Godzilla is a dinosaur (Godzillasaurus) mutated by nuclear radiation.
It's been said his upright stance, sea otter head, maple-leaf spikes, grooved skin, long arms, and dragging tail do not make him look like any dinosaurs we know. Part of the reason is that when Godzilla was created in 1954, dinosaurs were considered massive tail-dragging creatures. His design was inspired by an iguanadon and stegosaurus. Before vs Biollante in 1989, special effects director Kawakita tried to redesign Godzilla to look more like a reptilian dinosaur. Producer Tanaka rejected that idea, exclaiming "Damn it, he's a monster!"
There have been some other attempts to portray Godzilla as a sleek dinosaur, but it didn't go over especially well. That Godzilla is an unnatural mutated monster enhances his power as an unstoppable force.
Plus, personally, I think those features like the dorsal plates define "Godzilla" as a distinctive character, not just a movie monster.
What is a kaiju (kie-ju)? It's a Japanese word for "mysterious beast". Daikaiju means "giant mysterious beast". Some Godzilla purists will say there is a difference between kaiju and monster, but I don't see a significant one. So I pretty much use the term interchangably, although I like how using kaiju gives this page an international flair.
Kenichi Yamane put his Godzilla biology findings on the Internet, but it was in Japanese. Luckily, he let me use his translated thesis to delve more into Godzilla's biology.
Most of his work revolved around Godzilla's meltdown condition. Godzilla's death resulted from self-destruction caused by an internal nuclear reaction. Kenichi felt the accident on Birth Island caused the reactor in his heart to destabilize. Basically, the uranium deposits on Birth Island exploded causing Godzilla's body mass to go critical, Little G to mutate into Junior, and the island itself to disintegrate. He postulates this phenomenon might have had two causes working together:
He also included some pictures:
I really should've paid more attention in biology class...
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