Author Archives: Halichoeres

Kronosaurus (Wild Safari by Safari Ltd)

Available from Amazon.com for under $20

When their vaunted Carnegie Collection was discontinued in early 2015, Safari Ltd evidently got to work pretty quickly to take up the slack elsewhere, because in a mere two years they more than doubled the output of figures from their standard dinosaur line. This year they’ve released a whopping 13 new figures, several of which are updated versions of animals that had been in the Carnegie Collection. One is this Kronosaurus, the first new figure of this genus since Schleich’s in 2005. The Carnegie Collection version was on the market for nearly 20 years, and Schleich’s was really no improvement, so we were due for a new one.

Safari Kronosaurus

This figure is large. It’s roughly 34 cm long, almost a third of which is the head. This is appropriate, as Kronosaurus had a truly gigantic head, up to 2.7 meters long. This figure is about 1:25-1:30 scale and could easily serve as a doorstop.

Safari Kronosaurus

Our hefty friend sports a fairly standard color scheme for a large marine predator, with a mix of grays above and white below. Even with the relatively conservative color scheme, the pattern is deceptively intricate, consisting of a broad, graded band of gray along the dorsal midline, criss-crossed by irregular but sharply defined transverse striations. The effect is quite eye-catching, and if I didn’t have the toy in my hands you could convince me that it was a computer-generated model. It’s sculpted in an active pose, with the head twisted slightly to the side as though striking at prey.

Safari Kronosaurus

The gaping jaws show off the dentition to great effect. We can see four teeth per side in the premaxillae (the front of the snout), marking this as K. queenslandicus. The gap between the fourth and fifth pair of teeth aligns with huge teeth in the flared lower jaw. This sort of pattern occurs in many aquatic predators, such as crocodiles, and makes it easier to handle prey.

Safari Kronosaurus

This new Kronosaurus represents a dramatic improvement in accuracy relative to previous renditions. Comparison with its Carnegie predecessor is especially instructive. Whereas the old one was perfectly cylindrical, inviting frequent comparisons to a sausage, the new one has a broader head and body, which makes it look much less…extruded. And while the old one had dinky rear flippers, the new one has long, broad ones, reflecting their important role in swimming.

Safari Kronosaurus

There is a low, subtle keel along the back of this figure, continuing on to the tail, but there is no fin. There is circumstantial evidence for small tail fins in some Jurassic pliosaurs, but tens of millions of years of evolution separate them from Kronosaurus. In contrast to ichthyosaurs, mosasaurs, whales, or metriorhynchid crocodiles, Kronosaurus did not use its tail for thrust production. Rather, it propelled itself with its flippers, which is unusual in modern animals. Sea turtles probably come closest, with perhaps penguins a distant second. Neither has any sort of vertical fin. Although Kronosaurus did not have a shell, it shared with turtles a relatively stiff torso, which, along with its slight dorsoventral compression, would help with stability. Therefore, it may not have been necessary to have a fin to prevent rolling. Since we have no clear and obvious modern analogue to compare, until and unless soft tissue around the tail of a big advanced pliosaur is found, Safari’s decision not to include a fin looks perfectly reasonable. At the same time, including one would also be defensible.

Safari Kronosaurus

The one minor gripe I have with this figure is that the fins tend to curl upward. I’m not sure why this is, and if it were a subtler bend it could be explained as minor deformation as the animal rows against the water. It might be that if you softened them up with a hair dryer and squished them between two books they would assume a more natural shape. If you try that or something similar, let us know in the comments!

Safari Kronosaurus

With the small exception of the curly fins, this is a spectacular figure that reflects great attention to detail. It’s the most accurate Kronosaurus on the market, ending the Carnegie version’s dubious 20-year reign. Kids and adult collectors alike should find a way to give it a home.

Available from Amazon.com for under $20

Tylosaurus (Wild Safari by Safari Ltd.)

Lizards have been around about as long as dinosaurs, and during their time on Earth they have 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.

Mandschurosaurus (Age of the Dinosaurs by PNSO)

Beijing-based PNSO (Peking Natural Science and Art Organization) made a splash this year with the release of several large hollow vinyl figures. Besides being imposing due to their size, the new figures are notable for their high level of detail and the unconventional species choices. Today we’ll look at their Mandschurosaurus, the first plastic figure of this genus ever released.
pnsomandschurosaurus1

Mandschurosaurus is not the most famous dinosaur, but rather an obscure genus known from just a few bones discovered in the Amur region of Russia’s far east. The figure is bulky, like the others in its line, about 40 cm long measured along the spine. I couldn’t find reliable length estimates for the animal, so to figure out the scale I actually found a copy of the holotype description in a Soviet paleontology journal (thanks, interlibrary loan and Stanford University!). Incidentally, the author, A.H. Рябинин, died in 1942 and under Russian copyright law his work is now in the public domain.mandschurosaurus_amurensis
The description is mostly in Russian, with parts in English and French. But all I needed was some measurements, and numbers are a global language! I got measurements from both the original specimen and the toy for three bones:

scapula: 76 cm, 4.8 cm on the toy
ulna: 62.4 cm, 3 cm on the toy
tibia: 90 cm, 5.2 cm on the toy

On the toy they’re not quite all to scale with each other, but if you average them together, this figure is about 1:18. That’s a big hadrosaur!

It’s a very nicely sculpted figure, although the preceding measurements suggest some minor proportion problems. The entire piece is painted in various shades of brown, with a glossy finish. It’s slightly paler underneath, with a finely detailed wrinkled texture with tubercles and spiky scales along the back and a nice saggy dewlap.
pnsomandschurosaurus2

The head is not well known for Mandschurosaurus, so this one is sculpted to resemble a generic crestless hadrosaur. The eyes are the sole spot of color, painted a cool blue.
pnsomandschurosaurus3

This hollow figure is molded in multiple pieces, and assembled with glue. Despite the reasonably nice paint job, the seams are still visible around the midsection and across the lower thigh. I don’t find the seams terribly distracting, but your mileage may vary. My copy stands well on its own, but I have heard from other buyers that it can be unstable. It comes on a clear plastic support that you can use to keep it steady, or you can prop it up against another dino on your shelf.
pnsomandschurosaurus4

This might be a good figure for older kids, but probably not for the very young, since the paint chips easily and one incautious child could bonk another one pretty good. I get the impression that it is aimed more at adult collectors, and the price reflects that. It’s an attractive replica that looks very impressive on the shelf, and depicts a unique animal, so I’d recommend it for any fan of hadrosaurs, expert sculpting, or large-scale dinosaurs in general.