Photos by: Jordann Tomasek, Birch Aquarium

Real Life Pokemon You Can Meet at Birch Aquarium


In honor of National Pokémon Day, we wanted to share the real-life counterparts of some of the beloved creatures that can be found throughout the Pokémon universe. We have quite a few here at Birch Aquarium, and you may be surprised by the similarities between them!

a sunflower sea star is illuminated from above, showing its bright orange coloration
Starmie - Sunflower Sea Star

While many look for glittering stars in the sky, you can find them under the sea too! Just look for the Sunflower Sea Star and Starmie. These stars both come in royal purple, with the Sunflower Sea Star taking on additional shades of fiery red and orange. While full-grown Sunflower Sea Stars have upwards of 24 arms, Starmie only has ten. Both of these creatures are very rare sights to see in the wild. Birch Aquarium is part of a region-wide cooperative effort to save this critically endangered species. You can find our Sunflower Sea Stars in the Hall of Fishes.

a potbelly seahorse floats against a dark background above coral
Horsea - Potbelly Seahorse

If you ever find yourself among stunning coral reefs, you might find a Potbelly Seahorse or a Horsea frolicking among the gentle currents! Both have tubular mouths and prehensile tails, which they use to grasp onto various things. They are also similar in size, about as tall as a toothbrush! Male Horsea also hold onto and raise their eggs, just like male Potbelly Seahorses. You can find Birch Aquarium’s Potbelly Seahorse in the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club Potbelly Seahorse habitat in Seadragons & Seahorses.

a healthy reef with pink coral is home to many fish
Corsola/Ghost Corsola - Healthy Coral/Bleached Coral

When we think of a “healthy” coral reef, we imagine one that is vibrant and bustling with ocean activity. In the case of Corsola, it quite literally has a smile on its face when it’s healthy! Corsola is a small pink Pokémon that resembles a coral colony. Like its real-life counterpart, it requires a specific temperature range to remain healthy. When its habitat is compromised, Corsola turns into a “ghost type,” which looks like dead, bleached coral. Its smile turns upside down, becoming sad and washed out. This mirrors the reality of coral bleaching due to climate change. You can see examples of both healthy and bleached coral in Birch Aquarium’s Crab’s Eye View exhibit. 

a bright orange sea cucumber with small spiky projections
Pyukumuku - Warty Sea Cucumber

Watch your step! You never know if you are about to step on a squishy friend. Pyukumuku is an adorable Pokémon that looks like the Warty Sea Cucumber. Pyukumuku can be found in coastal waters and intertidal zones, just like their Warty Sea Cucumber counterparts. They both have spikes on their backs, are covered in a slimy mucus and even share an interesting defense mechanism of expelling some of their internal organs when frightened. However, the Warty Sea Cucumber’s organs are poisonous while Pyukumuku’s consist of a giant fist made for punching! Stop by Tide Pool Plaza to see them for yourself.

a weedy seadragon in the foreground with rocks behind
Dragalge - Weedy Seadragon

Hidden among rocky reefs and beds of seaweed, you can find Dragalge and the Weedy Seadragon! Both have leaf-like appendages which allow them to camouflage into their environment. The main difference between them is that while Dragalge sprays a corrosive poison on its prey, the Weedy Seadragon is completely harmless! Check out our seadragons in Seadragons & Seahorses.

a Great Pacific Octopus is facing the viewer, it is bright red in color
Octillery - Giant Pacific Octopus

What has eight arms and is the color of a vibrant ruby? Octillery and the Giant Pacific Octopus! With familiar-looking arms and the ability to spurt ink when threatened, Octillery shares many similarities to its eight-armed counterpart. They also both spend time hiding in rocky caverns and crevices. You can find our iconic octopus in the Hall of Fishes.

a Little Blue Penguin stands on a rocky ledge
Piplup - Little Blue Penguin

What’s better than a regular penguin? A fun-sized one! Piplup is a cute toy-sized penguin Pokémon that bears a striking resemblance to the real-world Little Blue Penguin! Both Little Blue Penguins and Piplup are around the same height, being as tall as a large California Burrito. While both are “good little divers,” Piplup can be found in colder climates while Little Blue Penguins are warm water penguins, which is why they are thriving here at Birch Aquarium. Be sure to visit Beyster Family Little Blue Penguins to see these birds in action!



On your next visit to Birch Aquarium, be on the lookout for the real-life creatures that inspired some of the most famous water-type Pokémon. From Giant Clam-inspired Clamperls to crab-like Kinglers and everything in between, there are so many marine animals to meet.  Take this list and see if you can catch sight of them all!