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Devolution Device

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"DNA recombination destroys logical and emotional brain function, leading to complete regression to Neanderthal state."
Neanderthal Regression symptom, Plague Inc.

A fine weapon and/or experimental prototype that does one thing and one thing only: reverse the effects of evolution on creatures! In particular, this device is often used to turn humans into something more apelike, often a modern Gorilla, or else a Neanderthal. A bird or lizard can be turned into a giant dinosaur that can then be used to terrorize all those people that called you mad. That'll show 'em.

Often used for comic effect, this is an understated device that could cause chaos. Consider how much you use that is designed for use by a single species only. Ape hands could crush a keyboard or phone, it would be hard to convince a saber-toothed cat to use a litter box, and dolphins and whales would sprout legs and doggy paddle to the surface. And that’s if you’re lucky and keep cognitive abilities across Evolutionary Levels.

If you're evil enough, you may turn every living organism back into single-celled organisms or primoridial soup.

Note that in Real Life, a creature's cells do contain "dormant" genes from its ancestors. However, the DNA changes would have to occur in pretty much every cell in the body to change species, and it's quite likely that some of the other genes essential to a species' ancestor have been mutated or damaged beyond repair over thousands, or millions, of years. Even if genetic reversions did take place, the existing non-cellular components of a creature's body wouldn't be affected by alterations in DNA, so features like hair or skeletal framework ought to remain the same. (Moreover, the DNA is used to construct an organism from an embryo, so a changed DNA in an adult organism would have no genetic mechanisms to "re-construct" it, and it will likely just die in short order from metabolic imbalance.) Also note that this trope tends to result in the target turning into something that looks like a known extinct species, even though it's unlikely that most fossils represent actual ancestors of modern species (for example, modern birds are *not* directly descended from Archaeopteryx). To say nothing of how inaccurate it is to depict a modern species devolving into another modern species (such as a human into a chimpanzee).

Overall, this device naturally relies on Hollywood Evolution.


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  • An advertisement for Guinness titled "noitulove" (evolution backwards) featured a group of men leaving a pub and de-evolving through cavemen, apes, dinosaurs, amphibians and ending up as lungfish.

    Anime and Manga 
  • In the Cowboy Bebop episode "Gateway Shuffle", a bioterrorist organization holds an entire planet ransom under threat of a de-evolutionary retrovirus that turns humans into apes, unless they agreed to stop harvesting the Ganymede Sea-Rat.
  • In Digimon Adventure, Etemon's "Love Serenade"/"Concert Crush" attack can drain the strength of his opponents, reverting Champion Digimon back to Rookies and preventing Rookies from evolving. Apocalyamon has a similar attack called "Reverse Digivolve", which he uses to revert all the Digidestined's Digimon back to their Rookie forms (or Champion form in Gatomon's case).
  • In My Hero Academia, humans with Quirks are considered the next stage of evolution. Eri's Quirk is a Semantic Superpower revolving around the term "rewind", which the villain Overhaul exploits to create bullets that De-power those with Quirks, turning them into normal humans either temporarily or permanently. There was also In-Universe speculation that it could be used for medical purposes if Eri could control it to avoid destroying the subject completely, which lead to her practicing this on bugs and lizards so she could control Rewind just enough to restore Mirio's lost Quirk. However, All For One also managed to get a copy of this through some confiscated Quirk-erasing bullets containing Eri's blood, which he still considered a Hail Mary if he were to use it on himself to restore his pre-All Might damaged body, but went through it with it after Endeavor obliterated him since he still had Tomura Shigaraki to take over if the plan went south.
  • In Ode to Kirihito, Monmow Disease, a mysterious illness that causes people to slowly and painfully mutate into dog-like creatures, is said to work by forcing the expression of dormant genes left over in the human genetic code from an early mammal, presumably supposed to represent the last common ancestor of primates and canines.
  • An inversion happens in Space☆Dandy. The plant people were only given intelligence in the first place by a meteor that landed at the north pole. Once Dandy removed the device at the request of the plant people, only THEN did they learn that it is what kept them alive, and they devolved back to their original state along with the rest of the planet.

    Card Games 
  • Pokémon: One of the first-generation trading cards is Devolution Spray, used to devolve a Pokemon to its previous state, removing all status effects in the process. Mew's first card also has an ability called "Devolution Beam", which did exactly the same thing. It should be noted though that "evolution" in Pokemon is nothing like real evolution anyway — it's closer to metamorphosis or simply aging and maturing — so this isn't quite this trope.

    Comic Books 
  • The DCU:
    • JLApe uses this as Gorilla Grodd's plan, although it's careful not to mention (d)evolution. Derivative plans are used by Grodd in other works. DC Universe Online has Grodd using a similar plan.
    • Justice League of America: One edition features a "villain" called Anachronus, who brags to Snapper Carr that he has just used his De-Evolution ray gun to de-evolve the entire JLA into amoebas. However, the arrival of the JLA exposes the villain as a compulsive fantasist, recently escaped from a State mental hospital.
    • Superman: In The Girl with the X-Ray Mind, one device invented by Kryptonian criminal Kru-El can de-evolve all living beings on Earth one million years.
    • Teen Titans: A 1982 story uses a devolution pool: most of the ones hit with it turn into apes, but the alien Starfire devolves into something more feline-looking.
    • Wonder Woman:
      • Wonder Woman (1942): Prof. Zool, the one responsible for Giganta's creation, makes a devolution device into which he and the Holliday Girls are shoved by Giganta. They get devolved into "gorrilas", but maintain their human heads.
      • The Devolutionizing Machine in this page from a Wonder Woman comic. It changes a crocodile into a Tyrannosaurus rex and elephants into mastodons.
      • In Wonder Woman #9, Professor Zool's evolution machine is used to turn the gorilla Giganta into a human. However, the machine later malfunctions and Wonder Woman and her friends are de-evolved into earlier human forms. This effect seemingly extends across all of Earth. the rest of the issue is devoted to finding the machine and reversing the effects. Oddly, history is shown as being subject to evolution as well, with humanity being destined to pass through particular phases and certain points in its evolution.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe:
    • In one comic, Gyro develops an "evolutionary ray". After a Beagle Boy gets accidentally hit in the head, he uses his newly heightened intelligence to develop a flawless bank robbery plan. Amazed with the results, the other Boys decide to give him a second and third dose... only then to discover that he had reached the Crystal Spires and Togas level of intellectual development, gave all their money to charity, and went on to the UN to give a lecture on the elimination of crime and poverty. They manage to reverse the effect, but the switch gets stuck.
    • Another story has Magicka de Spell create a potion which devolves all lifeforms and (especially) objects it splashes against — apart from turning her raven familiar into a pterodactyl-like creature, it can transform artillery into catapults, turn a jet plane into first an old biplane and then Da Vinci's flying machine, etc.
  • Flare: In the story arc "The Secret Invasion of the Gorillas from Outer Space", King Oook uses a "devolutionary ray" to transform Teresa into a female gorilla.
    Oook: Mate with me, Earth woman! Let our union and the offspring that will come of it be a symbol of the joining of our two worlds together!
    Gorilla!Teresa: Well, of course I'll have to think about it.
  • Marvel Universe:
    • The Avengers: One storyline reveals that The Inhumans have one of these, based on Kree technology, and have deposed their former king and made him an Un-person when he tried to hide it from them since it was specifically designed to be a weapon to turn humans into a Servant Race. It's demonstrated to have no effect on non-humans, such as the Nonhuman Humanoid Hybrid Hulking of the Young Avengers
    • The High Evolutionary is a Mad Scientist whose intelligence has been compared to that of the godlike Cosmic Entity characters. One of his many abilities is to "evolve" characters into super-genius Ultimate Lifeforms or "devolve" them into savage beasts, or to any point in between.
    • Avengers: The Kree/Skrull War: Ronan the Accuser busts out the old monkey-making de-evolutionary ray as part of his plan against Earth.
    • Tigra: One issue has a scientist of the Cat People develop a ray to turn the heroine back to her human form. A renegade Cat Person gets hold of it and uses it as a devolving ray. Cat People usually devolve into big cats. When turned on the bad guy, he devolved into a house cat.
    • X-Men: The 1982 Marvel Fanfare #4 has the X-Men subjected to a treatment of this sort; in this case Nightcrawler is the one who becomes something different from the usual ape.
  • Red Dwarf: A comic strip in the Red Dwarf Smegazine has an "evolution accelerator", which turns out to work backwards, turning Lister's bacon sandwich into a pig, Rimmer into a silent movie, Lister into an ape, the Cat into a cat, and Kryten into a vacuum cleaner. Talkie Toaster managed to fix it, turning the Dwarfers back to normal, and the pig into an attractive pig woman (who was disgusted when the man who nearly ate her chatted her up, and put herself in stasis until the rest of pigkind reached her level).
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics): On this continuity, Earth was victim of a vicious attack by the Xorda, a warmongering race of octopus-like aliens after their emissary sent to the planet to establish an alliance was captured and bisected by Dr Ivan Kintobor, an ancestor of Julian Kintobor, the comic's version of Doctor Robotnik. The Xorda retaliated by carpet bombing Earth with Gene Bombs. The mass bombardment was meant to de-envolve humanity to pre-sapience levels while leaving the rest of the planet intact. Instead, it caused mankind to mutate into the four-fingered Overlanders and uplifted many animal species to the anthropomorphic Mobians.
  • Tales of the Unexpected: In the story "The Evolution-Devolution Man", in issue #93, a scientist invents a doodad that looks like a giant telephone handset, one end of which shoots out a ray that can make creatures evolve while the opposite end devolves them. It malfunctions and shoots both beams at him, causing his body to devolve into that of an ape, then a monkey, then a lemur and finally a lizard, while his head evolved to the point where he can fix the device telekinetically despite his lack of hands.
  • Zot!: The De-Evolutionaries have these. Back to the trees! The Church of De-Evolution, a gang of ranting nutcases armed with Transformation Ray Guns that turn whoever they shoot into chimpanzees. It's played almost entirely for laughs. McCloud says this is because they represented what he considered the least plausible outcome of our relationship with technology. (The other end of the scale is 9-Jack-9, if you're interested.)

    Film — Animated 
  • We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story: Professor Screweyes has evil pills called Brain Drain, the opposite of his brother's Brain Grain that grants sapience, which he uses to turn the kids into monkeys and the newly intelligent dinos back to their animal states.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Altered States: Jessup achieves this effect on himself, using a combination of weird South American hallucinogenic herbage and a sensory-deprivation tank.
  • Monster On The Campus: Coelacanth's blood irradiated with gamma rays has this effect, accidentally turning a dog into a dire wolf, a dragonfly into a meganeura, and a human into a neanderthal.
  • In The Neanderthal Man, a Mad Scientist invents a serum that can temporarily reverse a million years of evolution. He uses it to turn his cat into a saber-toothed tiger and himself into a murderous ape-man. It only partly works on the family's maid, which he attributes to "some incompatibility between my formula and the basic female constitution."
  • Super Mario Bros. (1993): King Koopa has one of these, he uses it to make the closest thing to a Goomba in the film. The most extreme use of it comes when it's used to de-evolve Koopa, turning him first into a T-Rex and then eventually sludge.
  • In War for the Planet of the Apes, the virus that wiped out humanity in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has mutated to (possibly) having devolutionary effect on the survivors. The mutated virus definitely causes humans to become mutes, but otherwise it’s not clear whether it has true devolutionary effects.

  • Occultist Helena Blavatsky claimed that contrary to evolutionary theory apes had devolved from humans, rather than the opposite (this was a result of "putting themselves on the animal level", whatever that means). Later far-right Italian occultist Julius Evola echoed her view, calling this "involution".
  • One of the story ideas by H. P. Lovecraft, listed in his Commonplace Book: "Individual, by some strange process, retraces the path of evolution and becomes amphibious."
  • In the Manly Wade Wellman story The Devil's Asteroid, the eponymous celestial object has a device hidden inside it that inflicts this trope on any humans who end up stranded on its surface, gradually reverting them back to dim-witted apemen and possibly further.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "The Hyborian Age", the Back Story to Conan the Barbarian, the fall of Atlantis produced devolution:
    Among the forest-covered hills of the northwest exist wandering bands of ape-men, without human speech, or the knowledge of fire or the use of implements. They are the descendants of the Atlanteans, sunk back into the squalling chaos of jungle-bestiality from which ages ago their ancestors so laboriously crawled. To the southwest dwell scattered clans of degraded, cave-dwelling savages, whose speech is of the most primitive form, yet who still retain the name of Picts, which has come to mean merely a term designating men — themselves, to distinguish them from the true beasts with which they contend for life and food. It is their only link with their former stage.note 
  • The climax of H. Rider Haggard's She has the title character take another bath in the life-giving flame, which takes away her youth. Her dying form is described as being like a monkey. Darwin's theories had only recently entered the public consciousness when the book was written and the whole story is about the fear of "devolving" since people were scared that it might work backwards at the time.
  • The serum version was used in a Sherlock Holmes story. An old university professor has been taking extract of black-faced langur to make himself younger and more appealing to his twenty-year old crush, and this leads him to walk on his knuckles and swing from the University ivy. Enter Holmes. Yup.
  • There is also a short story by Philip K. Dick, called "Strange Eden", that successfully makes every mistake about evolution mentioned here. It's about an astronaut that finds an attractive and immortal female Goddess-like alien on a far-away world. Immediately he wants to sleep with her, but she warns him that in doing so he will magically begin to rapidly evolve. Thinking that this will lead him to become a superior being like her (and for the obvious reason), the astronaut accepts the offer. However, it turns out that humanity's set evolutionary path is that we will evolve into bestial cat-creatures — exactly why is never stated — and so the astronaut is stuck as the alien woman's pet forever.
  • "Wilding" a short science fiction story by Jane Yolen features teenagers going to Wilding parks, where radiation de-evolves them into primitive simian ancestral forms for the purpose of recreation. It's a Does This Remind You of Anything? of recreational drug use, except it's perfectly legal.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun: "Liam Neesan" (a character, not the actor or even played by the actor) had a ray gun that turned people into monkeys. He planned to use it on the human race, but Dick Solomon stopped him by turning him into a monkey. This leads to the Solomons' mission to Earth getting aborted due to Dick devolving a fellow member of his race, ending the series.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In the episode "Beer Bad", enchanted beer turns a bunch of college guys and Buffy into cave-people. In this case, pretty much literally, A Wizard Did It.
  • Doctor Who: In the story "Ghost Light", a clergyman is turned into a monkey by a Sufficiently Advanced Alien; it is justified, however, by suggesting that this is not "de-evolution" as such, because the alien could have turned him into anything and only chose the monkey form to mock the clergyman's anti-Darwinist beliefs. (Another character, for instance, is transformed into stone instead.)
  • In the Eureka episode "What About Bob?", a serum prepared by his rival in a Love Triangle causes the eponymous Bob to "devolve" into a snake. Dr. Stark claims that the serum is reactivating the introns in Bob's DNA. Nobody mentions the fact that humans are not actually descended from snakes.
  • Farscape: In "My Three Crichtons", an alien probe produces both "de-evolved" and "super-evolved" versions of Crichton. The crew also assumes that the "de-evolved" caveman is hostile and savage, while the "super-evolved" Crichton turns out to be the self-serving and dangerous one. It's deconstructed when the probe explains that the two extra Crichtons are just two of the millions of alternate versions of humanity that the probe was simulating and cataloging. They just happen to be a caveman and big-brained superhuman. And just to nail the point home, D'argo comforts a worried Crichton that the "super-evolved genius" form is just a possible evolution.
  • Parodied in Garth Marenghis Darkplace, where a mad scientist invents a serum that causes people to devolve back into apes. Half the hospital accidentally drinks it, despite the fact it turns water bright green, and is transferred in urine.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "Descent", Dr. Arthur Zeller is a submissive, unassertive anthropologist who is mocked and taken advantage of by almost everyone. He often admires the university's exhibit on Homo erectus and wishes that he could emulate the dominant behavior of early man. Arthur develops a DNA serum which is designed to make the subject more dominant and successfully tests it on a mouse. He then decides to inject himself with it. The change is immediately apparent as he becomes more assertive and aggressive at work. There are also numerous physical alterations. Arthur finds that his mind occasionally reverts to that of a Homo erectus. After his proposal for a new project is rejected by the head of the anthropology school Professor Martin Standfield and he is suspended for his erratic behavior, Arthur savagely beats Standfield in the car park. He then injects his colleague Dr. Laura White, for whom he has feelings, with the serum as he believes that this is the only way that she will respect him, but the transformation process does not take hold in her case. When he finally admits what he has done, Laura's tests show that his cerebral cortex is shrinking and his skeletal structure is undergoing major changes. Arthur eventually reverts to a complete specimen of Homo erectus and is placed in the university exhibit.
  • Red Dwarf: The episode "Entangled" has the crew come across a scientist who had created a device which would evolve humanity into the next stage. However, she had got it hopelessly wrong (having been picked because she had a thing for getting stuff wrong) and used the device to accidentally devolve herself into an ape instead.
  • One of the more ludicrous episodes ("Lost Contact") of Relic Hunter involved the discovery of a prehistoric sacrificial bowl which contained ancient spores that, once exposed to sunlight, caused anyone who became infected by them (like through a cut) to turn into Homo heidelbergensis.
  • Stargate SG-1 episode "The Touched" has an alien virus that turns people into neanderthals.
  • Star Trek several examples:
    • The Next Generation: In "Genesis", the crew begins to "devolve" into various lower animals with no rhyme or reason. The show attempts to justify the stock "devolution" story with Techno Babble about "activating the introns in the genetic code". At the time, the idea of introns as "fossil" or "junk" DNA left over from a species' ancestors was still in vogue. (There actually is "junk" DNA, but most of it seems to be deactivated viral code or parasitic "jumping genes" instead of fragments of formerly-useful genes. Occasionally transcription errors happen to make some of this into something useful to the organism; it's believed that the mutation that prevented the mammalian immune system from rejecting the placenta of a fetus might have come from such viral junk, for example.)
    • Star Trek: Voyager: In "Threshold", a flight test at Ludicrous Speeds causes a character to "evolve" rapidly (just enough technobabble was applied to work around the fact that individuals do not themselves evolve; technically, he "experienced mutations consistent with the pattern of human evolution"), whose end-state is to turn him into a giant salamander with a Fu Manchu mustache. The fact that so many fans complained that "That's not evolving; it's devolving!" shows that TV has corrupted our understanding of evolution — there's no such thing as "devolving": evolution does not lead inevitably toward bigger, smarter creatures who would necessarily seem "more advanced" by human standards. Brannon Braga says this was the idea he tried to get across, but admits he failed spectacularly.

    Multiple Media 
  • BIONICLE's Kanohi Ignika, the Legendary Mask of Life. Having been sentient, it was able to do this to others by itself, without a user. It can also do the opposite, increasing a creature's evolutionary level, because hey, it's the Mask of Life.

  • The nerd folk song "De-Evolving" by Jonathan Coulton. The protagonist describes "de-evolving" into a monkey. It's funny, but inaccurate.
  • The name of the band DEVO is short for "De-Evolution"

    Newspaper Comics 

    Other Sites 
  • SCP Foundation, SCP-1226 ("Postmodernism") is a painting of a nuclear bomb exploding above a city that causes anyone who looks at it long enough to assume the appearance of a stereotypical caveman, including a sloping forehead and a protruding jaw.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Members of the primeval prestige class embrace their more primitive nature and gradually "devolve" into increasingly bestial, primal forms of their prior selves. In-game, this is represented through the Regression class feature, where the primeval loses a point of Intelligence and Charisma in exchange for one each in Strength, Dexterity, Constitution and Wisdom three times over their character track.
  • Ghostbusters International adventure Hot Rods of the Gods. After Meera undergoes his magical power-up he uses the tablet to fire a red devolvo ray at the Ghostbusters. When hit by this ray a person becomes hairy, has their arms grow to knee-length, their jaw juts out like a stereotypical "ape man" and their intelligence decreases somewhat. The effect wears off in about 30 minutes.
  • GURPS supplement Warehouse 23. one of the devices stored in the Warehouse is the Devolvo Ray. It fires a beam that causes a living target to move back along the chain of evolution, causing it to become its own ancestor. For example, a human being hit by the ray would become a Cro-Magnon, then a Neanderthal, and so on. If the ray keeps hitting the target for long enough, it will become a pool of primordial slime.
  • Midkemia Press' Heart of the Sunken Lands. The Hairy Ones are human beings who were warped by the magical backlash from the Great Upheaval. It caused them to regress backwards along the evolutionary line and become more hairy and ape-like. Their minds were even more affected than their bodies, resulting in weird random behavior.
  • Games Workshop's Judge Dredd The Roleplaying Game, White Dwarf magazine #83 adventure "A Day In The Life of Sector 255". During a day of routine patrolling, the Player Character Judges have to fight a futsie with a flak gun. When the flak gun only has one round left, the futsie will put a reverse evolution enzyme in the gun. When the gun fires, the chemical will spray out over everyone in the area, possibly including the judges. Everyone exposed to the enzyme will de-evolve into a creature from earlier in their evolutionary tree.
  • Mutant Future. The Ancestral Form mutation can reverse a creature to a previous stage in its evolution, such as changing a human being into a Homo Erectus.
  • Many superhero Role-Playing Games — like Mutants & Masterminds and the original Marvel Superheroes Role-Playing Game — include, among the list of powers available to players, some sort of "Hyper-Evolution" power that lets a hero shift up and down along their "evolutionary path," generally affording them the ability to "devolve" into cave-man form (temporarily lower their intelligence to raise their strength). In Mayfair Games' DC Heroes RPG this was covered by the Mutation power.

    Video Games 
  • The Commodore 64 game Dino Eggs had as a hazard the possibility of getting bit by a spider and suffering "devolution" into a spider due to genetic contamination. Seriously.
  • Enter the Gungeon has the Devolver pistol and Devolver bullets, which downgrade ennemies into a less powerful one. Since all the ennemies are living, sentient bullets that wield guns, the "Final stage" of devolution a most basic ennemy can reach is being turned into a flint arrowhead with a bow.
  • Congo from Congo's Caper devolves back into a monkey from a boy when he takes damage.
  • Fossil Fighters: Raptin, the Dinaurian, hits Rosie with a regression ray. This turns her into a "theriodontia", a rat-like ancestral mammal. While she gets changed back, she can still be returned to her devolved state when sufficiently excited.
  • In the backstory of the Halo franchise, Advanced Ancient Humans were stronger, smarter and longer-lived than modern humans. But after they lost an interstellar war with the Forerunners, their empire was dismantled and the survivors were forcibly returned to Earth and genetically modified (something the Forerunners were very good at) into what we now know as Neanderthals, Denisovans, and Early Modern Humans. In the "modern day" (2552 AD at the start of the first game, with Expanded Universe works taking place as early as 2525), humans are still nowhere near as physically and mentally capable as their pre-devolution counterparts.
  • In Hearthstone, Shamans get the Devolve card from Mean Streets of Gadgetzan. Funnily enough, the artwork displays the Big Bad Ensemble from the expansion pack, devolved into Murlocs.
  • In Metal Slug 4, the scientist enemies fire chemical darts that turn the player into a monkey if they hit, and can also stab the player with a syringe at melee range for the same effect. For some reason or other it also turns the transformed player's basic weapon from a pistol into an Uzi. If the player dodges their melee attack, they'll stab themselves with their own syringe and turn into a monkey that can be picked up for points instead.
  • The Pithovirus in Plague Inc., if evolved correctly (ironically), can act as a biological version of these, causing an alternate win in which the plague doesn't kill everyone, but causes all of humanity to devolve into Neanderthals. The intro description even foreshadows and lampshades this with "Does it have what it takes to send humanity back to the stone age?"
  • Star Control 3 reveals that the Precursors who disappeared millenia ago did not, in fact, leave the galaxy; they devolved themselves to escape a galaxy-wide eradication of sapient life. At one point in the game, the player has to find one of these devolved Precursors and put it in an "un-devolver" artifact to get an Info Dump of its genetic memory, or something like that. The devolved form turns out to be a cow-like creature that's frequently encountered on former Precursor worlds, and is often used as food by those worlds' current occupants. How the devolved creatures avoided evolving into something completely different in the intervening milllenia is not mentioned.

    Western Animation 
  • In "The Rerun" episode of The Amazing World of Gumball, when Richard and Nicole are regressed to infancy, Darwin reverts to his fish form.
  • The Angry Beavers: One episode has a giant tree falling on Norbert and Daggett's house, and when they eat from its trunk, they're turned into kids. The tree has a magical acorn (or something like that) that they spend the entire episode trying to get, and after eating it, they transform into multiple forms from the past eras (including a Roman Gladiator and an Egyptian, of all things) until they end up as unicellullar organisms floating on a puddle.
  • Atomic Betty sometimes deals with Shaka Booga, a prehistoric witch who sprays people with a potion that devolves them to a primitive state. A brief gag in one episode that when Duncan gets sprayed with the potion, he comes out entirely unchanged.
  • Ben 10: Ultimate Alien: In "The Eggman Cometh", Doctor Animo uses a ray to transform chicken eggs into dinosaur eggs. Reversing the polarity of the ray turns the dinosaurs into chickens (and make the local sheriff intelligent enough to rapidly finish his Crossword Puzzle).
  • An episode of Buzz Lightyear of Star Command had a gas which did this (Buzz was turned into an apeman, Mira turned into a blue puddle of slime, Booster turns into a giant dinosaur-like creature and some highly intelligent aliens turn into red chimps).
  • Darkwing Duck:
    • Dr. Fossil, one Villain of the Week from the episode "Jurassic Jumble" uses these to turn anthropomorphic ducks (including himself) into prehistoric animals - himself into a pterosaur, his minion Stegmutt into a Stegosaurus, and Darkwing into a Godzilla-like giant theropod.
    • In "UFoe" when Darkwing insults a highly advance alien race, they punish him by de-evolving him into a Neanderthal, then a fish and then a protozoa. Launchpad convinces them to change him back. This also settles the fate of the episode's villain as he is turned into an alien fish at the end. The funniest part is how the ray affects a robot: it turns it into a toaster.
  • In Dinosaucers, protagonized by anthropomorphic sentient dinosaurs, the good guys were able to deevolve to their original, non-anthropomorphic, dinosaurian form at will and retaining their sentience and intelligence. There was also a weapon able to cause them the same, but this time into apparently non-sentient, and also much bigger dinosaurs.
  • In an episode of Earthworm Jim Bob the Killer Goldfish creates a device called the Darwinator that allows him to climb up the evolution ladder by stealing them from other targets, making them devolve. Jim and Peter become cavemen (or a cave worm and dog, anyway) while Princess Whats-Her-Name is reduced to a ladybug.
  • The two-part Evil Con Carne episode "Devolution", where Ghastly accidentally hits Skarr with a devolution ray, causing him to turn into an ape.
  • One episode of Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures had Team Quest discover alien technology which let whoever used it evolve or devolve species at will. Surd gets a hold of it and uses it on Race and Dr. Quest in Questworld. This causes them to mentally devolve and act in ape-like manners, even though their bodies stay the same.
  • Gorilla Grodd constructs one of these in the Justice League episode "Dead Reckoning" as part of his master plan he's been working on for the first half of the final season. While he does temporarily turn most everyone into apes (including Luthor, who is not amused in the slightest), the Justice League destroy the device anyway. Grodd is then deposed by Luthor, who takes control of the Secret Society and berates Grodd on how he used him and the rest of the Society for such a ridiculous plan.
  • One episode of KaBlam! had a Prometheus and Bob short in which Prometheus attempts to teach Bob how to operate an evolution machine. Among other shenanigans, a puppy is de-evolved into a wolf and Prometheus himself is de-evolved into a purple version of Bob. Given that it also evolves a club into an aluminum bat, Rule of Funny is clearly in play.
  • In the Looney Tunes short "Mad as a Mars Hare", Marvin the Martian plans to use his evolution ray to advance Bugs Bunny into a "harmless but useful slave to me". Only he had it set to reverse, turning Bugs into a huge Neanderthal rabbit who easily pummels Marvin.
  • Mighty Max:
    • In "Zygote's Rhythm", a mad scientist named Dr. Zygote develops a ray that devolves anything to their prehistoric state. A bunch of human tourists become apes, Max's pet lizard becomes a dinosaur, and Virgil (a lemurian who is supposed to be the next step in human evolution) gets turned into a pterodactyl (?!) Later it's used by Dr. Zygote to turn a bunch of devolved mutated monsters into primordial ooze. He surmises that the ray "reversed their evolutionary path to the final quagmire, an evolutionary dead-end"—which really makes no sense at all.
    • Then in "Zygote Music", Dr. Zygote uses the ray again to further evolve himself into a more advanced form, from a big brained alien, to a humanoid-fowl, to a floating giant brain, and finally into a flash of light. At the end, he "evolved beyond good and evil" and left. There was a subversion along the way, when he became a fowl-like humanoid, similar to Max's mentor Virgil, Virgil mentioned humanity will find the form enjoyable, much to Max's surprise.
  • The Saturday Morning Mega Man (Ruby-Spears) cartoon managed to take the concept of devolution to the next stage, when Dr. Wily made a chemical that caused robots to "devolve" into more primitive robots. This meant they went from robots designed to look like humans to robots designed to look like cavemen, getting stupider in the process.
  • Phineas and Ferb: "Phineas and Ferb's Hawaiian Vacation" — Dr. Doofenschmirtz had one, and it worked. It devolved Doof into an ape in a labcoat, and Perry into something that was more birdlike than anything else. But it was physical devolution only. Higher brain function remained intact. Doof could still speak even when he'd accidentally devolved himself into an amoeba.
  • The Anachronoticon from an episode of Sidekick, which could transform people and objects into older things (a cellphone became a phonebooth, then a Tin-Can Telephone, for example).
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Feral Friends" has Neptune's Moon, which rises every 100 years and reverts all sea creatures caught in its light into a devolved state (specifically, scientifically-accurate versions of the creatures they're supposed to be based on) for two hours. And then there's Neptunes Sun, which turns Sandy into a scientifically-accurate squirrel.
  • Mixed with a "Fantastic Voyage" Plot, episode "Journey Through Inner Space" of the Super Friends has Aquaman de-evolved into a shark-like creature, apparently his ancestor, and Superman traveling inside his body to cure him.

    Real Life 
  • As explained in this video from TREY the Explainer, real life paleontologist Jack Horner is working on creating a "chickenosaurus" by reactivating all the dormant dinosaur genes. Of course the project in itself is controversial among the scientific community both because some are skeptical of if it can even work and other for ethical reasons.
  • Animals, including humans, may be born with recessive traits, although normally not enough to be considered a different species. Such evolutionary "throwbacks" include humans with vestigial tails from their coccyx, horses with extra side digits from their three-toed ancestors, chickens with wing claws, and even a dolphin captured in Japan with an extra pair of rear flippers where hind legs would have developed.


Video Example(s):


Devo Device

Koopa employs a special device to transform humans evolved from dinosaurs back into dumb dinos.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / DevolutionDevice

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