While I reviewed a book for my last tie-in to Shark Week, today I thought I’d do something a little different and review a set of toys instead! While one can find a few Megalodon models out there if you look hard enough, fossil sharks don’t otherwise tend to get a lot of attention by toy manufacturers. I feel then that I owe major praise to Safari Ltd. for taking a chance and releasing this fantastic set of ten (count ’em, 10!) prehistoric sharks for the popular “Toob” range of mini toys. (Note: the Dino Toy Blog has also reviewed this set if you care to check out their article as well.)
The sharks are made of sturdy plastic with high quality paint, both important features in our household since both my little ones have sucked and chewed on them in turn. I’m pleased to say these sturdy toys look no worse for wear despite this rough treatment, and I’m confident my boys have not ingested any paint or plastic from them!
Each shark looks reasonably realistic, and gets an interesting yet sensible color scheme. Safari surprisingly resisted the urge to include a Megalodon in the set, opting instead to spread awareness of lesser known but no less interesting species. That’s always a plus in my book!
All in all, I really enjoy this set, and my kids do as well. It’s a welcome addition to our collection of dinosaur toys, and gives us something for our mosasaurs to interact with! I recommend this set to anyone big or small with an interest in either sharks or prehistoric life. You may want not want to dawdle on buying it, though. I’ve heard rumors that Safari Ltd. plans to discontinue it soon! Luckily, you can still find it on Amazon. Surprisingly, I’ve found it most widely available at large craft store chains like Michaels or Joann, usually for cheaper than on Amazon! (If you just can’t get enough fossil sharks in you’re life, you can also get a bulk bag straight from Safari’s website.) Wherever you buy it from, you can rest assured it has the official Dino Dad Stomp of Approval! (For more prehistoric shark content, check out Discovering Sharks, Sharks and Other Sea Monsters Pop-Up Book, and Sharks: A 400 Million Year Journey.)
Well, that’s the TL:DR review. If that’s all you need to know, you’re free to go, but if you’ll indulge my nerdy side, I’d love to talk more specifically about the figures! I’ve grouped them together with more-or-less contemporaries for this review.
Cladoselache & Stethacanthus
These two early sharks hail from the Devonian period, a time in which sharks were not yet quite top dog(fish), and had to contend with the much larger armoured fish Dunkleosteus. The Cladoselache looks reasonably accurate, but has the plainest colors of the whole bunch. The Stethacanthus looks excellent, though the anvil shaped dorsal fin should have a rougher surface on top to represent the tiny spines it had in life. Incidentally, you can also get a larger model of Dunkleosteus from Safari Ltd. as well, and it pairs nicely with these two sharks.
Certainly the strangest and possibly the most famous prehistoric “sharks” (after Megalodon), these strange fish steal the show whenever they pop up. While none of these technically belong to the shark family, they are closely related to modern ratfish, another type of cartilaginous fish that sits just outside the shark & ray family on the tree of life. Safari has chosen to represent this by following Ray Troll’s lead and portraying them with a reduced number of fins. Edestus is the least accurate toy in the Toob, for the simple reason that the jaws are actually too normal! Like the other two pictured here, Edestus should only have a single row of teeth down the center of the jaw, though unlike the others, it had one set on both the upper and lower jaws. Helicoprion may or may not have had the long snout depicted here; till we have better specimens, we won’t know for sure, but the tooth whorl is perfectly arranged as we now know it would have been in life (no mean feat considered the truly dizzying number of interpretations scientists have drawn from it over the years)!
The Permian saw the heyday of one of the stranger families of sharks: the xenacanthids. While many modern sharks can visit rivers and even lakes, these almost eel-like sharks seem to be the only ones to have become exclusively freshwater-adapted. While the rearmost fins should not be paired, these are otherwise very accurate. Recent evidence shows that the famous Dimetrodon may have preyed on these on occasion (behavior you can see portrayed in Sharks: A 400 Million Year Journey), and these models are just the right size to become the supper for Safari’s own Dimetrodon model!
Almost everyone with a significant collection of prehistoric toys has a plesiosaur or mosasaur, and these sharks are the perfect way to flesh out some primeval water play! I particularly appreciate the inclusion of Hybodus. This cosmopolitan shark was a staple of the ancient seas, and existed throughout nearly the entire Mesozoic! Scapanoryhncus was the likely ancestor of the modern goblin shark, and so looks pretty similar to one here, right down to the pinkish color. Cretoxyrhina was a large predator around the size of great white. The other two pair nicely with standard sized sea reptiles, but the Cretoxyrhina fits better with other Toob models. Speaking of:
Honorable Mention: Frilled Shark
Safari Ltd. produced another prehistoric shark for their Prehistoric Sea Creatures Toob: the Frilled Shark. This one is a bit of a cheat, as it’s just a straight-up modern frilled shark. It belongs to a very ancient lineage, however, and likely looks very similar to its prehistoric ancestors. As a bonus, the other creatures in this Toob will further round out your collection of prehistoric sea life, so I also definitely recommend this set as well. Unfortunately, this Toob also seems to be on the chopping block, so make sure to buy one from your local craft store before it’s too late! It’s already prohibitively expensive on Amazon, though I’m still seeing them on the shelves at the Michaels near me.