Marvel-ous Mythology and Bad Biologists

During the two most recent episodes of our podcast Cinematica Animalia, we looked at some of the mythical Chinese creatures portrayed in Marvel’s recent outing, Shang-Chi, and some movie science tropes that always ignite a bit of ire for biologists.

Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings

This movie features an extra-dimensional land called Ta Lo, which is home to a variety of creatures pulled directly from the pages of Chinese mythology. Among others, these include the hundun, a faceless winged wombat; the huli jin, a strikingly white nine-tailed fox; and the qilin, a giant reptilian-looking okapi. These species aren’t too far-fetched, but they all share features that make them ill-equipped for life in the wild. The hundun appears to be a burrowing creature, but possesses wing-like appendages that don’t seem to serve much of a purpose beyond signalling. The huli jin’s tails would provide very little benefit while demanding energy to grow. The qilin resembles many mammals superficially (the aforementioned okapi being one of them, many now-extinct rhino and camel relatives being others), yet seems to have green fur, which mammals are incapable of producing.

However there is one answer to why species would evolve such traits, and it comes in the form of selective breeding. Humans have selectively bred for a range of traits in animals, which wouldn’t serve much purpsoe had they not been so thoroughly domesticated. However as our vet tells, this has resulted in some truly horrifying side-effects for the animals in question.

Controversial Science Tropes

Movies and scientific methodology don’t always mix. A movie needs constant development of plot and characters, and data collection and analysis can’t always provide that. Yet some movie scientists give the constant impression that they’re actually deranged conspiracy theorists who manage to finagle a clipboard and labcoat from the storeroom on the way into the lab. We looked at some science movie tropes that are passable at best and movie-breaking at worst (if you’re pedantic enough).


New episodes of Cinematica Animalia are available every Thursday. You can listen in on Spotifyon Soundcloud, or any podcast app worth its salt.

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