Category Archives: non-dinosaur

Dunkleosteus (Paleozoic Pals by Jaag Plush)

Armored placoderm fishes have never been so cuddly! Manufactured by Jaag Plush and commissioned by the Paleontological Research Institute (PRI) comes this 16” long most famous of prehistoric fishes, Dunkleosteus. Ol’ Dunk is a popular fish, about as popular as a prehistoric fish can get anyway. As such it has been reproduced by a few different toy companies already but this is the first plush Dunkleosteus that I’m aware of. It’s a good choice too for inclusion in the Paleozoic Pals as it reigned supreme as the largest predator of the Devonian period with the largest species measuring about 20’ in length, about the size of a great white shark.

For those unaware, the Paleozoic Pals is a line of plush animals that lived during the…you guessed it! The Paleozoic. They’re sold exclusively at the Museum of the Earth in Ithaca New York but are available online on the PRI website. Since New York State is rich in Devonian fossils it makes sense that a New York museum would commission these mostly obscure but locally relevant plush toys and they’re a real hit at the museum gift shop.

This plush represents the first vertebrate in a line that so far consists of a trilobite, eurypterid, and an ammonoid. It no doubt represents Dunkleosteus terrelli, the largest and most well-known species of Dunkleosteus. Fossils of this species haven’t been found in New York but the species D. newberryi has and D. terrelli has been found in a few neighboring states. As such the Dunkleosteus figures in prominently at the Museum of the Earth with an entire museum display focused around an awesome set of its armor plates.

The armor plating of this fish is the only fossil material we actually have of Dunkleosteus and everything past the head is purely speculative on any reconstruction. Most reconstructions actually barrow heavily on the related genus Coccasteus for which we have much more complete remains. Coccateus only measured about 7-9” however, which means that it might be a poor comparison to the much larger Dunkleosteus. Features like the single-lobed eel like caudal fin of Coccateus probably wouldn’t have worked well for Dunk and despite nearly all reconstructions depicting it with such a tail it’s likely to have had a caudal fin more like that of a tuna, billfish, or shark than a relative that could fit in your hand. This plush, like most other renditions, gives the toy that unlikely tail.

The visible armored head is well constructed with the various plates nicely outlined. In life, Dunkleosteus probably had skin over this armor but these plates are its signature feature so it seems reasonable that they would be outlined so prominently here. Paired pectoral and pelvic fins are present as well as a long dorsal fin. An anal fin is absent.

The “teeth” of Dunkleosteus weren’t actually teeth, but modified plates. On this toy they’re made of felt but in color that matches the rest of the armor which is nice, it seems unlikely that they would be white. The toy is filled with polyester fiber and small pellets which add some weight to it and allow it to be propped up. From what I can tell this is a well-constructed plush with sturdy seams and should hold up to play from kids and adults alike.

The Paleozoic Pals Dunkleosteus is a really cool plush that I can’t recommend enough.  It’s not every day you get to give your child a soft and cuddly arthrodire placoderm fish and I doubt you’ll see another one of these from another company anytime soon. This is a must have in any prehistoric fishes collection.

Dinosaur Boxset 2 (Toyway)

Review and photos by Indohyus, edited by Suspsy

We’ve all seen them. The crude dinosaur toys that you get in small museum shops for extremely cheap prices, normally just bought by parents to keep their children quiet for a while. The last thing you’d expect is to put six of these together and sell them as a box set. Yet that is what Toyway did. Granted, their wildlife sets are extremely well made and varied. Their dinosaur models, on the other hand, are more . . . Chinasaur. Do any of these toys shine in spite of this? Well, let’s see . . .

First is this odd green and yellow quadruped. You’d be forgiven for thinking it was an early ankylosaur with inaccurate teeth. At 5.1” long and 2” high, it looks like a small herbivore. But then I looked up what it was I was quite surprised. This is meant to be a Postosuchus!!! It is too wide, the head is all wrong, and the front legs are much too long! This dreadful figure really is the worst of the set.

Next is a small ornithopod, Camptosaurus. Another small figure, 3.5” long and 2.2” high, it stands out with its dynamic, sweeping pose. The problem is that it can bend out of shape, causing stability issues. The colour is quite subdued: muddy brown and dark greens, good for a herbivore that wishes to stay camouflaged. The main issues are that it is a bit thick in certain areas, like the neck, and the front limbs are too long. A mixed bag.

The hadrosaur in this set is Corythosaurus, a classic. Posed in a strange quadrupedal stance, it certainly looks retro, very lizard-like, though with a rather unnatural dip in the neck. The subdued colours from the Camptosaurus return, but with lilac instead of green, and a garish lime green underbelly. At 4.5” long and 2.4” high, it would suit for a youngster among its kind.

Now, for even more retro, it’s Iguanodon. Between the upright stance and iguana-like head, it will certainly appeal to fans of older dino designs. With a light red colour, it certainly stands out, though. At 3.5” high and 3.9” long, it is one of the bigger figures in this mini set.

Euoplocephalus is the ankylosaur of the set, and one of the best in the bunch. It has the traditional stance of defending itself from a predator, pulling it off quite well. Its brown and turquoise colouring is odd, as is the club design, which is too spaced out. The body is too thin as well, and not squat enough. Again, good for a juvenile at 4.5” long and 2” high.

The final member of the set is the biggest surprise: Placerias, a dicynodont from the Triassic. This figure is well made and really accurate, and it’s hard to find anything to say against it. The green and beige colours work well here and, though the pose is a bit stoic, it still sticks out. At 4.3” long and 2” high, it certainly works as a small reptile among its contemporaries.

Now, here is the final twist. As most of these are cheap, small figures from museum shops, few tend to put these on eBay, except rarely in sets with other figures. As a result, outside this set, they’re surprisingly rare, especially for the Placerias, as it is one of only a few representations of this figure. And the price for it can range from £8.00 to £64.00! If you can find it cheap, it would be worth it, otherwise I can’t strongly recommend it too highly.

Ammonite (Bullyland)

Review and photographs by Indohyus, edited by Suspsy

Ammonites are one of the most iconic of all fossil groups. Once thought to be snakes turned to stone in medieval times, these ancient cephalopods are known throughout the world, and are important fossils for many purposes, especially in dating as they are exceptional index fossils. Despite this, they are rarely found in toy form, possibly as they may be less interesting to children or collectors in comparison to dinosaurs. Bullyland, however, has taken steps to change this, producing two ammonite models along with several other common species from the past. For this review, I will be looking at the smaller of the two models.

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‘Smaller’ may be the wrong word though! At 2.9” high and 4.3” wide, this is quite large for an ammonite, and would likely look out of place with marine reptile figures from most other lines in a display. The shell is predominately white with a yellowish-gold pattern, which is quite bright in comparison to the larger counterpart (perhaps this is a male). The tentacles are green and beige with grey on the suckers. This works quite well, looking similar to squid and cuttlefish. The tentacles are fairly dynamic, as if the animal is about to move off or catch prey.

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With ammonite figures, it can be very hard to discern the species, as they usual just have the generic name ‘Ammonite’ stamped on them. Based on the shape of its whorl, it may well be a species of Peltoceratoides or Cosmoceras. Either way, it is very accurate to the general shell morphology of an ammonite. As for the tentacles, they appear to be correct, with ten arms and a siphuncle. There is also a beak inside the mass of tentacles, but it is harder to see. The only real inaccuracy is the wedge under the shell, but this is purely to keep it upright.

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Overall, this is a really nice, well-made figure. It may not be as exciting as a T. rex or a Stegosaurus, but it is well worth getting, as it is often not very expensive, even relatively cheap. A great figure of a very famous group.

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