Monster Hunter World

Subjective Revision of the MH Evolutionary Tree

MonsterHunterWorld4 - Subjective Revision of the MH Evolutionary Tree

I am a student of paleontology and thoroughly enjoy learning about the mechanisms of evolution. I've always thought it would be interesting to try and create a tree for all of the species in the MH universe. While others have done this before, most trees appear as though they require outrageous leaps in the acquisition of many unique features between the different monster forms (looking at you Elder Dragons). Granted, this is just a game and most of the monsters are designed in such a way to prevent too much overlap in appearance. However, since most of these monsters take vices from actual extant/extinct animals as well as various legendary beasts, I believe it is possible to build a rough phylogenetic tree of all of the species in the MH universe. This tree is entirely subjective and was constructed based on my understanding of animal evolution. As such, you will notice some pretty profound differences between what is stated in the MH games (e.g. categorization into the various clades: Flying Wyvern, Elder Dragon, etc.) and what is the most “parsimonious” or simplest explanation. As a result, I believe the in-game scholars can be just as wrong as scientists in the real world.

This is not a statistical analysis to determine how closely related different species are. An actual statistical test would be nice, but would take a lot of time that I don't have to spare. Moreover, a statistical test may not work well since these are all imaginary creatures and overlap of individual characters may be minimal. This tree is based primarily on overall appearance of the individual monster species. Monsters that are based on extant or extinct animals were also categorized based on actual evolutionary trees of their respective bases (e.g. bear-like Arzuros and wolf-like Zinogre are closely related just as real life bears and wolves are).

*This tree was includes MHFrontier and MHOnline monsters as many of these actually exhibit transitional characteristics which are important for understanding how the different groups are related.

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Key notes:

-Element typing is highly variable, oftentimes with different elements occurring between different subspecies. This suggests that elemental type may be more closely linked to environmental pressures rather than evolutionary history in many cases.

-“Elder Dragon” is almost assuredly an invalid (polyphyletic) clade, with powerful “dragon-like” species evolving multiple times in different lineages (e.g. Kirin).

-True dragons are closely related to Leviathans and develop an extra set of wings. Transitional forms between leviathans and true dragons are seen in monsters such as Shantien and Mitsuzune which retain a roughly Leviathan bauplan but possess protowing-like structures along their back.

-Ukanlos is not closely related to Akantor despite similarities in size and broad body shape (and in game descriptions). Instead, Ukanlos appears to be more closely related to Odibatorasu and Tartaronis of the Frontier series. These three from a group that is sister to Apceros and Zorah Magdoros, which are all very “turtle-like” in overall shape.

-Ceadeus is a wild card. I’m not really sure where it falls.

-Dalamadur likely evolved in a lineage with other snakes and lizard-like monsters, as is the case with modern snakes and lizards. Laviente may have independently acquired the snake-like body form, however, this is tentative at best.

-Odogaron is similar in morphology to extinct hyaenodontids, and may be more basal to the more Carnivoran-like monsters (e.g. Zinogre, Felynes, Arzuros).

-Lavasioth and relatives are similar to lobe-finned fishes (like coelacanths and lungfishes) and are therefore categorized here as being more closely related to the land-based vertebrates species than to other piscine wyverns.

-While zamite/zamtrios are here grouped with Plesioth and other piscine wyverns, they may be closely related to the Mohrans, with the latter exhibiting a recapitulation of the immature zamite body shape (see similarities between Zamite and Dah’ren Mohran).

-Khezu and gigginox are leech like, but almost assuredly have vertebrae. Given their much more primitive appearance, I place them far basal in the tree as stem vertebrates.

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Let me know what your thoughts are! Many of these monsters were too bizarre to confidently locate where they would best fit and maybe other people will have a better idea as to where they fall in the tree.

*This tree was created in Mesquite v.3.51 and imported into and edited in FigTree v.1.4.4

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