Author Archives: DinoLord

Huanghetitan (Age of the Dinosaurs by PNSO)

In 2016 the PNSO (Peking Natural Science-Art Organization) line introduced large figures of often under-represented Chinese dinosaurs. The largest of the line is the obscure macronarian sauropod Huanghetitan, which lived in the Aptian age of the early Cretaceous (some time between 125 to 113 million years ago) of what is now China.

Huanghetitan being known only from fragmentary remains, it is hard to judge the accuracy of this figure. However the portrayal is is consistent with known sauropod biology. The hands correctly have only one claw and a slight crescent-moon shape. The nostrils are positioned towards the front of the skull (albeit a bit asymmetrically). Small scales and larger osteoderms, known from other sauropods, cover the skin. Most importantly, there is an appropriate amount of soft tissue – this is one bulky sauropod! No shrinkwrapped fenestrae or neck vertebrae to be seen here, which unfortunately cannot be said for the line’s other sauropods. The only fault  is an errant fourth toe claw on the right hind foot. Sauropods only had three claws on the hind feet, with the fourth and fifth digits being more stub-like. The left foot is correct, but the right foot even has the extra claw sculpted on (not just painted). Perhaps the figure represents an individual with a congenital defect? More likely this was an oversight in the sculpting process or a mistake gone uncorrected.

The combination of bulkiness and sheer size lend this figure a grand presence. Proudly striding along with head held high, this Huanghetitan is large and in charge, a giant in its prime. Depending on the length estimates used, this figure is anywhere from 1:30 to 1:40 scale.

The color scheme is subdued, consisting of varied grays and browns reminiscent of large extant mammals. The upper body’s scales have a white wash between them suggestive of dust caked into the skin (as with a modern elephant), similar to PNSO’s Triceratops. If being picky one could say the wash cuts off rather abruptly along the bottom, but this is only noticeable upon close inspection. The eyes are neatly painted gold with black pupils.

Astute collectors may notice that this figure bears a resemblance to the much more expensive Sideshow Apatosaurus statue, with both being bulky gray sauropods. Given that the Huanghetitan retails for the equivalent of just under $60 USD (discounted at the time of writing to ~$30 USD), how do these two stack up? It’s a fraction of the Sideshow statue’s price, but is it only a fraction of the quality?

Both are sizeable, with the Huanghetitan measuring about 27″ long compared to the Apatosaurus‘ 43″. But the Huanghetitan, being hollow vinyl, is a much lighter 2 lb compared to the Apatosaurus’ 10 lb. Despite being hollow the Huanghetitan is quite sturdy, and its vinyl construction makes it much less fragile than the Sideshow piece. Not having a base, it is much more easily transported than the Apatosaurus.

In terms of quality the Huanghetitan falls short upon close observation. The paint is prone to wear, even in the original packaging, and there are visible seams across the limbs and attaching the tail to the torso. Thankfully the paint application and detailing make these a bit less obvious. Furthermore, the details, while fine and intricate, are not as crisp as those on the resin Sideshow piece. While (naturally) not as high-end as the much pricier Sideshow statue, this is still a fine piece, making a worthy centerpiece (or companion to those fortunate Sideshow owners). At its retail price the detail and size make this figure a great bargain.

This big beauty makes a great addition to the collection of any fan of sauropods or Chinese dinosaurs. The Huanghetitan and other PNSO figurs are available outside of China from various resellers, though usually with some markup. If you are fortunate to have family or friends in China who can order one from PNSO’s Chinese store for you, the price is much more affordable.

Dinosaurs Of Japan (Capsule Q Museum by Kaiyodo)

For most of the field’s history, the bulk of paleontological research has occurred in North America, a fact reflected in the average dinosaur shelf lineup. There’s certainly no shortage of figures representing classics like Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops, and Stegosaurus, while more obscure species from elsewhere in the world languish in the shadows. However, the rise of new discoveries from once (paleontologically) neglected regions of the world is slowly turning the tide. Kaiyodo’s latest CQ set features prehistoric animals (some only recently discovered) known from the company’s native Japan. The collection consists of five figures: TambatitanisFukuiraptor, a therizinosaurid, Pteranodon, and the crocodilian Toyotamaphimeia.

tambatitanis_kaiyodo

First up is Tambatitanis, from the early Cretaceous of Japan. Initially discovered in 2006, this species was only described very recently in 2014. Known from partial remains, many of this species’ distinguishing features are aspects of the bones (particularly the vertebrae) that wouldn’t be visible in the living animal. However this figure is an accurate depiction of a generic sauropod, with ample flesh and soft tissue (unlike some sauropod depictions with glaringly gaunt necks). The hands correctly have a single claw – while later titanosaurs lost this claw altogether, more basal forms like Tambatitanis still retained it. As is standard for Kaiyodo’s offerings, the level of detail packed into this small (4.25″, or just under 11 cm) figure is superb. The skin is folded and wrinkled without appearing elephantine, and small details such as the eyes and claws are applied precisely. While the color palette isn’t particularly vibrant, the stripes and dappling add visual interest to what would otherwise be a dull figure.

fukuiraptor_kaiyodo

Next is Fukuiraptor, a megaraptoran also from early Cretaceous Japan. Kaiyodo has previously produced figures of this genus a few times, but their latest depiction is a departure from their usual orange and black portrayal. Only known from fragmentary remains, not much can be said as to the figure’s accuracy besides the fact that it is a realistic interpretation of a generic megaraptoran, including the enlarged hand claws (which are interestingly painted white). Once again, the use of patterning, most prominent on the jaws and the white osteoderms along the neck (appearing almost mane-like), makes for a striking appearance.

therizinosauridae_kaiyodo

This next figure is actually quite unusual in that it is not intended to represent a specific genus but rather a generic therizinosaurid (the informational packet labels it simply as Therizinosauridae, the clade containing the classic Therizinosaurus amongst others).  Only very fragmentary therizinosaur remains are reported from Japan, but given the group’s prevalence in the rest of Asia it’s reasonable to assume they were a presence in Cretaceous Japan. This figure properly represents all the classic therizinosaur anatomical traits. The hallux (first toe) is enlarged and weight-bearing, and the body is covered in primitive, down-like feathers (known from early therizinosaurs like Beipiaosaurus). The feet are not plantigrade (all the foot bones flat on the ground). Trackway finds suggest larger therizinosaurs may have been plantigrade, but the evidence isn’t definitive either way so the standard digitigrade (walking on only the toe bones) depiction is perfectly plausible. Interestingly the color scheme is rather reminiscent of an ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalus), an impression furthered by the pine green base.

pteranodon_kaiyodo

Those of you in the know may now be having mental alarm bells going off: “Isn’t this set called dinosaurs of Japan? This is no dinosaur! And since when is Pteranodon Japanese?”. Indeed, this is the quintessential pterosaur Pteranodon longiceps. Japanese pterosaur remains have been attributed to Pteranodon, but given Japan’s distance from the American Western Interior Seaway (Pteranodon‘s primary habitat) this identification is unlikely. Perhaps Kaiyodo saw the need to include at least one iconic genus in their set – given the obscurity of the other genera included this is excusable. This is a familiar face in more ways than one – it’s the same model that appeared in Kaiyodo’s 2015 Cretaceous Collection. The notable difference is in the color scheme – this Pteranodon is primarily various shades of white and pink, a fate usually reserved for the bristle-toothed pterosaur Pterodaustro (if you don’t believe me a quick Google Image search will show what I mean). In fact, when combined with the grey beak the colors are remarkably similar to those of a roseate spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) – seems like Kaiyodo has been pulling heavily from extant animals for inspiration with this set. Something worth mentioning is that the plastic used for these figures is softer than that of Kaiyodo’s previous Dinotales figures, meaning protruding features like the Pteranodon‘s beak and crest are susceptible to bending during shipping – manually applying force in the opposite direction should correct any warping.

toyotamaphimeia_kaiyodo

Last up is another non-dinosaur, the crocodylian Toyotamaphimeia. Not only is it not a dinosaur, it’s not even Mesozoic! It lived 450,000 years ago, during the Pleistocene, and was a close relative of the modern false gharial (in fact it was once considered to be in the same genus, Tomistoma). Toyotamaphimeia‘s remains are actually rather well-known, and the figure represents it accurately. Like its modern relative, the snout widens towards the base of the head, the feet are webbed with the correct number of toes, the caudofemoralis muscle at the base of the tail is sufficiently thick, and the inside of the open mouth is even a very pale pink color like seen in extant crocodilians. Once again the detail is superb, with distinct scales and scutes present all over the body.

dinosaursofjapan_kaiyodo

Overall this is another set of accurate, well-detailed, and interestingly colored figures from Kaiyodo. Though not all the depicted animals are necessarily dinosaurs or Japanese, this group of figures establishes an excellent precedent for released sets of mostly obscure genera, offering superb depictions of rarely represented animals. In fact, the Toyotamaphimeia is the first figure of its genus ever made (Fukuiraptor and Tambatitanis come in at third and second respectively)!  Like the previous Cretaceous Collection set, these figures don’t have the tiny accompanying human figures included in earlier CQ sets, something I actually prefer (keeping the human figures matched up with their respective animals gets to be a bit nerve-wracking on a jumbled collection shelf). This is a must-have set for any lover of obscure prehistoric creatures, and I highly recommend it to Kaiyodo fans and those who collect smaller figures in general. It can be found on eBay or obtained by services that purchase directly from Japan.

The Dinosaur Expo 2016 set (Kaiyodo)

In the first half of 2016, the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo, Japan, held an event simply named ‘The Dinosaur Expo’ (still ongoing at the time of writing). Though I haven’t been myself, the exhibit seems to focus on recent dinosaur discoveries, with an accompanying set of figures. The set contains four figures, with a good mixture of old and new: Spinosaurus, TyrannosaurusParasaurolophus, and Yi. All figures have a base with an attached name plate, with names written in Japanese on top and English below.

spinosaurus_kaiyodo

Based on the exhibit’s online promotional material, it seems that a big selling point was the new (2014) Spinosaurus depiction. While this interpretation is still quite controversial  and unsettled (pending the publishing of the long awaited monograph along with future fossil finds), this figure represents it quite faithfully. All the unique traits that shocked the paleontological community upon its reveal, such as the staggered sail, short legs, and long torso, are present. Even the color scheme is virtually identical to the model produced for National Geographic’s exhibition promoting the discovery’s press release. The only accuracy complaint is that the base of the tail is rather thin. As indicated by its unique anatomy, Spinosaurus was largely aquatic, so would have likely had thick tail muscles (like seen in extant crocodilians) for locomotion.

tyrannosaurus_kaiyodo

Of course, no discussion of Spinosaurus would be complete without the infamous Tyrannosaurus rex. Kaiyodo is no stranger to fully feathered tyrannosaurs, and this T. rex only has its feet, fingers, and parts of its face bare. The feathering, while extensive, is not overbearing and looks quite realistic. There are even slightly larger tufts along the neck and tail tip. The rest of the anatomy is also correct – even the ears are in the right portion of the skull (T. rex‘s skull bones show its external ear hole would have been positioned more in relative to other theropods, which had it behind the skull). The coloration is fairly monotonous and dull, which is reasonable for an ambush predator but doesn’t make for the most striking aesthetic.

parasaurolophus_kaiyodo

This next figure isn’t something you see everyday – a juvenile dinosaur! The base labels it as Parasaurolophus sp., and it is presumably based off the first juvenile of this genus discovered in 2013 (also referred to Parasaurolophus sp.), estimated to only have been a year old at death. This figure conveys one of the specimen’s most significant aspects – the beginnings of the distinctive tubular head crest. The presence of crest development in such a young individual is one possible reason Parasaurolophus had a crest much larger than other hadrosaurs – it got a head start in terms of growth time. The row of bumps forming a ‘frill’ down the back is known for other hadrosaurs like Brachylophosaurus so is a plausible inclusion. There are even hints of small, regular scales, consistent with findings from hadrosaur ‘mummies’ of various genera. The dark line along the jaw would seem to suggest Kaiyodo is going for a ‘cheekless’ depiction, as they did in their earlier Ceratopsian Collection. Whether or not ornithischians had cheeks is a hotly contested issue, with evidence supporting both sides, so Kaiyodo’s decision to imply their absence is reasonable. Once again, the coloration is rather plain, but in many cases young animals are rather drab compared to their adult counterparts. One can easily imagine the yellow crest becoming much more distinct if this juvenile should survive to adulthood.

yi_kaiyodo

Last but not least is Yi qi, one of the hottest dinosaur discoveries of 2015.  It’s actually quite impressive Kaiyodo managed to produce and release a figure of it in under a year! Dinosaurs have often been compared to dragons and played a role in the original folklore, but Yi is as close to the real thing as it gets – it even had membranous wings! This figure presents a well-proportioned, accurate depiction of this theropod’s odd anatomy- the center of gravity is relatively far back as it would have been in life (as opposed to some of the horizontal glider depictions permeating through the media). Actively posed, this Yi is mid-air and making full use of its wings to control its descent to the ground, a use suggested by paleontologists. The only known fossil actually does not include the tail, but it is widely believed that Yi had the long tail feathers depicted based on remains of close relatives like Epidexipteryx. It’s worth noting that the tail piece is the figure’s most fragile – care must be taken not to allow individual feathers to bend or snap off. This figure has one of the set’s more striking colorations – the tail feathers have detailed filament patterns, and the fleshy underside and red markings surrounding the eyes contrast with the back’s dark grey to give the animal a spooky appearance, slightly reminiscent of Halloween.

dinoexpo2016_kaiyodo

All in all this is an outstanding set depicting recent paleontological discoveries and advances, with a mix of both classic and new genera. Given that Kaiyodo’s figures have always scored highly in accuracy this is no surprise. In addition to accuracy and scientific progress, these figures also have excellent production values, with fine details and precise paint applications – every claw, tooth, and even pupil is clear. The bases with nameplates are a nice inclusion, giving these figures an appropriate museum-like air. I highly recommend this set to all dinosaur lovers who enjoy keeping up with the latest paleontological developments. The set was originally available from vending machines at the exhibition, but can be obtained through eBay or Japanese sellers. A word of caution though – the Spinosaurus may be harder to track down than the others. It was first sold alongside pre-paid advance tickets to the exhibition (which sold out quickly), and was a rarer chase figure at the exhibition’s machines.