Lizards have been around about as long as dinosaurs, and during their time on Earth their family tree has produced some weird side branches. One is snakes (yes, all snakes are lizards, but not all lizards are snakes). Another is the mosasaurs, a group of large aquatic lizards that included some of the largest predators of the late Cretaceous. They weren’t dinosaurs, but true lizards, more closely related to modern monitor lizards than either is to, for example, geckos.
One of the best known mosasaurs is Tylosaurus, and it’s roughly tied with Mosasaurus as the one most commonly made into toys. Safari Ltd has released a new Tylosaurus for 2017, and it’s a very nice piece of work. Tylosaurus was one of the largest lizards of all time, up to 15 meters long. This figure is about 26 cm long measured along the spine, so it’s about 1:55 scale if it represents a large individual. That puts it roughly in scale with Safari’s Elasmosaurus. It’s mostly a sort of yellow ochre all over, slightly darker on top, with irregular bold black markings and a big black spot over each eye.
The maw is carefully rendered, including teeth borne on the pterygoid bone on the roof of the mouth. Like any inexpensive mass-produced toy, there is a bit of paint bleed from the gums to the teeth and vice versa, but overall the paint is well-executed. Based on a cursory glance at some Tylosaurus skulls, it looks like the number of teeth varies, with this figure at the low end of that variation.
The head correctly shows the front of the dentary and premaxillary (i.e. the very front of the mouth) without teeth. The folds of skin around the neck are expertly done, reminiscent of mosasaurs’ monitor lizard cousins.
This is the first mosasaur from Safari to include the two-lobed tail fluke, which was described in 2010 and 2013 based on smaller relatives. If anything, a gigantic animal like Tylosaurus would find a fluke even more useful to move its bulk. This is a realistic depiction, with the main bore of the spine deflected slightly downward, and soft tissue making up the top half of the fluke.
The whole figure is texturally rich, and the flippers in particular show very lizardlike scales. Each digit is discernible, which was likely true in the living animal as well.
Compared to the Carnegie version that was discontinued two years ago, this Tylosaurus is somewhat smaller, with an updated tail, and with a much brighter palette. This color scheme is a bit vibrant for an adult 14-meter animal. Some melanosomes have been observed in large mosasaurs, and their concentration suggests a very dark color, perhaps similar to a sperm whale. Tylosaurus did live in a vast inland sea, a habitat that is no longer widespread on Earth, so it’s at least possible that such an environment would have been friendlier to big bright animals. All the same, the coloration of this figure is probably more appropriate to a smaller mosasaur. Platecarpus was only about 4 meters long, and Dallasaurus was even smaller, comparable to a living monitor. Those were probably more often found in shallow-water, complex habitats where it might be beneficial to have your outline broken up in sun-dappled water. Some sharks that are pelagic as adults, but live near shore when young, have bolder coloration as babies. Perhaps large mosasaurs had a similar progression.
On balance, this is a wonderful replica, and should make both adult kids and regular kids happy. You can find it at museum gift shops, online, and at better toy stores everywhere.