Before I get started, I’ll tell you the absolute basics of these three Pokémon. Omanyte is a Pokémon based off the prehistoric predatory group of cephalopods, The Ammonites, which died at the end of the Cretaceous Period 66-65 million years ago. The next Pokémon, Kabuto, is based off the even more ancient Trilobites, which were an extinct group of marine arachnomorph arthropods that died out about 252 million years ago. And finally Aerodactyl was based off of the Flying Reptile group, The Pterosaurs (which were NOT Dinosaurs), whom all died out during the same extinction event that killed off the Ammonites.
All Righty then... let’s go.
It was September of 1998. Pokémon Red and Blue versions were released on the Nintendo Gameboy to American Audiences. Nintendo wasn’t sure initially how American audiences would respond to the franchise, but with the help of the Anime series, Nintendo dared us to catch them all and we were hooked. A worldwide phenomenon began.
Fast forward just a little bit. While many of my peers got copies of the game early, my twin brother and I impatiently begged our mother for copies of the game. Unbeknownst to us, she had actually gotten copies of both versions, Red & Blue for each of us. She was waiting for Christmas as she wanted to make this year special. She was a single mother raising three kids on her own, and Christmases prior had been largely underwhelming (through no fault of her own, times were tough on us), so as much as we begged and pleaded, she never gave in. She simply said she didn’t have the money for them, and we believed her... and then finally, on Christmas Day, I unwrapped a familiarly sized square... and inside was a copy of Pokémon Blue Version. I could have died a happy 11-year-old right then and there. I knew the game would be a cherished experience, but I had no idea what an impact it would have on my impressionable mind.
As you start the game, you’re introduced to my first fictional crush, Professor Oak (who pretty much would define my taste in men moving forward), and you’re first tasked with naming your avatar. I remember specifically that my brother named his first avatar “Bitch”, because you know, we were about to turn twelve, and swearing was fun back then. I put a little more thought into my character, because just like playing various installments of The Legend of Zelda series, I knew the names were intended for the player to develop a connection with the fictional world the game is set in. I named my avatar “Brett” since that’s actually my name! I even named my rival in the game after my twin brother, Brad, since we had somewhat of an unspoken real-life rivalry. To me, it made the whole experience a little more authentic. And from there I set off from Pallet Town with my newly named Squirtle, “Leo” (named after a Ninja Turtle) and began my first Pokémon adventure!
I could probably go on and on about my journey through Viridian Forest, and beating my rival, Brad for the second time (sorry, real Brad), but I’ll skip past getting my first Gym Badge from Brock and go right to Mt. Moon, where most of my inspiration began.
Mt. Moon is a mystical location between Pewter City in the west and Cerulean City in the east. It’s known for it’s overwhelming hoards of Zubat, and the only location in the game in which Clefairy can be found.
To me however, Mt. Moon is more than that. It is where I met my first hoarder of fossils, my future self, The Super Nerd!
This was an easy, yet life-changing battle, though I didn’t know it at the time. Once the Super Nerd is defeated, he allows you take one of two fossils. The Helix Fossil, or The Dome Fossil. Truthfully, I put almost no thought into this, and chose the Helix Fossil because I thought it sounded cooler. Unbeknownst to me, this seemingly unimportant decision would be a turning point in my life.
To spare you my reminiscing babble of the rest of the game, I’ll fast forward toward the near-end of the game’s main “plot”. I had just made it to the shores of Cinnabar Island, by surfing on Leo (who was evolved into Blastoise by this time). I chose to explore the island before heading to the gym, not realizing I’d have to traverse the ruins of Cinnabar Mansion to even go forward into the game’s plot... which was something I just didn’t want to do because I wasn’t in the mood for any puzzle solving. So I pretty much immediately made my way to the Pokémon Lab. I traded some Pokémon with NCP‘s (not yet knowing they were keys to the Missingno glitch), and on the last door on the hallway I was met by a Scientist. The scientist recognized the Helix Fossil in my possession and explained he could revive it into a living prehistoric Pokémon! And that Pokémon was Omanyte.
I remember how fascinated I was by this concept. It’s part of why I loved The Jurassic Park franchise so much, however unlike Jurassic Park, this sparked my interest beyond the fictional world it was set in. My brother got the Dome Fossil on the grounds that we could help complete the Poke’dex together, but I was able to convince him to let me keep his Kabuto, whom he named after the F-word which I couldn’t change, and soon Perry the Omanyte and F*ck the Kabuto both became a part of my main Pokémon team. I just loved the idea of having something so ancient in my possession.
Fast forward again a few months later some time in the Spring of 1999. I was twelve at this time, and low key fearing the end of the world by Y2K, and my school was having it’s annual Scholastic Book Fair. I remember browsing the options of books to buy. I was (and still am) an avid reader. However I was only seeing books I already had. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Inside the Titanic, and just about every Goosebumps edition that was available... I was a big Goosebumps fan, too.
Nothing stood out... until I saw something strangely familiar though I had never seen it before... Ammonites and the other Cephalopods of the Pierre Seaway.
To put it simply, Ammonites were cephalopods (predatory marine mollusks) similar to the modern Squid, Octopus and chambered Nautilus. They died out along with the dinosaurs at the close of the Cretaceous period some 65 million years ago.
I immediately dotted the square next to it, returned it to my teacher (Hi, Ms. Lupica) and patiently awaited the book... and of course, played lots of Pokémon games in the meantime (not just the video games... the card game too, and my friends and I would pretend we were real trainers). I remember the anticipation that was building for this book. The internet was still brand new, and I was barely getting a hang of being on AOL without getting myself into trouble in a chat room I was too young for, so the only way I knew to get information was either at school, or through physical resources like books... a hard concept for some of the newer generations of rockhounds and pebble pups for sure! But that was life before Y2K. I remember pulling out my Pokémon cards before the book arrived, and went to my Omanyte and Omastar cards. It was only then that I made the connection as to why I was so drawn to the book I was still so anxiously waiting for... MY favorite Pokémon Omanyte was based on the real-life Ammonites.
Truthfully, I don’t remember a lot of the contents of the book. But I do remember that it created a snowball effect. I understood finally what an ammonite was, but I was a bit confused by a lot of the geology talk, as I had a very minimal understanding of Earth Sciences. I couldn’t stop wondering what fossils may be under my feet at all times (though in New England, chances were: not very many). I became obsessed with fossils and I absolutely had to know more on how to find them.
This would evolve into a lifelong passion for geology and Paleontology. Sometimes I wonder, had I chosen the Dome Fossil (Kabuto), would this have triggered the same questions I had when I recognized the Ammonites?
Today, at age 33 in the era of the Coronavirus, I am still an avid Pokémon player. My main teams almost all consist of EV trained, shiny fossiliferous Pokémon. But you know what else I am? An avid fossil hunter. The study of Paleontology has taken me far and wide. I have been all over North America, Europe, Asia and North Africa in search of fossils to feed my childlike curiosity of the world around me. But those stories will be for future posts.
Though I sell some of the fossils I find, those sales directly support my fossil hunting adventures and endeavors, and I also donate my more important finds for further studies. I probably wouldn’t be “living my best life”, had Pokémon not tapped into my curiosity of the actual real world we are all apart of. I remember as a kid being told that I’d never go anywhere in life playing video games all day... and while it’s important that we put them down from time to time, to that generalized statement I say; never let anyone undermine where you may draw your inspiration from.