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 Amazon.com here.