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These Pokémon ‘fossils’ are intended to teach about real fossils

An image for the “Pokemon Fossil Museum,” a traveling exhibit aimed at teaching museum-goers about paleontology. (National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo)

What do Pikachu and paleontology have in common?

If you answered “nothing,” you’re not to blame. The wildly popular Pokémon franchise appears to have little to do with the science of fossils.

But an exhibition touring Japan is changing that — and using the cute, battling monsters to teach visitors about paleontology.

The “Pokémon Fossil Museum” draws on a franchise feature for educational purposes.

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In Pokémon, a video and card game, players can reanimate fossilized creatures such as Tyrantrum and Aerodactyl, then play with them.

In the museum, those fossils become springboards for an exhibition that calls on visitors to compare the fictional creatures to real-life fossils.

The exhibition highlight is its display of huge Pokémon “skeletons” in a museum setting next to actual fossils excavated by scientists, rather than the lab-coated Pokémon trainers who resurrect the fossils in the game. Visitors can see “life-size” skeletons of a variety of Pokémon creatures, including Bastiodon, which has a spiked, tower-like head and plenty of horns on its face, and Tyrantrum, a Tyrannosaurus rex-like dinosaur with a regal presence.

Developed by Japan’s National Museum of Nature and Science and Pokémon, the exhibition has been traveling through Japan since 2021. It’s on view at the Toyohashi Museum of Natural History in central Japan through Nov. 6 and will then head to the Oita Prefectural Art Museum.

But if a trip to Japan isn’t on your calendar, never fear: You can view the exhibition on your phone, VR device or computer. Visit and see if you can catch ’em all.