The Devonian period, commonly known as the Age of Fishes, was home to a wide variety of bizarre aquatic animals. One of these is was Groenlandaspis (“shield of Greenland”), a tiny relative of the fearsome Dunkleosteus. Like Dunkleosteus, Groenlandaspis was an arthrodire, part of one of the earliest lineages of jawed vertebrates. This little fish was first made into a toy by Yowie, a company that sells miniature animals packaged with chocolates, as part of the Lost Kingdoms line in 2001. Most Lost Kingdoms figures were based on Australian fossils, and Groenlandaspis fossils are fairly abundant in Australia, as well as in Greenland where they were first discovered. It’s funny that they chose a fish named after Greenland rather than something more typically Australian like Buchanosteus.
But on to the figure! It comes in 4 easy-to-assemble pieces. The name of the animal is printed on the inside of the belly, so if you were to find it in a flea market, it might be hard to know what you’re looking at. (The other inscription, “CSPL,” stands for “Cadbury Schweppes Proprietary Limited,” Yowie’s parent company in Australia.)
Once you’ve assembled the pieces, you have a serviceable, if cartoony, rendition of a small arthrodire. The most distinctive feature of Groenlandaspis, relative to other ancient armored fishes, is the tall spine on its back behind the head. This figure clearly shows that spine, although it is a bit blunted. Some of the sutures between the plates match up with the actual fossils if you squint, but it almost seems coincidental when they do. The seam where the head piece of the figure meets the body pieces does roughly line up with the joint between the thorax of the real animal and its head.
Groenlandaspis had a broad lateral flange, part of the thoracic armor, just in front of and above each pectoral fin. The flange would have been continuous with the rest of the armor, rather than having a strong seam as this figure suggests. The seam is where the two pieces of the main body meet, but it has the unfortunate effect of making it look as though the fish has a long armored pectoral fin like some antiarchs had. Coupled with the high dorsal crest of the armor, it makes this figure look a lot like a Pterichthyodes in particular. What saves it is the face, with a relatively pointed profile and the mouth all the way at the front, rather than oriented downward as in Pterichthyodes. The overall slope of the head is actually spot-on.
With the lateral flanges, Groenlandaspis
would have looked like a caltrop
when viewed head-on, an impression that isn’t conveyed in this figure. Also, until I took this photo, I never noticed that the nostrils are painted slightly crookedly.
Like other Yowie figures, this is a small one, about 7 centimeters long. That makes it about 1:6 scale. Groenlandaspis was small and no doubt adorable.
On balance, this figure does a reasonable job as a caricature of a highly distinctive prehistoric fish–right number of fins, roughly correct overall shape. If you like your figures highly realistic, it might not be for you. But if you’re willing to tolerate stylized, slightly goofy figures for the sake of having obscure animals in your collection, this and the rest of the Yowie Lost Kingdoms line might be right up your alley. I wouldn’t recommend it for very young children given that it comes apart into some pretty small pieces. Yowie Lost Kingdoms figures have been out of production for over a decade, so you’ll have to find them secondhand from auction sites or maybe a friend in Australia.