Let’s talk about when is announced the model of an animal that had never been made if PVC before(excluding the 1984 Starlux version, which anyway is hard to find and bore only a vague resemblance to the real animal). Fortunately, several manufacturers are expanding their catalog, proposing different species from the usual classics. The sauropods are – unfortunately – a group of dinosaurs that receives less attention than it should: only and exclusively models of the species that have gained the pubblic notority seems to be made: Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, Brachiosaurus and, more recently, Amargasaurus. This Dicraeosaurus is a notable exception. Let’s see how GR Toys fared. Like all models of this brand, we specify that two color variants are available (a green one, reviewed here, and a brown one) and that, for the first time, at an additional price of about ten euros you can buy a base (not reviewed here).
Dicraeosauridae are a group of sauropods at the base of Diplodocoidea; the most famous genus is for sre Amargasaurus, from the Aptian of Argentina, which has gained notoriety thanks to the apophyses of the neural spines that extended like horns along the neck, thus making it immediately recognizable. Dicraeosaurus is the namesake of the family and it was unearthed in the Tendaguru Formation (present-day Tanzania) during the famous German expeditions (1907-1913), which excavated other famous dinosaurs such as Kentrosaurus and Giraffatitan (once considered a second species of Brachiosaurus). Two species are assigned to the genus Dicraeosaurus: D. hansermanni and D. sattleri. Comparing the GR Toys model with two skeletal by Slate Weasel, it looks like that the sculptor was inspired by the first species.
Neither species of Dicraeosaurus preserves a complete skull, but we’re lucky to have partial remains: the skulls of sauropods, in fact, are fragile in comparison to the rest of the skeleton, and often do not survive the taphonomic processes that precede fossilization. Anyway, whe have enough from the skull of Dicraeosaurus to restore its appearance, and despite the small size – the skull of the model is 1,5 centimeters long – its proportions look matched. Compared to other Flagellicaudans such as Diplodocus and Apatosaurus, Dicraeosaurus had a narrower, less square snout and it was probably a more selective feeder. Studies on the wearing of teeth attributed to Dicraeosaurus indicate a preference for a more brittle food than the one preferred by the Diplodocidae, and it is possible that its diet also included seeds, cones and woody parts of plants. On the tip of the muzzle there is a beak: the presence of a similar integument has been hypothesized for the Macronarian Camarasaurus, but loks plausible for the Diplodocidae Galeamopus too, so the presence of this trait in the GR Toys Dicraeosaurus shows attention to the most recent researches.
Usually I do not begin a review by emphasizing the negative aspects of a figure, however, if we proceed in a certain order, it is inevitable – immediately after the head – to talk about the neck. Comparing the GR Toys model with the aforementioned skeletal, it is evident that the neck is too long to be referable to either of the two species. This trait is consistent with other Dicraeosaurus skeletals, so it’s probably a little oversight on the sculptor’s side. The length of the neck is misleading because of its curvature (the animal is turned slightly to the left), but even in this case the neck should look shorter, not longer! The neck of Dicraeosaurus was also very particular – though not as particular as the one of its relative Amargasaurus – with bifurcated neural spines that tilted posteriorly up to about half of its length, and then tilted anteriorly. These vertebrae were vertically expanded and were as tall as the restored skull was long. It would not have been unwelcomed to add a little more volume to the neck, to highlight this characteristic of the creature.
The body of GR Toys Dicraeosaurus is relatively standard for the group, with a surprisingly narrow cross-section when viewed frontally: these sauropods were significantly thinner than – for example – certain Titanosaurians of comparable size. This year it was described an exceptional fossil that allowed us to know in detail the integument of a young specimen of Diplodocidae (it ‘s referred to Diplodocus); the GR Toys model was probably sculpted well before the publication of the article, and in some ways resembles the texture of Carcharodontosaurus by the same company: larger scales along the spine and smaller along the hips. Only the underside differs: the abdomen and the base of the tail have larger, quadrangular scales, while the lower side of the neck and the rest of the tail are smoother. On the sides of the neck, on the shoulders, along the sides and at the base of the tail the skin forms wrinkles that emphasize the slight torsion to which the animal is subjected (and they’re aesthetically appealing) while – probably for the same reason – on the left side of the shoulder, back and tail the skin is deeply engraved. A 2020 study (Vidal et al.) proposed a different interpretation of sauropod posture than the traditional one, but the changes for Dicraeosaurus are less dramatic than for other taxa (other sauropods show a more vertical posture due to the acute angle orientation of the sacrum, but Dicraeosaurus has presacral vertebrae oriented at an obtuse angle that “neutralize” this change), with a neutral neck posture oriented towards the ground, as seen in the GR Toys model. Dicraeosaurus features high neural spines in the dorsal region, but instead of reconstructing it with a “sail” as in the last century, the sculptor chose the modern approach and buried the neural spines under the tissues.
The forelimbs have five fingers, of which only the first is armed with a claw. Non-macronarian sauropods had large claws, perhaps used for defense. With this feature in mind and given the scarcity of fossil footprints that show it, there is a recent trend to show the claws raised from the ground, in order to prevent the wearing. The GR Toys model showcases the traditional approach, with the claw touching the ground. The hindlimb has five fingers, but the sculpture is not the finest and – also due to a lighter color on the tips of the fingers that I can not understand if it is a deliberate application or is due to the rubbing suffered by the model during transport – it is difficult to distinguish the claws. This lighter coloring makes the fingers look like they’re armed with blunt claws all of the same shape, progressively smaller, while instead it should have large curved claws only on the three innermost fingers.
The Dicraeosaurus tail is appropriately long and whip-like, as it should be for a Flagellicaudia (the group that contains Dicraeosauridae and Diplodocidae). One could say that it wouldn’t have been bad a finer sculpture at the tip of the tail (Battat and Safari managed to do it with their respective Amargasaurus, and they’re both decidedly smaller) and, above all, that the base of the tail should be thicker, to accommodate the large muscles destined to move it laterally and at the same time to provide the movement to the animal. Due to its thickness, the tail is the only part of the model that is relatively flexible.
Although not as elaborated as the same brand Carcharodontosaurus’one, the GR Toys Dicraeosaurus paintwork is really well done, although I am a bit sorry that the yellow on the back is not as evident as in the promotional pictures. As with the other models of this brand, I suggest caution in handling it, since it is rather easy to detach small scraps of color. The model has a femur about 4 cm long, which places it on 1:30 scale, the same of the GR Toys Carcharodontosaurus.
Although with some uncertainty, the Dicraeosaurus GR Toys is a worthy representation of this genus and a practically unique opportunity to add a sauropod relatively well known by science to your collection.
Gallagher T.; Poole J.; Schein J.P. (2021). Evidence of integumentary scale diversity in the late Jurassic Sauropod Diplodocus sp. from the Mother’s Day Quarry, Montana. PeerJ, 9, e11202. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.11202
Hallett M.; Wedel M. The Sauropod Dinosaurs: Life in the Age of Giants. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016. 336 pp
Janensch W. (1929) Die Wirbelsäule der Gattung Dicraeosaurus Palaeontographica. Supplement VII (1) (2, 1):37-133.
Molina-Pérez R.; Larramendi A. Dinosaur Facts and Figures: The Sauropods and Other Sauropodomorphs. Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2020. 272 pp.
Vidal D.; Mocho P.; Aberasturi A.; Sanz J.; Ortega, F. (2020). High browsing skeletal adaptations in Spinophorosaurus reveal an evolutionary innovation in sauropod dinosaurs. Scientific Reports. 10. 10.1038/s41598-020-63439-0.
Whitlock J.A. (2011) Inferences of Diplodocoid (Sauropoda: Dinosauria) Feeding Behavior from Snout Shape and Microwear Analyses. PLOSone https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0018304
Wiersma K.; Sander P. (2017) The dentition of a well-preserved specimen of Camarasaurus sp: implications for function, tooth replacement, soft part reconstruction, and food intake. Paläontologische Zeitschrift. doi: 10.1007/s12542-016-0332-6