Tag Archives: anomalocaris

Anomalocaris (Yowie)

Review and photos by Faelrin, edited by Suspsy

For my first review, I will be reviewing the Yowie Anomalocaris. Anomalocaris was one of the largest creatures of its time, growing up to around 1 meter long (or 3.2 feet), and is one of the many species preserved in the Burgess Shale. It lived during the Cambrian Period, and some of its contemporaries included creatures like trilobites, worms, Opabinia, Hallucigenia, and Wiwaxia. Its name means “abnormal shrimp”, as for a while, its remains were thought to be different creatures until more complete fossils were found.

Now on to the figure itself. Like other Yowie figures, its many pieces need to be assembled together to create the figure. It pretty much resembles what is known of Anomalocaris. All key components of its anatomy are present: the eyestalks, the arms which would have been able to grasp in life, the radial mouth parts, the many lobes along its sides, and the fan-like tail. For how small this figure is, at only a little over 5cm (or 2″), the painting is pretty detailed.

The base colour is a red or red orange. Its eyes are painted black, while the stalks are painted white. The tips of its tail lobes are painted white, or maybe a pale pink, as well as the belly. Many tiny white specks are painted on its backside and the back of its head, as well as on the ridges on the undersides of its arms. The lobes are painted more of a yellow colour with tiny red specks, closest to the body, on both the top and bottom of this figure. The outside of the mouth is painted white, and the inside is painted black. The figure’s head can also rotate around and the tail is a bit loose (though these things may be due to letting my mother assemble it upon its arrival).

If you are a fan of Anomalocaris, Cambrian creatures, Paleozoic creatures, or the Yowie figures in general, then this might be the figure for you. Like other Yowie figures, it may be hard to track down though, being an older figure, and originally only available in Australia.

Leaps in Evolution (Kaiyodo)

Review and photographs by Tim Sosa

From July-October 2015, the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo hosted an exhibit called “Leaps in Evolution: Tracing the Path of Vertebrate Evolution.” To commemorate the exhibit, Kaiyodo made a set of five vending machine capsule figures, most representing a stage in the evolution of vertebrates. Each of these can be tied to a “key innovation,” or an adaptation that enables a lineage to diversify at the expense of potential competitors, predators, or prey. Let’s take a look at the five figures, starting with our closest relative and going back through time.

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First up is the skull of a Neanderthal Homo neanderthalensis, a species which lived until about 40,000 years ago, well after modern humans had started spreading outside of Africa, and may have interbred with them. This skull, showcasing the large braincase that is the hallmark of humans, is a fitting visual reminder of what makes us us. It’s well-made in about 1:10 scale and identifiable as H. neanderthalensis by the prominent brow ridges and large teeth, although in actual specimens the teeth are much less tidy, probably because of decay of the remains between death and fossilization.

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We travel pretty far back in time to reach Dimetrodon limbatus, which lived in the early Permian period over 270 million years ago. Dimetrodon was a synapsid, an early member of a lineage whose only survivors are the mammals. Synapsids did a couple of interesting things that ended up being important for mammals. One, they reduced the role of the articular and quadrate bones in the jaw joint, which freed them up to later become part of our middle ear. And two, they evolved the ability to regulate their own body temperature metabolically. It isn’t clear when that occurred, but one hypothesis for the function of the sail of Dimetrodon is temperature regulation, so it makes sense that it would be included in this set. This is a big improvement on the Dimetrodon from Kaiyodo’s Dinotales line back in 2001, with excellent detail and a pose that reflects recent suggestions that their stance was somewhat more erect than previously thought. It’s about 1:45 if it represents a large specimen of D. limbatus.

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Next up is Ichthyostega, an early tetrapod relative. Ichthyostega lived during the Devonian period, and was one of the first fishes to have well-developed limbs with digits, and could probably have walked around a little bit in addition to swimming. This figure is in about 1:12 scale and looks great, with the characteristic broad, flat head and tail still adapted for an aquatic lifestyle. When Ichthyostega was first discovered, everyone assumed it had five digits just like us, lizards, and the earliest dinosaurs. But later preparation of the fossils revealed that some of the earliest tetrapods, like Ichthyostega, had seven or even eight digits. Some of those wouldn’t have been obvious externally when covered with muscle and skin, and this Kaiyodo figure is therefore well within the range of possibility, showing six external toes. Nice work!

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While Ichthyostega was learning to crawl, Dunkleosteus was the top predator in the world’s oceans. It was an arthrodire, a group that had already been around for tens of millions of years. Arthrodires were among the first vertebrates with jaws, which are not only great for eating things, but also became important for hearing for some vertebrates. This little ~1:40 scale skull replica features a hinged jaw, calling attention to its importance in the evolution of vertebrates.

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Finally we reach Anomalocaris, a major predator of the Cambrian period, over 500 million years ago. This is the only figure in the set that isn’t a vertebrate, and in fact the only one that isn’t relatively close to a direct ancestor of humans. Maybe that’s because at the time of Anomalocaris, our ancestors were essentially jawless, spineless little worms with a gill basket, which would look a little less awesome as toys. So Kaiyodo went with Anomalocaris, an arthropod distantly related to insects, spiders, and barnacles. Anomalocaris probably ate our distant relations for breakfast! It was part of the so-called “Cambrian Explosion,” a sudden (by geological standards) profusion of life that evolved in the world’s seas and set the stage for major lineages of animals, such as arthropods, mollusks, vertebrates, and echinoderms. This figure is similar to the one Kaiyodo made for their Dinotales line, but more finely detailed, a fitting homage to this extremely important time in Earth’s history. Like the Dinotales version, it’s about 1:10-1:15 scale.

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Overall, this set is a fantastic miniature review of evolutionary history (biased a bit toward our own ancestors). The exhibit in Tokyo has ended, but a fair number of these seem to have found their way to the secondary market, so you might be able to find them through web sites such as eBay or through a friend with a connection in Japan. They’re already fetching fairly high prices, so if you want them, sooner is better than later!

Cambrian Life Toob (Safari Ltd.)

Review and photos by Stemturtle, edited by Plesiosauria.

Wonderful ‘toob’! New for 2013, this collection illustrates the explosion of new animal phyla in the Cambrian Period, from 541 to 485 million years ago. The eight toys in this set are well-sculpted, good-sized, and colorful. Safari Ltd lists the range of sizes as 1.5” (4 cm) to 3” (7.5 cm). Paint detailing is minimal. A species identification label was not issued with my toob. However, each ‘belly’ is marked with an ID.

Cambrian life Safari toob
Group shot. Schleich guy (not included) is 1.75 inches (4.5 cm) for scale.

Older figures of Charniodiscus (by Yujin), Ottoia (by Tedco), and Anomalocaris (by Kaiyodo) are not easy to find. The introduction of unique species enhances the desirability of this toob. New to collectors are Vauxia, Sanctacaris, Sidneyia, Naraoia, and Tricrepicephalus.

Charniodiscus
Charniodiscus Safari toob

Curvature hints that this animal swayed in the current upon its base. Diorama enthusiasts should be cautioned that Charniodiscus was Ediacaran. A related genus, Thaumaptilon, which also resembled a sea pen, was fossilized in the Burgess Shale.

Vauxia
Vauxia Safari toob
This figure also has a base. The surface of this model shows texturing. Sponges are generally ignored by toy manufacturers, so we are lucky to get Vauxia.

Ottoia
Ottoia Safari toob
There is attention to anatomy. This worm could extend its proboscis out of a burrow to capture prey. The ID mark is misspelled “Ottioa.” I like the red color.

Anomalocaris
Anomalocaris Safari toob
This proto-arthropod, as top predator, is larger than the other figures. We might wish for contrasting color for the eyes and a decorative pattern to disrupt the orange paint. Safari should make a detailed version twice this size as a standard issue.

The remaining four figures are all arthropods.

Sanctacaris
Sanctacaris Safari toob
This tricolor has a realistic appearance.

Sidneyia
Sidneyia Safari toob
Does the metallic finish remind you of a pyritized fossil?

Naraoia
Naraoia Safari toob
Simple, yet elegant.

Tricrepicephalus
trilobite Safari toob
This trilobite is convincing. The diameter of the antennae should have been thicker to reduce deformation during shipping. A hair dryer and cold water can correct the shape.

I recommended this toob for its evolutionary significance as well as the new species it introduces to the world of toys. Thanks, Safari Ltd. This ‘toob’ is now available from Amazon here.