Dunkleosteus (Vinyl Model Series by Favorite)

3.9 (8 votes)

Next to the giant shark Megalodon, the armored Devonian placoderm Dunkleosteus is probably the most famous prehistoric fish, featuring frequently in publications and other media. Naturally, many toy and model companies have given the great fish a go at least once. Favorite Collection, which released one Dunkleosteus in 2014 under their Soft Model line, produced another figure of the genus under the Vinyl Model series. Unlike the soft model line, which is suited for kids and collectors alike, the large vinyl line usually appears to target children exclusively; the models are much larger, softer, and lighter on details, permitting for rougher handling with less concern of display. This doesn’t mean they should simply be disregarded, however; in fact, for this review’s subject in particular, Favorite may have produced a collectible-worthy figure anyway.

The large vinyl Dunkleosteus measures 33cm (13in) from the head to the posterior notch of the caudal fin, or 35.5cm (14in) measured to the fin’s posterior tip of the dorsal lobe – placing the big fish around 1/25 or 1/24 scale. Rather than the cardboard and plastic slipcase the soft models come inside, the vinyl figure comes with a simple tag tied to the tail. The figure itself is posed simply, tail gently curved and mouth agape for “cool” factor. Being a different sort of toy from the Soft model figures, which are solid and sturdy, this figure is squishy and completely hollow, with a small hole for air in the belly like what might be found on a rubber bath toy. This armored fish should be able to resist quite a beating thanks to how (ironically) soft and pliable it is.

Dunkleosteus is known almost exclusively from its massive skull, which Favorite has depicted here with general accuracy in shape and proportion of the various armored plates. These plates have a slightly bumpier, rougher texture than the main body, which is mostly smooth; the inner mouth and dentition are sculpted smoother still. The plates are also raised slightly above the skin – a debatable choice depending on how one judges the balance between defense and streamlining, but one that illustrates well the big, bony features of the skull (thankfully, the sclerota of the eyes are not exposed). Curiously, the individual plates appear more squared off than usually seen in fossils and reconstructions. This might be an artistic choice, and it arguably gives the model a more striking silhouette, but it does mess with the perceived anatomy. The thoracic shield behind the head is especially confusing to look at due to the choice of how the plates appear separated. The nuchal gap and jaw joint are represented faithfully enough, allowing this dunk to open its mouth wide. 

Behind the skull, there is room for interpretation in reconstructions. Favorite’s large vinyl has a somewhat long body, with small, triangular fins. A shorter body length and longer fins might have been more useful for a large ocean predator, but at this time we don’t know enough to say for sure – although some evidence does exist to support the triangular fin shape, as opposed to more oblong forms. Interestingly, the figure does depict a noticeable lateral line along the body, as well as a pronounced caudal keel on the tail, which are traits more in line with modern open ocean sharks. Some musculature of the body is also given subtle definition, instead of simply sculpting the figure’s body plainly round.

Perhaps the most noticeable trait of this figure is the restoration of a shark-like tail fin. Traditionally, Dunkleosteus has been reconstructed with a long, eel-like tail, based on remains of smaller relatives such as Coccosteus. The problem with this interpretation – as addressed in Halichoeres’s review of Favorite’s smaller Soft Model release – is that such a tail shape would be impractical for a creature of Dunkleosteus‘s size. Large marine predators, such as big sharks, ichthyosaurs, and mosasaurs (to name a few) tend to have caudal fins with well-defined lobes to maximize swimming efficiency. Since Dunkleosteus likely filled a similar niche as apex predator, it stands to reason that the animal would have had a similarly defined caudal fin, instead of the eel-like tail seen in smaller, related placoderm species. Some rare preserved specimens of Dunkleosteus fins (and related studies) seem to support this idea, and Favorite seems to have been paying attention to the information. The result might look odd in its “normalcy” compared to other depictions of the genus, but in this case Favorite is likely ahead of the curve. 

Coloration of the vinyl figure is fairly conservative: dark chocolate brown marks the armor and fin tips (with a nice little extra striping on the tail), with silver and metallic reddish/rosy brown lateral stripes running the length of the body. There are a few scattered scars and scuffs on my figure, but I don’t know if that was a deliberate choice, or a byproduct of shipping and handling (although it kind of works here). A faint highlight of green on the eyes and in two rows of spots behind the eyes is also present, although it takes the right lighting to be noticeable. Promotional photos seem to display these spots more clearly, so perhaps my model just has a defect. The mouth is also given a light, fleshy pink hue which pops nicely. It’s not an especially eye-catching color scheme, but it’s not bad-looking and it seems reasonable enough for a creature that was basically a super-shark back when sharks themselves were just getting started.

Favorite Collection has delivered what is perhaps a surprisingly good representation of the Devonian Period’s most famous fish for what is essentially a kid’s large, squishy bath toy. If you need a big bruiser for your collection’s slam of dunks*, the Large Vinyl figure should have you covered. If it’s not in stock at HobbyLink Japan, you can try looking for it on Amazon Japan instead (just mind the shipping rates).

*Yes, that’s what a group of Dunkleosteus is called now!

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Comments 2

  • Favorite’s cute figure is undeniably superior to its PVC counterpart. I really like its chocolate colors compared to the Soft Model version of the independent Favorite that despite the fact that it is a figure painted with one of my favorite colors, the blue does not quite convince me.

    The vinyl dunkleosteus is one of the best vinyl figures on the market by far.

  • Nice review. The model looks nice, but I always find the body and the head very disjointed due to the stark contrast between them.
    Otherwise I love the very contemporary look of the figure.

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