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Pun-Based Creature

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Clockwise from top left: a caterpillar, fruit bats, a shrimpanzee, and a tiger shark.
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A Pun-Based Creature is a fictional critter designed to embody some sort of witticism, which can happen in as many ways as puns themselves do. Often, this occurs when a real-life creature has a name describing its environment or habits that in a work of fiction is taken literally — for example, a forest- or desert-dwelling animal named "wood" or "sand [something]" may be shown as a version of its real counterpart literally made out of wood or sand. Similarly, a syllable or word in a name may be replaced with another, similar-sounding word, with either the base or inserted term being an animal name, to create a beast based on this wordplay.

This is typically done simply as a form of visual humor, exaggerating minor misunderstandings to create absurd creatures based on overly literal interpretations of common phrases.

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See also Punny Name. Subtrope of Our Monsters Are Weird and Visual Pun. Supertrope to Seahorse Steed, Swordfish Sabre and Literal Bookworm. Can overlap with Mix-and-Match Critters if the pun happens to combine names from two or more creatures.


Examples

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    Advertising 
  • A television commercial for a metropolitan fiberoptic internet service in the NYC Metro area (possibly Optimum Lightpath?) pretended to be an ad "from the future", where high-speed internet allowed a biotech company to lead the industry in designer hybrid pets such as the gazellephant, the platypussycat, and the Golden ReBeaver.

    Art 
  • Cryptid-Creations' DeviantArt gallery is filled chiefly with creatures based on wordplay in real animals' names or portmanteaus of the same, such as dragonfruit flies, avocatos and apricats, literal snake plants and leopard geckos and tree pythons and mountain lions, drakes halfway between a dragon and a male mallard, lamplike lampreys, dark blue indingos, and the like.
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    Asian Animation 
  • BoBoiBoy Galaxy: The green alien feline from Planet Gurunda, a desert planet, is named Cattus. Each of his kind has three tails that allow them to camouflage themselves, appearing as cacti.

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 
  • The Far Side:
    • In one strip, a pair of picnickers are attacked by army ants who deploy heavy artillery.
    • In another strip, a couple who are Lost at Sea in a raft are attacked by a pair of tiny longboats crewed by navy ants.

    Fan Works 

    Film — Animation 
  • Alice in Wonderland: One of the two caterpillars seen behaves like a cat, and has Animal Jingoism with the fictitious "dogerpillar".
  • An American Tail: Fievel Goes West: When Tiger gets flung from a train and lands in a lake, he encounters what he identifies as a "dogfish", which has a dog's face and starts barking at him. Later, he's caught by a fisherman along with some catfish, which, while looking like real catfish, can be heard meowing.
  • Cars: The Fantastic Fauna Counterpart of insects are tiny VW Beetles with insect wings.
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2: After Swallow Falls is abandoned and the FLDSMDFR left to run unchecked, the machine creates an entire ecosystem of living food items that often resemble real-world creatures, mostly with Punny Names. There are flamingo-like mangos ("flamangos"), chimpanzee-like shrimps ("shrimpanzees"), elephant-like watermelons ("watermelophants"), hippopotamus-like potatoes ("hippotatomuses") and so forth.
  • Rise of the Guardians: Pitch Black, the Boogeyman and embodiment of fear, is served by nightmares in the form of shadowy Hellish Horses.
  • Sausage Party: The food items are anthropomorphized, but the only ones that are treated like animals are horseradish, which act and are ridden on like horses.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams: Romero's Mix-and-Match Critters are named after animal puns or portmanteaus. Juni befriends a Spider Monkey, a centaur-like creature with a primate's upper body and a spider's lower body. Other animals named after puns include a catfish (a cat with a fish's head and tailfin), a tiger shark (a tiger with a shark's head and fin), a horse-fly (a horse with a fly's head and wings) and a bullfrog (a bull with the hind legs of a frog).

    Gamebooks 
  • In the French series Les Messagers du Temps, Mad Scientist monk Mimol has stitched different animals together to create weird hybrid creatures... some that are based on French puns. So, you have a "cerf-veau" (stag-calf, sounds like "cerveau" which means "brain"), a rat-porc (rat-pig, sounds like "rapport" which means "report") and a rat-daim (rat-deer, sounds like "radin" which means "stingy".

    Literature 
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland:
    • The Gnat tells Alice about three Looking Glass Land insects. The rocking-horse fly looks like a winged hobbyhorse and lives on sap and sawdust. The bread-and-butterfly looks like what it sounds like and lives on weak tea with milk. The snap-dragonfly has a body of plum pudding and a raisin burning in brandy for a head. It lives on mince pie and frumenty and nests in a Christmas box. This last is the most obscure to contemporary readers, the pun being based on a popular Victorian Christmas game.
    • The Mock Turtle is stated to be what mock turtle soup is made of. Mock turtle soup is traditionally made with a calf's head, so the John Tenniel illustrations depict it as a sea turtle with a bovine head.
  • Catbirds And Dogfish depicts animals with portmanteau names as Mix-and-Match Critters. For example, catbirds are portrayed as cats with wings and dogfish as fish with bulldog heads, instead of medium-sized gray birds and small, speckled sharks like in real life.
  • Fred, The Vampire Accountant: In Undeading Bells, when Fred and Krystal need a boost to make it to their wedding in time, Amy whips up a potion to help them out. Poured into their truck's gas tank, the potion turns the truck into a massive, drooling, hairy metal beast with increased strength and speed — a monster truck to carry them to their destination.
  • The Lions Cavalcade by Alan Aldridge and Harry Wilcock:
    • Captain Ali Gator's Gorilla Circus consists of Catbird and Dogfish style Mix-and-Match Critters, apparently to save on space when travelling. These include two Dogfish (one with a fish tale and a dog's head, the other reversed) a Turtle Dove (a dove with a shell), a Sea Lion (a seal with the head of a lion) and a Tiger Moth (a moth with the head and forepaws of a tiger), as well as more esoteric creatures such as a black horse with a stars and moon pattern (a Night Mare) and an empty wooden cabinet with the limbs and head of a bear, described as "a cupboard perpetually Bear".
    • Chameleon's Flora Zoologica is a similar array of plants sprouting animal heads, including Tiger Lily, Dandy Lion, Dog Rose, Crab Apples, Goose Berries, Monkey Flowers, Crocodillia and Horse Chestnuts.
  • The Phantom Tollbooth: Several of these appear, since the whole book is a Hurricane of Puns. The protagonist's traveling companions include a watchdog, which is a dog with the body of a clock whose job is to keep people from wasting time, and the Humbug, who is an insectoid person who is dishonest about his accomplishments. Another character, the Spelling Bee, is a giant bee who likes to spell out words.
  • Xanth: If you can think of an animal pun, it exists somewhere. Rock doves made of stone, catapult cats, self-immolating fireflies... a prominent reoccurring one are the nickelpedes, which are larger and more deadly centipedes. There are also other varieties like the smaller but more dangerous dimepedes, gigantic quarterpedes, and horse-sized dollarpedes.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Nightmares are evil supernatural horses named after bad dreams, as a riff on the last half of "nightmare" sounding like the word for a female horse.
    • The game's take on the sea lion, present in bestiaries since first edition, is quite literally a lion with the back end of a fish, mermaid style.
    • Wolf-spiders resemble giant spiders with the heads of wolves.
    • Rock lobsters and rock crabs are crustaceans that are made of stone.
    • Ring-worms are worms that disguise themselves as golden rings of protection +1, but, when worn, leech magic from their hosts.
  • Pathfinder: Nightmares are evil horse-like creatures that inhabit the plane of Abaddon and are used as mounts by the Neutral Evil race of fiends, daemons.
  • Tails of Equestria:
    • Mohawks are rebellious, noise-loving birds of prey with flamboyant, brightly colored crests.
    • Bookwyrms are dragons made out of paper, ink, and book bindings, and summoned in a ritual conducted using books or scrolls.
    • The Clearcall Forest is home to literal pine martens, with wooden legs, pine needles for fur, and pinecones for ears.
    • Rocs are made out of living rock, with stone slabs for feathers.
  • Warhammer Fantasy:
    • The Vampire counts use mounts created by cobbling corpses together into a more-or-less equine shape, which they call Nightmares.
    • The Beastmen of Bretonnia sometimes deal with fortified positions by goading massive, forest-dwelling beasts known as ramhorns into charging at their gates, smashing them open so that the Beastmen can surge through — in other words, they use literal battering rams.

    Video Games 
  • Bee Swarm Simulator: The Ant Challenge, a mini-game where your bees fight against a horde of enemy ants, includes fire ants that leave a trail of flames and army ants wearing army helmets.
  • Bug!:
    • Bug's mount is a dragonfly with the head of a dragon.
    • Splot! has Lightning Bugs that fly around shooting streams of electricity.
    • One enemy is a fish with a doglike head and collar. It's a dogfish.
    • Reptilia features army ants that wear soldier helmets, attack by throwing bouncy grenades, and drop via flower parachutes.
    • Arachnia has fire ants that use flamethrowers to breathe fire and wear fireman helmets.
    • Bug Too!:
      • Flea-Wee's Big Adventure contain lions that are actually a cross between a bug with huge mandibles and a lion. In other words, they're antlions.
      • Swatterworld is full of punny enemies such as sea monkeys (cross between a monkey and a fish), hammerhead sharks (sharks with hammers on their head)s, and saw-nosed sharks (sharks with a chainsaw attached to their face).
  • Don't Starve:
    • One of the bosses in the Reign of Giants DLC, the Dragonfly, is a giant fire-breathing reptile with the eyes, proboscis and wings of a fly.
    • The Shipwrecked DLC adds dogfish and swordfish — that is, fish that literally have canine heads and sabers growing from their noses, respectively. Additionally, one of the bosses introduced in it is the Tiger Shark, a creature resembling a tiger with a bullet-shaped body, stumpy fin-like legs, and a shark's jaws, teeth, and dorsal fin.
    • Don't Starve Together:
      • The Toadstool is a gigantic toad with mushrooms growing from its back.
      • The Antlion is a gigantic, burrow-dwelling insect with a lion's mane.
  • Fallout: Fire ants, a stronger variety of the giant ant enemies, can spit fire — or, more specifically, a flammable secretion from their former acid glands that they ignite by clicking their mandibles.
  • Freddi Fish:
    • Hammerhead and Sawfish, the two construction workers from "The Hogfish Rustlers From Briny Gulch". The former has a head shaped like a claw hammer, while latter has a snout shaped like a saw.
    • Rollo from "The Case of the Creature of Coral Cove" is a fish who is dressed as a clown (a clownfish).
  • Kirby: Tacs are small feline enemies notable for two things: they dress like bandits and try to steal your copy ability (they're cat burglars) and they also possess the Copy ability (they're copy-cats).
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds feature a type of enemy resembling a hopping flower with reptilian jaws and legs, which is referred to as a Snap Dragon.
  • Miitopia: Among the various monsters in the game are butt-shaking turkeys called "Twerkeys" ("Shiritori", butt-birds, in Japanese, also punning off a children's word game) and animate noses called "Running Noses".
  • Minecraft: Mushroom Island biomes are home to an unusual variety of cows with fungi growing from their backs, called mooshrooms.
  • NetHack: Fire ants can set the character on fire.
  • OMORI:
    • By interacting with bookshelves in two specific locations, you can encounter the dust bunny, a Living Dust Bunny that takes the form of a bunny made out of dust.
    • Wormholes are found in Otherworld, and appear as vortexes with literal worms coming out of them. The Junkyard area of Otherworld also has the doombox, a living, antagonist boombox.
    • Pyrefly Forest has the bug bunny, a bunny with the legs of a spider.
    • Orange Oasis has several enemies with pun-based names. In the Arrow Cave area, you can encounter the Gingerdead Man, a zombie-like gingerbread man. By using the summoning circle in the Breaven, you can fight a Creepypasta (a living rigatoni pasta tube that constantly turns into a creepy version of itself), copypastas (living rigatoni pasta tubes that can clone themselves), and hushpuppies (literally poorly-drawn, screaming dog faces). The Dino's Dig area also has the porcupie, a fusion between a porcupine and a cupcake.
    • Underwater Highway contains mussels, which are mussle shells with muscular arms coming out of them. There are also the squizzards, which are squids with wizard hats and beards.
    • Within Humphrey, you can randomly encounter watermimics, creatures that disguise themselves as regular watermelons.
  • Plants vs. Zombies uses this trope in spades: Wallnuts are used as walls, Peashooters shoot peas, Sunflowers produce sun, Squashes squash enemies flat, Marigolds produce coins, Planterns are lantern-shaped plants that give off light, Blovers are clover that blow fog away, Cattails have a cat face... most of the exceptions are the mushrooms and the catapult plants, due to them being restricted by including "shroom" and "pult" in their names. Plants Vs Zombies 2 continues the trend. Iceberg Lettuces freeze enemies, Snapdragons have dragon heads and breathe fire at enemies, Guacodiles are avocado crocodiles (which is a pun on the fruit's old name, "alligator pear"), Citrons are robotic citrus fruits (hence "-tron") that fire plasma energy, and so on.
  • Pokémon: This is a common naming and design element, and several of these creatures' names (such as Charmeleon, Squirtle, Feraligatr, etc.) are based around a pun that has to do with their appearance. Many are Lost in Translation, though.
    • Farfetch'd resembles a duck always holding a stalk of green onion and is a joke on a Japanese saying literally translating to "a duck comes bearing green onions". It describes fortunate but unlikely scenarios, such as a meal freely walking up to you while carrying its own seasoning. Farfetch'd embodies both the literal aspect of this saying, as it's noted to be a very popular food in-universe, and the metaphorical one, as in a few games it turns up precisely at a point where it's the kind of Pokemon the player would find it useful to have.
    • Stantler's Japanese name is Odoshishi, from shishi odoshi (literally "deer scarer"), the term for a variety of contraptions that scare away animals such as deer and birds. Its antlers look like a pair of eyes and are said to be mesmerising, and one kind of shishi odoshi are eyeball-like balloons that birds find extremely unnerving.
    • Flygon is an insectoid Dragon-type. In other words, a dragonfly.
    • Empoleon is an emperor penguin modelled after an actual emperor, Napoleon.
    • Alolan Exeggutor is a Grass/Dragon type that looks like a tall palm tree... or a dracaena plant, whose name means "female dragon" in Greek.
    • The Applin line are dragons — or wyrmsthat live in an apple.
    • Wobbuffet's Japanese name is "Sonans", which is Japanese for "That's the way it is" and it's based on a comedian who used that as his tag line. It makes all those times when Wobbuffet pops out of its Poké Ball during Team Rocket's motto basically this. Wobbuffet is saying "That's the way it is". Some scenes have also had it and its pre-evolution Wynaut doing this, as Wynaut's name in Japanese means "Is that so?"
  • Skylanders: Trap Team gives us High Five, who's a dragon with the wings of an insect. A literal dragonfly.
  • Temtem: Zizare is quite literally a wyrm; it's a giant earthworm with draconic features.
  • Terraria: An enemy that only appears when fishing during Blood Moons is the Hemogoblin Shark (a pun on hemoglobin, the substance that binds oxygen in blood; and goblin shark). True to its name, it has the appearance of a goblin Shark Man (plus it vomits blood).
  • Undertale: One of the characters, Snowdrake, is a monster that looks like a drake (a male duck), with a snowflake-shaped plumage on his face. There's also Aaron the seahorse, which is a muscular, horse-headed merfolk.
  • Vectorman 2: The sixteenth level, "Recycle or Die", has giant fire ants as enemies, which attack by shooting fireballs. When Vectorman defeats them, they leave behind power-ups that temporarily allow him to shoot fireballs as well.

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • Amphibia: The frog world's Fantastic Fauna Counterparts include caterpillars, insect larvae that look and behave like cats.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: In "Tales of Ba Sing Se", the escaped zoo animals include a swarm of dragonflies, depicted as lizards with insect wings.
  • Beetlejuice: The Neitherworld is full of these, including timberwolves (wolves with logs for torsos) and horseradishes (horses with radish-like rumps). In one episode, Beetlejuice got a pair of pants (faces on legs that pant).
  • Brandy & Mr. Whiskers: In "Private Antics, Major Problems", the main duo get drafted into an army of army ants dressed in military outfits.
  • Inside Job (2021): The sheeple are human-sheep hybrids.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • "Detouring America": A prairie dog is depicted as an actual dog, rather than as a rodent.
    • "Porky the Rainmaker": Eggplants break apart in the heat, revealing that they have yolks like real eggs.
    • The Tasmanian Devil's head hair is shaped like a pair of devil horns. When he wants to move fast he spins around like a whirlwind — i.e., a dust devil.
    • "Who's Who at the Zoo" has a cottontail rabbit whose tail is a literal cotton swab, a bald eagle who covers his head with a wig, and an Indian elephant in a Native American feathered headdress.
    • Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner: The Road Runner is always depicted running along motorways, making it a literal "road runner".
  • Moondreamers: The animal-like Moondreamers include two, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, that resemble bears and are based on the constellations of the same name.
  • My Little Pony:
    • My Little Pony 'n Friends: "The Great Rainbow Caper" features as villains a pair of Mad Scientist monkeys obsessed with technology, inventions, and assorted gizmos, which are called the gizmonks.
    • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
      • Over its run, the show introduced multiple pun-based creatures derived from literal interpretations of real-life animals' names. Fruit bats, for instance, are Planimal bats with bodies resembling plump fruits and leaves for ears, cragadiles are crocodiles made out of craggy stone, and timberwolves are literally made out of timber, logs, and branches in a roughly lupine shape.
      • When a bugbear appears, it's a panda-like, bee-striped beast with insectoid wings, eyes, antennae and a stinger.
      • The changelings' original forms resemble black ponies with a single pair of transparent wings, and their larvae look like maggots. In other words, they're horseflies.
      • The Ursa Major and Ursa Minor are giant bears literally made out of stars and the night sky and marked with the constellations that they represent.
      • Windigos are spirits named after the Wendigo and best-known for producing freezing winds.
      • Poison joke is a vegetable example of this: it's a flower named after poison oak, but instead of causing a rash it causes people who touch it to undergo maliciously humorous transformations.
  • The Octonauts: the dogfish look like normal dogfish, but they bark.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • The music video for the song "Today Is Gonna Be a Great Day" by Bowling for Soup has the brothers taming a tiger shark, a shark with black and orange stripes.
    • In "Wizard of Odd", one of Witch Doofenshmirtz's minions is a spider monkey, a Mix-and-Match Critter between a spider and a monkey.
  • Spongebob Squarepants:
    • Lionfishes are depicted as lions with fish fins, rather than the actual venomous and prickly species of lionfish.
    • "Earworm" involves Spongebob having a song stuck in his head. In his ear, a worm is playing a record of the song over and over.
  • The Wuzzles, being set on a world of Mix-and-Match Critters, naturally has some examples. One episode has a character named Tycoon, who aside from being a tycoon (that is, a very rich person), is also a combination of tiger and raccoon. He also invests in stox — storks with ox horns. Another episode has the cast dealing with a Brahma bullfinch, a Brahma bull with bird wings.

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