Category Archives: fish

Prehistoric Marine Tube (CollectA)

CollectA has emerged as one of the most prolific producers of dinosaur figures, with a few other Mesozoic reptiles and some mammals here and there for variety. They’ve developed a reputation for giving some obscure species the plastic treatment, but in general those species been relatively close relatives of the old standards. The prehistoric marine tube, released in the summer of 2017, is a welcome break from that pattern. It consists of twelve different animals from across the Phanerozoic, and from across the animal tree of life.

CollectA Prehistoric Marine Tube

The new CollectA figures are mostly around the same size as the ones from the sadly discontinued Safari Ltd prehistoric sea life Toob from a few years back. The two together give you a nice mix of animals, with no genera repeated. Let’s go through the CollectA figures one by one:

From the Cambrian period comes Olenoides, a common trilobite in the Burgess Shale. This figure is about 4 cm long, not counting appendages, making it around half life size. It resembles Olenoides in having cerci (the appendages at the tail end), but the sculpturing of the cephalon (head) is pretty far off the mark. Still, for CollectA’s first ever arthropod figure, it’s not too bad. Certainly much better than their first dinosaurs.

CollectA mini Olenoides

From the Ordovician period (and persisting into the Silurian), is the gigantic cephalopod Cameroceras, which is more closely related to the modern nautilus than either is to the ammonites in this set. This version is about 7 cm long, or around 1:85 scale. There’s precious little available for Ordovician toys, even though it’s when stereotypically Paleozoic marine faunas were really established. So this is a welcome addition in my book.

CollectA mini Cameroceras

Moving on to the Devonian, we come to everybody’s favorite giant armored fish, Dunkleosteus. This one is 7 cm long, or about 1:100 scale. It’s CollectA’s very first arthrodire, and their very first Devonian animal (are you starting to pick up on a theme?). They did a pretty good job, avoiding the common pitfall of making the sclerotic rings (internal eyeball bones) visible externally. The tail isn’t how I would reconstruct it, but reasonable people can disagree about how something the size of Dunkleosteus swam. The plates are about the right shape, and they look like they have some actual skin on them, which is a welcome change from some very zombie-esque reconstructions.

CollectA mini Dunkleosteus

From the earliest Jurassic, the large ichthyosaur Temnodontosaurus. This figure is about 8 cm long, or roughly 1:110 scale. It’s similar to the standard size version except that it isn’t giving birth. If it didn’t have adult proportions, it could almost stand in as the standard version’s pup. It has the unfortunate ridge of scales around the eyes, although at this small scale it doesn’t look as egregious.

CollectA mini Temnodontosaurus

Pliosaurus is the real giant of the set, at 11 cm long (about 1:110 scale). It differs from its deluxe counterpart in that it lacks the little lampreys hitching a ride on its back. Like the Temnodontosaurus, it doesn’t correct the problems with the larger figure’s head, namely, the odd ridge over the eye and the too-prominent fenestrae.

CollectA mini Pliosaurus

Now Leedsichthys, a gigantic, plankton-eating contemporary of Pliosaurus. Conveniently, they also scale well together: at 9 cm long, this is roughly 1:120 scale, though since it’s mostly known from pieces of the head, length estimates are uncertain. Not only is this CollectA’s first actinopterygian fish (well, this and the Xiphactinus), it’s one of very, very few prehistoric actinopterygian toys ever made. There have probably been fewer than 10, which is pretty bad for a group that has a 400 million year history and includes 95 out of every 100 animals you would think of as a fish. This is a really nice rendition, though necessarily speculative, since much of the skeleton of Leedsichthys was cartilaginous rather than bony and thus fossilized poorly. The one likely flaw I can spot is that it has two pelvic fins and no anal fin. Members of the family it belonged to generally had greatly reduced pelvic fins, and there is no evidence that Leedsichthys had them at all, but it probably did have an anal fin.

CollectA mini Leedsichthys

The Lower Cretaceous saw the rise of the heteromorph ammonites, the ones that evolved un-coiled shell shapes. Hard to know how they swam around looking like this. Australiceras was one of the more conservative of these, and on the smaller side. This little figure is about 1:5. It has 8 arms, though it should probably have 10 (more on that later).

CollectA mini Australiceras

One of the largest ammonites of all time, Parapuzosia is the only “standard” (non-heteromorph) ammonite in the set. A little over 3.5 cm across its longest axis, this figure is about 1:40-1:60 (specimens varied in size). Like the other ammonites in the set, it shows the aptychus (the roughly triangular mineralized structure usually found separated from the shell) as occluding the shell opening, in the manner of a nautilus hood. That arrangement is thought to be incorrect, but it is by far the most common way that aptychi are reconstructed.

CollectA mini Parapuzosia

The huge marine turtle Archelon, known from the Cretaceous Seaway that once covered North America’s central plains, is a nice addition to this set. This figure fairly captures the broad dimensions of the shell, although it might be just a shade too flattened. It’s around 4.5 cm long, making it 1:85 scale. Very cute, and the first turtle from CollectA!

CollectA mini Archelon

At the same time Archelon was swimming around the Cretaceous Seaway, so was the huge ichthyodectid Xiphactinus. At around 7 cm long, it’s roughly 1:85 scale. Xiphactinus is known from plenty of good skeletal material, so it was easier to get right: it has all the right fins in all the right places. The detail on the facial dermal bones and the teeth are pretty decent for a toy this small. One of the gems of the set.

CollectA mini Xiphactinus

Baculites was a heteromorph ammonite from the latest Cretaceous. Its shell was so thoroughly uncoiled that it looked like a straight-shelled cephalopod like the orthocerids of 100 million years earlier. At just over 5 cm long, this is roughly 1:40 scale, so it fits in great alongside some of your big marine reptiles.

CollectA mini Baculites

Another late Cretaceous ammonite, Diplomoceras is commonly compared to a paper clip. The plastic of this toy is flexible enough that you could use it that way! Its shell is just shy of 6 cm measured in a straight line from end to end, so it’s about 1:35-1:40 scale, working well with the Baculites in dioramas. This figure has 10 arms, but some of the other ammonites in this set have 8. No published fossils show the actual anatomy of the soft parts of ammonites, unfortunately, although fossilized traces in mud suggest that they had few arms, like squid, rather than many tentacles, like nautilus. Available evidence suggests that 10 is a likelier number, but it’s peculiar in any event that CollectA made some with 8 and some with 10.

CollectA mini Diplomoceras

Despite minor accuracy issues with some of the figures, this is a fantastic set. Unlike the dinosaur mini tubes that CollectA has released, which have been comprised almost entirely of miniature versions of standard-sized figures, this tube is mostly brand new animals–only the Temnodontosaurus and Pliosaurus are remakes of previous releases. It contains lots of firsts for CollectA: first protostomes (in fact, first invertebrates), first actinopterygians, first turtle, first Paleozoic animals of any description. I would love to see a few of these as large figures, especially Leedsichthys and Xiphactinus (but I have a soft spot for fishes). More importantly, I’d love to see additional tubes like this, full of smaller animals that work well in dioramas with larger figures, or animals that might be hard to market as stand-alone toys. Keep ’em coming, CollectA! For now, you can find these at a variety of online retailers, and outside of North America you might even be able to find them in brick-and-mortar stores.

Hemicyclaspis (Series 3 by Kaiyodo)

Review and photographs by Indohyus, edited by Suspsy

Outside of Dimetrodon and more recently, Dunkleosteus, toy companies rarely produce species from the Palaeozoic era. Maybe it’s due to them not being as large or as popular as dinosaurs. In any case, there are relatively few of the amazing and bizarre creatures from this huge expanse of time.

Enter Kaiyodo to put this right! As a creator of small capsule figures, they lend themselves well to the smaller species of this era, such as today’s subject: Hemicyclaspis, a jawless fish of the Ordivician of Europe and North America.

At 2.8” long and 1” wide, it is a very small figure, although this suits an animal that was only 5” long in life. In spite of this small size, Kaiyodo did not scrimp on the detail. The detailing is astonishing, with every scale and pit well-represented, helped by a fantastic paint scheme that is appropriately placed and coloured for a bottom-dwelling detritivore. This really is a gem of a figure. The pose is simple, but it works well here. With the anatomy of Hemicyclaspis, an extremely dynamic pose really isn’t possible.

Speaking of anatomy, this is an extremely accurate figure. The shovel-like head is there, with a very armoured look. The small pectoral fins are correct, along with the small dorsal fin and flattened tail. No complaints, all good.

All in all, this is a gorgeous little figure, well worth picking up. It is also the easiest of the two members of its family to get, as the only other figure from this group to be made, the Starlux Cephalaspis, has become very rare and rather expensive. eBay is your best bet for finding this figure, and it is well worth it.

Remigolepis (Paleozoo)

At first glance, the Late Devonian Gogo Reef might have looked roughly similar to a modern reef: colorful, lively, with piles of calcified stationary organisms hosting all sorts of swimming and crawling creatures. But look a little closer, and the reef isn’t made of scleractinian corals, but instead composed mostly of sponges, mats of algae, and rugose and tabulate corals. There are sharks, but they’re relatively small and slow-moving. There are crustaceans, but no proper crabs or lobsters. Instead, there are sea scorpions (more closely related to spiders than crustaceans). There are no triggerfishes, angelfishes, or parrotfishes. Instead there are lungfishes, coelacanths, and lots of boxy fishes with armor on the front halves of their bodies.

Today’s review concerns a model of one armored fish you might see on a Devonian reef, Remigolepis, a member of a group of primitive jawed fishes called antiarchs. These were mostly small fishes, with extensive head and thorax armor, as well as armored pectoral fins. Probably the most famous member of the group is Bothriolepis. Remigolepis differs from Bothriolepis and other antiarchs in several respects, but the most immediately obvious is the fact that the pectoral fin is short and does not contain a mobile joint. The short, solid fin inspired its name, which means “oar-scale.”

This model, from Australian designer Bruce Currie’s Paleozoo line, is 3D printed in a material called “sandstone,” which is actually gypsum powder treated with a binding agent. This material permits printing in full color, and the Paleozoo line takes full advantage of that feature. The figure is hollow, saving on material and shipping costs. The interior is a glossy black. This is a finely wrought display piece for adult collectors, and not an appropriate item for young children.

This is a nice rendition of Remigolepis, accurately depicting the vaulted box that may have resisted crushing in the jaws of large rhizodonts and arthrodires like Eastmanosteus. The topology of the plates is well-represented here. I might have placed some of the sutures slightly differently, but I think the arrangement here is well within the range of reasonable interpretation of the often somewhat crushed fossils.

The eyes are in a little window up at the front. The small mouth is directed forward and downward (“subterminal” in ichthyology parlance), and the distinctive submarginal plates are picked out in a rosy color, perhaps suggesting a display role.

The overall color scheme is attractive, sort of a pearly lavender color, a bit darker at the plate margins, and livid highlights near the eyes, mouth, and on the leading edge of the pectoral fins. Unlike Bothriolepis, which was mostly naked behind the armor plates, this model features small scales on its tail. It also correctly lacks pelvic fins, a feature which arguably originated in another placoderm lineage. The tail tapers to a feckless point–these were probably not strong swimmers. Their anatomy is instead consistent with a bottom dweller, perhaps relying on retiring habits and its substantial armor for protection from predators.

This model is about 16 cm long, or about 1/2 life size. It likely works well alongside the Bothriolepis from Paleozoo, though I don’t own that particular piece just yet. Scale-wise, it also works well with the much less realistic Yowie Rolfosteus. If I had one wish from the Paleozoo line, it would be for smaller, more affordable versions of some of these species. They are not exorbitant for what they are, especially considering that they come fully colored, but at a lower price point a person could build a great Gogo reef diorama in no time. That doesn’t stop me from wholeheartedly recommending this and other Paleozoo models, which you can buy either direct from Mr. Currie or from Shapeways (though I suspect that if you buy direct, a larger cut goes to the artist).