Wednesday, April 12, 2017

You're Doing It Wrong: Pteranodon Bills

Your bill's looking a little puny, there, buddy.
(Painting by Heinrich Harder, 1912, public domain).
Everybody knows Pteranodon. Quick, stop to imagine it! It's easy, because it's the most often-illustrated and well known pterosaur to the general public (though today's marketing departments often call it a pterodactyl, following it's original, century-out-of-date classification).

But hold on. That image you have in your head right now, of a big pterosaur with a long crest and a mid-length pointy beak? That's likely wrong, and may be just as much a hybrid as those Flintstones-style creatures with pteranodont crests and Rhamphorhynchus tails.

How do we know? Let's talk about Dawndraco.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Review: Dino-Riders Pterodactyl by Tyco

Quick Facts
1987 Dino-Riders Pterodactyl action figure
Size: 20cm (wingspan)
Scale: 1:3 or 1:4
Sculpted by: unknown
Produced by: Tyco

Pterodactylus antiquus has a special place in history as one of the first ever prehistoric reptiles to be subjected to scientific study. It's one of the best known pterosaurs, with many complete specimens known to science, and it ended up lending its name to the entire group of pterosaurs to which it belongs (Pterodactyloidea). In fact, "pterodactyl" has become a common nickname for all pterosaurs, thanks in part to the fact that nearly all pterosaurs were considered species of Pterodactylus during the 19th century.

Despite the importance of pterodactyls, very few toy versions of them have been produced (in fact I don't know of any other than this one and one made by Starlux - if you know of more, let me know in the comments!). Sure, there are lots and lots (and LOTS) of toys out there claiming to be "pterodactyls", but the vast majority of these are actually other species of pterosaur, most often Pteranodon. A lot of older "pterodactyl" toys from the 1950s - 1980s are weird hybrids of the Pterosaurs' Greatest Hits, like pteranodonts with teeth, or with Rhamphorhynchus tails. But almost none of them are the classic, the original, the one and only pterodactyl. That's probably not a coincidence or a mistake - like the "velociraptors" in Jurassic Park that were really Deinonychus, pterodactyls have a cool name attached to a somewhat wimpy animal. Most pterodactyl fossils are tiny, with wingspans of only a few feet. Larger specimens do exist, but these skin-winged critters don't seem to have grown any bigger than a large seagull. Personally, I think that's part of their charm - I can't help but picture flocks of them squabbling over dead squids any time I watch gulls at the beach. But in terms of raw awesomeness, they certainly can't compete with 20 foot beasts like Pteranodon.

One of the very few pterodactyl toys that's actually a REAL pterodactyl is this one from Tyco. Produced in 1987 and released in 1988 at part of the Dino-Riders line, this pterodactyl came with a 2" action figure and a little hang glider accessory, but I won't be worrying about those here. Despite it's age, this is still one of my favorite pterosaur toys and holds up reasonably well even today. Let's get into some details...