Nothosaurus is a genus of Triassic marine reptile that belongs to the Sauropterygia clade, along with other weirdos like placodonts and plesiosaurs. Aside from the plesiosaurs all members of the clade would go extinct by the end of the Triassic. Looking at Nothosaurus it is easy to see the relationship between it and plesiosaurs but nothosaurs were a distinct group with their own unique features and did not give rise to plesiosaurs. I’ve long been a fan of Nothosaurus, since the early ‘90s when it was featured in an episode of Cadillacs and Dinosaurs where they went by the name “Whiptail”. Recently it also had a starring role in Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous.
Not many figures of Nothosaurus exist. There are a handful of unimpressive vintage figures by Starlux, Wagner, Imperial, and Play Visions. The Safari Ltd. TOOB figure is still the best Nothosaurus figure ever produced and rather nice aside from being small. Recently Schleich released a Nothosaurus but the less said about that one the better. I came very close to purchasing it, in desperation for more Nothosaurus figures, but decided to save my money and shelf space. New for 2023, Mattel released a Nothosaurus based on the Camp Cretaceous design as part of their Dino-Trackers line.
The Mattel Nothosaurus measures about 8” long and stands about 3” tall to the top of the head. There are roughly a dozen Nothosaurus species however, ranging in size from 13-23’. The Mattel Nothosaurus comes out at about 1/20 in scale when scaled down from a 13’ specimen which puts it close enough to the 1/18 scale of the human figures. The toy has some articulation but nothing fancy. The mouth can open and close and the neck can swivel up and down. The legs and tail can rotate around.
The Mattel Nothosaurus, although stylized and based on a cartoon, is shockingly decent in the accuracy department. The head is appropriately long, broad, and flattened with the eyes placed on top of the head and far forward. Bulges behind the eye match closely with the large, elongated openings on the back of the Nothosaurus skull, which would have accommodated jaw-closing muscles. Although the teeth are oversized, they interlock nicely together like they would in life. Just past the tip of the snout the face should be somewhat pinched in but isn’t and that’s fine.
The body is long, low, and broad and the tail a bit shorter than it should be. The figure is clearly being depicted as a semi-aquatic animal and in Camp Cretaceous it moves nimbly on land, but this was probably not the case in life. Nothosaurus had small hips and limbs better adapted for swimming than walking. The feet should be webbed and paddle-like but here they’re just generic terrestrially adapted claws.
The figure is detailed in a coat of extremely fine scales with a cluster of larger scales or osteoderms on the lower jaw. Skin folds and wrinkles are sculpted conservatively across the figure and are most prominent at the base of the skull, underside of the neck, and around the limb joints. Thin deep gouges across the hide give the illusion that this animal has been in a few scrapes. Overall, the fine minimalistic details do well in depicting this creature as an aquatic, sinuous, serpent-like animal.
The top of the head is painted black and nicely transitions to dark gray over the rest of the body. Small black specks are randomly distributed across the gray portions and the underside of the figure is a tannish-peach color. The teeth are creamy white, eyes orange with black pupils, and the tongue is shiny pink. As always, watch for sloppy paint application as one of the eyes on my specimen is misprinted. Overall, the colors work well together. I like the sharp contrast between the colors and the countershading is appropriate for an aquatic animal.
The Mattel Nothosaurus is one of my favorite offerings from Mattel this year and one of their best non-dinosaurs. It should hold me over well enough until a company like PNSO, CollectA, or Safari delivers a proper figurine style Nothosaurus. Unfortunately, the Mattel Nothosaurus has proven to be an elusive figure, despite being released in both wave 1 and 2 of the Dino-Trackers line. It appears to be locally common in some places and completely absent in others. Acquiring one might require some intense store hopping or networking with other collectors.