Last year saw the release of CollectA’s Guidraco, a towering 1:4 scale model that stands nearly a foot tall. But CollectA was not the only company to release a pterosaur in 2015; Papo also released a pterosaur that was perhaps overshadowed by the Guidraco. Perhaps that is because in contrast with the Guidraco we have a much more diminutive model with the Tupuxuara. At only 3” in length it is easy to see how this model flew under the radar. Don’t be fooled by its small size though, since it’s from Papo you can rest assured that the detail work you would expect is there, even if the accuracy is lacking.
This model really is small, smaller than I expected initially and smaller than the promotional photo would suggest. This little pterosaur fits comfortably in my palm; the entire head of the model is the same size as my thumb! Since Papo doesn’t work in a set scale one has to wonder why Papo would sculpt it so small, but with the release of their larger Apatosaurus model last year it’s no surprise that their other model would be something smaller and cheaper to produce. The good news is that despite its size no details were sacrificed. Although not as detailed looking as the promotional photo you still have to marvel at the amount of work that went into this little sculpture.
The pose is perhaps the most noteworthy attribute on this model. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pterosaur model posed quite like this and sculpted so believably. Although some will notice an immediate similarity with the Sideshow Tupuxuara this model is still sculpted in a unique way of its own. The model is striding forward on all four limbs with the right leg stepping ahead of the left and the right wing lifted up. The head is turned towards the left with the mouth gaping open and tongue flailing about. You really get the impression that this pterosaur is clambering around on the ground, perhaps in a state of panic as it looks for a launch off point or maybe chasing off some rivals. It really is refreshing to see so many pterosaurs lately posed on the ground instead of in-flight. Although not as much fun to play with they are certainly easier to display.
Along with the dynamic posture of the Tupuxuara you get all the detail work needed to make the pose believable. Wrinkles and folds are sculpted where the wings are held back, a fleshy wrinkled dewlap is sculpted on the throat giving the impression that this creature is letting out a primordial shrieking sound. Muscles bulge on the shoulders, and the spine is noticeable along the back. Every muscle looks tense and ready and the model really conveys an animal outside its element. It looks delicate sprawled out on the ground but that’s because it’s made for the sky.
The model is painted in fleshy color tones of various pinks and browns that all blend into each other seamlessly. The wings are tipped in black and small black spots are dotted along the spine, each toe and finger nail is individually painted black as well. The tiny pin-prick eyes are orange with blue eye-shadow giving the model a nice dash of color. Some other coloration would have been nice, especially on the crest but it is hard to criticize the paint choice when what was chosen was applied so well.
The Papo Tupuxuara has a very reptilian look and an almost retro appearance. Part of this may be because it’s fleshy naked-skinned body. While still appealing to look at this look is hardly accurate. In life pterosaurs were covered with a hair-like covering of pycnofibers. We dinosaur nerds can’t complain about scaly dinosaurs still being so prominent in pop-culture. While the first feathered dinosaurs were described in 1996, pycnofibers were first reported on pterosaurs in 1831! Yet we still get naked pterosaurs, just one example of how far behind our pop-culture depictions of pterosaurs is. Aside from those, the model looks passably accurate. Four toes are sculpted on the feet with three on the hands, the forth elongated finger serving as an extension for the wing membrane. There are some who think the wings are too small but I’m not sure if I agree with that consensus or if they just appear small due to how they’re folded back. Thanks to the crest on the model the exact species of this Tupuxuara is discernable as T. leonardii.
Accuracy issues aside this is still the kind of life-like and dynamic model you would expect from Papo. With a price point of $10-15 and a small enough size to fit on any shelf I can only recommend this well-crafted and obscure species of pterosaur.