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In the world of Monsters, Inc., the titular monsters have wildly varying morphologies and abilities, but they nevertheless all seem to be members of the same species; after all, if it was a multi-species society, you'd expect to see groups of similar-looking monsters that are obviously related--but you don't. Every one is unique in some way. And furthermore, even monsters that have wildly divergent basic body plans seem to be able to procreate with each other.

So, how could such a species procreate, and what would determine the look of each child? Technological means are on the table, given the setting, but mechanisms that would work "in the wild" are preferred.

Bonus points if a plausible evolutionary path to create this species can be proposed.

A list of all Anatomically Correct questions can be found here: Anatomically Correct series

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    $\begingroup$ Note: Family resemblance isn't totally out of the picture, since Mrs. Wazowski appears very similar to her son $\endgroup$ – katatahito Aug 1 at 3:53
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    $\begingroup$ what would determine the look of each child I do not think we could give a really good non-trivial answer to this for human let alone an imaginary "species". $\endgroup$ – StephenG Aug 1 at 4:05
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    $\begingroup$ For a second I thought you were asking about an incorporated company called “Anatomically correct monsters”. I would invest in such a company, $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Aug 1 at 7:58
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Apples are what is called extreme heterozygote, which causes offspring to be very different from their parents. If you plant apple seeds, the new tree will be likely to have apples with different color, taste size etc.

This is not a case of mutation, but rather a kind of latent genetic potential. This is why it's possible for apple trees to pollinate all other apple trees, even if they are very different.

If such a trait was to exist in the monsters, i'd think it could explain both why they can mate with each other, and also why they are so different (even children from parents).

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mechanisms that would work "in the wild"

Do you know how Fishes reproduce?

All the fishes gather at one location and spread their eggs and sperms in that area, these eggs and sperms collide randomly and generate off-springs.

May be Monsters uses this kind of system, where all the potential monster parents gather at one location and spread their eggs and sperms in one large pool, this produces random-looking off-springs.

After some time all the parents, get one of the generated baby monsters, on basis of familiarity, or simply randomly first come first serve, or pre-bookings.

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There's nothing in biology saying that any trait, morphological or otherwise, has to be species-wide or even genetic. Dogs have wildly different morphologies, yet they are all part of the same species. Some sea snails randomly pop up orange in a field of black ancestors, and mud-wasps can be different from their parents across a wide number of characteristics.

The question in more a physiological/practical one: if you randomly picked across a wide number of traits, what guarantees survival? If you put a huge head on a tiny body, how would that organism even lift it's head let alone feed itself? In a "real" Monsters Inc world, you'd expect a very high featal/infant child mortality rate, due to combinations that just "don't work".

Of course, the survival of Monster civilization depends on being scary to human children, so perhaps evolution has selected for hideous forms at the expense of fitness as we usually think of it. The diversity of forms could be a case of evolutionary divergence, whereby too much similarity would allow children to grow accustomed to one particular type of monster, decreasing its effectiveness. (This is similar to histocompatibility in humans).

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Quite honestly, I'm not sure if that is a plausible question specifically because it has to do with Monster's Inc.. We don't see too many families in Monsters Inc. (other than Mike Wazowski as you pointed out) but one of the reasons this might not make sense is simply because it's a kids movie and Pixar wanted to sell a variety of merchandise.

But because I like this question let's do some reaching.

In the world of Monsters, Inc., the titular monsters have wildly varying morphologies and abilities, but they nevertheless all seem to be members of the same species; if it was a multi-species society, you'd expect to see groups of similar-looking monsters that are obviously related--but you don't. Every one is unique in some way.

Since we don't have enough info about all the Monsters Inc. itself, we should try and relate it to the next closest mythos (if you will) of Monsters and stuff that doesn't exist. I'm going to relate it to the Covenant from the Halo Universe.

If you don't have background already, the Covenant is an alliance between a number of species that the San'shyuum and Sanghelli (sorry if I misspelled them) fought and/or incorporated into their space-faring empire. My theory is that the Monsters Inc. universe also had a Covenant-type empire. This empire was not necessarily a space-faring one, but was a multi-species empire that went a step further - to be able to breed with one another despite not looking the same (examples of this exist in real life, with Lions + Tigers birthing Ligers and Tigons, etc.). The reason there is so much variation is because their genetic-code (if they have anything that resembles genes, that is) rolls a dice on what features these creatures have, and since their ancestors were very diverse (in both species and features) they look very different as a result.

I hope this is a decent explanation!

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I would like to propose a combination of several factors:

  • Their biology works different from ours. For us, it takes a very specific combination of mutually compatible genes to create a viable organism (incompatible genes lead to miscarriages or still-born). But for Monsters, compatibility constraint is relaxed. So there is a lot more genetic variation.

  • They have a lot of recessive traits, or traits that depend on several genes, with difference in any one gene leading to large difference in resulting organism.

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