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The Pokédex entry for Pokémon Yellow says that Cubone wears its mother's skull:

Wears the skull of its deceased mother. Its cries echo inside the skull and come out as a sad melody.

This might seem like a reference to the Marowak that was the ghost of Lavender town in the Frist Generation games, meaning it's an overgeneralization of a specific instance of a single Cubone's tragic story.

However, similar Pokédex entries appear in nearly ever game, suggesting that many, if not all, Cubone wear their mothers' skulls. Pokémon Moon's entry goes a step farther by suggesting that dealing with its mother's death is a necessary part of evolution:

The skull it wears on its head is that of its dead mother. According to some, it will evolve when it comes to terms with the pain of her death.

How is it logistically possible that every Cubone has a dead mother whose skull it wears, and that they must come to terms with her death in order to evolve? Also, wouldn't that mean a female Cubone/Marowak can only have one child since they only have one skull to give?

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    Perhaps Cubone kills its parents? ;) But in all seriousness, even that doesn't make much sense. The ratio is all wrong. – Adamant May 15 '17 at 1:12
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    Applying real-world logic and/or science to cartoons and games is rarely a good idea. In the case of a cartoon about unaccompanied minors travelling around the world enslaving creatures and pitting them in gladiatorial combat... – Greenstone Walker May 15 '17 at 4:09
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    A Pokedex is an encyclopedia of scientific knowledge in-universe. Like all scientific theories, they can be incomplete. Just because something represents the current state of scientific knowledge at the moment, doesn't mean that it's the whole story. – Alfred Yerger May 15 '17 at 4:18
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    A female marowak has two skulls to give: the one she wears and the one she has. Related: awkwardzombie.com/index.php?page=0&comic=011011 – eyeballfrog May 15 '17 at 4:46
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    As Cubone's grow up they collect skulls... And then give them to the babies to "teach 'em a lesson". – aslum May 15 '17 at 12:35
73

Unfortunately, I don’t think this can really be explained in a manner that reconciles Pokedex entries and game or anime information. People have come up with many theories over the years, but none of them really works.

  • Do female Marowak die after giving birth? But then there would probably end up being a lot more male Cubone than female. They have a 50/50 gender ratio. Besides, purely in terms of game mechanics, your Marowak don’t die if you breed them.
  • Is Cubone an immature Kangaskhan? This is a theory that was brought up seriously by many players back in the day, but it doesn’t really make sense. It’s just pure speculation.
  • Does Cubone kill its mother? This doesn’t really make sense, since the Pokedex says that Cubone is sad about her death.

Besides, all of these theories (and basically any other) suffer from the flaw of a replacement ratio: One can easily see that if every Cubone has its mother’s skull (and not its father’s) then there must be at best only one Cubone for each breeding pair. In other words, the ratio of Cubone to Marowak parents is no better than 1:2. This is below the viable replacement ratio for a population.

In my opinion, there’s really only one sensible explanation:

Pokedex inaccuracy

There are many signs that we shouldn’t take the Pokedex information from the games at face value.

For example, with respect to Marowak, Gold says:

It collects bones from an unknown place. A Marowak graveyard exists somewhere in the world, rumors say.

However, Crystal presents the same information as fact:

Somewhere in the world is a cemetery just for Marowak. It gets its bones from those graves.

This suggests that some Pokedex entries are presenting rumor as fact. There are many other examples where Pokedex entries just make no sense. For example, we are told that Banette used to be a plush doll:

A cursed energy permeated the stuffing of a discarded and forgotten plush doll, giving it new life as Banette. The Pokémon’s energy would escape if it were to ever open its mouth.

But how does this fit with its pre-evolution, Shuppet, which may have been a discarded puppet, but was certainly doesn’t look like a plush doll?

Fire Red tells us that:

It happened one morning - a boy with extrasensory powers awoke in bed transformed into Kadabra.

But this same information is presented as rumor in Pokemon Sun:

A theory exists that this Pokémon was a young boy who couldn’t control his psychic powers and ended up transformed into this Pokémon.

And of course, this all makes little sense when we consider that it evolves from Abra, so why would its origin be a little boy?

There are many other examples of Pokedex entries that make little sense, or outright contradict themselves or other Pokedex entries.

In the end, I think the most sensible thing to conclude is that the Pokedex is flawed. It incorporates myth and rumor as well as research, and sometimes (as the previous examples show) passes them off as fact.

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    I personally subscribe to the "Pokedex written by a 10-year old" theory – SGR May 15 '17 at 7:04
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    This one Cubone is wearing the skull of his mother, that must be true for all Cubones ever! – Christian May 15 '17 at 7:43
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    These stories sound a lot like the explanation for the first appearance of the Pokémon, not the source of every creature of its species. So you could take it as an explanation for the ancestor of every of these species. – nestario May 15 '17 at 12:01
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    @Flater Still, that doesn't replace all the females. For every male that is born, you have a minus-1 maximum population of Cubones. So, unless you are breeding them with dittos, you'll run out of females eventually. – T. Sar May 15 '17 at 13:15
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    I think you've misunderstood the Kangaskhan theory. It's not that Marowak is an immature Kangaskhan, it's that a Cubone is a child Kangaskhan that lost its mother. Marowak is an offshoot evolution caused by that pain, that regular Kangaskhan never reach. – Izkata May 15 '17 at 14:41
19

In the first game, the Pokedex is considered a recent innovation, to the point that Professor Oak, a leading expert on Pokemon, has only just received one. From this, it is possible to assume that your journey in Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow are a part of Professor Oak's research using this new tool.

Professor Oak describes the Pokedex as "a high tech encyclopedia", which is to say it is a device used to aggregate information on a subject, rather than a tool for observation or measurement.

Since data is only recorded AFTER you catch a Pokemon, this may mean that Pokemon you catch are studied by Oak, and his findings and notes are uploaded to some sort of cloud information hub which your Pokedex can access. This would be consistent with being the bleeding edge of technology, as the recent development of the internet in the Pokemon world is considered significant news, as evidenced by talking to the man outside of Oaks lab, and Bill's relative fame for his contributions. Therefore the newest technological innovations coming out would be relating to long distance digital telecommunication.

Therefore, it is feasible that your adventure in the original Pokemon games were the foundation for the data available on Cubone in all subsequent pokemon games. The Pokedex, in this case, would be acting as a sort of Wikipedia for researchers to share notes on their observations of Pokemon, and what you see in accounts of Cubone are simply the originals notes Oak took on the Lavender town Cubone in the care of Mr. Fuji.

In Pokemon Crystal, the entry given for Cubone is

It lost its mother after its birth. It wears its mother's skull, never revealing its true face.

This is written in a style that seems to indicate an individual, rather than speaking of a broad group, which might support this. Additional evidence would be the very premise of the games. In Pokemon Red and Blue Oak sends you on your mission to fulfil his dream of creating a comprehensive listing of all Pokemon, however the Pokedex knows information you could not possibly know yourself, such as the local distributions of Pokemon in areas you have not visited. The combination of the fact that Oak requires you to go on your journey to complete the Pokedex along with the fact that the Pokedex updates with data you cannot have learned yourself indicates that some of this data must be coming from an external source, namely Oak.

Thus, the inconsistent/implausible data for Cubone can be attributed to an oversight of researchers in the Pokemon world, not updating Cubone's entry with more accurate data after Oak's original survey. As to the real explanation for Cubone, it is likely that Cubones and Marowaks in general are mamalian scavenger pokemon which have developed rudimentary tool use, specifically using bones from their findings. Typically they use the bones picked from corpses as armor and weaponry to defend themselves from predators, particularly using skulls of larger pokemon to protect their heads. The Cubone from the original games in particular used it's mother's bones after it's death, but this is not always the case.

3

Cubone mothers clearly grow and shed an extra head with every child born.

This permits each child to get a skull, and a mother Cubone to have more than one child (as in-game breeding demonstrates).

As the head of the Cubone carries its identity, once a head has been shed in a sense their mother is dead. The new head has the same body, and even claims the same (mother's) skull, but the eyes are just not the same. To the child, their mother has died.

They are sad, but carry (their mother's skull) on.

In game breeding elides this difficulty; this is a game for children, after all, and the messy biological details of Pokemon reproduction not covered.

-2

A possibility: when an Abra loses his mother, it becomes a Cubone. Without a parent to teach how to use its psychic powers it goes feral. It can still move bones telekinetically (bonemerang) but can't do any of the fancier stuff.

This however doesn't address breeding Cubones, at which point I'm stumped.

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    Welcome to Sci-fi/Fantasy Stack Exchange! Do you have anything to back up your claim that an Abra becomes Cubone from the games, anime, or other media? Both of the other answers right now cite things in the games to back up their answers, rather than being just pure speculation. – Thunderforge May 15 '17 at 15:05
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    While this answer could certainly be improved, it’s not spam, or even deletion-worthy, it does try to address the question (Cubone comes from Alakazam or whatever, most of which don’t produce Cubone and thus propagate. – Adamant May 16 '17 at 4:21

protected by Adamant May 16 '17 at 5:21

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