This review of the exquisitely detailed coelacanth by Safari Ltd is a first for The Dinosaur Toy Blog because it isn’t prehistoric or extinct. However, the coelacanth, Latimeria, is an iconic species of ‘living fossil’ and a text-book example of evolutionary stasis – an organism that has changed very little over millions of years. This is presumably why Safari Ltd picked this distinctive prehistoric-looking fish for their Wild Safari line, which is normally dedicated to prehistoric critters. This is also why I’m willing to review a model of an extant, as opposed to extinct, creature for a change.
This fishy figure is quite large at 14cm long. The model is based on real animals so there is nothing speculative about it at all, the anatomy is correct down to the last individually sculpted scale. And the detail is astonishing. There are delicate fin rays on all the fins, dangerous-looking dorsal spines, and individual head plates, all reproduced in striking detail. There are even sensory pits and canals on the head, minutia that might have been overlooked in a lesser figure.
There are 8 fins in total: projecting out to the sides is a pair of pectoral fins at the front of the body and behind these is a pair of pelvic fins. Towards the rear and projecting downwards is a single anal fin. Projecting upwards from the back is a single dorsal fin, behind which is a single second dorsal fin. Finally there is the diamond-shape caudal (or tail) fin. In this model the fins are elegantly modeled to give the impression of gentle lifelike motion and momentum. The pectoral fins are positioned asymmetrically in a soft paddling motion. The second dorsal fin and anal fin are inflected to the left and contrast with the caudal fin, which is inflected to the right.
The unusual dead looking eyes are actually present in living coelacanths. Coelacanths inhabit the deep seas and have specialised eyes to allow them to see in the dark. These can glow when exposed to light, much like the eyes of cats and dogs, hence the eery pale eyes in the Wild Safari model. The open mouth has chubby lips and nicely detailed teeth.
In the sneak preview publicity shots for this figure featured on the Dinotoyblog and on Cryptomundo, the colour appeared as an electric blue. In the actual figure the hue is far lighter and true to life. The blue colouration indicates that this replica represents Latimeria chalumnae, as opposed to the other known species of living coelacanth, which is browner in colour (Latimeria menadoensis). A smattering of pale spots (these are supposed to be lighter coloured individual scales) add visual texture and is also based on real specimens of Latimeria chalumnae. Finally, the surface of the fish is finished with a shimmering glaze to add an aquatic feel. Safari Ltd have really outdone themselves and set the bar extremely high with this true museum quality replica. At little more than $5, there is no reason for anyone to miss out on this stunning model.