Theory: Dunsparce is a MOTH!?

4 min read
icycatelf's avatar
By icycatelf
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(By moth, I'm referring to moth caterpillars.)

I've been really into moths since I first found one resembling Shiny Dunsparce, the Rosy Maple Moth, resting on my front door a few years ago. Maybe it's just the moth fan in me hoping there's something here, but after thinking about it for a while, I concluded that Dunsparce may have a legitimate connection to moths!

Unknown artist's interpretation of the Tsuchinoko

Some of you may know that Dunsparce is supposed to based on Japan's fat-snake cryptid, the Tsuchinoko. More specifically, it's a pun on one of its aliases "Bachi Hebi" (bee snake), likely referring to its short stinger-like tail. Thus far, all photos of the creature have turned out to be misidentifications of other species, including lizards, large slugs, and hornworms, if not straight-up hoaxes. I for one think these hornworm misidentifications may be reflected in Dunsparce's design.

An alleged Tsuchinoko that turned out to be a hornworm

Hornworms (sphinx moth caterpillars) can be rather large caterpillars with a thorn-like appendage poking out from their rear. Some species even have eyespots that help them mimic snakes to deter predators. In comparison, Dunsparce is a rather large larva-like Pokémon (4' 11" according to the Pokédex, but usually depicted smaller) with a horn poking out of its rear, but what really convinces me of the caterpillar connection are those ring-circled eyes. They sure look like eyespots to me!

"The Dunsparce Deception" compares Dunsparce to Caterpie (based on swallowtail caterpillars, which resemble some hornworm species) .:Shiny Dunsparce:. by RubySp00n
Some sphinx caterpillars even turn pink! Shiny Dunsparce? (Click images for sources)

This may just be over-speculation on my part, but Dunsparce also seems to share many characteristics with an Egyptian sphinx (after which these caterpillars were named). The prongs on its chin may simultaneously represent the forearms and false beard of a resting sphinx, while the stripes on its back (also nodding to bees) resemble blue-and-gold-striped Egyptian headpieces called a nemes. (Coincidentally, these headpieces also depict a snake, perhaps hearkening back to the serpentine side of Dunsparce's origin.) Its eyespot-like eyes may double as a reference to Egyptian eyeliner.

"Sphinx; so named from the fancied resemblance of the larva, when in repose, to the Egyptian Sphinx." — An accentuated list of the British Lepidoptera, with hints on the derivation of the names
Model of a winged Egyptian sphinx
Dunsparce's tail could be interpreted as a pyramid positioned behind a sphinx

Despite it having wings, I'm not convinced that Dunsparce draws inspiration from adult moths. (That's a feature I imagine nods more to bees and possibly winged sphinxes.) However, it may be worth noting that some sphinx moths mimic bees. Seeing that sphinx moth pupae also share similarities with Dunsparce—the underdeveloped wings, drill-shaped abdomen, lack of legs, and the fact that hornworms burrow underground to pupate—it might not be too farfetched to think of Dunsparce as a hornworm that hasn't quite fully matured into a moth.

Snowberry Clearwing, a bumblebee mimic
Tersa Sphinx pupa (photo by Sasha Azevedo from BugGuide)

In a nutshell, Dunsparce's design may be a combined pun of bee snake and sphinx caterpillar.
© 2019 - 2021 icycatelf
anonymous's avatar
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RubySp00n's avatar
I've been having an awful week but honestly this has cheered me up so much.
While gamefreak didn't start designing their own shinies (atleast not properly) until gen 6 I believe I do like the theory that dunsparce/tsuchinoko's are based off of a hornworm.

I know tsuchinoko's are supposed to jump super high which is probably where dunsparces wings come from and i'm not quite sure if hornworms are even flighty enough to envoke that thought but everything else seems to line up nicely!

I must admit though as somebody who owns 3snakes i'd rather like to believe that dunsparce is a cute fat flightly snake rather than a hornworm thou lmao
Also thankyou for using my old art! I'll have o draw some new art for the cute boy soon :')
icycatelf's avatar
Also, concerning the jumping bit, caterpillars look like they're flying when dangling from silk threads.
RubySp00n's avatar
Late af but I could see that being the case

Also you can hack sprites into GS? I never knew that and now i'm interested oo
icycatelf's avatar
I use AGIXP. Well, used (it requires Windows). It's only partially translated and it's easy to accidentally overwrite the sprite you're trying to import, though. Takes a little while to get a feel for it.

You can edit both sprites and Pokémon/Fakemon names with AGIXP, but you have to use other programs to edit move pools, 'dex entries, etc. (I don't know if there's any way to add new Pokémon/Fakemon without overwriting other Pokémon.)
icycatelf's avatar
Glad I could make you feel better!

Even if Shiny palettes couldn't be edited as freely back then as they can now, I feel that some thought still went into their choices. Squirtle line (algae on turtle shells), Caterpie (Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillars), Beedrill (green sweat bees or cuckoo wasps), etc. Though, having hacked sprites into GS myself, I think they had plenty of room for customization. As long as the colors exist in the games code, you can pair any two colors you desire with black and white, independent of the original sprite colors.

This theory doesn't necessarily make Dunsparce an insect. It may just be a snake that looks like (a bee and) a caterpillar that resembles a sphinx, much like how the Tsuchinoko (named after a bee in some regions) is said to be a snake with a resemblance to sphinx caterpillars. I think it can be a snake and insect at the same time though, which is supported by its Land Snake category and the anime referring to it as a bug Pokémon. I think its Normal typing could be a clever way of saying "things aren't always what they seem."
Sugar-Plum-Fable's avatar
I also think the rosy maple moth being the same colors as shiny Dunsparce might help the theory too. 
icycatelf's avatar
I'm not sure if that would really connect since the Rosy Maple isn't a sphinx moth. I think the pink, if referencing anything in particular, more likely represents a pre-pupal caterpillar (many of which, including hornworms, turn reddish or pink). Hard to say for sure, though!
Sugar-Plum-Fable's avatar
It could be both! Who knows~ I do like the moth Dunsparce theory though.
FrozenFeather's avatar
Hmm that is quite interesting! I'm inclined to deny it, but only because I've never heard anyone else have this theory and what are the odds? I feel like there are more official sites (like serebii and bulbapedia) that reference it's origins as the fat snake thing a majigger, but it isn't like they are professional or legit, so they could ne wrong. It's definitelt a fascinating theory! And I definitely like it!
icycatelf's avatar
Just a few years ago, Bulbapedia listed the Tsuchinoko as Dunsparce sole origin. It wasn't until recent years that they added the bit about it being a pun on "bachi hebi." Maybe they just haven't dug deep enough? Even me, as a Dunsparce fan for years, hadn't realized the hornworm connections until recently and now they seem so obvious!

I don't think I've ever seen anyone refer to Dunsparce as a hornworm besides myself, but I did find a post where someone said that Dunsparce needs to evolve into a Quetzalcoatl or SPHINX-like thing. I guess they also noticed its similarity to sphinxes (though I'm not sure if they arrived there the same way I did; hornworm -> sphinx caterpillar -> sphinx).
FrozenFeather's avatar
That is true, it does seem obvious now you've brought it up.

icycatelf's avatar
I'm not sure how long it'll stay there, but check out Dunsparce's Origin section. ;)…
careas's avatar
Yyyyyyep... :nod:
icycatelf's avatar
I got into mothing after seeing a moth that reminded me of Shiny Dunsparce, the Rosy Maple. Little did I know that Dunsparce may have had a real connection to moths!
careas's avatar
*looks it up*
Ooh! Very pretty!
ModelOmegaTyler's avatar
wow, that thing looks like a petite moth from yugioh mixed with a caterpie
anonymous's avatar
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