Game Theory: Why Eevee is the MISSING LINK to Pokemon Evolution!

This episode finally solves the mystery of Pokémon evolution, that’s it.
No, cringy opening joke, no nothing.
If you want to learn the truth about what’s really happening when Pokémon evolve and how it applies to us,
Well, then this is the video for you, plain and simple, roll intro.
The time is finally here.
The gates begin to open.
The pieces are in place for you.
Use everything I’ve taught you to solve my mystery.
Your quest begins at
The prize awaits you at the end.
Will you accept my challenge?
Time is ticking.
Hello internet!
Welcome to Game Theory.
The self proclaimed Garbodor of the internet.(‘_’)
With the release of Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee,
It seems like a fitting time to take a look at one of the most adorable Pokémon ever created.(i’ve got my costumes)
No, not Pikachu, jeez that guy gets enough screen time.(c’mon Matthew J. patrick)
We’re talking about Eevee.(eh)
Whose unique within the Pokémon universe for being the first Pokémon to have branch evolution.(so, it’s a tree)
I.e. the ability to evolve into one of several Pokémon.(oh, it can be a tree)
Starting with three options in Generation 1,
Jolteon (thunder), Flareon (heat) and Vaporeon (water).
And since Gen 1 the list of possible Eeveelutions has just gotten ridiculous (like what?).
You can now Eevolve into eight possible Pokémon(8 now!?!).
Ranging from Alien cute to Kawaii cute to Eco Friendly cute(like a tree?).
Since then, there have been other Pokémon who got an access to branch evolution(like a literal BEAR THAT DOES NOTHING?!?!).
But to this day, Eevee is still the king(the king of losing!).
And so I started to research Eevee’s unique evolutionary abilities.
And then pieces started to fit together, and then more pieces, and more(ERROR!).
Until finally, the entire mystery of Pokémon evolution laid solved before my eyes(who’s that Pokemon?).
That’s right.
Eevee is the key that solves what Pokémon evolution actually is(keyvee).
For years, we’ve made jokes of ‘that’s not how evolution works.'(failboat)
And clearly it’s not.
But we’ve never been able to put a label on what is really going on. At least, until today.(GTlive)
Today, we solve the riddle that is Pokémon evolution once and for all.(oak’s gonna make candy!)
And it all starts, with this little guy.(phew)
According to Eevee’s Pokédex entry in Diamond and Pearl,(memes)
Eevee is a rare Pokémon that adapts to harsh environments by taking on different evolutionary forms.(like A FAMILIER BEAR!?!)
If you squint at this explanation,(like 2019’s fnaf fanmade poster)
It kind of seems to line up with the principles of evolution that we’re taught in school.(how?)
Where over time living organisms change their looks,(like A BEAR!?!)
Traits and abilities to adapt to their environments through Darwinian survival of the fittest.(like a PANDA!?!)
But the problem is that in Darwin’s definition,
This is happening over hundreds of generations.
What’s happening to Eevee is happening instantaneously when I shove a colored rock in its face.(ded)
What we see happening in Pokémon would be like if I took a turkey to the North Pole,
Stuck it next to an iceberg and suddenly it evolved into a penguin.
While admittedly that would be really cool,
And judging by how desperate Game Freak seems to be for new Pokémon ideas sometimes,
It wouldn’t really surprise me for a Penkey or Turguin to be in Gen 8.(that happened in let’s go matpat)
It’s just not the way things happen in nature.
So evolution alone isn’t explaining how Eevee’s physical changes are happening.
But believe it or not, there is in fact a Scientific explanation for Eevee.
Which is good because I like Eevee and we already rekt too many nice video game characters on the show.(#shrekt sonic and mario)
It’s called Epigenetics.
Epigenetics is something that you don’t usually get into unless you’re majoring in this stuff in college.
So all you younger viewers get ready to blow your teacher’s MINDS.
When you drop this knowledge bomb in the middle of your lesson about punnett squares.
Those are so like 4 years ago on this show.
So what is epigenetics?
At its core, It’s essentially the phenomenon by which animals are born with one set of genes.
But potentially have parts of their DNA that are locked at birth.
And can later be unlocked by certain things happening in the environment.
If that sounds weird, think of it this way, you have a ton of DNA in your body 2.9 billion base pairs.
But not all that DNA is working all at the same time.
Without getting into the nitty-gritty of genetics.
Your cells have specialized proteins that turn off and on different genes throughout the course of your lifetime.
When you’re a kid,
You have a ton of genes turned on to do things like grow your bones, build your brain cells,
And create the hormones that make you fall in love with literally every creature that you pass in the school hallway.
Later in your life, though.
Some of those genes get locked back up.
When that happens, maybe your metabolism starts slowing down.
You stop producing color for your hair and it turns gray.
As you get older, you have all the same genes that you started with on the day you were born.
But how you look is depending on which ones are turned on and off your epigenetics.
Right now my baby Oliver has blonde hair, but Steph and I have brown hair.
So should I be worried about Steph’s relationship with the milkman?(just passing through)
is Steph cheating on me?
Of course not, at least I-I don’t think so.
Steph! Steph, are you cheating on me?(no!)
Oh yeah sure, that’s what you would say.(i’m not lying)
Now what’s really going on here is that right now,
Most of the genes in Oliver’s system that produce melanin.
Which turns your hair brown, are turned off.
Like way off, just like I had when I was his age.
But when he gets older, those genes get activated.
And his hair will turn brown just like ours, his physical traits will change as his genes turn on and off.
Now with animals,
What epigenetic researchers have discovered.
Is that some animals will be born with one set genes.
But potentially have parts of their DNA that can be unlocked by certain triggers in their environment.
A great example of this, are honey bees.
Yeah yeah, I know I just dedicate an entire episode to bee talk as it relates to Peachette.
Maybe I’m just going through Bee Movie meme withdrawals, I don’t know.(sienfield)
Bees are fascinating creatures, and in this case they are the perfect Eevee example.
So like I covered back in that episode.
Female bee larvae can grow into either a queen bee or a worker bee.
What makes the difference here,
Is the food that they’re given at birth.
Bees given royal jelly become a queen,
Well everyone else becomes a worker.
So in this case royal jelly is basically the evolutionary stone for bees,
Determining what form the larval bee evolves into.
It even changes the bee physically.
Where in their adult stage, queen bees and worker bees look way different.
But in their larval stages, they’re practically identical.(EEW)
It’s exactly like two different Eeveelutions.(kaboom)
That wind up with two different appearances, despite starting with the same looking Eevees.(what)
The queen and worker bees didn’t start off as genetically different.
But differences in their environment, royal jelly or lack there of, led to wildly different gene expressions.
And bees aren’t the only place in nature where this happens.
Another Eevee like example happens in the Agouti Mouse.
Which has a gene which changes the fur of its coat.
These two mice are genetically very similar at birth.(out the moms booty they go!)
But due to differences in nutrition.
They have very different gene expressions.(like inside out)
With one, having a gene expression that causes it to become obese and have lighter fur.
Same DNA sequence different phenotypes.
All due to environmental factors.
In humans, it isn’t just hair colour either case in point diabetes.
Specifically type 2 diabetes.
We’re often told two things about diabetes that seem in direct conflict with each other.
First, that diabetes is a genetic disease, if your parents and grandparents had it.
Well, it’s more likely to be passed down to you.
But also second, that poor diet and lack of exercise can be a cause of diabetes.
So then which is it?
Is it a genetic thing that you’re born with?
Or is it a condition that you develop from eating one too many solo Vermonster challenges at Ben & Jerry’s.(what?!?)
That is a dangerous prospect, by the way.
Do not try to do a solo Vermonster.
Oh Vermonster, you are so good yet so dangerous.
You might inherit a genetic potential for diabetes that’s part of the DNA sequence that you’re born with,
but that diabetes may only get unlocked if you have the bad diet.
And if you maintain a good diet,
well, you might never have to suffer the diabetes that was encoded into your genes
as those genes remain turned off.
On the other hand, someone without a genetic predisposition for diabetes might never get it
no matter how many Big Macs they eat on the way.
And this kind of epigenetics perfectly lines up with what we know about Eevee.
In order to become a Vaporeon, for example,
a Pokémon not only needs to be exposed to a specific environmental factor, in this case, the water stone,(it will evaporate)
but also needs to have the right DNA sequence.(like broken bones)
Your Pikachu ain’t gonna turn into a Vaporeon, no matter how many water stones you chuck at it.
That’s because Pikachu wasn’t born with the genetic potential to become a Vaporeon(like more broken bones)
while Eevee was. you need both the genetic component being born as an Eevee
and the environmental component, the water stone,
to produce the epigenetic result, Vaporeon.
And where this whole thing starts coming together is when you stop and think about what doesn’t change here:
The DNA sequence that you were assigned to at birth.
It remains the same, it’s the thing that doesn’t change when these genes are being expressed.
Epigenetic changes will cause you to gain or lose certain characteristics,
but you’ll still always remain the same species.
A queen bee and a worker bee are always just gonna be bees.
No matter what the fur coat looks like, that Agouti Mouse is always going to be an Agouti Mouse.
As strange as it might seem, that “stay the same species” thing is actually the case for Eevee.
Sure, exposure to a thunderstone
will cause an Eevee to turn yellow and grow spiky quills,
and also somehow gain the ability to attack its foes with electricity.
But if you leave it in a daycare with another Pokémon that loves it very, very much,
it won’t lay a Jolteon egg.
It lays an Eevee egg.
While Eevee and Jolteon might have different entries in the Pokédex, in biological terms,
they appear to be the exact same species.
The DNA sequence between the Eevee and the Jolteon has stayed the same.
The only thing that’s changed is what parts of the DNA sequence have gotten turned on.
No matter how Eevee quote-unquote “evolves”, when it comes time to reproduce,
it’s always going to lay an Eevee egg.
Sylveons don’t lay Sylveon eggs,
Flareons don’t lay Flareon eggs.
They don’t pass their phenotypic traits on to their offspring.
But what they do pass on, is the genetic potential to express those phenotypic traits.
Sure, there are a few exceptions to this.
Like how Roselia can give birth to either another Roselia or the tiny Budew.
Based on whether it’s holding a Rose Incense.
But this also ties in with another part of epigenetic theory,
which is Natal Conditions:
The conditions of the mother during pregnancy
and how it can affect their offspring.
You know how pregnant women aren’t allowed to do stuff like smoke or drink alcohol.?
Well, it’s because those substances change the environment for the developing baby.
Just like a change in the environment for Eevee or a queen bee.
This one is just happening before the baby is actually born.(ew!)
In the case of alcohol, a change in the baby’s environment can cause birth defects.
Birth defects are simply just another name for a change in the gene expressions of the baby.
Really bad changes in the gene expression of a baby.
But still, that is what it refers to.
Basically, from the second you have genes, you can have epigenetic differences based on your environment.
And here’s where it starts to get crazy when you apply it to Pokémon.
Because epigenetics goes way beyond just the Eevolutionary family.
This issue of the egg actually unlocks the evolution of practically each and every Pokémon across all of these games.(halleluah)
What we’ve been calling Pokémon evolution for literally decades, is simply just epigenetics.
Take a look at any other Pokémon.
Charizard, for instance,
If Charizard was a true evolution of Charmander, when you bred two Charizard together,
you would be able to get another Charizard.
Because animals don’t regress backwards and evolution. having to
Charizard get together to produce a Charmander egg would be the equivalent of breeding two cats together and getting yourself a saber-toothed
tiger egg, since at some point cats evolved from saber-tooth Tigers, which would be the most awesome pet ever
but it’s not the way genetics works. What this all tells us
Is that the basic DNA of that Charizard is still just a Charmander turning into a Charizard was only the gene
expressions inside that Charmander changing certain genes for big scary fire-breathing
Dragon monster got themselves turned on and the environmental trigger that did it wasn’t a stone like an eevee’s case
But here it was
Battling it was being forced to battle a lot in order to level off and this is where all the pieces start coming together you
See being forced into stressful
situations like a fight to the death or I suppose a fight to the faint is exactly the kind of thing that can affect the
methylation of your genes and in turn affect how your body develops studies conducted on lab rodents demonstrate how
Exposing rats or mice to stressful and threatening situations can affect the phenotype that their genes express
According to research done at Columbia University in New York where rats were exposed to aggressive social
interactions ie a much lamer version of a Pokemon battle in
Situations where the rodents were repeatedly defeated by larger more dominant mice some animals responded to the challenge by becoming more threat avoidance
Which is a reasonable survival strategy
But another strategy was to rise to the occasion by becoming stronger and more threatening
Almost like they were leveling up and gradually becoming stronger unlocking more and more of their genetic potential
Epigenetic Theory even goes so far to explain why it’s so hard to find upper tier higher
evolutionary forms of Pokemon out in the wild
Why is it so hard to find a Blastoise swimming around or a Venusaur or tromping through the grass?
There are costs to being big bigger beasts maybe carry a lot more weight meaning that they need to have proportionally
Stronger legs need a lot more food
There’s a reason why there’s so many more termites and ants in the world than elephants and rhinos
But if a wild squirtle is just gonna live a peaceful existence
I would at sea having a small body that requires less food to maintain is actually gonna be a lot more evolutionarily advantageous
However, if that squirtle suddenly finds itself caught by a trainer and into a battle for its survival or a battle for its trainers
glory and status on a regular basis than what becomes most important is how good of a brawler it is making
Evolution into a war portal and eventually Blastoise the single best way to ensure its chances of survival
It was the environment being captured and forced into battles by trainers that
Forced the genes for giant turtle mech animals to turn on inside a squirtle when in the wild those sorts of genes would largely need
To go unexpressed. They don’t need them to survive. It’s epigenetics in action. So, there you go
You are now equipped to go around obnoxiously correcting your friends when they talk about Pokemon evolving
you could say something like well actually Pokemon simply alter their phenotypic gene expression through epigenetic signaling in their environment and
Congratulations, no one will know what it means. But you and me and all the other loyal theorists out there
But in the process what we’ll all understand, is that what we’ve unlocked here today is a real
Biological principle that not only fits with what we observe in the Pokemon universe
But also fits the real models of how animals are born with unexpressed traits that can unlock when they encounter specific factors in their environment
It might seem pretty fantastical when you use a leaf stone to turn into a Leafeon
but it’s no different from an agouti Mouse growing yellow fur because of the
Nutrition it received and it was all thanks to this little guy
Let’s go Eevee indeed. But hey, that’s just a theory a game
Theory thanks for watching quick reminder game theory merch is still available
Order it now and you’ll get it in plenty of time for the holidays
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