Livyatan (PNSO)

4.7 (26 votes)

In a last bid for survival, the smaller whale wrenches itself free from Requena’s grip and darts away, its mangled tail gushing thick clouds of red with each stroke. Requena immediately gives chase and in no time is closing in on her waning victim. Her jaws open. Her weapons are at the ready. She can taste the warm blood. But suddenly another massive form emerges from the darkness below and engulfs the bleeding booty in its own jaws. Requena veers to avoid a collision, then swings around to see who would dare pull such a bold hornswoggle. ‘Tis Anne Bonny, scourge of the seven seas to most, but a bilge-sucking spawn of a biscuit eater in Requena’s eyes! 

Avast! Requena charges head-on at Anne Bonny, knocks the rapscallion three sheets to the wind, reclaims the now-lifeless prize, and makes haste. But she has not swum far before Anne Bonny’s gaping mouth appears out of the blue directly in front of her! Frantically, Requena releases the corpse and turns hard a starboard, but the enraged shark’s blades still manage to sink into the top of her head. They easily slice through Requena’s blubber as she pulls away before their owner can bite down with full strength. She tastes her own warm blood now. But the gashes are not mortal and they fill her not with fear or despair, but a terrible resolve.

Requena brings a spring upon her cable and charges full speed at her nemesis once again, only this time instead of ramming her, she bites down on the upper lobe of Anne Bonny’s caudal fin and decisively wrenches off the pointed tip! Shocked and injured for a second time, the bleeding shark hastily descends and disappears into the depths. Requena pursues, but eventually gives up and returns to the surface. Much to her annoyance, the disputed booty is now gone, carried off by some other unseen freebooter during the shindy.

Requena will cross swords with Anne Bonny again someday. Perhaps then one of them will finally feed the fish . . .

In 2008, the skull of an enormous macroraptorial sperm whale was discovered in the Pisco Formation of Peru. Two years later, the specimen was formally named Livyatan melvillei after the biblical sea monster and the author of Moby Dick respectively. Since then, isolated teeth uncovered elsewhere in the world may indicate that this gargantuan apex predator ranged throughout the Southern Hemisphere during both the Miocene and the Pliocene epochs, feeding on other whales and whatever else it could catch. And yes, it did indeed coexist with the massive mackeral shark known to the world as Otodus megalodon, and might well have occasionally engaged in bloody battles like the one I dreamed up. PNSO has become something of an apex predator themselves by releasing more top quality prehistoric toys in a single year than any other company, many of which have never received a toy before. Requena here is not the first Livyatan toy to appear on the market, but I believe it can be argued that she is the first proper plastic representation of the genus. She’s also only the second prehistoric mammal made by PNSO thus far, the first one being another famous cetacean.

Pardon the pun if you please, but what a whale of a toy this is! From nose to tail tip, Requena measures an immense 31 cm long, is about 8 cm deep at her mid region, and spans almost 9 cm wide at the tips of her flippers. This makes her one of the biggest Cenozoic figures ever made, certainly the biggest one in my collection at present. But due to her being made of hollow vinyl instead of solid PVC, she’s noticeably lighter than the CollectA Elasmotherium or the Eofauna Palaeoloxodon. Estimating the size of the real Livyatan is iffy due to the scarcity of skeletal material, but current estimates range from 13 to 17.5 metres in length. The upper estimate would make it the same size as an adult modern bull sperm whale—although the record for the latter is around 20 metres. Who knows, perhaps Livyatan grew even bigger too. On that note, the sheer size of this toy makes me wish that PNSO had made it a male instead. Not because I have anything against female mammal toys (I don’t think there are enough of them), but because modern male sperm whales grow to be much bigger than females. Livyatan males and females were probably the same way.

A trio of terrific titans.
With the modern sperm whale (not to scale) and Long Ben Every, both courtesy of CollectA.

Requena’s main colour is a shade of very dark grey with medium grey streaks over her black and pink eyes. Her underbelly is painted white with very faint pink patches on her jaw, around her flipper joints, and her genital slit. Finally, her mouth is rendered in varying shades of pink with light grey teeth. Yup, it’s the good old tried-and-tested formula for a big marine predator: dark on top to make it harder to see from above and light on bottom to make it harder to see from beneath. Other artistic depictions of Livyatan have it coloured entirely grey or black, but I reckon PNSO felt this scheme was more exciting.

Requena is sculpted with her mouth open, her fins swept back, and her tail arched downward. A relatively basic pose, but a highly interpretive one in which she could be doing anything from swimming casually to rapidly pursuing prey to breaching majestically. While she balances well enough on her chin and tail, PNSO has considerately included two transparent support rods so that she can be displayed with more dignity and photographed more easily. She also comes with a 42 cm x 29.5 cm foldout mini-poster featuring a highly detailed and rather scary-looking painting of Requena swimming majestically through the ocean blue. And finally, there’s a booklet containing a photo gallery and biography of Requena and descriptions of PNSO’s Scientific Art Projects Plan and the PNSO New Aesthetic Education Project.

Before we get into the details of Requena’s anatomy, let’s address that looming issue of visible seams. Yes, she’s got them in spades. She’s got one where her lower jaw attaches to her skull, where her skull connects to her body, and more on her belly and on the underside of her tail flukes. Needless to say, they’re not at all pleasing to the eye, but I personally don’t feel that they ruin the toy as a whole. Besides, it’s not like I don’t already have plenty of toys with visible seams in my collection. That said, I can certainly understand why other collectors may be turned off enough to pass on Requena. So there it is.

As with many whale figures, Requena’s skin texture is smooth for the most part. However, she does have a few large wrinkles on her head, flanks, and underbelly which help to give her a more realistic, muscular appearance. The most detailed area on her body is her savage mouth. A flat, triangular tongue is clearly visible at the back and the palate has an intricate ribbed texture. The teeth lining the upper and lower jaws are stout and conical, ideal for seizing live prey and crunching through flesh and bone. While they don’t look all that big due to being embedded deep within gum tissue, Livyatan in fact possessed the largest teeth of any known vertebrate (excluding tusks). They dwarf even those of the modern sperm whale and Tyrannosaurus rex! It also would have boasted the biggest known bite of any tetrapod.

Requena’s head is huge and box-like with a relatively short, tapering snout and a massive lower jaw. Atop the snout on the left side is a small slit representing the blowhole. Like the modern sperm whale, Livyatan appears to have possessed a spermaceti organ in its head, the purpose of which is unknown. Perhaps it was used for help in communicating, or for locating or stunning prey, or to help reinforce the head so that it could used as a battering ram to kill prey or fight off rivals like Megalodon. It is also noteworthy that Requena’s eyes are positioned higher up on her skull than in other restorations I’ve seen, including the artwork in the aforementioned poster and booklet.

The rest of Requena is speculative, as only the skull of Livyatan has been found. A very small triangular dorsal fin is on her back, although for all we know, it could have been larger or possibly non-existent on the real animal. Her flippers are proportionally larger and broader than those on a modern sperm whale; they look more like a killer whale’s instead. Her tail flukes are also shaped more like a killer whale’s. In a video posted to YouTube, Zhao Chuang of PNSO explains that these design choices were made under the reasoning that Livyatan was an active and relatively fast-moving predator. That makes perfect sense to me, although I feel like the tail flukes could have been made bigger.

The immense size, impressive sculpting, and intimidating appearance of Requena ensures that she will stand out prominently among the other figures in any collection. Her vinyl composition also makes her easier to display atop her stands and arguably less of a potential hazard on your shelf. So on the whole, I would absolutely say that she is a fantastic and unique (at least for now) toy. That said, her visible seams and high price tag (this is PNSO we’re talking about, after all) are definite drawbacks. Hopefully my review will help you in deciding whether or not to take the plunge.

And to wrap things up, here’s what I know all of you have been keen to see: Requena the Livyatan alongside Anne Bonny the O. megalodon from CollectA. The two old salts go together quite nicely indeed!

“Arrr! I’ll send ye to Davy Jones’ locker!”

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Comments 9

  • Great review, though I’m not sure about the speculated sexual dimorphism of Livyatan. AFAIK, the sexual dimorphism to the degree of Physeter appears to be a very derived trait for that genus and Livyatan is currently positioned outside of crown physeteroids. If the equally-related Kogia genus and other odontocetes are anything to go by, it’s most parsimonious to assume that there wasn’t a major difference in size between male and female Livyatan.

  • There is (or at least was) a replica of the skulle and teeth displayed in the Natural History museum of Rotterdam a few years ago. Mostly because it was a Dutch paleontologist that discovered the original fossil in Peru in the first place.

    That skull has made an impression on me, and ever since that time I have waited for a nice figure of this animal.

    Well, PNSO delivered! I think it’s a wonderful figure and am glad to have it in my collection.

    Yes, the eyes look, wrong. To high. But not as bad as PNSO’s figure of a modern sperm whale though, where they are somewhere in the middel of the head. These look a bit out of place, but atill believable.

    Great review, and I might just need to get Collecta’s supersize Great White, uh, I mean Otodus megalodon to display these two together after all.

  • This was quite the fun read. Glad to see how it sizes up alongside some of those large prehistoric mammal toys and I like how it sizes up with the CollectA Megalodon. Thanks for getting those shots. I guess I need catch up with these at some point now.

  • Quite possibly your best opening story on one of these reviews so far. Well done, love the use of nautical slang.

    As for the toy itself, I’m still holding out hope for one from CollectA. How long I can hold out remains to be seen.

  • A great review, quite entertaining, and a good figure (4 stars for me), though not great, due to the seams and controversial eye position. Still, a most welcome addition to the small line-up of extinct Cenozoic marine mammals.

  • Wonderful! I’m excited about this figure and can’t wait till I get it.
    Great comparison shots with the CollectA Meg!

  • Nice one. I have it too!

    I have to grin at your accurate 2017 prediction on Halichoeres’ review of the Diramax Livyatan:

    “…A PNSO version would also be nice, but way too pricey.”

  • How beautiful it is! It is honestly a tempting offer to buy that livyatan although I must point out that the figure in larger size I think is the paraceratherium from iToy or perhaps the basilosaurus and megalodon from Collecta made of vinyl. It is honestly a figure to take into account, and the details of the teeth is of an unparalleled beauty. Honestly a top quality Cenozoic figure from PNSO not only for the company but also for Cenozoic toy and collectible figures.

    My note 10 out of 10.

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