Review and photos by amargasaurus cazaui, edited by Suspsy
In 2005, a fossil specimen surfaced at the Tuscon Gem and Mineral Show that would soon set the world of paleontology on end. The slab, containing a single specimen of Psittacosaurus, had been preserved in such a way that it would soon yield a treasure trove of scientific firsts, new information, and depth to our understanding of this species. Most notable were the bristle-like tail structures exquisitely preserved. The specimen was so well-preserved, melanosomes establishing colouration, patterning, and shading were found. The specimen appears to be one of the few with intact melanosomes which establish colour in a non-avian dinosaur. It is seemingly the first dinosaur we have actual preserved scales for as well.
The toy market has very few examples of Psittacosaurus done in a more life-like realistic style, that are also generally available. The Carnegie Collection produced the most well-known and treasured version of the dinosaur, sculpted by Forest Rogers. A smaller, more bird-like version was issued by CollectA. As one of the most well-known and studied dinosaurs, the market seemed ripe for a more accurate and appealing version.
Enter Doug Watson and the Wild Safari company. In the final months of 2016, Safari announced and released a new model of Psittacosaurus for the collector market. In my discussions with the sculptor, I was able to learn his sculpt was an attempt to translate the Tucson specimen, now known as Senckenberg Museum R 4970, into the most accurate model possible. The model is intended to be P. mongoliensis and was intended to be scaled at 1/12 size. This would place the model as an adult.
The model itself is smallish in size, measuring roughly 2 1/4 inches tall at the head and slightly over 5 1/2 inches in length along the vertebrae. It balances fairly well on its legs, with its feet placed in a normal walking pose. The tail is slightly curved and demonstrates the famous quills that the specimen is known for. The hands are sculpted in an opposing or neutral position with the proper digits, including the vestigial traces of the fourth digit without a claw. The body demonstrates the appropriate musculature, and in no way appears shrink-wrapped. The head is properly shaped, with jutting jugals, a nicely formed rostral, and properly placed eyes and nostrils. The frill is quite subdued, but visible.
The colouration is inspired by and follows the information given for Specimen R 4970 fairly closely. It features lighter undershading and darker overtones, darker individual scales, and an overall palette of browns, tans, and rust colours. The colouring for the bristle-like structures would seem a decent possibility, and the overall aesthetic is pleasing.
What are my own thoughts? I would like to have seen this model given to us at a larger size, perhaps 1/6 scale, although that is more a personal preference. My only other possible nitpick might be for more pronounced jugals. In my discussions with Doug Watson, he had commented that he was not convinced regarding the jugals, whereas I think they would be even more pronounced and angular. On the plus side, I find the overall effect is a well done and carefully researched masterpiece. The colors are believable, the posture is borne out by evidence, and the unique features this dinosaur is so well known for are evident and well done. The bristle-like structures match the fossil, and are placed properly. The figure stands decently on its feet, balances well, and looks quite lifelike. I feel it is the best mass market toy offered for this species. Props to Doug Watson and Safari!
The Psittacosaurus sells affordably around the ten dollar price point and seems quite readily available on eBay, Amazon, and most major online dinosaur stores. A nice, fairly priced, and well-sculpted dinosaur, readily available on the market!