Category Archives: ichthyosaur

Ophthalmosaurus (Age of the Dinosaurs by, PNSO)

Kids perspective by, William and Erin

By day the squid lurk in the deep waters were only the brave dive into the unknown. It is in these murky depths were they hide from the predators above. When the sun goes down and the moon arrives they come up from down below to the surface to feed.  Awaiting the strange creatures from the depths is a fast predator with big eyes that can see through the gloom.  A squid is gliding around looking for small morsels to eat.  It never sees the big eyes that have locked onto him.  The creature speeds towards it target and snap, the squid is grabbed quickly and swallowed.  For as wonderful as nature is, it is unforgiving and deadly.

The Ophthalmosaurus was an ichthyosaur that was around 19 feet (6 meters) long and like dolphins today it was a voracious predator that was well adapted for eating squid.   It lived around 155 million years ago and had big eyes, a graceful tear drop body, and a half-moon caudal fin.

Little Becky along side the Kaiyodo Ichthyosaurus.

I am not sure why there are not more toys of this species made as they fit the definition of cute.  I remember watching Walking with Dinosaurs and rooting for the little juvenile Ophthalmosaurus  as it dodged bigger predators in the cruel sea.  Lets face it, they look like dolphins (thank you convergent evolution) which makes us think of them as fun, graceful, and playful animals from a long time ago.  Unless your a squid they ae not the things of nightmares, as they don’t have a gaping maw with large man eating teeth.  Combine that with their large eyes and it is hard not to like these wonderful ichthyosaurs.  There have been two other Ophthalmosaurus reviewed on the blog, the beautiful WWD version and the mini Chap Mei toy.  So lets take a look at Becky the little Ophthalmosaurus toy from PNSO.

About the Toy:  Like the other PNSO little figures, this toy came with a poster and information.  The toy is small at 3.8 in (9.65 cm) long and about a half and inch (2 cm) high.  True to its claim to fame the eyes are big on this model and takes up most of its skull.  This probably means that it hunted at a depth where there is not much light or that it may have hunted at night when prey was more active. The pose on the toy is that of an active swimmer.  The head to its dorsal fin is stiff, then the body curves and ungulates gracefully to its right and then flattens back toward  the midline.  This follows the thought that it was a thunniform, high speed, long distance swimmer were all the sideways movement is in the tail and the region that connects to the body.  The tail is in the shape of a crescent moon which appears correct.  The forepaddles and hindfins seem correct as well.  The dorsal fin appears a little small but within the realm of possibility.

The colors and texture are pleasant.  Texturally there is not much to mention other than the entire body is covered in small diagonal lines that give the appearance of skin.  The forepaddles and hindfins also have small lines on the top and bottoms.  In reality, the color on this model probably should be darker on top, instead it is painted in a pleasing light green, with blueish green stripes.  The under side is a light creamy tan.  On the sides of the toy there is a blend of green and tan along with markings that appears to be a question mark design in blueish green.  That same blueish green is dotted on the forepaddles and along the crescent tail.

Kids perspective:  It is small and I wish it was bigger but I can still play with it.  I like the colors, as the colors look real but not as real as in Walking with Dinosaurs.  I really like the green on the tail.  The toy looks like it is a fast swimming fish torpedo.  To play with it is ok.  You can play with it in the pool, or bathtub, as they are both great places to play with this toy.  You do have to be careful when playing in water as you could lose it.  In a deep pool it could go to the bottom and be hard to find.  It is a lot of fun to play with it in the bathtub but it could go down the drain as it is small, so be careful.  You can definitely play with it in Barbies pool but it doesn’t go well with other animals like horses.  We would rate it is an average toy.

Overall:  I think this is a nice figure. It is cute and has an active pose which gives it personality.   I think it displays very well and I did not notice any major anatomical flaws.  The colors are pleasing even with the strange question mark pattern.  The cost on this little figure is low as well.  With all those thoughts in mind I would say that Becky the little Ophthalmosaurus is a keeper.


Opthalmosaurus (Mini)(Chap Mei)

Opthalmosaurus is one of the more recognizable ichthyosaurs thanks to its enormous eyes, which, at approximately 23 cm in diameter, rivalled those of the much larger Temnodontosaurus. Such peepers would have ideal for hunting squid in the depths of the Jurassic seas, or spotting dangerous predators such as Liopleurodon.

Despite featuring prominently in an episode of the BBC’s famous Walking With Dinosaurs series, Opthalmosaurus has not really caught on with toy companies. There’s the version from Toyway made in conjunction with WWD and then there’s this little critter that comes courtesy of Chap Mei. Measuring 12.5 cm long, it’s sculpted in a swimming pose with its tail angled down and swaying to the left. It balances nicely on the tips of its mandible, right pectoral fin, and caudal fin.

The main colours are a dull brick red and beige with black for the stripes and eyes and white teeth. Detailing is fairly good for a marine reptile. The skin is covered in faint crisscrossing marks, just like on a grey whale. Large circles around the bulging eyes indicate the sclerotic rings beneath the skin. The edges of the pectoral and caudal fins have a slightly frayed appearance to them.

In terms of accuracy, this Opthalmosaurus is one of Chap Mei’s least offenders. Granted, the body is a little too compact and the head is too large, and I wish the fins had smooth edges, but there are no completely ridiculous or grossly exaggerated features on this toy like there are on so many of its brethren.

Overall then, the Chap Mei Opthalmosaurus is one of the few toys in the line that can lay claim to being genuinely good, if not superb. Recommended.

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.