Monster Hunter World

Theoretical evolutionary history of the Monster Hunter universe

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Although the technology level of humanity in the Monster Hunter universe is intentionally very anachronistic, it's generally pre-modern at least in aesthetic, so this post assumes the classification system used by the Guild isn't really that scientific and has some big mistakes in it, similar to how reptiles and amphibians were grouped together by biologists for a long time.

Speaking of mistakes, I don't have anything resembling an academic understanding of evolutionary biology, I just know some fancy words and concepts I picked up from speculative evolution youtube videos, so it's entirely possible I don't know anything about what I'm talking about.

Anyway, here's my theories about the evolution of monsters:

  • A while ago I saw someone claiming that the Flying Wyverns were actually synapsids, (Ancestors of mammals who resembled reptiles) not true reptiles. I can't remember the original post, but I remember one of their big arguments was that some flying wyverns are heterodonts, (they have more than one kind of tooth) which seems like enough to speculate with.

  • As such, I think all Flying Wyverns, Pseudo-Wyverns, "true" Elder Dragons, (As in, four limbs + two wings, e.g. Kushala, Fatalis, Teostra) Fanged Wyverns, and Fanged Beasts descend from a common synapsid ancestor. This hypothetical ancestor likely had scales, splayed forelimbs, and erect, digitigrade hindlimbs – Overall, I'd imagine it would have looked like a combination of a wingless Tigrex and a hairless Zinogre, only smaller, and like those two it may have been a swift apex predator.

  • One clade descended from this synapsid species may have specialized for lunging at prey from the sides of cliffs, developing powerful claws for climbing that would also be useful for restraining prey, and later a thin membrane on their forelimbs that would allow them to glide for short distances, helping them ambush prey from longer distances. Their gliding ability would later develop into true flight, giving rise to the first Pseudo-Wyverns.

  • Flying Wyverns in turn may descend from Pseudo-Wyverns who evolved to specialize entirely for flight, becoming bipedal and allowing the feet on their forelimbs to become vestigial and atrophy away.

  • Speaking of Flying Wyverns, I think Rathalos and Rathian's radically different colours are the result of sexual selection – The Rathian uses its drab green-brown colour to camouflage itself and its nest, but the Rathalos uses its bright red scales to attract a mate, similar to certain male birds. Extrapolating from this, I think the Azure Rathalos and Pink Rathian may be native to the Coral Highlands and spread to the Old World from there, rather than the other way around as the Research Commission assumes, as it seems like the only place with the Pink Rathian's colouration would act as good camouflage.

  • Another clade of Pseudo-Wyverns may have somehow implausibly evolved a sixth pair of limbs between their wings. These limbs would have been initially held off the ground and may have been used to restrain prey, but eventually would have evolved to help support the animal's weight, allowing the original forelimbs to be specialized as wings much like in the Flying Wyverns, giving rise to the first true Elder Dragons. While charting out the evolutionary history of the Elder Dragons might demystify them somewhat, their miraculous transformation from tetrapods to hexapods nevertheless suggests there is something supernatural about them.

  • Gogmazios and Shagaru Magala maintain the body plan of the hypothetical "missing link" between Pseudo-Wyverns and true Elder Dragons, and thus would comprise a sister clade to the rest of the true Elder Dragons. (Their other, stranger traits likely developed after they split off from the other dragons.)

  • One clade of true Elder Dragons may have evolved to incorporate metal into their armour and the ability to create gusts of wind through mysterious means. One branch of this clade may have developed into the Kushala Daora, while another may have developed a semi-subterranean lifestyle, causing their wings to become vestigial and lose their membranes. One descendant of this subterranean dragon may have evolved a symbiotic relationship with a species of necrotic bacteria, adapting their ability to manipulate wind to spread the bacteria over long distances and pre-digest prey, giving rise to Vaal Hazak. Another may have used their wind-manipulation abilities to help their atrophied wings generate lift, allowing them to return to being above-ground flying predators. No longer able to use the wind to help them hunt, this species may have developed the ability to generate flames to continue to attack from range, developing into Merphistophelin.

  • Zorah Magdaros, despite their appearance, may actually be members of the true Elder Dragons – A relative of Dire Miralis (and thus Fatalis) whose volcano-like wings fused into a single shell-like structure.

  • Another clade descended from the synapsid proto-wyvern, a sister clade of the Pseudo-Wyverns, may have never developed wings, instead evolving fur and other mammal-like traits, giving rise to the Fanged Wyverns. A clade of Fanged Wyverns would have in turn gave rise to the first Fanged Beasts, including the mammalian monsters classed as "herbivores", such as the Popo and Kelbi.

  • Kirin is likely a member of the ungulate Fanged Beasts, related to the Kelbi, while Ceadeus is likely descended from an unknown group of horned Fanged Beasts that returned to the sea.

  • One group of small, furry, tree-dwelling Fanged Beasts, related to the Congalala, Blangonga, and Rajang, may have developed larger brains to better make use of their opposable thumbs and navigate the politics of their complex social groups, giving rise to the first Lynians, and thus the first sapient beings on the planet. These ancient Lynians would have closely resembled modern Boaboa.

  • Shakalakas and Gajalakas may be descendants of these proto-Lynians who specialized for living in tropical environments, causing them to lose most of their hair to reduce the risk of overheating. Shakalakas and Gajalakas are likely the same species, just divided into two different ethnic groups. Boaboa, however, are likely a distinct species that maintained their fur due to their colder habitat, but are related enough to the Shakalakas and Gajalakas to produce offspring with them.

  • Another clade of these sapient proto-Lynians may have specialized as a small ambush predator most active at dawn and dusk, developing large ears for tracking prey, prominent whiskers for navigating the treetops in the dark, cushioned footpads for muffling their steps, and retractable claws for attacking their quarry. These Lynians would give rise to the felynes, melynxes, and grimalkynes – Again, likely three different ethnic groups of the same species, not three species in their own right.

  • A third clade of Lynians may have left the forests entirely and adapted for life as a pursuit predator in an arid grassland environment. It is likely this clade had little body hair, but it's unclear whether this is due to descending from the same hairless Lynian as the Gajalakas, or if this trait was evolved convergently as they adapted to their warm habitat. This clade may have developed larger heels on their hindlimbs, giving them a more efficient stride, and allowing them to grow to larger sizes (and thus hunt larger prey) without collapsing. This clade of Lynians would have developed into the humans, the Wyverians, and the Sea People. Wyverians maintain the digitigrade legs, pointed ears, and (in old age) small size of their Lynian ancestors, while humans and Sea People do not, so it seems likely that humans and Sea People are more closely related to each other than either are to the Wyverians.

  • Going back to the synapsid proto-wyverns, there may have been a sister clade of the Pseudo-Wyverns that diverged from them after they split from the ancestors of the Fanged Wyverns, but before they developed their gliding membranes. Unlike their swift cousins, this clade may have sacrificed speed for defense, growing to massive size and developing a thick carapace that doubled as a support structure for their enormous bodies. This clade may have also specializing for burrowing through the ground, to make up for their slow running speed when running after prey, causing their lower canines to elongate to form massive tusks to dig up soil, and their tail to become broad and flat to propel them through the earth. One branch of this clade may have given rise to the Akantor, Ukanlos, and Odibatorasu, the latter two species developing alternative burrowing methods and thus losing their tusks.

  • Another branch of this clade, however, may have kept their tusks, and may have also developed the ability to consume the metal in the soil they burrowed through and incorporate it into both their shell and internal skeleton. This second adaptation may have allowed their bodies to grow to even larger sizes without collapsing. Additionally, this clade may have become even more specialized for a burrowing lifestyle, with their tusks moving forwards to pierce through the soil like picks, and their hindlimbs becoming entirely vestigial. One branch of the clade would develop into Jhen Mohran, as well their closest living relatives, Laviente. A more distantly-related branch may have fused their tusks into a single drill-like horn, becoming Dah'ren Mohran.

  • All of the monsters discussed thus far would descend from the hypothetical synapsid proto-wyvern I talked about earlier on. Conversely, I believe the bird wyverns, brute wyverns, wingdrakes, leviathans, and snake wyverns are all likely descended from a single sauropsid (reptiles and their close relatives) ancestor. This hypothetical ancestor likely had scales and four splayed limbs, overall resembling a small Leviathan like a Ludroth, although it probably would have been fully terrestrial. Together, the sauropsid and synapsid monsters would comprise a larger "amniote" clade consisting of all the monsters who either lay hard-shelled eggs or give live birth.

  • One descendant of the sauropsid proto-wyvern might have maintained quadrupedalism and specialized as a predator that submerged itself in marshes or rivers in order to ambush prey who come to the water to drink. One branch of this clade may have then fully committed to living in the water, becoming the ancestor of aquatic Leviathans like Lagiacrus. Another branch may have moved from submerging itself underwater to submerging itself in mud, and from there to burrowing through soil, becoming the ancestor of fully terrestrial Leviathans like Agnaktor. Kulve Taroth is likely a descendant of these terrestrial Leviathans.

  • One branch of the terrestrial Leviathans may have developed an elongated, flexible spine to assist in moving through the soil and restraining prey, giving rise to the Snake Wyverns. In turn, one group of Snake Wyverns might have grown extraordinarily large, developing into the Shah Dalamadur.

  • Another group of sauropsids may have evolved bipedalism, holding their forelimbs permanently off the ground. The Theropod Bird Wyverns, dinosaur-like Herbivores, and Wingdrakes may evolve from this ancestor in a manner analogous to the evolution of dinosaurs and pterosaurs, respectively, and in turn the Flying Bird Wyverns may develop out of a lineage of Theropod Bird Wyverns in a manner similar to the evolution of birds from theropod dinosaurs.

  • It is likely the common ancestor of all Bird Wyverns and Brute Wyverns had feathers, although almost all Brute Wyverns have lost them, likely because their large bodies generate a lot of heat, and a covering of feathers would prevent them from radiating that heat efficiently. The two exceptions are the Banbaro, which benefits from its fur-like feathers trapping heat for obvious reasons, and the Anjanath, whose feathery scruff made aid males in attracting mates.

  • Paolumu's classification as a Flying Wyvern is probably a mistake. Instead, it is likely a Bird Wyvern closely related to the Pukei-Pukei, with its "fur" actually being strange, specialized feathers. The Qurupeco is likely also a relative of theirs, though more distant. The hypothetical ancestor of these three monsters likely had a soft, flexible beak and an inflatable throat sac, which each of its descendants adapted for different purposes.

  • Nargacuga may be a Bird Wyvern that convergently evolved a Pseudo-Wyvern-like body due to specializing for a similar role, as evidenced by its beak-like mouth and feathers.

  • I believe "Brute Wyverns" may actually consist of two distinct lineages: The "Slender-Snouted Brute Wyverns", such as Anjanath, Deviljho, and Glavenus, and the "Broad-Snouted Brute Wyverns", consisting of Barroth, Brachydios, Duramboros, and Banbaro.

  • The Slender-Snouted Brute Wyverns likely evolved from a large predatory Theropod Bird Wyvern with the ability to secrete a chemical that is highly reactive to oxygen, as well as two fin-like structures on its back it was capable of unfurling as a threat display. The Anjanath and Glavenus used the chemical in their saliva to generate heat for various purposes, while the Deviljho used it to corrode and weaken the metallic shells of some of the animals it preys on. The Anjanath retained the fins on its back and their use as a threat display, while in the Deviljho they atrophied into the muscles on its back that swell up when it is enraged, and in the Glavenus they ossified into the two rows of spikes on its back.

  • The Broad-Snouted Brute Wyverns likely evolved from a different Theropod Bird Wyvern, or possibly another bipedal sauropsid that wasn't a Bird Wyvern at all, which fed on plants and insects, had a powerful carapace to protect against predators, and had some sort of weapon on its head. The only Broad-Snouted Brute Wyvern to not retain a herbivorous and/or insectivorous lifestyle is the Brachydios, a relative of the Barroth that returned to predating on large animals.

  • Much like in real life, the closest living relatives of the amniotes would be the amphibians, such as Tetsucabra, Zamtrios, and the Paratoad. I believe Gigginox and Khezu may also be amphibians, based on the soft, thin-walled egg sacs Gigginox lays, whose similarities to Flying Wyverns are just the result of convergent evolution. Together, the amniotes and amphibians would form a larger clade of "tetrapods", consisting of all terrestrial vertebrates.

  • In turn, the tetrapods would descend from and form a clade with the lobe-finned fishes, which in the Monster Hunter universe would also include the Gobul and the Piscine Wyverns.

  • Finally, there are many monsters who are not vertebrates at all. This includes various arthropods, such as the Neopterans, Carapaceons, Temnocerans, and Mantagrells, as well as molluscs like Nakarkos, and a strange clade of jellyfish-like animals that have evolved an organ full of lighter-than-air gas that allows them to float through the air, which includes the Flying Medusa and the Yama Tsukami. Also in the "Other" category is Xeno'Jiiva, which despite resembling an Elder Dragon has a bizarre set of traits that set it apart from them, and is heavily implied to be an extraterrestrial. As such, I propose that its superficial similarities to the Elder Dragons are due to a sci-fi ability to absorb the DNA of the beings it feeds on, which also neatly explains why it starts to look more like a "conventional" dragon once it develops into Safi'Jiiva.

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