroundings. This makes Galarian Slowbro a highly dangerous Pokémon.
Judging from this entry, it is my contention that Galarian Slowbro is actually a case of parasitism. Unlike the Slowbro scenario, where Shellder is acting as a parasite with Slowbro, Galarian Slowbro is the inverse; that is, Slowbro is the parasite, using Shellder as no more than its on-command, poison-squirting, Mega Man-esque hand cannon. Shellder unconsciously biting down is proof that it has no free will of its own. This is reinforced by the description of Galarian Slowbro from the official Pokemon website:
> Although this Pokémon is normally zoned out, facing off against strong opponents activates the stimulants in its body, sending them coursing through its nervous system and delivering a jolt.
When this happens, Slowbro’s expression sharpens. With a speed that puts even the quickest reflexes to shame, Slowbro readies its Shellder and makes poisonous liquid shoot from the Shellder’s tip.
Slowbro makes poisonous liquid shoot from Shellder’s tip. If Shellder has very little to no free will, then that suggests it doesn’t technically benefit from this particular case of symbiosis. Which brings us to the final form of Galarian Slowpoke in Pokemon Sword and Shield.
The final form of Galarian Slowbro was introduced in Tuesday’s Pokemon Sword and Shield Crown Tundra DLC expansion trailer: Galarian Slowking. As you can see, Galarian Slowking looks drastically different from its other symbiotic forms.
As if Galarian Slowking’s unnerving appearance wasn’t evidence enough, with the Shellder almost completely engulfing the Slowbro’s head like some aberrant knight’s helm, the official Pokemon Sword and Shield Galarian Slowking description makes it even clearer that Shellder seems to have assumed full control of Slowbro. The following description is designated with a heading of “A brainy Shellder takes charge,” by the way.
> A Shellder bite set off a reaction between the chemicals secreted by Galarian Slowpoke’s brain and the spices inside its body, causing Slowpoke to gain the Poison type as it evolved into Galarian Slowking. The Shellder’s intelligence also skyrocketed, giving the Shellder psychic powers that put other Psychic-type Pokémon to shame.
Although Galarian Slowking is still able to speak, it’s unclear whether or not this speech is voluntary or merely the byproduct of Shellder’s manipulation. As the official Pokemon website description explains: “Galarian Slowking have been observed uttering incantations in order to communicate with each other. They also appear to chant mysterious spells when using moves in battle. Exactly what these Slowking are saying has yet to be fully understood.”
Just when we thought Galarian Slowking couldn’t get any more horrifying.
So what sort of symbiosis does Galarian Slowking exhibit? It’s difficult to answer this question without knowing more about how Slowbro is affected by Shellder’s takeover. Even though parasitism might be the first thought, parasitism, as we remember is when one organism benefits at the expense of another. Is Slowbro being outright controlled like the parasitism exhibited in a Pokemon like Parasect, where the mushroom portion of the symbiosis has assumed complete control, making the insect portion not much more than a white-eyed zombie?
Or does Slowbro still retain some semblance of sentience underneath his new Psychic Shellder facemask? And is it more than just the occasional, unconscious bite, like we saw in Shellder’s case in the previous entry with Galarian Slowbro? The fact that Galarian Slowking gains a devastating new Psychic-type attack in the form of Eerie Spell, would seem to suggest that both Shellder and Slowbro are benefiting from the symbiosis but that doesn’t hold true if Slowbro is in a near-vegetative state underneath the Shellder mask.
What sort of symbiosis do you think Galarian Slowking is exhibiting? Let us know in the comments.