Before there was Jaws, before there was The Meg, there was Xiphactinus.
Although sharks have been a constant nightmare in many pop culture’s films and stories, these fishes were not the only ones that have the reputation of being ferocious, and definitely not the largest. There were other, less known nightmarish fishes that hunted the prehistoric oceans, one of them is Xiphactinus, the subject of today’s review.
In the late Cretaceous, a vast inland sea once bisected what we know today as North and South America. This is the famous shallow sea known as the Western Interior Seaway that separated the landmasses Laramidia to the west, and Appalachia to the east.This shallow sea is rich in marine life that thrived in the warm, sunlit waters.
Today, this sea is long gone, in its place we see rolling hills, vast plains that stretches for miles, and huge mountain ranges that hid its watery past.But in what is now the state of Kansas, evidence of its watery past can be found in abundance. Here in this landlock state, fossils of long extinct marine creatures emerge from their chalky tombs in amazing and exquisite preservation.
One of the most famous non-marine reptiles to come from these sites is the giant predatory bony fish known as Xiphactinus. Reaching an estimated length of 15′-20’feet, it is one of the top predators that ruled this shallow ocean. There is even that famous fossil of Xiphactinus with a large fish inside its stomach which was probably caused its death.
This Faunacast Xiphactinus is one of the very few figures of this species ever produced, at least in larger form. As you probably are already aware of, this figure is part of the Fauna casts collection, a series of models in 1:40 scale produced by Malcolm (aka Dinonikes) in collaboration with members of the DTF community. This line was the first such venture in the forum more than a decade ago and was a fun project. The whole line is a one-man operation, from sculpting, casting, and painting. The Xiphactinus figure was started in 2009 and released in 2010 and was one of the first fish figures from the line.
The figure measures 5″ inches long and like all the figures from the line is made of resin material, so a little care is required handling it to avoid breaking any of the more delicate parts like the fins and teeth.The sculpting is top of the line with lots of research and feedback taken into account before the figure is even sculpted. In the now archive thread, there are even post of the various stages of production.
When this figure was released, I made sure that I placed my order for a copy. This is one of my favorite prehistoric fish and have wished for one for a long time ever since I saw its brief cameo in the WWD movie.And what a beautiful figure this one turned out to be.
Xiphactinus is one of the more famous prehistoric fish largely due to the amount of exquisitely preserved fossils discovered. This abundance of fossil material gives us a good idea of how it may have looked like in life.In most restoration it looks very similar in shape to the extant fish Tarpon that still habits shallow coastal areas today.
The most distinctive feature of this fish is its enormous head and formidable teeth. The large head and its shape often earned this fish the nickname “bulldog”.The sculpting of the head is very nice and has lots of details. The gills are well defined in the form of deep lines drawn to the shape of the gill plates.The small size made it hard to add scales so the head is pretty much smooth. The eyes are set high on the head and painted black.
The mouth is semi-open so you can really see the small, individually sculpted needle-sharp teeth. Unfortunately, due to the thickness and small size of these teeth, some were broken off during the casting process. Still, it’s an amazing accomplishment to be able to pull off such small and delicate detail.The lips are thick and has that distinctive protruding look that earned it bulldog fish.
The body has the correct shape and has plenty of nice scale details. I’m not sure if the scales were done using some sort of stamp or individually drawn, but the effect is pleasing and is visible even from a distance and contrast nicely with the smooth gill plates of the head. It really does look like a Tarpon’s .All the fins are beautifully sculpted and correct. They also have fin frays detailing and all are spread out that gives a sense of excitement.
The pose is active with the body in a tight curl as if the fish is making a quick turn.The fluidity of the pose really gives it a nice sense of action and excitement. The figure comes with a simple wooden base and a rod that you put the figure on, which means there is a hole on the figure’s belly for this. It’s a nice way to display the figure, but if you don’t want it on the rod, it can stand upright on its fins.
I remember when the discussion of what colors to give the figure. I believe there was even a suggestion of a lion fish color scheme which I personally think would have been awesome. But in the end, the simple silver barracuda/Tarpon-inspired color was chosen. The fins are slightly darker than the body to give it a nice contrast. There are also black spots along the side of the body.It may not be flash colors, but it’s pleasing enough and appropriate for a large predatory fish.
During its time, other predators swam alongside Xiphactinus and competed with it. In this fish-eats-fish aquarium, some shark species at that time such as Crtoxyrhina and Squalicoraxpreyed on them. As if that wasn’t enough, giant Marine reptiles also hunted this shallow sea and were a huge threat.
There is also a beautiful and large Tylosaurus figure in the line that makes a great companion for this, and if you are creative, you can make your own custom diorama ( which I have been planning to make for many years now!) featuring these two apex predators from this long vanished inland sea.The 1:40 scale also makes it a nice companion to other marine reptiles from other toy brands such as CollectA and Safari figures.
It is sad that it’s been a decade since this figure was released, and yet we still don’t have one from any of the leading toy brands. CollectA did make a small version for their box set, but seriously, we need a large-scale version.Recently, there has been an online poll by ED to gauge interest on seeing this species made into a larger model by CollectA . Hopefully, enough interest will be shown that would convince CollectA to make one.
When it comes to large prehistoric fish, Xiphactinus is still rather obscure when compared to Megalodon and Dunkleousteous, two species that has seen a rise in popularity in toy figures in the last 3 years, but it must surely be catching on. Hopefully, it and the equally worthy and truly gigantic Leedsycthys (another species to make an appearance in CollectA’s mini box set) will one day make their debut in one of the major toy brands in the future.
I count myself lucky to be able to own one this figure. The line has long been discontinued making it and others from the Faunacast line hard to acquire.Not only is it a great figure, but it truly has great significance and sentimental value for me as it is a souvenir of that time when the forum community was a big part of this project, it was really a great community adventure.
That concludes our review, I hope you guys enjoyed a look at this wonderful figure. Until the next review, stay safe and healthy! Cheers!
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