It’s all too easy to pick upon cheap plastic toys and complain about how bad they are, so I will. However, despite the withering criticism and scorn I am about to pour onto this awful excuse for a ‘pterosaur’ there is a more pertinent point to be made, so either enjoy the bile and then stoke one’s chin thoughtfully over the social commentary / science / dinosaurs bit, or just skip to that now if you can’t be bothered too wade through the ‘look at the bloody carpus, it’s rubbish!’ rubbish.
I picked this thing up in Mexico as part of my trip last year and despite the proto-post languishing for the best part of a year I have been re-inspired to write about it thanks to some photos of a colleague of mine. First off, what’s wrong with this? Well, anyone who has read my ‘top 10’ pterosaur mistakes will be familiar with most of them already. But in short:
The head is too small (of if you prefer the body is too big)
The shape of the crest is wrong
The neck is too short
There’s no propatagium / pteroid
The fingers face the wrong way and are the wrong lengths
The wing finger is too short
It has bat wings (and by extension some six fingers)
The wings have scales on them
The shape of the body is wrong
The legs are too short
It has a weird reversed toe
There is no uropatagium
There is a long tail
The tail vane should not be present, and even if you want to argue for a rhamphorhynchoid tail, the vane is the wrong shape.
In other words, this is really, really bad. I’m honestly not sure I’ve ever seen worse and I have looked. It pretty much fits every ‘top 10’ of bad pterosaurs which in itself is quite and achievement. However, the important thing here that I want to note is not how bad it is, but the fact that it came in a big pack of dinosaurs most of which were actually pretty good. OK, so the colours were lurid and most were a bit too upright in stance so they balanced on their tails, but really the proportions and details were about right (raptorial claw, long arms and stiff tail for the dromaeosaur, huge skull and just two fingers for the tyrannosaur, non-dragging tail for the sauropod and so on). Why then such a disaster when we reach the pterosaur?
I have touched on this before, but I think it is ultimately an artefact of public perception. Thanks largely due to Jurassic Park, but also any number of associated projects (other dinosaur films, new books, documentaries etc.) that spawned from its popularity, dinosaurs have had a new lease of life. The public (like it or not) have been exposed to lots and lots and lots of ‘modern’ upright, feathered, active dinosaurs. As such, if only subconsciously, they have a new perception of dinosaurs.
However, the pterosaurs seem not to have enjoyed the same shift in perception. They still lumber about with bat wings and scaly bodies, perched on tree branches or gliding through the air. I’m not foolish enough to think that pterosaurs will ever get the attention that dinosaurs do (and I’m happy to admit that at some level they don’t deserve that attention – the average dinosaur is more interesting and / or important than the average pterosaur) but this in itself is odd. To many people, pterosaurs *are* synonymous with dinosaurs so you would think that they might get dragged into the 21st century of public perceptions if only by accident. Even if not, many people accept and recognise that our understanding of dinosaurs has and continues to change rapidly, yet bizarrely they seem not to realise that this *also* happens to all the other prehistoric beasties.
It is I think an odd situation. The public seem to have accepted a ‘new’ vision of dinosaurs with all that entails while steadfastly refusing to budge on anything else, including pterosaurs which many consider to be dinosaurs. It’s a rather odd state of affairs and leaves us with this terrible pterosaur in an otherwise satisfactory collection of cheap dinosaur toys. I’m forced to conclude that, sadly, it may simply be that the average member of the pubic pays so little attention, and gives so little thought, to anything not explicitly put in front of them (be it in the cinema or a textbook) that they miss the point that lots of research on all things is going on all the time. This (I guess) filters down to the point that anyone not actively interested in pterosaurs or palaeontology as a whole might not be aware of this, to the point that even someone designing model dinosaurs knows about dromaeosaur claws, but not pterosaur wings.
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