Category Archives: sauropod

Nigersaurus (Deluxe by CollectA)

Review and photos by Bokisaurus, edited by Suspsy

Sauropods are well known for their long necks and even longer tails, but what truly makes the group famous is their gigantic size! Some of the largest animals to have ever roamed the earth belong to this group. But not all sauropods are created equal. For every giant, there are numerous small to medium-sized species as well. There is even a dwarf one measuring in at only six meters long!

Today, we will review one of the medium-sized members of this family. Nigersaurus(Lizard of Niger) was small for a sauropod, measuring in at approximately nine meters long. Nigersaurus belongs to the genus of rebbachisaurid sauropods. It lived during the Middle Cretaceous period in what is now the Republic of Niger in Africa. It is also fairly complete as fossil records go, with almost 80 percent of it being recovered.

There are two well-known figures of this odd-looking sauropod, one by Safari and the other by CollectA. Both were released in 2009, and if I’m not mistaken, they are the first figures of this animal to be produced in toy form. CollectA is famous for producing obscure species of dinosaurs, so it’s not a surprise that they followed their Agustinia (another weird-looking sauropod) with Nigersaurus.

With the much smaller Safari version

At first glance, this looks like your typical sauropod, although the neck is much shorter. However, Nigersaurus is unique in that unlike other sauropods, it has a mouth that is shaped like the end of a vacuum cleaner, and more than 500 tiny teeth! The odd shape of its mouth makes Nigersaurus a specialized feeder. It is believed that the shape of the mouth allowed the animal to nip at tasty greens rather than to chomp at them. The arrangement of the teeth suggests that they operated much like a pair of shears, sliding by one another as opposed to the peg-like teeth typical of other sauropods. The shape of the mouth is designed for low browsing and it is believed that Nigersaurus preferred soft greens very close to the ground.

Despite having a shorter neck when compared to other sauropods, Nigersaurus still had a pretty long neck. An image of a vacuum cleaner comes to mind when I picture this peculiar animal feeding, perhaps swaying its long neck side from to side as it plucks tasty morsels without moving its body much. In spite of having a mouth that is wider than its skull, and a snout that rivals those seen on hadrosaurs, the skull is surprisingly lightweight and fragile. It is also believed that, based on the structure of the inner ear, the animal usually carried its head in a downward position, with the mouth almost constantly aimed towards the ground.

Released under CollectA’s Deluxe line of prehistoric figures, this 1:20 scale figure is very robust and massive. This baby measures in at 12 inches long and stands 5 inches tall at the hips. It is unfortunate that the figure was released during the dark ages of CollectA, just before the changes that we now see towards better sculpted, more accurate figures. Despite its flaws, there are some good qualities that can be found on this figure. Starting with the head, the shape of the skull and of the mouth are pretty accurate and identifiable as that of Nigersaurus. The broad mouth is open and the rows of teeth are visible. The cat-like eyes (commonly seen in earlier CollectA figures) are painted orange. It is clear that the design of this toy is based directly on a fossil cast mounted in Japan. The figure clearly follows this sample very closely, as you can see on the superimposed skeleton below. The problem is in the finer details once flesh is added to it.

The neck is appropriately short, as it should be. Another major odd feature that was given to this figure is the excessive amount of skin hanging down from the neck. The entire length of the neck has unsightly, lumpy folds of skin. Granted, a small amount of loose skin is a good way to suggest weight and gravity on a figrue. In this case, however, the excess skin is very unattractive and makes the neck looks like a a lumpy tube of socks! The area where the neck connects to the skull is the worst area; it really makes it look like the animal has a goiter or some other strange ailment. This is perhaps the most unattractive feature in this model.

The skin is rich in textures, with multiple bumps of almost uniform size all over the body. There are also lots of skin folds to be seen. A row of dorsal spines runs almost the entire length of the back, starting at the base of the neck and going all the way down to the halfway mark of the tail. The legs are muscular, with the front pair slightly lower than the back one. Like many sauropod figures that came out before it, the feet on this figure also suffer what I like to call the “elephant-like” syndrome, with multiple toenails. The shape of each toenail is also very much like an elephant’s instead of the crescent-shaped form that sauropods are known to have.The overall coloration is a shade of dark green. Luckily, there is some nice shading and some dry brushing done that adds depth. There are also yellowish-orange highlights seen on the sides of the body as well as the tail and underside. In addition, there are dark brown stripes all over the body.

In closing, this Nigersaurus is not the best sauropod that CollectA has to offer, but it is also not the worst one. It is truly unfortunate that it was released before the change in quality in their models. Once can only imagine what may have been if only it was part of the later releases. Despite its many flaws, and perhaps due to these flaws, I am very fond of this figure. There is a certain quality to it that I find very likable. Perhaps it’s the awkward look, or maybe that sad expression that reminds one of an ugly duckling that just wants to be loved. I personally am glad to have this figure in my collection. It may not be the best-looking sauropod in the herd, but its odd and unique look sure does command attention and comments from guests. Oh, and one more thing, it is best to view this figure sideways with its head facing toward you. This view obscures some of the neck deformities, and offers the best view of this figure. After all, we all have our best sides.

Hope you enjoyed the review. Till next time, cheers!

Diplodocus (2017) (Wild Safari by Safari Ltd)

Available from Amazon here.

For some reason, I can remember that one of the dinosaur books I had as a kid included a picture of a Diplodocus-style sauropod, with a quote from a paleontologist in the caption saying that “for most people, this is literally Mr Dinosaur himself”. It’s a comment that captures the unique fasciation of these animals, as the largest creatures ever to have walked the Earth. Everything about the sheer mass of these animals borders on the inconceivable, and yet modern reconstructions of sauropods emphasise that alongside their staggering size, these “earth-shaker lizards” possessed a sinuous, almost swan-like elegance and beauty. For this reason, sauropod figures have a special place in the hearts of many dinosaur model collectors. Today I review the newest potential addition to your herd, the 2017 Safari Diplodocus.

Diplodocus was first unearthed in 1877, and by now, countless millions of people must have gazed up at the many skeletal casts of Diplodocus featuring in museums around the world, as donated by the millionaire industrialist Andrew Carnegie in the early years of the twentieth century. Palaeontologist Gregory S Paul gives a size estimate of 25 metres and 12 tonnes for D. carnegii (in the dinosaur books I read as a kid, it seemed more or less compulsory to include a picture showing Diplodocus lined up alongside three busses parked end-to-end) and suggests that there may have been as many as 6 Diplodocus species, one of which, D. hallorum (the sauropod formerly known as Seismosaurus) may have reached 32 metres and 30 tonnes, making it a pretty decent candidate for the longest land animal ever (although not the most massive – sauropods from other branches of the family tree, such as brachiosaurs and titanosaurs, were much more heavily built). What’s really amazing is that four of the most famous of dinosaur giants, Diplodocus, the brontosaur Apatosaurus, Brachiosaurus and Camarasaurus, all lived together at the same time and place, in the Morrison Formation of late Jurassic North America, around 150 million years ago. What a truly astounding sight it must have seen these colossi together, wandering the same plains and drinking from the same watering holes…

But enough of this banter, what about the model? The first thing to note about this figure is it’s impressive size, which doesn’t really come across from the promotional photographs online. Although not as massive as the Carnegie collection sauropod figures of old, this is still a very hefty model that does justice to the imposing dimensions of the original beast. The length of the figure, (as posed with a tail that curves over upon itself), is about 47cm long. If you straighten out the tail, you get a total head-to-tail length of about 60cm, so accepting a 25 metre length estimate for the living animal, that gives us a scale that is pretty darn close to 1:40 (1:41.666 if you want to be precise). Furthermore, if you can manage to find a toy bus that is 20cm long, then you can use three of them to recreate that Diplodocus size-comparison illustration we all saw in the dinosaur books of our youth – isn’t it lucky that you have me to point these things out for you?

The pose of this Diplodocus is very handsome, and arguably superior to  Safari Diplodocus figures that have preceded it, not least because the head and tail are in a more-or-less straight alignment, meaning that the model displays equally well from both sides. The thing that I like best about this figure’s pose it that it is so naturalistic – it really does look like a plausible animal, ambling through its late Jurassic habitat, relaxed and self-assured (mercifully, the protruding ‘shrink wrapped’ vertebra and  ‘belly-almost-dragging-on-the-ground’ carriage of Papo’s sauropod monstrosity are not in evidence here). The way the whiplash tail curls over upon itself is a particularly appealing feature of the sculpt – it’s been speculated that living Diplodocus could twirl their tails around like this for communication and display within the herd. Iguana-like spines seem to show up on all manner of sauropod reconstructions these days, but in the case of the Diplodocus line of the sauropod family tree, there really are fossil skin impressions indicating this feature, so they make a welcome addition to the model. An aspect of the figure that will please many is that the hands (front feet) are depicted with only a single but large claw projecting laterally out from the side, which intuitively, looks a little odd, but is in fact in line with current paleontological views on sauropod anatomy. The musculature of the neck, where it joins onto the body, is portrayed as being rather deeper and more massive than on many older reconstructions that I’ve seen. I’m afraid I don’t know enough sauropod anatomy to comment on this from a technical standpoint, but purely in terms of aesthetics it looks plausible enough, and adds to this sculpts refreshingly contemporary and up-to-date feel.

I was excited to buy this figure, because the two-toned colour scheme with the dappled underbelly reminded me of the dinosaur art of Raul Martin, whose sauropod restorations must surely rank as among the most beautiful renditions of these animals. But unfortunately, it must be said that when the model is in hand, the surface details are a little disappointing. The skin is textured all over, but the depth of the texturing is slight, and not crisply cast. Consequently, the skin detailing seems flat and nondescript – in the picture below I’ve compared it with the skin texturing of the Collecta Diplodocus, which in my opinion is much more dynamic in its surface details. The colour scheme is based around a plausible-seeming (and not unattractive) shade of green-grey, and the underbelly mottling has an effectively organic look to it. But unfortunately, (on my example at least), the paint has not been well applied, appearing very thin and watered-down in places, and clumsily slapped-on in others, especially about the  head. The eye is just a black dot, and the way the white for the teeth has been dashed all about the head gives my example something of an unfortunate  bucked-tooth look. There is absolutely no tonal variation on the green-grey that covers most of the body, and this makes it rather overpowering visually – even the spines are in the same colour, which is a shame since a line of dark spines against the grey would really have made them a standout feature of the model. Even the most elementary of repainting efforts, (such as picking out the spines in black), would greatly improve the look of this guy. The blandness of the surface detailing and the lacklustre paint application do tend to make this figure seem more like a plastic lump of a toy than a scale replica for display, which is a real shame since the proportions and pose are so well thought-out.

Kids will no doubt really enjoy playing with this life-like Diplodocus, and would appreciate the flexibility of the whiplash tail as a way of adding some life and movement to the toy. As a collector’s model for the shelf, my conclusions are more equivocal. This is one of those figures that perhaps looks rather better from a distance than close up. From the promotional photographs online, I thought this was going to be a truly stunning model… the pose and form certainly give it the potential to be so, but unfortunately the execution of the surface detailing and paintwork have reduced the impact considerably. It’s still a very interesting and appealing model, just not the truly stunning figure that I feel it could have been. Sauropod fans will undoubtedly want to add this one to their herd, but more general-interest collectors will have to make up their own minds. I usually like to end my reviews with some atrocious pun, but given the various plusses and minuses of this figure, I’ll just remark that it is up to individual collectors to decide if they want to risk sticking their necks out for this one.

Available from Amazon here.

Huanghetitan (Age of the Dinosaurs by PNSO)

In 2016 the PNSO (Peking Natural Science-Art Organization) line introduced large figures of often under-represented Chinese dinosaurs. The largest of the line is the obscure macronarian sauropod Huanghetitan, which lived in the Aptian age of the early Cretaceous (some time between 125 to 113 million years ago) of what is now China.

Huanghetitan being known only from fragmentary remains, it is hard to judge the accuracy of this figure. However the portrayal is is consistent with known sauropod biology. The hands correctly have only one claw and a slight crescent-moon shape. The nostrils are positioned towards the front of the skull (albeit a bit asymmetrically). Small scales and larger osteoderms, known from other sauropods, cover the skin. Most importantly, there is an appropriate amount of soft tissue – this is one bulky sauropod! No shrinkwrapped fenestrae or neck vertebrae to be seen here, which unfortunately cannot be said for the line’s other sauropods. The only fault  is an errant fourth toe claw on the right hind foot. Sauropods only had three claws on the hind feet, with the fourth and fifth digits being more stub-like. The left foot is correct, but the right foot even has the extra claw sculpted on (not just painted). Perhaps the figure represents an individual with a congenital defect? More likely this was an oversight in the sculpting process or a mistake gone uncorrected.

The combination of bulkiness and sheer size lend this figure a grand presence. Proudly striding along with head held high, this Huanghetitan is large and in charge, a giant in its prime. Depending on the length estimates used, this figure is anywhere from 1:30 to 1:40 scale.

The color scheme is subdued, consisting of varied grays and browns reminiscent of large extant mammals. The upper body’s scales have a white wash between them suggestive of dust caked into the skin (as with a modern elephant), similar to PNSO’s Triceratops. If being picky one could say the wash cuts off rather abruptly along the bottom, but this is only noticeable upon close inspection. The eyes are neatly painted gold with black pupils.

Astute collectors may notice that this figure bears a resemblance to the much more expensive Sideshow Apatosaurus statue, with both being bulky gray sauropods. Given that the Huanghetitan retails for the equivalent of just under $60 USD (discounted at the time of writing to ~$30 USD), how do these two stack up? It’s a fraction of the Sideshow statue’s price, but is it only a fraction of the quality?

Both are sizeable, with the Huanghetitan measuring about 27″ long compared to the Apatosaurus‘ 43″. But the Huanghetitan, being hollow vinyl, is a much lighter 2 lb compared to the Apatosaurus’ 10 lb. Despite being hollow the Huanghetitan is quite sturdy, and its vinyl construction makes it much less fragile than the Sideshow piece. Not having a base, it is much more easily transported than the Apatosaurus.

In terms of quality the Huanghetitan falls short upon close observation. The paint is prone to wear, even in the original packaging, and there are visible seams across the limbs and attaching the tail to the torso. Thankfully the paint application and detailing make these a bit less obvious. Furthermore, the details, while fine and intricate, are not as crisp as those on the resin Sideshow piece. While (naturally) not as high-end as the much pricier Sideshow statue, this is still a fine piece, making a worthy centerpiece (or companion to those fortunate Sideshow owners). At its retail price the detail and size make this figure a great bargain.

This big beauty makes a great addition to the collection of any fan of sauropods or Chinese dinosaurs. The Huanghetitan and other PNSO figurs are available outside of China from various resellers, though usually with some markup. If you are fortunate to have family or friends in China who can order one from PNSO’s Chinese store for you, the price is much more affordable.