The third and final of the first-generation fossil families, Aerodactyl does cater to that Dinoland, Flintstones-y idea of fossils for those that feel a bit left out by its peers leaning too hard into the Devonian side of things. That said, Aerodactyl still gets points for also not being a dinosaur, since Pterosaurs are a distinct class of animal (though the two often pal around in the same places). Far be it from me to be anti-dino – I love me a Beibeilong or any sort of Thyreophora – but I adore the fact that the premiere monster-collecting series avoided leaning on the obvious sauropod option for its first decade.
Aerodactyl himself does look pretty terrifying, albeit a bit chunkier than real pterosaurs’ lean skin-and-bones look in our reconstructions. All those pointy angles, the arrow-tip tail, and the two-horned head (real pterosaurs only had one) give him something of a “gargoyle” air. His killer feature has to be his horrible maw, though; a beak will pierce straight through flesh, and a powerful jaw will crush bone. This guy manages to have both. Jinkies. The batty wings with hands on the second joint and his general body structure also give him the air of a wyvern, which gives him this whole other language of “aerial dominance” on top of his prehistoric base. In general, Aerodactyl seems be more the platonic, collective ideal of a pterosaur, but amped up by way of sawed teeth and a more powerful build and a general air of fearsomeness.
Aerodactyl has had his up and downs – killer speed and admirable physical attacking power, but with fragile defenses and some common weaknesses. That kind of “glass cannon” build depends on what movepool he has available, and over the years that’s done nothing but improved, with Aerodactyl having access to a pretty wild variety of options to crush opponents with – or some setup moves, if you just want to abuse his speed at the expense of all else.
Of the three first-generation fossil families, Aerodactyl seems the most independent. While he tends to share screen time with Omastar and Kabutops, he’s given solo gigs more often, from Champion Lance’s various teams up to a couple of spots in the annual films – albeit always as an antagonist. I suppose he’s just got one of those faces, huh?
Aerodactyl also seems to stick with folks’ memory the most of the three Kantonian fossils – possibly because everyone playing Red or Blue or Green or Yellow or FireRed or LeafGreen or Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee all got a shot at reviving him, whereas Omanyte and Kabuto come from mutually-exclusive items. It does make some amount of sense that the designers would want to make the most dinosaur-adjacent fossil the one you couldn’t get locked out of, at least.
Pterosaurs themselves make a fantastic animal to think on insofar as we don’t really know how they worked. In particular, by all accounts, they shouldn’t have been able to fly under their own power because of their size and shape, though paleo-biologists have spent ages building models and making educated guesses.
The Pokémon rationale? “It’s also a rock. Make that fly, suckers.”
Granted, the Rock-type is more a reflection of all fossil Pokémon being revived from, well, fossils, and they do at least posit that Aerodactyl was more of a gliding creature than a flying one. That leads to the question of whether fossil Pokémon (aside from the apparently-still-extant Kabuto) were originally of a different type, and that reviving them out of stone and amber caused them to become warped into something only resembling their original form.
Put a pin in that thought. It shows up in force in Sword & Shield.
The other note the games give us on Aerodactyl’s biology is deeply confusing, noting that it shrieked at a high pitch. Of course, to know what pitch an animal cries at, you have to either hear it in person or work off the shape of its vocal chords – which are muscle, and so would absolutely not survive in a fossilized form. So are we going off of what our modern revival of an Aerodactyl sounds like, which we’ve noted may or may not be reliable?
Much like Jurassic Park, we seem to be mainly going off the version that makes for the best imagery, since every one of these claims is led with some qualifier like “it’s said to have” or “it’s imagined to have”. But hey – it totally works. I can believe something savage-looking like Aerodactyl making territorial screams from above just to scare off competitors in its hunting grounds.
The one thing that we get for sure about its modern-day incarnation comes from Ultra Sun, as the Alola games graciously updated all the Kanto Pokémon with new text:
Restored from DNA found in amber, this Pokémon exhibited ferocity that was greater than expected. Some casualties resulted.
…and that’s about as close as the series is ever liable to get to directly acknowledging that Pokémon and people can and do kill each other. It’s also a little unsurprising, given that the goal was to revive a 130-pound saw-toothed predator into an unfamiliar (read: inherently scary) environment. Fill in your own Jeff Goldblum quote here.
Also, congratulations to Aerodactyl on joining Bulbasaur and Weedle in having made the jump to defictionalization! Granted, the real-life Aerodactylus doesn’t belong to a family with a tail, is downright tiny – more the size of a flying squirrel than a king of the skies – and people seem to argue about whether it even constitutes a different species than the more-famous pterodactyl. Still, there’s a nice little circle to a pterodon being named after a fictional character modeled on other real pterodons.
While Aerodactyl doesn’t have that same “wonderous, unfamiliar discovery” appeal as an odder Devonian creature, he still makes a fantastic design as a prehistoric monster. He’s probably the closest to a Must-Have of any of the fossil Pokémon due to his keen blending of “recognizable saurian” and “unique interpretation of fossils”, though his absence in the current generation of games so far indicates that he’d do fine with the other fossils in Reserve.
Any and all appreciation for Aerodactyl is welcome in the comments!