Carnegie Quetzalcoatlus by Safari

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Quick Facts
1998 Carnegie Collection Quetzalcoatlus figurine
Size: 28cm (wingspan)
Scale: 1:37 (1:40 advertised)
Sculpted by: Forest Rogers
Produced by: Safari Ltd.

Quetzalcoatlus is the perennial “terrible dactyl” when it comes to pterosaurs, which is why I’m starting with this classic representation. This Quetz was already out of date when it debuted in 1998, despite some heroic efforts to make it the first “modern” looking pterosaur in the Carnegie Collection.

The main problem with this figurine is the head, which is based on the classic John Sibbick illustration found in Wellnhofer’s pterosaur encyclopedia. Sibbick based his Quetzalcoatlus head on a partial skull (number TMM 42489-2) which probably belonged to a different pterosaur, leading to many years of Quetz being depicted with a short, blunt beak. So while this toy may or may not be a good representation of that unnamed azhdarchid, it’s certainly no Quetzalcoatlus.

Ok, with that out of the way, let’s get down to details…

The Head

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The skull is not scientifically accurate even for the non-Quetz TMM 42489-2 specimen. As you can see in the comparison above, the beak of the figure is long and narrow with a pointed tip. While the real deal also has a narrow, pointed tip like that, the tall nasoantorbital fenestra would have given the head a high, rounded profile like Tupuxuara. Because of the smaller size of this specimen compared to the Quetzalcoatlus northrop wing bones, Sibbick misinterpreted this as a squared-off shelf at the tip of a much longer, straight beak. Either way, the nostril should be very close to the tip, situated in the front bottom part of the nasal opening in the skull, not near the eye. The bottom jaw is better, being long and narrow, but the keel underneath the front of the jaws should be larger.

The little backward-pointing crest is speculative but was obviously based on pteranodontoid pterosaurs (Quetzalcoatlus was once thought to be a close relative of Pteranodon). No azhdarchoids have a crest like this. Instead, all of the crested species, including Quetzalcoatlus and Tupuxuara, have flattened crests that run along the top of their skulls. I’m not sure what’s going on with the tongue. It’s obviously supposed to be calling, but it looks weird for the tongue to be raised during vocalization. Some bizarre new studies have suggested that at least some pterosaurs had long, possibly chameleon-like tongues (I and others are veery skeptical of this particular hypothesis), so it’s not definitely wrong, but it doesn’t exactly make the head look any more realistic.

The sculpt here is decent, with some striation on the bill and wrinkles on the face, though the paint app is a bit undefined (lots of thick black lines and pink oral interior and throat pouch) and takes away from the sculpt. Azhdarchids are known for their extremely long necks, and this figure is notable for its extremely short neck. Even the John Sibbick painting it’s based on had a neck of appropriate length.

The Body

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The torso is appropriately short, but could stand to be a little deeper in the pectoral region to accommodate the sternum and wing muscles. The pycnofiber coat is thick with long individual feather-like fibers. Of course, pycnofibers are unknown in Quetz, but they were probably present, at least on the body and base of the neck as in this figure. However, they’re a little long for its size. Pycnofibers are usually very short even in small species like Aerodactylus, and only basal pterosaurs have so far been shown to have a longer fiber coat (like anurognathids and Pterorhynchus). The tail is unknown in Quetz, so this one is fine.

The Limbs

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The wings in this figurine are very, very long. Probably way longer than they need to be. The “hand” portion of the wing (metacarpals) alone is longer than the entire torso and neck, when in real life it would have been about the length of the torso. The wing finger should be the length of the arm and hand combined, which it is, but that also makes it too long compared to the body, because of the incorrect hand length. Note that all these proportions are based on the subadult “Q. sp.” specimen, but there isn’t much reason to assume things would be drastically different in a full-sized Quetz. As in almost all pterosaur toys, the arms look skinny and poke sharply out of the wing membrane, instead of being graded in by air sacs and muscle tissue. Luckily, the membrane itself looks fairly taught, not loose and leathery (an old-school look too common in pterosaur toys). The wing tips are rounded, implying the presence of a tenopatagium, which is nice and accurate. The propatagia are a little thin with no sign of the pteroid bone, which is weird considering how bony and under-muscled the rest of the arm is. The non-wing fingers of Quetz are unknown, but based on the width of the metacarpals, the ones in the figure are probably too big.

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If the arms are too long, the legs in this figurine are too short. The legs, even without the long feet, should be the length of the torso. The foot claws are way too small (pteordactyloids in general, and azhdarchids in particular, are well known for having huge, wickedly curved tow claws). This is slightly forgivable given that this is a children’s toy. Slightly.

Azhdarchid feet were overall weirdly human-like, with four short toes and a big heel pad, which this figure is missing. In its place, it has some kind of weirdly opposable fifth tow (which would have been a small internal splint of bone in the real deal. There is a small uropatagium between the legs and tail, which is probably correct, but the brachiopatagium attaches just below the knees, which is probably too high. The Crato azhdarchid specimen shows the wing membrane attaching to the ankle.

Sculpt & Color

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Quetzalcoatlus northropi painting by John Sibbick, 1991: The clear paleoart inspiration for this figure.

The Quetzalcoatlus figurine is moulded in very soft, rubbery plastic that is extremely flexible. This makes sense for a toy that is as thin in many places as this one needed to be, and also allows kids to be able to flap the wings and move the head around to some degree.

The sculpt is good, with a nicely detailed pycnofiber coat. The rest of the figure has minimal detail, which is actually a positive for this type of figure at this scale. Another company (*cough*Papo*cough*) may have been tempted to add detail for detail’s sake, but here the head and wings are covered in shallow striations reflecting subtle skin texture. The feet are covered in a bird-like row of broad tarsal scutes, but this is probably incorrect. Evidence from Aerodactylus shows that the tops of the feet were indeed covered with larger scales than the bottoms, but these were still relatively small compared to the whole foot and were rounded, not rectangular like classic bird scutes.

Like all post-1996 Carnegie Collection figurines, this one is only partially painted. The white coloration here is the color of the base plastic. It will become well-known over the course of these reviews that I’m not a fan of this style. It usually just ends up making the figure look cheap. The older figures, completed coated in several layers and washes of color, looked fantastic. The paint job of Quetz is adequate, and clearly inspired by the color palette of the Sibbick painting, but the fact that the underside is completely unpainted white, without any highlights or details, detracts from the aesthetics of this figurine. The top of the body and wings does include some paint layering, with black grading into the lighter gray of the wings, and here the effect is actually pretty nice. As far as the “half painted” Carnegies go, this isn’t among the best (those would be the phenomenal paint jobs of the later entries like Tylosaurus, Carnotaurus, and Ichthyosaurus), but it’s certainly not a bad color scheme.

Scale

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The Carnegie Collection Quetzalcoatlus figurine with a Marx caveman (approximately 1:40) for scale.

Like nearly all 1990 Carnegie Collection figurines, this one was advertised as being in 1:40 scale. The figure itself is difficult to scale because it’s so out of proportion and at least partly based on the remains of a different pterosaur. So, I’m going to look at just the humerus for the scale, since it is a well-known element of the Quetzalcoatlus skeleton and often used as the basis for size estimates in azhdarchids who other proportions are not known.

This is slightly difficult because in life, the humerus is the shortest part of the inner wing and is wrapped up in muscle and other soft tissue, making its ends hard to spot in a life reconstruction like this figurine. Luckily the figure’s wings are pretty “shrink wrapped” and there is a nice dent where the armpit would be. I measured from there to the middle of the elbow joint and got 1.5cm for the upper arm. The real Quetzalcoatlus humerus is about 55cm long. This makes the actual scale of the figurine 1:37, close enough to 1:40 for m to grant them some wiggle room. Interestingly, using a tape measure to measure along the length of the wing bones gives the model a total wingspan of 28cm, which comes out to a 1:39 scale when compared to contemporary wingspan estimates. But since the proportions are so far off, using a measurement like total wingspan instead of measuring a single reliable element is pretty much meaningless.

Verdict

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The Carnegie Collection Quetzalcoatlus figurine compared to the earlier Carnegie Collection Pteranodon and a Marx caveman.

A nice overall sculpt is marred by totally inaccurate proportions and a mediocre paint application. This figurine is nice to have as an adaptation of John Sibbick’s classic and influential Quetzalcoatlus painting, but even there it doesn’t quite get the proportions right.

  • Accuracy: 2/5 – mostly incorrect proportions and with shrink-wrapped wings, but with nicely up-to-date wing membrane anatomy and pycnofibers.
  • History: 3/5 – out of date for its time, but based on a classic piece of paleoart.
  • Sculpt: 4/5 – nice and subtle, which makes it realistic, only a few clunky looking parts around the feed and fingers that needed to be softened/rounded for play.
  • Paint Job: 3/5 – nice color scheme, but base color poorly integrated and unhighlighted on the bottom of the figure; slightly clunky detailing on head.
  • Aesthetics: 3/5 – decent looking figure overall with a nice color scheme and at least the semblance of accuracy, but with a sub par paint app and not close enough to either the real deal or its paleoart inspiration.
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