Throughout Earth’s lengthy history, there have been many horrifying sea monsters. Titanic sharks. Nightmare whales. Bloodthirsty mosasaurs. Savage plesiosaurs. But long before any of those brutes evolved, there was the dreaded Dunkleosteus. Measuring at least six metres long, weighing over a ton, and equipped with bone-slicing jaws, this ginormous placoderm ranged throughout the waters of the Late Devonian and fed on other armoured fish, early sharks, ammonites, and pretty much anything else it wanted.
CollectA included a Dunkleosteus in their lovely little Prehistoric Marine Tube in 2017, but for 2018, they’ve produced a bigger, badder version. And talk about bigger! This plastic polypheme has a height of slightly over 6 cm, a pectoral finspan of 10 cm, and a length of 28 cm long. That makes it the biggest fish figure CollectA has released to date, and more massive than any of the other prehistoric sea monsters save for the Pliosaurus and the Kronosaurus. It is clearly a specimen of D. terrelli, the largest and most famous of the ten described species. It gave my wife the creeps when I showed it to her, but our seven month old son was very keen to touch it. Sorry, big buddy, but you don’t get to play with this fishie for at least another four years!
The Dunkleosteus is sculpted with its huge body held mostly straight save for the tail, which is swaying slightly to the left. As you can see, it differs significantly from its miniature counterpart. The main colours are terra cotta red and grey-brown with a pale grey underbelly and black wash to highlight the detail in the skin. The eyes appear pitch black at first, but on closer inspection, they are actually a very dark brown with black pupils. The inside of the mouth is pale pink, the dental plates are a darker shade of pink, and there’s dark grey wash on all of these areas. It’s a muted, slightly ominous colour scheme, and it works well for a gigantic marine predator such as this one.
The skin on this toy is riddled with countless wrinkles, grooves, and bumps. Multiple rows of small osteoderms run horizontally from the back of the thoracic shield to the tip of the tail. I’m informed that Anthony Beeson, CollectA’s prehistoric consultant, was inspired by the fossilized skin of Gemuendina, another Devonian placoderm, and also by the wrinkly skin of the extant wolf fish. The edges of the dorsal and pectoral fins are slightly ragged, as though this individual has been in a few scraps over its lifetime.
The large caudal fin on the tail is similar to the one found on many species of shark and sturgeon. Although Dunkleosteus has traditionally been depicted with an eel-like tail, the current thinking is that such a design would not have been sufficient for propelling it through the water fast enough to catch its prey. A shark-like tail would have been far more ideal, as described here. As you can see, this Dunkleosteus‘ tail doesn’t quite match up to ones in the diagrams, but considering that this research was published long after the figure went into production, one cannot fault CollectA for this minor discrepancy. If anything, they should be commended for not going with another eel-like tail.
Compared to many previous Dunkleosteus toys, the head on this one is considerably more fleshed out, although the major seams in the armoured plating are still clearly visible. The dental plates have the correct shape, and look very formidable indeed. A mass of heavy wrinkles atop the head denotes the nuchal gap, which connected the skull to the thoracic shield. When Dunkleosteus opened its mouth, both the lower and upper jaws would have contracted back, then slammed together with an estimated force of 4400 N at the jaw tip and 5300 N at the rear dental plates for one of the most powerful bites in the animal kingdom. Such a system would be too complex to replicate in a toy, however. Instead, just the lower jaw on this Dunkleosteus is hinged, and it certainly makes for fun chomping play as you can see in the image below!
Alas, poor Cladoselache, always depicted as a Dunk’s dinner!
I’m very happy indeed with the CollectA Dunkleosteus. It’s gigantic, well-sculpted, and certainly fun to play with, and therefore ought to please collectors of all ages. Particularly those who enjoy prehistoric fish! It’s also great to see CollectA finally branching out into the Paleozoic era. Dunkleosteus was but one of many strange and wonderful denizens of the deep to have existed during this time in our planet’s history, so I hope we see more such toys in the future. Helicoprion, Rhizodus, and Tiktaalik all strike me as prime candidates!
A big thanks goes out to CollectA for this review sample!