The long-necked elasmosaurs are one of the most unusual of all prehistoric animals. Most elasmosaurid toys and figures are allocated to the genus Elasmosaurus, the most famous of the very long-necked plesiosaurs, however, in reality Elasmosaurus platyurus is quite a poorly known species, and much of the original skeleton has been lost. Therefore much of the anatomy of Elasmosaurus remains speculative. Toy companies are basically ‘playing it safe’.
On the other hand, there are plenty of better known elasmosaurid species, which due to their general unfamiliarity with the general public, have slipped by or been ignored by toy companies. For this reason, I was delighted to see Procon produce the first ever replica of Hydrotherosaurus, an elasmosaurid from the Cretaceous of California.
At 19cm long (9cm of that neck), the Hydrotherosaurus replica is quite small (compared with length of the Elasmosaurus by Schleich [31cm] Carnegie [29cm] and Bullyland [28cm]) but it retains plenty of detail. The neck and head are outstretched directly in front of the body, and slightly bent to the right, so no impossible swan or snake-like pose as seen in other plesiosaur toys. The neck is notable in that it is flat underneath so that it is ‘D’ shaped in cross section and almost snake-like; the necks of other plesiosaurs are sculpted as circular tubes. The detail of the head is limited by its small size, but it is obvious that the cranium has been based on actual fossils or accurate illustrations of Hydrotherosaurus – the snout has a distinctive squared-off tip. The needle-like teeth are highlighted in white and the eyes are evil orange, but they are in the correct position and face outwards and upwards as they should. Many heads of many plesiosaur toys are complete monstrosities, the Procon Hydrotherosaurus makes a nice change.
The body is barrel-shaped, a little too deep and too rounded on the tummy, it should be wider than tall but the figure is opposite. The limbs are quite nicely shaped, however they are not robust enough where they meet the body (this region was full of muscle in life for propelling the animal forwards) and the expanded portion near the base of the flippers should be facing backwards rather than forwards, the limbs therefore almost look like they are on backwards. The tail is short and stubby.
The figure is textured with coarse scaly skin on top and is smooth below (it is not known whether plesiosaurs had scales or not), the colour very nice, stippled green and black on top with a lighter grey tone below. The figure is printed with the company name, but not with the genus name.