Malawisaurus (Wild Safari by Safari Ltd.)

4.5 (16 votes)

Review and photographs by Lanthanotus, edited by Dinotoyblog

If you looked out for toy figures of obscure species, CollectA would have been the choice for most collectors. In recent years, however, other major companies joined in and started to release sculpts of prehistoric animals that were or still are not known to many people, Safari Ltd being one of them. Most of them were theropods and ceratopsians, but luckily, this year America’s No.1 producer of plastic toy figures released two new sauropods. One of those species, Amargasaurus, has become rather popular over the years, while the other is not widely known. I dare say, even most dinosaur enthusiasts haven’t heard of that species until Safari Ltd released their 2018 line-up, I hadn’t.

Malawisaurus was a medium-sized animal (for sauropod standards anyway) of around 16 metres total length and is counted towards the clade of Titanosauria, a group that includes the more popular Argentinosaurus, Saltasaurus and Alamosaurus. Unlike all these species which are known from American formations, Malawisaurus is know – hence the name – from the Mwakasyunguti area in Malawi, southeast Africa. Fragmentary remains have been discovered by Sidney Henry Haughton in 1928 and described as a species of Gigantosaurus. As this name was already assigned to a sauropod from Britain, the remains of Malawisaurus were named Tornieria dixeyi. The genus Tornieria is known from the Upper Jurassic and in Africa specifically from the Tendaguru formation in Tanzania. The remains of Malawisaurus, however, date to the Lower Cretaceous and in 1993 Louis Leo Jacobs and his team elevated the new species. Malawisaurus is one of few sauropods from which skull material is known, in addition two types of osteoderms are known. It is discussed whether Malawisaurus is a primitive titanosaurian or a more advanced form, closer related to Saltasaurus and Neuquensaurus. With all that in mind it is hard to be sure about the exact appearance and morphology of Malawisaurus. So let’s see, what Safari has to offer.

In terms of size the figure is not really impressive. The total length of 36 cm is made half by the long elevated tail, while head and neck take up 10 cm of it. The figure stands 9.5 cm tall at the bend of the neck, the well-rounded belly gives the figure a rather impressive 5 cm width. A pale orange brown is the overall color, pale brown tiger stripes run over neck, body and base of the tail. Pale white is used for the underside and some broad stripes in the neck near towards the head, the head itself boasts a white frame. A short ridge runs along the neck behind the head and parallel lines of osteoderms begin in the base of the neck, run over the whole body except the underbelly, and fade out in the first quarter of the tail. The hind feet show three claws, the front feet none. The figure is shown in an active walking pose, the right front feet ready to be taken off ground.

When it comes to accuracy there’s little if anything to moan about. The head is short and deep and compared to Gregory S. Paul’s reconstruction (2010) it looks very accurate, at least when seen from the side, as I have the feeling the cranium could be a bit broader. Next to that there’s nothing that could be taken for granted. The absence of a claw in the front feet isn’t sure but likely, the pattern of osteoderms is as likely as others could also be. From a scientific perspective the sculpt is probably as good as it gets….

… and that’s it, a really great sculpt. I like the figure and recommend it to anyone interested in sauropods and obscure species. The comparably small size may be off putting for some, for me it’s the paint job. Sure it is an eye catcher and well done, especially in the eyes, but I do not like to see an animal, bigger and heavier as anything land dwelling than we will ever see today, dressed in the colors of a Pooh Bear character. Luckily, several details make up for that in my opinion: A heavy, well-rounded belly, appropriate for a herbivore that size; despite this, an active pose in ambling walk, a feature that underlines the weight and heaviness of the animal; the well-formed skull with closed jaws (!) and the overall “flow” from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail. Paint jobs can be changed after all.

Highly recommended. Available from here.

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Comments 9

  • Because this figure now has a review, should it go to the USL on the forum?
    The last edit was on the 18th and the Dinogorgon also has been reviewed, too.
    So they should onto the USL. I hope Roselaar notices my comment and edits the list soon.

  • It’s a neat looking figure. I’ll probably get it sometime next year, but what’s with Safari doing weird face painting on their sauropods. I think I’d repaint the face.The white paint also looks a bit sloppy.
    Overall it’s still a pretty unique looking model!

  • When my bunch of new Safari figures arrived yesterday, this one was unexpectedly the stand-out figure that really caught my eye. I love that massive, rotund gut, and as Lanthanotus says, it is a very accurate figure. It made me remember I had a copy of Jacobs’ book from the 1990s and it was most interesting to read what he had to say about the fossil remains. Well done Safari! A good choice of sauropod and beautifully executed.

  • ‘Obscure’ is exactly the word that sprang to mind when I read the title of this review; but it’s great look at a decent little model. I like the pose and sense of weight, especially.

    I don’t mind the paintjob too much. I could say it’s… grrrreat…? But on the other side I don’t know if it’s so intimidating. Coral snakes have something to back up their warning colours, and batesian mimics impersonate something else. (like coral snakes) If subdued camouflage isn’t enough to protect Malawisaurus, what’re stripes going to do? What’s it mimicking – Sinornithosaurus…?
    I’d fall somewhere in the middle. I don’t know the specifics of Malawisaurus’ environment, but it doesn’t look like terrible coloration for a dappled forest, or even some other biomes. Given that animals the size of elephants can move through forest with surprising stealth, I don’t know if the colours would be wasted on a 16m sauropod that looks about 4/5 neck and tail, either.

    Anyways, and lastly: inspired choice of a photo backdrop. Very much appreciated.

  • I for one can’t imagine a land animal, bigger, louder, and heavier than anything we can picture today actually having bland “elephantine” colours pretending it stood a rats chance in hell of ever hiding from anything. Something more intimidating would better serve defensively. Something like a coral snake would serve a better reference than a tiger.

    • True, and considering its rotund cross-section and what that implies – it was doubtlessly a typically gassy, smelly sauropod. Pretty hard to hide from your enemies when they can sniff you miles away! You might as well look good if you’re going to be conspicuous anyways.

    • This! If you are that big, there is no reason to not show it off by being colorful. Besides, the big animals today are mammals, and we all know that those have poor colorvision, so unlike Sauropsids, colors would be wasted on them.

      • But even without good colour vision, mammals can still see contrasts and patterns. Why don’t elephants have eyespots on their ears like common restorations of ceratopsian frills? Why do giraffes have spotted patterns but rhinos don’t; or why do zebras have highly dramatic stripes but few other equids do? Why does ‘big’ + ‘colour vision’ automatically = ‘TimBurtonosaurus’?

  • I recommend it for three reasons:

    1) Its size is acceptable despite being a medium-sized sauropod in reality.
    2) It is a dark figure.
    3) And it is very detailed and its painting is more than acceptable, it looks better physically than in any promotional or video photograph.

    I just received it from urzeitshop and I can affirm that it is a great figure only surpassed by the Amargasaurus Safari of the same company with regards to the sauropods of this year.

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