Tag Archives: Dunkleosteus

Prehistoric Marine Tube (CollectA)

CollectA has emerged as one of the most prolific producers of dinosaur figures, with a few other Mesozoic reptiles and some mammals here and there for variety. They’ve developed a reputation for giving some obscure species the plastic treatment, but in general those species been relatively close relatives of the old standards. The prehistoric marine tube, released in the summer of 2017, is a welcome break from that pattern. It consists of twelve different animals from across the Phanerozoic, and from across the animal tree of life.

CollectA Prehistoric Marine Tube

The new CollectA figures are mostly around the same size as the ones from the sadly discontinued Safari Ltd prehistoric sea life Toob from a few years back. The two together give you a nice mix of animals, with no genera repeated. Let’s go through the CollectA figures one by one:

From the Cambrian period comes Olenoides, a common trilobite in the Burgess Shale. This figure is about 4 cm long, not counting appendages, making it around half life size. It resembles Olenoides in having cerci (the appendages at the tail end), but the sculpturing of the cephalon (head) is pretty far off the mark. Still, for CollectA’s first ever arthropod figure, it’s not too bad. Certainly much better than their first dinosaurs.

CollectA mini Olenoides

From the Ordovician period (and persisting into the Silurian), is the gigantic cephalopod Cameroceras, which is more closely related to the modern nautilus than either is to the ammonites in this set. This version is about 7 cm long, or around 1:85 scale. There’s precious little available for Ordovician toys, even though it’s when stereotypically Paleozoic marine faunas were really established. So this is a welcome addition in my book.

CollectA mini Cameroceras

Moving on to the Devonian, we come to everybody’s favorite giant armored fish, Dunkleosteus. This one is 7 cm long, or about 1:100 scale. It’s CollectA’s very first arthrodire, and their very first Devonian animal (are you starting to pick up on a theme?). They did a pretty good job, avoiding the common pitfall of making the sclerotic rings (internal eyeball bones) visible externally. The tail isn’t how I would reconstruct it, but reasonable people can disagree about how something the size of Dunkleosteus swam. The plates are about the right shape, and they look like they have some actual skin on them, which is a welcome change from some very zombie-esque reconstructions.

CollectA mini Dunkleosteus

From the earliest Jurassic, the large ichthyosaur Temnodontosaurus. This figure is about 8 cm long, or roughly 1:110 scale. It’s similar to the standard size version except that it isn’t giving birth. If it didn’t have adult proportions, it could almost stand in as the standard version’s pup. It has the unfortunate ridge of scales around the eyes, although at this small scale it doesn’t look as egregious.

CollectA mini Temnodontosaurus

Pliosaurus is the real giant of the set, at 11 cm long (about 1:110 scale). It differs from its deluxe counterpart in that it lacks the little lampreys hitching a ride on its back. Like the Temnodontosaurus, it doesn’t correct the problems with the larger figure’s head, namely, the odd ridge over the eye and the too-prominent fenestrae.

CollectA mini Pliosaurus

Now Leedsichthys, a gigantic, plankton-eating contemporary of Pliosaurus. Conveniently, they also scale well together: at 9 cm long, this is roughly 1:120 scale, though since it’s mostly known from pieces of the head, length estimates are uncertain. Not only is this CollectA’s first actinopterygian fish (well, this and the Xiphactinus), it’s one of very, very few prehistoric actinopterygian toys ever made. There have probably been fewer than 10, which is pretty bad for a group that has a 400 million year history and includes 95 out of every 100 animals you would think of as a fish. This is a really nice rendition, though necessarily speculative, since much of the skeleton of Leedsichthys was cartilaginous rather than bony and thus fossilized poorly. The one likely flaw I can spot is that it has two pelvic fins and no anal fin. Members of the family it belonged to generally had greatly reduced pelvic fins, and there is no evidence that Leedsichthys had them at all, but it probably did have an anal fin.

CollectA mini Leedsichthys

The Lower Cretaceous saw the rise of the heteromorph ammonites, the ones that evolved un-coiled shell shapes. Hard to know how they swam around looking like this. Australiceras was one of the more conservative of these, and on the smaller side. This little figure is about 1:5. It has 8 arms, though it should probably have 10 (more on that later).

CollectA mini Australiceras

One of the largest ammonites of all time, Parapuzosia is the only “standard” (non-heteromorph) ammonite in the set. A little over 3.5 cm across its longest axis, this figure is about 1:40-1:60 (specimens varied in size). Like the other ammonites in the set, it shows the aptychus (the roughly triangular mineralized structure usually found separated from the shell) as occluding the shell opening, in the manner of a nautilus hood. That arrangement is thought to be incorrect, but it is by far the most common way that aptychi are reconstructed.

CollectA mini Parapuzosia

The huge marine turtle Archelon, known from the Cretaceous Seaway that once covered North America’s central plains, is a nice addition to this set. This figure fairly captures the broad dimensions of the shell, although it might be just a shade too flattened. It’s around 4.5 cm long, making it 1:85 scale. Very cute, and the first turtle from CollectA!

CollectA mini Archelon

At the same time Archelon was swimming around the Cretaceous Seaway, so was the huge ichthyodectid Xiphactinus. At around 7 cm long, it’s roughly 1:85 scale. Xiphactinus is known from plenty of good skeletal material, so it was easier to get right: it has all the right fins in all the right places. The detail on the facial dermal bones and the teeth are pretty decent for a toy this small. One of the gems of the set.

CollectA mini Xiphactinus

Baculites was a heteromorph ammonite from the latest Cretaceous. Its shell was so thoroughly uncoiled that it looked like a straight-shelled cephalopod like the orthocerids of 100 million years earlier. At just over 5 cm long, this is roughly 1:40 scale, so it fits in great alongside some of your big marine reptiles.

CollectA mini Baculites

Another late Cretaceous ammonite, Diplomoceras is commonly compared to a paper clip. The plastic of this toy is flexible enough that you could use it that way! Its shell is just shy of 6 cm measured in a straight line from end to end, so it’s about 1:35-1:40 scale, working well with the Baculites in dioramas. This figure has 10 arms, but some of the other ammonites in this set have 8. No published fossils show the actual anatomy of the soft parts of ammonites, unfortunately, although fossilized traces in mud suggest that they had few arms, like squid, rather than many tentacles, like nautilus. Available evidence suggests that 10 is a likelier number, but it’s peculiar in any event that CollectA made some with 8 and some with 10.

CollectA mini Diplomoceras

Despite minor accuracy issues with some of the figures, this is a fantastic set. Unlike the dinosaur mini tubes that CollectA has released, which have been comprised almost entirely of miniature versions of standard-sized figures, this tube is mostly brand new animals–only the Temnodontosaurus and Pliosaurus are remakes of previous releases. It contains lots of firsts for CollectA: first protostomes (in fact, first invertebrates), first actinopterygians, first turtle, first Paleozoic animals of any description. I would love to see a few of these as large figures, especially Leedsichthys and Xiphactinus (but I have a soft spot for fishes). More importantly, I’d love to see additional tubes like this, full of smaller animals that work well in dioramas with larger figures, or animals that might be hard to market as stand-alone toys. Keep ’em coming, CollectA! For now, you can find these at a variety of online retailers, and outside of North America you might even be able to find them in brick-and-mortar stores.

Dunkleosteus (Paleozoic Pals by Jaag Plush)

Armored placoderm fishes have never been so cuddly! Manufactured by Jaag Plush and commissioned by the Paleontological Research Institute (PRI) comes this 16” long most famous of prehistoric fishes, Dunkleosteus. Ol’ Dunk is a popular fish, about as popular as a prehistoric fish can get anyway. As such it has been reproduced by a few different toy companies already but this is the first plush Dunkleosteus that I’m aware of. It’s a good choice too for inclusion in the Paleozoic Pals as it reigned supreme as the largest predator of the Devonian period with the largest species measuring about 20’ in length, about the size of a great white shark.

For those unaware, the Paleozoic Pals is a line of plush animals that lived during the…you guessed it! The Paleozoic. They’re sold exclusively at the Museum of the Earth in Ithaca New York but are available online on the PRI website. Since New York State is rich in Devonian fossils it makes sense that a New York museum would commission these mostly obscure but locally relevant plush toys and they’re a real hit at the museum gift shop.

This plush represents the first vertebrate in a line that so far consists of a trilobite, eurypterid, and an ammonoid. It no doubt represents Dunkleosteus terrelli, the largest and most well-known species of Dunkleosteus. Fossils of this species haven’t been found in New York but the species D. newberryi has and D. terrelli has been found in a few neighboring states. As such the Dunkleosteus figures in prominently at the Museum of the Earth with an entire museum display focused around an awesome set of its armor plates.

The armor plating of this fish is the only fossil material we actually have of Dunkleosteus and everything past the head is purely speculative on any reconstruction. Most reconstructions actually barrow heavily on the related genus Coccasteus for which we have much more complete remains. Coccateus only measured about 7-9” however, which means that it might be a poor comparison to the much larger Dunkleosteus. Features like the single-lobed eel like caudal fin of Coccateus probably wouldn’t have worked well for Dunk and despite nearly all reconstructions depicting it with such a tail it’s likely to have had a caudal fin more like that of a tuna, billfish, or shark than a relative that could fit in your hand. This plush, like most other renditions, gives the toy that unlikely tail.

The visible armored head is well constructed with the various plates nicely outlined. In life, Dunkleosteus probably had skin over this armor but these plates are its signature feature so it seems reasonable that they would be outlined so prominently here. Paired pectoral and pelvic fins are present as well as a long dorsal fin. An anal fin is absent.

The “teeth” of Dunkleosteus weren’t actually teeth, but modified plates. On this toy they’re made of felt but in color that matches the rest of the armor which is nice, it seems unlikely that they would be white. The toy is filled with polyester fiber and small pellets which add some weight to it and allow it to be propped up. From what I can tell this is a well-constructed plush with sturdy seams and should hold up to play from kids and adults alike.

The Paleozoic Pals Dunkleosteus is a really cool plush that I can’t recommend enough.  It’s not every day you get to give your child a soft and cuddly arthrodire placoderm fish and I doubt you’ll see another one of these from another company anytime soon. This is a must have in any prehistoric fishes collection.

Dunkleosteus (The First Giants by Schleich)

Review and photos by Tim Sosa, edited by Suspsy

It isn’t often that a toy company offers us a prehistoric fish, but when they do, it’s usually Dunkleosteus. Small wonder, since this gigantic arthrodire was imposing and distinctive, possibly reaching 10 meters in length. It was probably the largest animal alive during the Devonian period, 100 million years before the first dinosaurs. This year, German toymaker Schleich has produced one more rendition, their first prehistoric fish figure.


This figure is part of the “First Giants” sub-line from their standard range of dinosaur figures, which emphasizes early members of major groups. As such, it stands in for the earliest jawed vertebrates. This figure is mostly done in medium grays, with a red-orange wash over the back and along its fins. The head armor is a shiny silver, like a knight’s armor, and along the sides are a row of dark bony scutes. The toothplates are painted a splotchy white. The sculpt is very attractive and subtly dynamic, with vertical folds along the inside of the gentle curve described by the body as it swims.


Zooming in on the head, the first thing I notice are the eyes. They are represented with a small black dot within a ring of silver, the same silver as the dermal armor of the head. Dunkleosteus, like many animals from sharks to birds, had a series of eye bones called a sclerotic ring, which help to hold the shape of the eyeball. These bones are inside the eyeball, but this figure makes them look like external features, and as a result this figure reminds me a bit of a chameleon. The tooth plates are bare, which is common in reconstructions of arthrodires, although in life they probably had lips that covered them at least partially (the Safari version comes closest to getting this right). The jaw is articulated, although the jaws don’t fit together very cleanly. Still, I like that I can close the mouth most of the way, because fish spend most of their time with their mouths closed and it gets a little tiresome having an entire shelf full of yawning gapes.


The back 2/3 of Dunkleosteus is not well-known, as most fossils are pieces of the head armor. So this part of the animal requires some speculation. The fins and tail resemble those of Coccosteus, a much smaller relative of Dunkleosteus. But being the size of a large shark makes swimming a lot harder with an eel-like tail, so it’s possible that Dunkleosteus had a crescent-shaped tail like a mako shark or a tuna. The skin on the body has a pebbly texture, which is not likely given known remains, but hard to reject completely. The sturgeon-inspired scutes are an attractive touch, but pure speculation–arthrodires are no more closely related to sturgeons than we are. Moreover, scutes are usually the best-preserved remains of fossil sturgeons, so I think if arthrodires had such scutes we would have found some by now.


The Schleich Dunkleosteus is a big toy, about 24 centimeters long measured along the spine (the Safari Ltd and Favorite Co. Ltd versions are a bit smaller). Like other fish, Dunkleosteus didn’t have a single fixed adult size, so estimates for various specimens range from 6 to 10 meters. That means this figure could be anywhere from 1:20 to 1:40 scale, depending on what toys you choose to be its unfortunate prey.


Overall, the Dunkleosteus is a welcome bit of variety from Schleich, and I’d recommend it to fans of fossil fishes or scary-looking sea creatures generally. It isn’t the first one I’d recommend to people looking for the best or most realistic Dunkleosteus, however, as several more accurate figures exist. You can find this one at shops all over the world, and any number of online retailers.