Anomalocaris (Favorite Co. Ltd.)

Review and photographs by Indohyus, edited by Suspsy

Imagine the weirdest alien you can think of. Give it as many tentacles, eyes, and other appendages as you like, but chances are they still aren’t as strange as anything from the Ediacaran or Cambrian Period, especially the latter. The Cambrian Explosion created some of the weirdest creatures imaginable, including this review’s topic: Anomalocaris, an anomalocarid arthropod predator found throughout the world from Canada to Australia and from Utah to China. This figure by Favorite appears to represent the largest member of this genus, A. canadensis.

Onto details. At 6.4” long and 1.3” high (from tip of appendages to the top of the eye stalks), it is on the larger size, especially compared to other figures of Anomalocaris, appropriate for one of the largest animals of the time (a length of one metre was considered big back then). The pose is simple, but works well. The animal appears to be swooping up, perhaps surprising its prey. The colour scheme also works well, with the mix of gold, pink, and black complementing each other in an odd way. Favorite made several mini-versions of this mould in a variety of paint schemes, so if this doesn’t work for you, there are alternatives. To make it easier to pose, this figure comes with a stand (1.8” high, 2” wide) shaped as rocks. While it works well, it leaves a large hole towards the rear of the figure when removed. Make of that what you will.

Accuracy-wise, this Anomalocaris is pretty good. The lobes are correct in number and shape, the eye stalks are correctly positioned, and the tail is correct too. The details on the mouth are there, very accurate to the fossils. The only nitpicks I can find are that the spikes on the arms could be a little more varied in size, rather than be quite as uniform, and they don’t capture the compound nature of the eyes, but otherwise it’s good for accuracy.

Overall, this is a good representation of Anomalocaris. It may not be the best (that goes to Kaiyodo), but it is the biggest, befitting of one of the first large predators known. eBay is your best bet for finding this figure, with the option of smaller, cheaper versions, as the larger one has become somewhat more expensive. Either will suit your collection well.

Thalassomedon (Deluxe by CollectA)

Thalassomedon, the “sea lord” plesiosaur, inhabited Late Cretaceous seas some 95 million years ago. A close cousin of Elasmosaurus, it may have used its long neck to slowly sneak up on schools of fish or squid before before spearing a victim with its needle-like teeth.

This rendition of Thalassomedon was released in the summer of 2016. Measuring some 33 cm long from the tip of its muzzle to the end of its short tail, it is one of CollectA’s longest Deluxe figures. That said, more than half of that length is taken up by the neck, thus making this one of the smallest Deluxes at the same time. It also has a flipperspan of 10.5 cm.

As a child, nearly all my dinosaur books depicted elasmosaurs as having fantastically flexible necks that could twist and bend and coil. However, we now know that their necks had a relatively limited range of motion. Thalassomedon couldn’t rapidly strike out at its prey like a viper, nor could it raise its head high like a swan while swimming at the ocean surface. As such, this figure’s neck is held almost completely straight out in front, with the head turned very slightly to the left. The mouth is wide open, as though the predator is about to snap up a tasty fish or some other small morsel. The most popular proposed method of feeding for elasmosaurs seems to be the one I mentioned in the introduction, but there are a number of other highly intriguing ideas outlined on this fine website.

With fellow CollectA plesiosaurs Liopleurodon and Dolichorhynchops.

The main colours on the Thalassomedon are beige on top and white on bottom. The entire upper half of the body is speckled with medium brown spots. The teeny, tiny eyes are black, the mouth is pink, and the teeth are eggshell white. All in all, it’s hardly what you’d call an exciting ensemble, but it works well for a marine animal. It’s strongly reminiscent of the colour scheme found on harbour seals.

The Thalassomedon‘s skin has a lightly wrinkled texture all over. The flippers are stout and muscular and the small, sharp teeth lining the mouth are very well-sculpted. The inside of the mouth features a long, narrow tongue and ridges on the palate. The short tail features a small fluke near the tip. No soft tissue of Thalassomedon has been discovered just yet, but tail flukes have been confirmed on its relatives Cryptoclidus and Pantosaurus. Indeed, paleontologists might argue that the fluke should extend out from the underside of the tail as well. The only real inaccuracy on this toy then is that the left front flipper appears to be angled forward beyond the range of motion on the real animal. The flippers are also slightly upturned due to warping.

In conclusion, I find the CollectA Thalassomedon to be a very fine toy, one of the best elasmosaur representations to date, and well worth the purchase.

Livyatan (Mega Abissi by Diramix)

If you’ve ever wanted to build a diorama with your megalodon toys, you’ve probably noticed that there aren’t many other Miocene sea monster toys to pair them up with, although luckily plenty of the fish, turtles, and invertebrates alive then were very similar to modern ones. Today’s review concerns a contemporary of the famous shark, but it’s a rendition that’s unlikely to do much to enhance your diorama. Get a load of this rubbery little sea monster, from an Italian company called Diramix.

Livyatan was a toothed whale (odontocete) closely related to the modern sperm whales. It was originally named after Leviathan, the sea monster mentioned repeatedly in the Hebrew Tanakh, but the name had been used previously for a mastodon. All to the good, though, as the describers renamed the whale Livyatan, which is closer to the original Hebrew in any event. The full scientific name is Livyatan melvillei, in honor of Moby Dick author Herman Melville. Livyatan was a large predatory whale, but how large is uncertain, as the only remains so far discovered are of the skull, which was about a meter long. Extrapolating based on other whales, it could have been anywhere from 13 to 18 meters in length, similar in size to the modern sperm whale. It differs from sperm whales in having formidable teeth in both jaws instead of just the lower jaw. The fearsome teeth, up to 35 cm in length, leave little doubt that it was an apex predator.

Diramix markets stretchy, rubbery animal toys in blind bags. Most of their figures don’t bear any marking except to indicate that they’re made in China. Their larger figures (like this one) are also stamped “THE EPIC ANIMALS,” which is the name of their main line of animal figures, consisting of several short-lived series. The Livyatan belongs to a series called “Mega Abissi,” mostly consisting of larger counterparts to the smaller figures in the earlier “Antichi Abissi” series. Livyatan, however, is unique to the larger set.

This Livyatan is typical of Diramix offerings in appearance, although it is larger than most of their toys, about 19 cm long. It does a reasonable job of giving the overall impression of a sperm whale, even including the lengthwise wrinkles in the skin of the torso and tail. The only feature that could really distinguish Livyatan from an ordinary sperm whale at this level of detail is the upper teeth, and they’re included, although substantially blunted. The body–along with several of the teeth–is bright blue instead of dark gray like a sperm whale. The paint work is sloppy, and the surface of the toy is slightly tacky, so dust and everything else adhere to it. The flexible rubber shell is filled with beads, and I expect that a little rough treatment by a kid could easily rupture it, although the packaging is at pains to assure us that both the shell and filling are non-toxic. The flexible material makes it easy to have your Livyatan munch on whatever prey you want to feed it.

Wait, I thought life without the Leviathan was supposed to be nasty, brutish, and short.

Perhaps someday a toy company will make a nice realistic Livyatan toy, but this sure isn’t it. If you must have one, you can occasionally find it offered by Italian sellers on eBay. As far as I know, that’s the only country where it’s being sold. I got mine thanks to the kind assistance of an Italian member of the Dinosaur Toy Forum, but either way you’re probably going to pay more for shipping than for the figure itself, worth keeping in mind if you’re trying to decide whether to hunt one down.