For this Shark Week, let’s take a look at a toy I’ve been meaning to talk about for a while: the CollectA Megalodon! This figure depicts the mighty prehistoric shark that has so captured the public’s imagination, possibly due in part to pseudo-documentaries that breathlessly claim that it still exists somewhere in the Deep Oceans (in the most infamous case, a program on Shark Week itself once promoted this claim, emblematic to many of the Discovery Channel’s long decline).
One fact that frequently escapes the public’s attention is that the name “Megalodon” comes from the second part of their name. Paleomedia generally refers to prehistoric creatures by their genus name (for example, Brachiosaurus, Velociraptor, etc.), but this ancient shark is one of the few broadly known by their species name. The exact genus to which it belongs has been a subject of debate for some time. The popular image of Megalodon as just a super-sized Great White Shark (scientifically known as Carcharodon carcharias) comes from it original assignment to the same genus as the Great White, due to the similarity of their teeth, giving it the full name Carcharodon megalodon. Eventually it became clear that the similarity in their teeth comes as a result of convergent evolution, and that the direct ancestors of Megalodon came from an entirely different lineage, defined by the type genus Otodus. This still has not entirely cleared things up however, as there is still debate over which genus within the Otodus lineage it belongs to, with some advocating for the type genus, while others advocating for Carcharocles. So I suppose it makes sense in light of this confusion to refer to it by the part of its name that is unlikely to change! (It IS after all a pretty iconic name, anyway, so much so that when Ray Troll wrote a musical version of his ABC book, Sharkabet, he changed the name to simplay “Megalodon”!)
This ambiguity means there has been a push by some paleoartists to intentionally reject the traditional “great-Great-White” image and explore other possible body shapes. However, as a mass market toy, CollectA’s model opts not to rock the boat too much, and sticks close to the more typical image of Megalodon, though I feel they managed to succeed in giving it a body shape that feels like it has much more heft than a Great White would. This is helped by the large size of the actual figure, coming in at nearly 12 inches long, much bigger than most Great White figures. I love the articulation of the mouth, which can extend from a closed position to a satisfyingly cavernous maw, with its multiple rows of teeth clearly visible inside. The Dino Toy Blog also has a great review of this figure, and goes into much more detail on the accuracy, so I recommend checking out their review as well for more on that. For my part, however, I’d like to pivot and look at some accessories that may enhance your enjoyment of this figure.
Now I’m certainly not going to criticize anyone imaginative play if one wants to terrorize any particular combination of toy sea creatures, but if you happen to be a massive nerd like me, you’re going to want to make your play as scientifically accurate as possible! As the most famous species from the Miocene Epoch, there unfortunately are not many other options for true contemporaries. However, there are a few options that I would consider “close enough”, in particular, the CollectA Blainville’s Beaked Whale and the Minke Whales offered by both CollectA and Safari Ltd. Why these figures of smaller whale species? Well, while whales certainly reached megafaunal sizes early in their evolution, they did not approach anything like their modern extremes until surprisingly recently. It has sometimes been stated in popular media that whales actually evolved to their modern large sizes in response to predation by Megalodon, thus driving it to extinction. However, the increase in whale body size and the extinction of Megalodon seem to have both occurred in response to cooling seas, and the two trends were otherwise completely unrelated to each other. Regardless, the Minke Whales I mentioned make a decent substitute for the small baleen whales that existed during this time, and the Beaked Whale is especially appropriate, as the Miocene appears to have been the time of maximum diversity for this family of cetaceans. (For a set of sharks roughly to scale with this figure, though from different time periods, check out my review of the Safari Ltd. Prehistoric Sharks Toob.)
On land, there are a few more options for creatures from this time period, particularly if, for example, you should wish to recreate the ominous (if slightly improbable) painting by Julius Csotonyi I’ve shared here (as seen in his book Discovering Sharks). The painting depicts a Megalodon stalking a Platybelodon, which technically doesn’t have any models of its own, though one of its closest relatives is currently on the market, in the form of Eofauna’s Konobelodon. Safari Ltd. had re-released their old Amebelodon figure relatively recently, though it seems that it has sadly been retired yet again. It’s possible this one can still be found for cheap if you keep an eye on eBay.
If you can’t stop your shopping spree there, there are a few more Miocene animals currently available. The primitive elephant Deinotherium spans much of the Cenezoic Era, and I enthusiastically recommend Eofauna’s representation of the genus. There are also multiple options for “Hell Pig” models, particularly Daeodon, but the one that comes with the CollectA Box of Mini Prehistoric Animals is closest to scale with Megalodon. The chalicothere Moropus that is included in this set is on the small side, and their full size model is a little too big, but if that doesn’t bother you, either one makes a good prey item to round out a Miocene diorama. I myself use the mini version as a baby, and a custom, perfectly-sized Moropus by Michael Eischen as its parent.
Really, there’s no wrong way to play with a toy, but I hope my recommendations provide some helpful information for the nerdiest of my readers! Whatever way you choose to use it, the CollectA Megalodon is an excellent representation of this iconic shark, and a durable, quality product to boot, with a bit of scuffing of the paint being the only serious injury the toy is likely to receive from heavy play. I suggest checking the websites Everything Dinosaur, MiniZoo, Happy Hen Toys, or DeJankins for the best deals, though MiniZoo is generally the most likely to have all the extra figures I mentioned in stock as well. I highly recommend the CollectA Megalodon for shark and fossil enthusiasts alike, and I happily give it my Dino Dad Stomp of Approval!