Images by: Ms. Corey Green
With the exception of our feathered friends, dinosaurs are all but gone today. So what are the ways to connect to these long lost creatures? Well as a child I had three options, museums, media and models. Going to the Houston Museum of Naturals Science and standing in the shadows of the fossilized skeleton gave me a since of their size and majesty. Dinosaurs in the media consisted of news stories, articles, documentaries and books. But the models (toys) were the third part my mind needed to fully imagine these masters of the Mesozoic. For some reason holding a model of the animal in my hand gave my mind the final ingredient to fully image? Or do you mean, “fully imagine?” dinosaurs.
As an adult I have the honor of working at the museum as a Discovery Tour Guide specializing in the Hall of Paleontology. I literally get to go to the museum five out of seven days a week! I have traded in my documentaries for scientific text books and published journals. And although I stopped playing with the toys, I still collect them. Using them as models in contrast to the actual fossils upstairs. Which brings me to the point of this article. In this age of internet and easily accessible museums and colleges, how is it that certain tour companies can make inaccurate models? It may seem minor to an outside observer, but the number of fingers and toes or lack of a crest are some important ways to make a species identifiable.
For the record I am not commenting on fictional dinosaur-like creatures such as Godzilla or the Indominus rex. Or the changes made through time; such as the orientation of the necks and tails of Sauropods (long necked dinosaurs) like Diplodocus. Or how Velociraptor toys not having feathers in the early 90’s. Those toys were made with the accepted science of the time, albeit it was wrong now. I am also not considering how some dinosaurs toys are made cute for preschool
age children. My remarks are on toy companies that claim to make scientifically accurate toys/models in the 2000’s without certain diagnostic features.
Diplodocus through time:
Manufacturer and year produced from left to right: Collect A 2013, K&M 2004, TS 2001, British Museum (Natural History) 1974, Safari Ltd 2006, Safari and later Carnegie 1988.
As displayed by the image above, Diplodocus has seen a variety of modifications in the toy and model world. Yet, each model maintains its long whip-like tail, narrow horse-like face, hind legs longer than fore limbs and general slender form when compared with other Sauropods. No matter the incarnation, you know it is Diplodocus.
Another easy example is the genre Stegosaurus, which has three toes on its hind limbs. This feature (narrow pillar like feet) indicates Stegosaurus lived in a dryer or at least more solid surface and not in swamps. So when I see a Stegosaurs toys or models with the five standard toes of lizards; I cannot help to wondered if they could have taken the time to consult someone, anyone in the field of Paleontology before they began production. It is like making a modern
rhinoceros toy with rodent feet or giving a giraffe zebra stripes. Just google “Stegosaurus skeleton” and the number of toes is consistent on pretty much all the images.
The many faces of Stegosaurus
Manufacturer and year from left to right: Toy Major Trading CO. LTD. 2008, Jasman 2001,Dur Mei 1986, Jurassic Park’s Kenner 1993, The Lost World’s Kenner 1997, Safari LTD, Dino Riders 1989, Papo 2005, Dinosaur Valley 2005, Safari 2007 and K&M 2004.
Of the eleven Stegosaur models/toys above only four have the correct number of toes! Dino Rider 1989 (surprisingly), Papo 2005, Safari 2007 and K&M 2004. The two on the far left of the picture have five and the rest have four. What I find most surprising is the fact that Safari put out two different figures with different numbers of toes?
Mosasaurs show me those pearly whites!
Manufacturer and year from left to right: Safari 2010, Carnegie 2008, Papo 2012, Collect A 2009 and Mojo 2010.
Mosasaurs, the marine reptiles of the upper Cretaceous period that were made even more famous by the 2015 film Jurassic World. Although the movie made the animal too large,. They did get one thing right,. Mosasaurs like pythons possess a second row of teeth inside its jaw. Only one of five Mosasaurs models have that iconic feature. The 2008 Carnegie model seen second to the left is the only one with the correct dentition. When I show this feature to museum guest on tours they are shocked and amazed! I can see why now, eighty percent of the Mosasaurs toys easily available lack that feature. But know that the Jurassic World Mosasaur has the teeth, which can be seen when it eats the poor British woman whom did nothing wrong. Unfortunately the Jurassic World Mosasaur toy (which I do not have yet) neglected to be consistent with their own movie- no second row of teeth!
Ceratosaurus family reunion
Ceratosaurus lived in North America during the upper Jurassic. The name Ceratosaurus translates to “horn lizard” because it had a nose horn and two crest over its eyes. Certaosaurus also has four fingers on its forelimbs. The tall yellow one in the back is from Remco Galaxy fighters from the 1980’s. It has the nose horn but only one crest between its eyes. But it does have all four fingers! The tall green one to the left has the nose horn, but is missing the eye crests all together and only have three fingers. One step forward, two steps back. It also lacks its manufacture’s logo, as if they did not want to take credit for their work?
The figure with a purple hide and pink nose horn is labeled Oviraptor. Which is almost a felony if you knew anything about Ceratosaurus or Oviraptor! The toy is manufactured by Boley, whom is known for putting out mislabeled figures in the world of fast and furious dinosaur toy collecting. But it does have the nose horn and four fingers. If it had two eye crest it would be a good example (in toy form) of Ceratosaurus. Too bad it is labeled Oviraptor. In front on the right is the Jurassic World Ceratosaurus. It has a nose horn, two crest-like projections over the eye and four fingers. I know it’s not said very often, but good job Jurassic Park franchise on your scientific accuracy. The medium figure in the middle with a red hide and yellow underbelly is from 1998 (hard to read the stomach). The horn and crest are good enough, but it only has four
fingers. Missed it by that much. But I have saved the best for last. The three small figures on the lower left are from left to right Safari 1996, Safari 2012 and Terra 2015. All three figures have the correct horns, crest and finger count! In short by the smaller more detailed models.
But there is a silver lining. As you might have noticed there is an attempt to correct these mistakes over time. And the Boley figure to the left tells it all. When this very same figure was produced in the early 2000’s it was labeled Metriacanthosaurus. Metriacanthosaurus was like a Ceratosaurs without horns and a small sail running down its back and tail. Later the name was changed to Edaphosurus. This was close but still wrong, but they at least classified it outside the dinosaur clade. The animal the toy represents is a relative of Edaphosaurus. Unfortunately an Edaphosaurus has a smaller skull, different shaped sail and the spines have small projections. But one day, one glorious day I saw this figure label Dimetrodon. A victory, no matter how small. After two failed attempts Boley finally got it right. The third times was actually the charm!
Now, I know you may think of me as a grown man obsessed with dinosaur toys, and you are probably right. But my wife thinks it’s cute. She considers it better than collecting motorcycles or gambling. All I am saying is many people go to college to earn degrees and or commit countless hours to understanding the exact morphology of these long extinct animals. And for a toy company to barely attempt to fact check a model that they will sell to children. It is just
unacceptable. Image a store selling toy tigers with stripes and lion-like manes, whales with gill slits and blow holes or sea lions with long floppy rabbit ears. And that weirdness is what plagues comments-Thank you.