My sincere thanks to Happy Hen Toys for furnishing this review sample.
More Mosasaurus toys have been produced in the 8 years since Jurassic World than in the entire previous history of the toy industry. The majority of those toys have been influenced by the JW design, with spikes all over the back, cavities all over the head, and an old-fashioned tail. But there have also been quite a few that avoid the monstrous liberties of Universal Studios, instead making some effort at reconstructing the animal as it was. This new release from Papo is one of the latter, although it makes plenty of mistakes of its own, as we’ll see.
Accounting for the somewhat contorted posture, this figure measures 32 or 33 centimeters (more like 25 cm in a straight line). Given the variability in Mosasaurus specimens, this could work at around 1:40 for a huge individual, or 1:35 for a more typical one. It has its head and tail turned to the left, with a slight rightward bend of the tail tip, suggesting a rapid turn, perhaps in search of prey or as part of a mating ritual. The limbs are all held out at a shallow angle, suggesting that they’re stabilizing while the head and tail do all the work.
The head and back are a dark gray with some dark brown highlights and a yellowish wash, while the underside is a lighter gray. The yellowish color lines the jaws as well, with alternating bands of dark gray crossing the lips (“lips” here used in the broad sense). The scales are larger than we’d expect at this size, and up close they combine with the abundant wrinkles to make this look like an animal that would struggle to move through water. But the same features give the impression of a plausible texture if viewed from a meter away or so. The head is a little exaggerated, but is roughly the correct shape, with the nostrils and eyes both in plausible positions.
The jaw is articulated, allowing a detailed look at the mouth. The figure has 13 (R) or 14 (L) teeth in each dentary, a combined total of 15 (L) or 16 (R) in the premaxillae/maxillae, and 9 in each pterygoid (the roof of the mouth). While asymmetric tooth counts wouldn’t surprise me in a predator that routinely lost teeth to struggling prey, I’d expect some obvious gaps in the tooth rows, and there aren’t any here. Most of the teeth are neatly painted, but there are a few that are smeary and indistinct.
The torso is well shaped, reflecting the varied heights of Mosasaurus vertebrae, and a reasonable amount of musculature overlying the scapula and attaching it to the limb, ribcage, and vertebrae. There is a roughly shark-like dorsal fin on the back. We have no evidence for dorsal fins in mosasaurs. It’s not impossible that they had them, although given that we have fossils of facial skin, caudal fin lobes, and other soft tissues, but not hints of a dorsal fin, I think they are unlikely. That said, the more an animal restricts its locomotion to its tail, the more useful a dorsal fin becomes, and Mosasaurus probably used its tail more than its ancestors did, relying less on undulations of its entire body. There are also knobbly scutes in rows along both the back and flank. These make no biological sense and were probably added to make the model more interesting to look at and handle. Without superfluous detail, would it even be a Papo figure?
The fins look decent, although a unified trailing edge rather than this duck-like scalloping is more likely. This is probably also artistic license to add visual interest.
The tail looks good in profile, but as with the 2019 Papo Spinosaurus, its underlying anatomy doesn’t make much sense. The amount of twisting in the vertebral column is improbable in an animal relying on tail-based locomotion. The vertebrae correctly continue into the lower lobe of the tail, the opposite of what we see in sharks. We have upper caudal lobes preserved from relatives like Prognathodon, and they are roughly this shape. However, they would have been made of moderately pliable connective tissues overlain by the same tiny scales that covered the rest of the body; in other words, they would resemble the dorsal fin on this same figure. Instead, this caudal fin lobe shows rays like those of actinopterygian fishes and coelacanths. Fish fin rays are made of tiny dermal bones called lepidotrichia, arranged in flexible stacks and connected by thin membranes and muscles. Nothing remotely like this has ever been observed in a tetrapod; in fact, all known tetrapods lack the genes that control the development of lepidotrichia.
This Mosasaurus upends our expectations of Papo: normally, their dinosaurs have significant inaccuracies but look very pretty, while their marine reptiles are both inaccurate and rather ugly. This year, their dinosaurs are pretty bad, but their Mosasaurus and Kronosaurus look relatively good. This figure bears all the hallmarks of the sculptor Seo Jeong-Woon, whose talent accounts for the improvement.
There are many options for Mosasaurus, and if you want all of them, then you’ll want this one. If you’re pickier, and in particular if you’re more interested in accuracy, you will probably prefer either of CollectA’s versions, Favorite Co’s version, or even PNSO’s version. My preference is for the 2023 CollectA edition, which has less detailed paint work, but looks more like Mosasaurus. If I hadn’t been sent a review sample, the Papo one would never have been in my hands. If your primary interest is a high level of detail and complex paint work, and you aren’t bothered by fanciful embellishments, well, you might be a Papo fan, and in that case you’ll probably enjoy this figure.