Author Archives: itstwentybelow

Kaprosuchus (Wild Safari by Safari Ltd.)

Recently described in 2009, Kaprosuchus is one of the latest additions to the extensive and continuously growing roster of known toothy prehistoric devilry. And that means nothing but good things for us paleo toy fans! With a name which aptly translates to “boar crocodile” (for obvious reasons), the 20 foot Kaprosuchus was an interesting terrestrial crocodyliform from Cretaceous Africa. The animal is known from a single complete skull which exhibits a variety of features that suggest a primarily land-based lifestyle, such as binocular vision and sharp, straight teeth which differ from the slightly hooked teeth of fish-eating, water-based crocodyliforms.

Safari have really been exercising their muscle and capability to produce fantastic prehistoric replicas in recent years, and their Kaprosuchus, which is new for 2011, is exceptional. I applaud them on all of the more obscure, but no less cool, genera which they have been reviving in plastic form. It takes some balls to go out on a limb with animals no one in the target market has heard of, but Safari’s sure got ’em! The first pictures I saw of this figure made me skeptical of the quality of the paint application, but after receiving one as a gift I am happy to say that no picture could ever do justice to how good this figure really looks, and I would have gladly bought it myself.

This figure is pretty sizable, at almost 8 in. (20 cm) in length, though it would be about 9 in. if the tail were straight. It’s about 2.5 in. (6.5 cm.) tall at the hips. As such, it’s far too large to be in 1:40 scale and fits much better in 1:30, meaning it’ll look good next to the two new Carnegie figures coming out this year! (Time periods and geographical locations aside.) The texture and detailing are top notch on this guy, with the whole body being covered in osteoderms and scutes reminiscent of modern crocodiles. Since only the skull is known for Kaprosuchus, some artistic license has been taken with the post-cranial anatomy (that is, everything but the head).

The colors are very natural and I’d say they probably aren’t too far from what it really looked like, but that’s just my opinion. The figure is molded in light tan plastic, which serves as the color of the underside. Along the back, flanks, limbs and skull it is painted a darker tan-brown color, becoming a much darker brown toward the tip of the tail. Select individual scutes along the sides and tail are painted black, sort of mimicking a modern saltwater crocodile, but some are painted more sloppily than others. Luckily it doesn’t detract a whole lot from the figure. Its claws are dark gray, the eyes are green with black slit pupils, and its teeth are white. The inside of the mouth and tongue is that kind of washed-out pinkish tan you see inside the maws of modern crocodilians and looks good.

In terms of accuracy to the fossil material, Safari has done as good a job as possible. Aside from the large crests over the eyes which may or may not have been present, the skull is flawless. Even the pair of horns jutting from the back of the skull can be seen here. The skull is broad, short, and powerfully built, reflecting the diet of an animal which likely attacked dinosaurs on a regular basis. The deadly dentition looks perfect here, with the teeth individually sculpted and of correct lengths. There are notches in the upper jaw to allow the large lower caniniform teeth to slip past when the jaws are closed. The eyes are angled to give slight binocular vision.

Like I said before, the rest of this animal’s anatomy is unknown, but I think Safari made a plausible effort here. The terrestrial lifestyle suggested by its skull indicates an active predator, one which would have needed the locomotory capabilities to run down other animals adapted to living on land. The positioning of the limbs here, being held more erect like a dinosaur or Rauisuchian, are far more likely to be correct than the splayed positioning of an aquatic crocodyliform’s limbs. The tail is reminiscent of an aquatic crocodile, but who’s to say this guy wasn’t a fair swimmer and didn’t enter water periodically? No one knows for sure, but the specialization in the skull already sets Kaprosuchus apart from most other crocodyliforms so I think it’s plausible for it to have had significant adaptations in its limb anatomy as well. And the massive amount of details, right down  to the cloacal opening, brings the whole thing together quite nicely.

I can’t ever resist the chance to add new animals to my collection, and even if you consider yourself an exclusively dinosaur collector, I’d still urge you to splurge on this one, especially since Kaprosuchus coexisted with dinosaurs which means you can believably have it attacking them (at least your Late Cretaceous African dinos) in dioramas 😉 It’s really too beautiful to pass up, and pieces like this one show why I think Safari is solidly leading the paleo toy market right now. It’s not too pricey either at around $10 on average and can be found from a wide variety of retailers online since it was just released in January. Now available here.

Ceratosaurus (Replica-Saurus by Schleich)

The famous Jurassic predator Allosaurus coexisted with its smaller, though likely equally fearsome relative Ceratosaurus during the Late Jurassic. Fossils of Ceratosaurus (“horned lizard”) have been recovered from numerous localities in North America, Africa, and Southern Europe. Unfortunately, this figure by Schleich is far more unimpressive than the real animal. Strap yourselves in ladies and gents, because this is going to be ugly!

The Replica-Saurus line by the German toy company Schleich was first released in 1994, and this Ceratosaurus was among the original releases. It was finally retired in 2005. It was refreshing and exciting to see another new line of dinosaurs hit the market when I was a kid, however “distinctive” the older Schleichs may look (and that is VERY distinct, but I’ll get to that in a second). They all tended to have a similar feel about them.

This figure is 7.5 in (18 cm) long and 3.5 in (9 cm) tall, at the arch of the back. It’s a bit too large (1:35) to be in scale with the 1:40 human figure , which is silly because he came with the Ceratosaurus to show the scale! The dinosaur is molded in dark tan plastic which has been painted a mixture of dark brown and dark forest green everywhere but the underside. Schleich hit the ground running with their sickly brown color schemes, but I believe this one is the absolute worst. It looks like vomit! The claws and the horns on its skull are painted dark tan, the eyes are orange with black pupils, its teeth are creamy yellow, and the tongue is pink. The pose is incredibly awkward for a bipedal predator like Ceratosaurus, and a lot of the animal’s anatomy had to be completely ruined by the sculptor to get it to work in this pose. It’s posed quadrupedally, with the neck bent back and the mouth open in a snarl, as if facing a rival.

This is just abysmal

This guy takes the cake for Schleich’s worst, ugliest ever dinosaur figure in my opinion (although their Ouranosaurus is a close competitor). This is just bad, bad, bad mixed with more bad. To start, the whole thing is entirely too fat. This is a dino with a weight problem, maybe too many Stegosaurus meals! The whole sculpt lacks any respectable muscle detail, and the limbs are very crudely done, but the pose can be blamed for much of that. The hind limbs are too short. If this figure were posed bipedally with these proportions, it would have incredibly fat, stubby legs. There is also no hallux on either foot. In contrast, the fore limbs are too long, but not only that, they are pronated and awkwardly resting on the ground. There also only three digits on the hands, when in life there would have been a fourth smaller digit. The tail, which should be more muscled and about half the animal’s total body length, is a shriveled little nub with way too much curve to it. I haven’t even gotten to the skull yet…

The skull is where Schleich has always stumbled most with dinosaurs right from the beginning, and this one is the worst example. Firstly, the neck would have to be broken in order for it to have such a ridiculous curve to it like it does here. Aside from the small brow and nasal horns (which are really crudely done, big surprise!) there is nothing else which suggests that this is the skull of Ceratosaurus. It’s just a generic Schleich theropod sculpt with horns tacked on. The eyes are too low on the skull, and the jaws look more like Pac-Man than a real animal. The mandible is incredibly too deep and the whole skull is too fat. The teeth…are shockingly bad. They are little more than a ridge of plastic inside the mouth with a few creamy yellow dots painted on. I know the old Carnegies were like this too, but I think it’s worse here. Ceratosaurus had incredibly long teeth in its upper jaw, but here they’re all the same generic size.

It always amuses me to think of how the original moniker attached to these figures by Schleich was something to the effect of “Sculpted in close cooperation with the Humboldt Museum” but I highly doubt that any respectable paleontologist was involved with sculpting this monstrosity. However, it also astounds me that the row of dermal scutes along Ceratosaurus‘ spine are actually present in this figure, although still crudely sculpted. How was Schleich able to remember such an obscure accurate detail and then totally ruin everything else??? Baffles me. Maybe they just got lucky and guessed.

In short, this is an awful, awful figure. I can see why a kid would like it as a big scary meat-eater toy, but it is hardly educational in terms of how these animals really appeared in life. Only those who like collecting Schleich should be interested in this one. It’s been far too long since Battat and Safari’s nice Ceratosaurs were retired because no one has made a good one since. It’s worth it to track either of those two down over this one if you must have a Ceratosaurus and can’t wait for a new release.

 

Camarasaurus (The Carnegie Collection by Safari Ltd.)

The Late Jurassic landscape of North America would not have been complete without its most abundant sauropod resident, Camarasaurus. Meaning “chambered lizard” due to its chambered vertebrae, Camarasaurus was among the earliest sauropod genera to be described in detail, likely due to the fact that its discovery occurred right in the middle of the famous “Bone Wars” between American paleontologists Edward D. Cope and O. C. Marsh during the 1870s-1880s. Both men discovered and described a number of Camarasaurus species, and even named a few “new” dinosaurs from remains which are today attributed to Camarasaurus. A fantastic  place to view Camarasaurus fossils in situ is Dinosaur National Monument in Utah, USA.

Size comparison of Camarasaurus with a six foot man

The Carnegie Collection has always been my absolute favorite dinosaur series. This beautiful Camarasaurus was released alongside the now retired Styracosaurus in 2002. This figure is 15 in. (37 cm) long and stands 7 in. (17.5 cm) tall, making it a figure that, while not too large, certainly has a presence. As this figure is supposed to be scaled at 1:40, its size also suggests that it likely represents Camarasaurus lentus, the most common species, which grew to around 14-15 m. in length rather than the massive 22+ m. C. supremus. This dinosaur is not well known to the general public, and this is the only widely manufactured figure of it currently available, that I know of.

This is a very well detailed model and was released around when the Carnegie Collection was really starting to churn out some beauties. There are elephantine wrinkles as well as visible scales all over the sculpt, and some muscle detail, particularly in the neck and tail. It also has a very elephantine coloration. The figure is molded in gray plastic, which is painted darker gray along the spine and flanks, with a light gray, almost cow-like pattern of splotches on the trunk of the body and stripes on the neck. Simple, yet effective and natural coloring in my opinion. The nostrils are black and the eyes, like so many other Carnegie dinosaurs, are painted gold with black pupils. The pose appears to be in stride, but with all four feet firmly planted on the ground. The tail is accurately held high and straight behind the animal.

For the most part, this is a wonderful and very accurate sculpt of Camarasaurus, with really only one main problem: the feet! Every digit on each foot has a claw, when the most recent views of sauropod limb anatomy suggest that only the large “thumb” claw would have been present on the forelimbs in life, with the remaining four digits internal and arranged like a pillar for maximum support. As for the hind limbs, only the three largest digits had claws on them with the remaining two being completely internal. Of course, the folks at the Carnegie Museum can’t really be faulted for this because it is data which didn’t exist back in 2001 when this model was being designed.

Once you get past the feet, this is a very true-to-life Camarasaurus. Everything is perfectly proportioned. It was a very stout sauropod with a relatively short but thick neck and a short, boxy skull. The skull of Camarasaurus was incorrectly mounted to an Apatosaurus skeleton during the initial reconstruction of that animal, leading to the naming of the dubious, though famous, composite genus Brontosaurus.

This is probably my favorite Carnegie sauropod, and I’d definitely recommend it to any dinosaur collector, despite its minor flaws.

This figure is available here