When anatomist Richard Harlan was presented with the fossil remains of a huge marine creature in 1834, he thought it must have been a reptile like Plesiosaurus or Mosasaurus, and therefore bestowed upon it the name Basilosaurus, “king lizard.” But when Sir Richard Owen later examined the teeth, he noted their double-rooted nature, which is a signature of mammals. Owen proposed the more appropriate and way cooler-sounding name of Zeuglodon, “yoke tooth,” to which Harlan agreed, but the rules of nomenclature dictated that the original name had to stay. Pity.
Basilosaurus is noteworthy in a number of ways. It was the first prehistoric whale ever to be described, it appears to have been one of the first truly huge whales to have evolved, and, at around 15 to 20 metres in length, it was perhaps the largest animal to exist during the Paleogene period. As you can plainly see from this fantastic museum display, it would have every bit as scary and deadly as a giant mosasaur like Tylosaurus. And yet, like so many other wondrous prehistoric beasts, Basilosaurus has few toys to its name. So when Recur released one last year, I decided it would be fun to add it to my older son’s collection.
As you’d expect of a Recur toy, this is quite a large beast at 38 cm long and 9.5 cm wide at the tips of its flippers. It is sculpted rather dramatically with its body twisting and undulating like a giant corkscrew, as though it is in the midst of attacking its prey or driving away a rival from its territory. Only problem is, unless you’ve got a good plastic stand handy, the toy ends up either balancing horizontally on its right side or leaning heavily on its left front flipper, resulting in warping.
Sculpting is okay. Lots of crisscrossing wrinkles all over the body with slightly frayed edges to the flippers and flukes. Pretty standard detail for a cetacean toy. The mouth features large teeth and a long tongue, but no other detail. And like all Recur products, this Basilosaurus has a very visible seam on its underside.
But there’s also a lot to like about this ancient cetacean. First off, it’s super durable. It’s fairly well fleshed out as opposed to old depictions of Basilosaurus that make it look more like a sea serpent. And it scores rather well on the scientific accuracy scale. The tiny hind limbs, which helped establish a clear evolutionary link between fully aquatic archaeocetes and their terrestrial ancestors, are clearly visible, the head is the correct shape, and while the teeth have been blunted, they still make this toy come off as a ferocious sea monster. Indeed, studies on Basilosaurus‘ skull combined with tooth marks left on the fossil skulls of its smaller relative Dorudon have led the conclusion that the former possessed the most powerful bite of any known mammal. It’s just unfortunate that this toy lacks lips just like those on modern dolphins.
Overall then, I’d say that this Basilosaurus is one of Recur’s best prehistoric toys yet. But as I noted in my review of the Tylosaurus, there don’t appear to be that many options available for purchasing Recur products. Your best bet is probably Amazon.