Tag Archives: Archaeopteryx

Archaeopteryx (Age of the Dinosaurs by PNSO)

It’s all or nothing now. Having caught the young female’s eye, Jonas fluffs his feathers, spreads his wings, and raises his tail. She continues to watch him from a distance. Encouraged, Jonas rapidly bows his head and utters low clicks and rattles. At last, the female approaches him and the two touch muzzles. Jonas has found his mate.

Say hello to Jonas, the little Archaeopteryx from PNSO. The sculptor has caught this iconic feathered dinosaur in what appears to be the act of courtship display. Jonas’ wings are outstretched and held to the front, his right foot is raised, and his tail elevated, which are all things that many extant male birds do when trying to attract a mate. From his wingtips to the end of his tail, Jonas measures 9.5 cm long and is 5.5 cm tall. Much smaller than the other Archaeopteryx figures that have been reviewed here on the DTB.

Jonas balances well enough on his wingtips and left foot, although he falls over easily. His main colours are light grey and medium brown with very pale beige on the underside of his waist and tail and muddy brown for his fingers and feet. The plumage on his head is mostly very dark brown with white patches surrounding his black eyes and burnt orange on his cranium and snout. Dark brown is also used for the primaries on his wings and the accents on his tail. Finally, white is used to line the tips of the primaries and the secondaries. It’s a realistic colour scheme to be sure, but it’s not in fitting with the studies which concluded that Archaeopteryx had black covert feathers.

In terms of both detailing and scientific accuracy, Jonas rates pretty high. His plumage has been meticulously sculpted, with visible barbs on the feathers on his wings and tail. His wings feature all the major feather groups: front, coverts, secondaries, and primaries. They are also asymmetrical, which is a trademark characteristic of flying birds. His bare feet have faint wrinkles and the feathers covering his neck make it appear appropriately thick. His second toes, however, are lying flat when they ought to be raised just like a dromaeosaur’s.

Aside from this one flaw, Jonas the Archaeopteryx is an exquisite and enjoyable little toy. Definitely worth adding to your feathered dinosaur collection.

Thanks go out to PNSO for this toy!

Archaeopteryx (Wild Safari by Safari Ltd.)

Review and photographs by Patrx, edited by Plesiosauria.

Archaeopteryx lithographica, the famous “ancient wing”, was named for a single wing feather found in the Solnhofen Lagerstätten in 1861. That feather would soon be joined by more fossils, adding up to a remarkably detailed body of evidence for the creature’s shape, anatomy, and integument. Yet, somehow, popular depictions almost never seem to hit the mark. Happily, this new Archaeopteryx from Safari is here to set things right, dodging all the old “lizard-bird” tropes that we’ve seen before. Well, most of them.

Wild Safari Archaeopteryx

As with the rest of the models from Safari this year, the details on this guy really impress. The animal is, of course, decked out in feathers. But beyond that, there are distinct types of feathers visible on different areas of the body. The head, neck, and breast bear what look like fuzzy, branching filaments which transition (a little abruptly) into “proper” contour feathers along the back, and, of course, on the limbs. The sculptor of this model, Doug Watson, cites a 2004 paper by Christensen and Bonde. The feathers on the legs are quite long, and extend to the ankles, based on N. Longrich (2006).

Wild Safari Archaeopteryx

As expected from a model so thoroughly researched, the proportions and basic elements of the anatomy are spot-on. The wings look like wings; with correct hand anatomy instead of the bizarre “wings with hands tacked on” look that shows up all too often. There are primary feathers starting at the second finger. The skull is the correct shape and size, with accurately-proportioned eyes, tiny teeth, and a subtle pair of ridges of the kind Gregory Paul seems fond of in his Archaeopteryx reconstructions. The leg musculature is appropriate. Interestingly, the feet feature hyperextensible sickle-clawed second toes, which, while debatable, is also backed by a paper (Mayr et al. 2005).

Wild Safari Archaeopteryx

Remember that first feather I mentioned before? The one that was given the name Archaeopteryx in 1861? In 2011, a team was able to detect melanosomes (organelles containing the dark pigment melanin) in the feather (Carney et al. 2012). They concluded that this feather had been black when the animal was living. Accordingly, this model’s feathers are predominantly painted black. It’s far from dull, however. The back of the animal has been given a subtle but lovely iridescent blue color, with a purplish glint on the head, apparently inspired by magpies. It’s a cool thing to see, particularly on a mass-produced figure. Another neat detail is the dark edge along the otherwise white flight feathers. This is seen in modern birds quite frequently – the melanin actually toughens the vulnerable wingtips. It’s also supported by yet another study (Manning et al., 2003 [pdf here])! The unfeathered portions of the animal are painted a really bright orange hue. Maybe a little too bright. I do really like the look of the eyes – vibrant and convincing. The claws are painted black, the tongue is pink, and the teeth are white; simple but effective.

Wild Safari Archaeopteryx

So, what’s not to like? Well, the one thing that really drags this brilliant figure down for me is the pose. Wings splayed, leaning back on its tail, head turned a bit and mouth agape, I expect it’s meant as an aggressive posture. In addition to the dreaded tripod support (why no base?), it’s just not that interesting or natural-looking. It’s the same pose Archaeopteryx so often seems to get stuck with. With that said, I’ve never bought “tripod-tailed” models for my own collection, except for this one. The positive elements outweigh the unfortunate pose, in my book. The claws are also disappointingly blobby and dull, which I chalk up to toy safety concerns. Alas. There are also some design choices that ultimately come down to preference. The feathers on this model were definitely well-researched and well executed, but they’re not as dense as I’d really like to see. They’re very tight to the body, particularly around the neck. Certainly plausible (i.e. the flamingo,) but the necks of most birds are buried in feathers. I would also have liked to see feathers on the snout and digits.

Wild Safari Archaeopteryx

There’s a lot of research behind this little bird, which is fantastic to see! If you’re a fan of maniraptorans, this is one time you shouldn’t let a tripod pose keep you from picking one up. In closing this dreadfully lengthy review, I shall say that this has been a great year for Safari, both in terms of accuracy and detail. The Carnegie line may be extinct, but, as always, Archaeopteryx is a sign of a bright and interesting future.

Available from Amazon.com here.

Wild Safari Archaeopteryx


Archaeopteryx (Papo)

First discovered in 1861, Archaeopteryx lithographica was the first fossil to demonstrate an evolutionary link between dinosaurs and birds. As such, it rightly remains one of the most famous and important fossils in the history of paleontology.

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Archaeopteryx rounds out Papo’s prehistoric assortment for 2014 and it does seem fitting that their first feathered dinosaur should be the legendary Ancient Wing itself. This one has been sculpted in a threatening stance with its feet planted, its wings spread wide, and its mouth open in a screech.

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The Archaeopteryx has a length and a wingspan of about 13 cm. Unlike most of Papo’s prehistoric figures, it’s decked out in a multitude of colours. Its plumage is a combination of fiery orange, greyish-brown, beige, and white with vivid blue patches on the wings and back. The back of its neck is covered in dark blue feathers and topped off with a spiky orange crest. The scaly head and throat have been painted orange with a dark green wash, the eyes are yellow with red pupils, and the inside of the mouth is pink with tiny white teeth. Finally, the knobby bare hands and feet are beige with black claws.

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The detailing is nothing short of spectacular. Each and every feather, from the large flight feathers on the wings and tail to the smaller contour feathers on the main body, has been carefully shaped and sculpted to resemble the real thing. The head, hands, and feet are covered in small scales and the roof of the mouth and the tongue are grooved. Whoever crafted this figure is a first rate talent.

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But this being a Papo product, it’s not without its share of inaccuracies. Namely, the neck, legs, and toes are far too short and far too beefy. Indeed, they resemble those of a tyrannosaur. The real Archaeopteryx was a sleek, graceful animal; this depiction looks like it’s been overdosing on steroids. In addition, we now know that the second inner toes were raised, just like those on maniraptors.

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After so many years of naked skinned dinosaurs, the Archaeopteryx is a welcome addition to the Papo line. It’s arguably their best sculpted figure yet. Now if only the designers could improve on scientific accuracy.

Available from Amazon.com here.