Halichoeres

I'm a biologist and illustrator teaching anatomy, evolution, and similar subjects at a university in Chicago. I'm on a mission to hunt down the best toy version of every Paleozoic and Mesozoic animal and plant, which leads to some incongruous display shelves. That mission also means a pretty motley assortment of reviews, with maybe a bit of a bias in favor of fishes.

All reviews by this author

Pravitoceras (Prehistoric World by CollectA)

CollectA Pravitoceras

5 (8 votes)

Most paleontology enthusiasts are familiar with ammonites, the predatory mollusks with muscular arms and calcium carbonate shells. Most ammonites’ shells were disc-shaped coils (planispiral) that contained chambers, some of which afforded buoyancy, and one of which housed the squishy parts of the animal. One lineage of ammonites went a little wild with their shell coiling, producing some very strange shapes.

Ekrixinatosaurus (Rebor)

1.7 (6 votes)

“It stinks!” — Jay Sherman

Most of the toys reviewed on this blog have been purchased by the reviewers. There are rare exceptions, and while I can’t speak for other reviewers, I’m always careful to disclose if I’m reviewing a complimentary copy. But by and large, they’re figures we liked enough to spend money on, and so reviews tend to be more positive than negative.

Helicoprion (Prehistoric Animal Models by PNSO)

5 (7 votes)

This stand was purchased separately and is not included with the model.

270 million years before orcas, 250 million years before megalodon sharks, 170 million years before even the mosasaurs, the largest macropredators in the ocean were probably eugeneodontids, large fishes with bizarre tooth arrangements and cartilaginous skeletons. They’re often referred to as sharks, although their jaw mechanics and tooth morphology suggest that they were more closely related to modern chimaeras, or ratfishes.

Daspletosaurus (Wild Safari by Safari Ltd.)

4.7 (11 votes)

Every fall, Safari Ltd announces their releases for the upcoming year. Understandably, probably owing to the pandemic and the attendant slowdown in trade, their announcements for 2021 were pretty limited, only three new items in the core dinosaur range. I confess I was a bit disappointed that all three were theropods, not being a particular fan of the clade (or at least not of the apex predators in the clade).

Irritator (Dino Hazard)

4.7 (6 votes)

Brazilian paleontologist Tito Aureliano published the time-travel dinosaur adventure novel Dino Hazard: Realidade Oculta (English subtitle: Hidden Reality) in 2015, and since then he and a team including other paleontologists and artists have been spinning off paleo-themed merchandise and media, including a video game. The setting for the story is Brazil in the middle of the Cretaceous period, and it features a wide variety of animals from the Albian-Cenomanian of South America, with a sprinkling of African fauna (Africa and South America had only recently separated and the divergence between their biotas was pretty minor at the time).

Atopodentatus (Prehistoric Animal Models by PNSO)

PNSO Atopodentatus head

4.9 (7 votes)

The Middle Triassic began a mere five million years after the end-Permian extinction. On land, forests had finally staggered back from the destruction. Insects, mammal relatives, and sauropsids started to diversify into new–or sometimes rediscovered–morphologies. In the oceans, ray-finned fishes and coelacanths thrived, and some sauropsids returned to the sea.

Dunkleosteus (Mojö Fun)

Mojo Dunkleosteus attacks Lego Santa Claus

3.5 (2 votes)

350 million years before the advent of humans, reindeer, or consumerism, our distant gnathostome forebears celebrated Fishmas. Fishmas originated when Santa Claus turned the wrong dial on the time machine he uses to travel to every house in the same night, landing him in the Devonian and the gaping maw of a Dunkleosteus.

Dunkleosteus (Like Hobby by ThinkArt)

Front three-quarter view of ThinkArt Dunkleosteus

4 (2 votes)

If somebody has heard of just one Paleozoic fish, it’s probably Dunkleosteus, designated yesterday as Ohio’s official state fossil fish! Toy companies have made more than a dozen different versions over the years, and several higher-end models exist as well. Earlier this year, a Thai studio called Like Hobby/ThinkArt released one of the latter.

Caviramus (Deluxe by CollectA)

CollectA Caviramus left

5 (8 votes)

At this point I think it’s fair to say that a new large-format pterosaur is among the highlights of CollectA’s new figure announcements. They don’t quite come every year, but they do seem to be coming more frequently. This year’s choice was one of the earliest pterosaurs, the peculiar Caviramus schesaplanensis from the Rhaetian (Late Triassic) of what would become Eurasia. 

The first specimen of Caviramus was only a broken lower jaw which showed evidence of heavy teeth and an unusually low joint.

Magnetic Jurassic Sea Creatures (Geoworld)

5 (2 votes)

Most of us, if we’re familiar with Italian toy company Geoworld, are familiar with the extensive “Jurassic Hunters” line of dinosaur and Cenozoic mammal figures, or perhaps the “Jurassic Action” line of articulated figures. Many collectors have a low opinion of these figures due to their crude sculpts, uncredited accompanying artwork, or garish paint jobs.

Onchopristis (Paleontology World by Damtoys)

3 (1 votes)

Spinosaurus is one of the most popular dinosaurs in figure form. The dinotoycollector website has more than 100 entries for the genus, and collectively we’ve reviewed more than 40 here on the blog. For that reason, I’m not going to spend much time on the new Spinosaurus statue by Damtoys, instead focusing on the fish that was included with it.

Shringasaurus (Wild Safari by Safari Ltd.)

5 (6 votes)

The Jurassic and Cretaceous periods featured tetrapod lineages exploring minor evolutionary variations on a handful of themes. But during the Triassic period, tetrapods evolved into all kinds of strange forms, some of which looked like slightly wrong versions of later animals. One of these is Shringasaurus, which has some features of a sauropod, a ceratopsian, and an iguana, without being particularly closely related to any of them.

Eurhinosaurus (Prehistoric Animal Models by PNSO)

5 (3 votes)
During the Toarcian age of the Lower Jurassic, early sauropods like Tazoudasaurus and early thyreophorans like Emausaurus were walking around on land. In the ocean, hildoceratid and dactylioceratid ammonites, plesiosaurs, and marine crocodiles were swimming around. It was also the heyday of ichthyosaurs, one of which was the large, long-snouted Eurhinosaurus longirostris (loosely, “long-beaked lizard well-equipped in the nose department”).

Dimetrodon (Paleozoo)

4 (1 votes)

If there’s a Paleozoic animal that people can reliably recognize, it’s Dimetrodon, even if they’re apt to think of it as a contemporary of dinosaurs. As of this writing, the Dinosaur Toy Blog has 24 reviews tagged ‘Dimetrodon,’ and that’s not even half of what has been produced over the decades.

Caiuajara (Supreme by CollectA)

4.9 (8 votes)
CollectA’s catalogue is starting to accumulate large-scale pterosaur figures, beginning in 2015 with their Guidraco. The latest installment in their Supreme pterosaur lineup is the very large, very pretty Caiuajara. Caiuajara is a solid choice for a pterosaur to make into a figure. It isn’t known from any complete, articulated specimens, but it is known from a bone bed representing scattered pieces of at least four dozen individual animals from different growth stages and of both sexes.