Posting from Tintagel

TLG Trico's ecology

September 25, 2017 | 6 Minute Read

The image shoudn’t be that of so called ‘kaiju’ but instead should be an animal that actually exists.
/Fumito Ueda, “An Extraordinary Story”/

The first time spent with The Last Guardian ends up with the finale which can be a moving experience or an emotional crush, especially for animal lovers, including people professionally related to animal behavior, ethology and wildlife. Trico appears to not be a mystery beast with almighty powers. Trico isn’t even strong enough. It is just a large animal who deviated from its own beast species. A beast, not a monster and not a pet.
Beast as a name stands for a random animal other than human (usually applied to land vertebrates), especially large or dangerous four-footed one. Trico seems to be a type of a mythical winged hybrid, mostly a griffin - an eagle (beak, wings, feet, feathers) with a rear body of a lion. The Last Guardian was released in Japan as Hitokui no Ōwashi Trico (人喰いの大鷲トリコ) which literally means The Great Man-Eating Eagle Toriko.[1] Game intro illustrations are the art of John Jonston (1603-1675) - a Polish naturalist, physician and philosopher, author of several books related to natural history and bestiaries such as the “Book of the Natural History of Quedrupeds”[2] from which some pages were borrowed by Fumito Ueda who placed Trico’s stylized sketch between them.

/Dragon’s guide [pic] by @drakthug/

It’s hard to tell if Trico is a typical predator - a living being (or creature) standing in the ecosystem as a hunter attacking and feeding on its prey. It uses its horns and claws when it is aggressive as a defense, instead of choosing to escape like non-predatory animals instinctively do in their natural environment. It growls and roars by using a low tone, important warning to the other potential predators trying to intrude its territory or to fight. Besides, it uses a tail as a tool and reacts to food-barrels appearance in a special way (purring noises and lighting eyes in anticipation). As predators, tricos should be part of a food chain where producers (plants) make organic matter thanks to inorganic matter for herbivore consumers which are prey for carnivores (with apex predators at the top), omnivores, scavengers, and finally every organism returns to the cycle by reducers making inorganic resources back from organic ones. The prey-predator relation in Trico’s universe composes a functional ecosystem where human children (an apex predator’s offspring) are the prey kidnapped in order to turn them into food-barrels (a form of reward at the same time).

tricos kidnap children -> called by Master of the Valley tricos bring those children to the nest -> tricos get food-barrels in exchange

To be exact, tricos regurgitate their swallowed ‘prey’ as a sort of simulated feeding the offspring (stone ‘chicks’ with open beaks play the role of the stimuli) and to be honest, regurgitation is an animal feeding strategy, it should be a process where half-digested food takes part.

  • Why people still live near that valley at all? Why didn’t they settle somewhere else?
    Any clue about how much prey population is dispersed stays a speculation. It’s obvious that it is limited, at least by age (‘choosen’ children) or territory (Master of the Valley antenna reach).
  • Why exactly those beast species were chosen? Who is the Master of the Valley, who/what makes them obedient?
    Harsh methods of taming are portrayed by saddles (dressage) on other tricos, chains and muzzles (preservation) which - intentionally or not - make them scarier than they really are (while not controlled by the Master).
    After shaking off the mentioned ‘attributes’ Trico is visibly human-friendly. It sends verbal signals using a high tone, communicates by a specific way thanks to howls, whistles and squeaks. Its shape of eyes has a puppy-like expression, coat of feathers is fluffy, tail is wagging. The man eating beast likes to be petted and repeats cuddle behaviors to its own prey, what - as an independent behavior - could suggest a readiness for domestication. Significant line is “I thought you were afraid of the water?” said by the Boy looking at Trico rolling over the water outside after their ‘first trust’ situation when the beast made a jump into the cave lake right after him.

In terms of animation reference […] the development team looked most closely at cats, studying their anatomy by watching videos online. This is easy to see if you’ve even spent time around a cat, from the way Trico stretches, to how its tail moves with a mind of its own, to the way Trico picks up the Boy by the neck of his tunic, just as a mother cat would carry a kitten by its scruff.[3]

The final of TLG story is not a happy ending like in fairy tales where they lived happily ever after. It’s just reality where magic creatures don’t live together with human beings. TLG epilogue gives a bit of hope - a few guardian beasts survived somewhere far away from people.
In terms of a single being [short-term], according to behavioral ecology or psychology, to survive means for a species to fulfill three canonical conditions - staying safe/alive (by protection or risk avoidance), reproducing (with an offspring as a main goal) and food finding. If Trico survived and even had an offspring with another trico all of them would have to eat or die from starving if they wouldn’t. So, what did they eat? Is it possible for them to eat something other than food-barrels? To evolve in so short time? Trico’s diet seemed to be strict (let’s repeat the man-eating eagle as original name again). It’s not even as strict as the wolf diet - meat only. Thanks to the domestication process dogs as a species [long-term] were able to change their primal carnivore organism for digesting human garbage (the most probable dog origin hypothesis), currently dogs eat commercial dog food as almost an omnivore scavenger. It was a process based on the cooperation and mutual profits (obligatory three canonical conditions to survive for every single tame being).

In reference to everything written before, sending Trico away was possibly the best option. Anyway, the food-barrels were still needed for it to regenerate itself. The question is if Trico as a species was able to find a substitute for its strict diet.

[1] Team Ico Wiki
[2] Historiae naturalis de quadrupedibus
[3] “An Extraordinary Story” artbook, chapter 1, the authors
other sources:
TLG creator interview
Mythology Wiki