For those interested in paleontology and evolution beyond dinosaurs the name Tiktaalik should be a familiar one. Discovered on Ellesmere Island, Canada, and formally described in 2006, Tiktaalik is significant in broadening our understanding of how sarcopterygian fishes gave rise to land dwelling vertebrates. With shoulders disconnected from the head this animal had a functional neck unlike other fishes, as well as robust ribs akin to those in tetrapods, and of course shoulder, elbow, and wrist bones in addition to fishy fin rays. Tiktaalik takes its place as an intermediate between other significant “fishapods” like Eusthenopteron and Acanthostega and upon its discovery became a media darling. A bestselling book written by co-discoverer Neil Shuban titled Your Inner Fish was released as well as a fantastic documentary series of the same name.
Despite the fanfare surrounding Tiktaalik, and its significance in understanding where we came from, we still haven’t been given a proper figure of this, or really any, of the so-called fishapods. Paleozoo released a great model of the animal, and Japanese companies like Kaiyodo have produced some fishapods as well but by and large this is a neglected group, especially by western companies. It’s true, most children might not want to play with a Tiktaalik but the educational value of such figures is significant enough I think that companies like Safari or CollectA should take notice.
Tiktaalik lived during the Devonian period, 375 million years ago, and as such it’s also a Paleozoic animal and perfect for the Paleontological Research Institute’s (PRI) Paleozoic Pals line of plush animals. Released in 2017 alongside a Dimetrodon this toy is one of eight Paleozoic Pals released so far, and none of them are dinosaurs which of course were not around during the Paleozoic. Sometimes it seems plush companies are more likely to release obscure genera than toy companies and in this case we’re looking at the only mass produced Tiktaalik available.
The Paleozoic Pals Tiktaalik measures 16” in length and is made with a mottled green fabric with tan underside. Aside from the eyes it’s entirely made of soft material. Although greatly simplified it manages to display most of the hallmarks that make Tiktaalik distinct. It has a flattened, crocodile-like head with the eyes placed on top. The limbs are stuffed so that the toy can somewhat support its weight on them while also having rayed fins at the ends similar to the bony limbs of the actual animal. The tail is similar to something like an extant polypterid fish that no doubt have a similar lifestyle. Gill covers are sewn along the sides of the head and individual fin rays are also sewn on too. There is no indication of spiracles behind the eyes which is something else that Tiktaalik had.
The Paleozoic Pals Tiktaalik is a decent plush representation of the species, fun and educational for children and adults alike. Although what I really want is a hard plastic, nicely detailed Tiktaalik I’m happy to have this one as well, and it’s certainly better for snuggling. The Paleozoic Pals have come a long way in the last five years, delivering many obscure but important animals that haven’t been represented by other companies. Although I don’t collect plush toys I continue to support PRI and what they’re doing with this line and hope they’re around for many years to come. You can purchase your own Tiktaalik off of amazon.com but it’s considerably cheaper directly from the PRI web site.