Polacanthus (Papo)

The Early Cretaceous Wessex formation in England is rich in vertebrate fossils, including dinosaurs like Baryonyx and Iguanodon, pterosaurs like Caulkicephalus, many kinds of fish, and even some fragments of small mammals. Today we’ll take a look at one of the most heavily armored denizens of Early Cretaceous Eurasia, Polacanthus, as depicted by Papo.

Polacanthus was a mid-sized ankylosaur, part of the club-less family Nodosauridae. It’s known from most of the skeleton and lots of armor pieces, but very little of the head (we’ll come back to that). It would probably have been about 5 meters long from snout to tail tip, and amply supplied with pebbly armor set into the skin, a pavement-like band of armor across the hips, and large bony spikes that would have helped fend off predators.

Papo’s version has a lot of nice lifelike details, with very fine scalation, and wrinkles suggesting stretching and folding of the soft tissues as it cranes its neck upward to reach some high leaves or to bellow at a marauding theropod. As a toy, it’s nice-looking for the most part. The purple color would be unusual in large animals today, but then again most of the large animals of today only see two colors. Most dinosaurs probably saw at least three, and as an animal with plenty of armor to protect it, who’s to say it couldn’t have been pretty vibrant?

The overall proportions of this figure are middling. Whereas Polacanthus wouldn’t have been as wide-hipped as some of the massive ankylosaurids, it would have been broader over the hips and belly than this figure depicts. The tail is also much too long. Measured along the spine, the toy is about 18.6 centimeters long, making it approximately 1:25 scale by total length. But if you correct for the very long tail, it’s probably closer to 1:30.

The limbs look about right, with the hindlimbs somewhat longer than the front. Each limb ends in five toes. Whereas the feet and hands of Polacanthus are not well-preserved, the known digit numbers in other ankylosaurs range from 4-5 on the hand and from 3-5 on the foot. So the number of toes on this figure is plausible; however, when ankylosaurs did have 5 digits on the hand it was the outermost digit that was held off the ground and pointed slightly backward, not the innermost.

The broad band of pavement-like armor over the hips is reasonably well-rendered, although some of the other armor is likely incorrect. Polacanthus probably bore its tail spikes in two rows, rather than three. The spikes near the shoulders wouldn’t have been so flat in cross-section, and the largest would have had edges that described a quarter turn around their axis of growth.

Finally, the head. There is very little known (well, published, at any rate) of the head of Polacanthus: a fragment of the lower jaw, a supraoccipital (right above the hole that the spinal cord runs through), and a piece of what might be the nasal. Some liberties would be forgivable given the lack of fossil material. However, this head morphology is very unlikely. Close relatives with known skulls sometimes show a pair of horns at the back corners of the head, and sometimes don’t, but they don’t ever show a row of tiny horns arced all the way around the back of the head. And whereas Panoplosaurus, for example, had a head very well encased in armor, it was not a solid helmet-like piece, and it certainly did not end in the strange frill-like structure that we see on this figure. It almost looks like the frill of a basal ceratopsian, or the flattened casque of a chameleon.

At the other end of the animal, the tail ends in a scaly but un-armored point, which is odd, because the tail tip is known from Polacanthus and it distinctly shows an array of dermal ossicles (armor pieces) around the tip, completely absent on this figure.

From an accuracy perspective, this figure is pretty lackluster. Unfortunately, although there are actually quite a few other Polacanthus toys in the world, most of them aren’t much better. From a sculptural perspective, it looks competently executed, although it doesn’t appear to be the work of Seo Jung-woon, the craftsman behind most of Papo’s dinosaurs. As a toy for children, I think it works fine–the spines are stiff enough to hurt if you step on them, but they’re flexible enough not to do any actual damage. And it’s in a good pose for a battle with your kid’s favorite theropod. As a collector’s item, I would instead recommend the static but more accurate Walking with Dinosaurs version if you can get it. Papo has been turning out some very nice sculpts lately, but this isn’t among their best.

Deinocheirus (Wild Safari by Safari Ltd.)

Review and photos by Faelrin, edited by Plesiosauria

This past year has seen a surprisingly large number of amazing figures produced by Safari Ltd. Of all the new prehistoric figures released for 2017, only a few have yet to be reviewed so far, including the Deinocheirus that will be the subject of this review. In fact, this figure of this strange (and for a while, mysterious) dinosaur was one of my most anticipated out of all the releases for 2017.

Deinocheirus mirificus has quite a history. Its name means “terrible hand” or “horrible hand”, because for several decades, only its arms and hands were known. I first learned of this dinosaur as a child, and the mystery of its identity enticed me back then. At the time I imagined it as a large theropod, similar to Allosaurus in shape. I dreamed that time would reveal what this creature looked like, with more complete remains discovered. However, I never could have imagined it would have been within my lifetime, let alone only another decade and some years away, or even what this creature truly looked like.

This figure by Safari Ltd is a bit on the small side, only measuring about 3 inches tall (or 7.6 cm), by a little over 7 inches long (or 17.8 cm), when compared to their much larger feathered Tyrannosaurus rex (also new for 2017). However, this figure is one of the few accurate figures of this genus, although that is because the more complete remains of this dinosaur have only been described in 2014. Deinocheirus was quite a strange animal, especially for an ornithomimosaur. It is the largest ornithomimosaur discovered so far, being about 11 meters or 36 feet long. On top of that, it had a strange duck or hadrosaur like head, a large sail or hump, and is also the largest known non-avian feathered dinosaur discovered from fossil evidence. The presence of feathers is inferred from the bird-like pygostyle structure at the end of its tail.

The figure has the correct proportions and has all the characteristic features mentioned above. The sculpt has lots of detail on it, from the feathers, to the tiny scales on its hand and feet. I am not sure what kind of feathers Deinocheirus would have had, or if it would have even had wings, but I think the shaggy ratite-like feathers fit this animal quite well. The duck-like bill is colored in a pale yellow, with black emphasizing the outline of the mouth. Its tiny black eyes are surrounded by some pink wrinkled skin, and its neck also has some of the same wrinkled pink skin. Its scales are a grey brown color with a dark wash over them, and the claws have all been painted black. The feathers are colored in white on the head, and a tan or light orange brown over most of the body, with some white feathers on the belly, legs, and tail. There are also some white stripes on the back. I think they look a bit too cleanly done in comparison to the areas on the belly, legs, and tail. Otherwise, I think it is a believable color scheme for such a large animal.

This figure makes a nice addition to my growing collection of dinosaur figures, and if you like obscure, or strange dinosaurs, then you might enjoy the figure of this Deinocheirus. I ordered my figure from Safari Ltd’s online store here, but it is also available on Amazon.com here.

Scelidosaurus (Paleo-creatures)

Review and photos by Takama, edited by Plesiosauria

Up for review today is the recently released model of the primitive thyreophoran Scelidosaurus harrisonii, created by Jetoar (Jesús Toledo) for his Paleo-creatures line of models. Scelidosaurus is a dinosaur that is seldom seen in figure form. In fact, the only other ones that come to my mind are the retro Invicta version, and the more recent CollectA version. The model I’m reviewing today was one I commissioned Jesús to do, because I felt it would make a great addition to his ever-growing line of prehistoric critters.

At around 1:35 scale, this model measures around 5 inches long, and is sculpted in a very stiff looking pose with its mouth open as if it’s startled by some unseen predator. In terms of accuracy, this is undoubtedly one of the best representations of the species on the current market. The animal’s armour is sculpted accurately, and the proportions are alright for a figure of this type. Of course, the material that Jetoar uses for his models does not always allow for the great detail, so certain things like the teeth, and claws, are either absent or crudely moulded. The front feet lack individually sculpted toes, but Jetoar was able to paint them on in a way to make it seem like they are present.

The colors we chose for this figure are admittedly not our original idea. Instead they were borrowed from a popular image of Scelidosaurus that you can find with a Google search. The base color is orange, the back of the animal is black, and the plates and toes are colored grey. One of the good things about Jetoar’s models is that if you do not like the colors you see in these photos, then you can have him whip you up a custom color upon request.

One thing that I have to talk about in this review is the base that normally comes with this model. The model is a quadruped, which means that it does not require a base to stand on. However, Jetoar has made an effort to include a base with almost every model he has made so far, and this Scelidosaurus is no exception. What sets this model’s base apart from most of the others is the fact that it comes with a detachable tree that he got at a pet shop. I am not a big fan of this tree as it looks like an aquatic plant, and it works a lot better with aquatic creatures like his Hyneria. However, I understand that this tree was added with good intentions, and that was to demonstrate the height of the Scelidosaurus. Despite the out of place looking tree, the rest of the base is fairly well done. With a miniature log, and a rock sculpted onto the base. I personally prefer to keep my Scelidosaurus off of its base, because of the fact that the tree just does not look like it belongs in a terrestrial setting.

Overall, this is another great figure made by Jetoar, and it is one that represents a species that we just don’t see often from modern toy companies. If you wish to purchase one, feel free to PM Jetoar on the Dinosaur Toy Forum, or order it through Dan’s Dinosaurs. I look forward to commissioning new models for him to do, as well as reviewing some of his earlier 1:35 scale offerings.