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Yes, Godzilla could take Kong in a fight — we have science to prove it

The 2021 film “Godzilla vs. Kong” pits the two most iconic movie monsters of all time against each other. And fans are now picking sides. Even the most fantastical creatures have some basis in scientific reality, so the natural world is a good place to look to better understand movie monsters. I study functional morphology – how skeletal and tissue traits allow animals to move – and evolution in extinct animals. I am also a huge fan of monster movies. Ultimately, this is a fight between a giant reptile and a giant primate, and there are relative biological advantages and…

The 2021 film “Godzilla vs. Kong” pits the two most iconic movie monsters of all time against each other. And fans are now picking sides.

Even the most fantastical creatures have some basis in scientific reality, so the natural world is a good place to look to better understand movie monsters. I study functional morphology – how skeletal and tissue traits allow animals to move – and evolution in extinct animals. I am also a huge fan of monster movies. Ultimately, this is a fight between a giant reptile and a giant primate, and there are relative biological advantages and disadvantages that each would have. The research I do on morphology and biomechanics can tell us a lot about this battle and might help you decide – #TeamGodzilla or #TeamKong?

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First, it’s important to acknowledge that both Kong and Godzilla are definitely far beyond the realms of biological possibility. This is due to sheer size and the laws of physics. Their hearts couldn’t pump blood to their heads, they would have temperature regulation problems and it would take too long for nerve signals from the brain to reach distant parts of the body – to name just a few issues.

However, let’s assume that somehow Godzilla and Kong are able to overcome these size limitations – perhaps because of their radiation exposure they have distinctive mutations and characteristics. Based on how they look on the big screen, let’s explore the observable differences that might prove useful in a fight.

Kong: the best of ape and human

At first glance, Kong is a colossal primate – but he’s not simply a giant gorilla.

An
Kong has a mix of both gorilla and humanlike physical traits. Cliff/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

One of the most striking things about Kong is his upright, bipedal stance – he mostly walks on two legs, unlike any other living nonhuman apes. This ability could suggest close evolutionary relationship to the only living upright ape, humans – or his upright stance could be the result of convergent evolution. Either way, like us, Kong has thick muscular legs geared toward walking and running, and large free arms with grasping hands, enabling him to use tools.

Humanity’s bipedal, upright posture is unique in the animal kingdom and provides a slew of biomechanical abilities that Kong might share. For example, human torsos are highly flexible and particularly good at rotation. This feature – in addition to our loose shoulder girdle – makes humans the best throwers in the animal kingdom. Throwing is helpful in a fight, and Kong could probably throw with the best of them.

Kong is also, of course, massive. He absolutely dwarfs the largest known primate, an extinct orangutan relative called
that was a bit bigger than modern gorillas.

Kong does have many gorillalike attributes as well, including long muscular arms, a short snout with large canine teeth, and a tall sagittal crest – a ridge of bone on his head that would be the anchor point for some exceptionally strong jaw muscles.

Strong, agile, comfortable on land and with the unparalleled ability to use tools and throw, Kong would be a brutal force in a fight.

A
Godzilla’s upright posture is unique among lizards and dinosaurs. Figure depicts what he’d look like with a dinosaur posture. Kenneth Carpenter/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Godzilla: An aquatic lizard to be reckoned with

Godzilla appears to be a giant, semiaquatic reptile. Like Kong, Godzilla has the traits of a few different species.

Recent Godzilla movies show him decently mobile on land, but seemingly much more comfortable in the water despite his lack of overt aquatic features. Interestingly, Godzilla is depicted with gills on his neck – a trait that land vertebrates lost after they emerged from the sea about 370 million years ago. Given Godzilla’s terrestrial features, it’s likely that his species has land-dwelling reptile ancestors and reevolved a mostly aquatic lifestyle – kind of like sea turtles or sea snakes, which can actually absorb oxygen through their skin in water. Godzilla may have uniquely reevolved gills.

An
Dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex had huge muscles that connect their powerful tails to their hips and upper legs. Dr. Scott Hartman, CC BY-ND

Godzilla’s tail is what really separates him from Kong. It is massive and anchored and moved by huge muscles attached to his legs, hips, and lower back. Dinosaurs like


Karine Stoltenberg

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