Her limbs paddling, her tail undulating, her great sail cutting through the water like a razor blade, the angler pursues her quarry. Although she cannot see in the murky water, her narrow snout contains pressure sensors that detect the slightest movement. A quick jerk of her neck, a snap of her jaws, and a fat coelacanth is caught. The angler immediately begins swimming back to shore with her prize. Her dutiful mate and recently hatched chicks are waiting eagerly.
Perhaps no other dinosaur has undergone as many reinterpretations as Spinosaurus. For decades, it was depicted as a fairly standard large carnosaur, albeit with a sail on its back. Then in the early 90s’, paleontologists determined that it was related to the recently discovered Baryonyx, and thus possessed a crocodile-like skull. And in the fall of 2014, Nizar Ibrahim and Paul Sereno unveiled a truly radical reinterpretation of the spined lizard with a long, narrow ribcage, reduced hind limbs, and a quadrupedal stance. Needless to say, not everyone is convinced of this latest reconstruction, which is based on accumulated bones from multiple individuals. It is quite possible that future findings will render it inaccurate. Or perhaps the opposite. No one can say for sure. In the mean time, the always-ambitious CollectA has produced not one, but three toys based on the new reconstruction. This review will tackle the two Standard class versions.
These two great piscivores are coloured dull yellow with beige underbellies, faint patches of airbrushed green, brown on the sails, and black for the claws and the many spots. The heads feature tiny yellow crests, red patches around the eyes, and green at the end of the snouts. The eyes are black, the teeth are white, and the inside of the mouths are pink.
The designers at CollectA have done a remarkable job of replicating the Ibrahim/Sereno reconstruction. The heads have thin, gharial-like snouts with bulbous tips and rows of straight teeth. Not any good for attacking large dinosaurs, but very handy for snagging slippery fish. The necks are long compared to other theropods’. The large forearms end in sharp, curved claws and the sails are no longer rounded, but vaguely trapezoidal in shape. The bodies are long and narrow. And then there are the hind legs. Gone are the long, massive stems of old. Replacing them are very short but still muscular limbs terminating in webbed feet. The result is a quadrupedal stance that would have meant slow going on land, but speed and maneuverability in water.
Like all of CollectA’s recent products, the sculpting on these toys is fantastic. The hides are covered in a variety of textures: pebbled with round osteoderms on the upper bodies and thicker, square-shaped scales covering the underbellies. And in a touch of creative license, the tails are virtually identical to those of crocodilians, with three rows of triangular osteoderms coming together into a single row. There is no fossil evidence of such elaborate skin texture, of course, but it would have worked well for a semiaquatic dinosaur.
The walking Spinosaurus measures 23 cm long and stands around 7.5 cm tall at the sail. Its head is turned sharply to the right with the mouth open in a hiss while its powerful tail is swinging to the left. Its front paws are bent at the wrists and splayed out to the sides. This is a major point of controversy, as no fossil arms of Spinosaurus exist and no other theropod is known to have possessed such pronation. Even if Spinosaurus was indeed quadrupedal, it may not have walked like this. Perhaps it shuffled along on its forearms like a sloth. Or perhaps it moved like a gigantic pangolin with its front limbs just barely touching the ground, as suggested by paleontologist Darren Naish.
The swimming Spinosaurus measures 24 cm long. Its head is turned slightly to the left, its arms are spread apart, its legs are kicking, and its tail is undulating. This individual is on the hunt, seeking out giant coelacanths, lungfish, and sawfish, all of which were plentiful in the rivers and lakes of Early Cretaceous Africa. Of the two toys, I prefer this one, as it effectively side-steps the ongoing terrestrial locomotion controversy. And the swimming pose looks great. I just wish I had a stand to display this animal properly. Mind you, it balances rather well on the tips of its claws.
As I noted at the beginning, there’s still a great deal we don’t know about Spinosaurus, and it is possible that future discoveries will overturn this current reconstruction. But paleontology has always been that way, and dinosaur toys are a measure of that constant change. These two Spinosaurus are beautifully sculpted and wonderfully weird, a welcome bit of variety among the rest of my theropod collection. And if their small size leaves you feeling slightly unsatisfied, there’s always the great big Deluxe version.
This has been my 50th review for the Dinosaur Toy Blog. I’d like to thank everyone who’s read my reviews, given them ratings, and posted comments. Special thanks go out to CollectA for the advance samples and to Adam S. Smith, AKA Plesiosauria, for giving me this wonderful opportunity in the first place. It’s been a real pleasure sharing my thoughts on all these toys with you.