Like every summer, Shark Week has returned to infest programs and shows from around the world. Therefore, we could not hold ourselves back from presenting a themed model and, among the most recent releases, What could be better than a gigantic prehistoric shark with a circular saw for jaw? the Helicoprion PNSO it’s really perfect!
… Or at least, it would be if it were a shark …
Although it shared many characteristics with sharks (particularly Lamnidae such as the Mako and the great white shark), this cartilaginous Permian fish was more closely related to the Chimaeridae such as the elephant chimera, which for the uninitiated is an abyssal fish with an almost rabbit-like face and which reaches about 1 meter in length. Very little to do with Helicoprion, which is estimated to have reached a length of 8 meters and COULD CUT THROUGH MILITARY HELICOPTERS! Ah no, sorry, too many sessions on Hungry Shark World…
Anyway, with such premises, it should be a very coveted animal by specialized companies but instead the replicas produced so far are limited to miniatures, soft toys and extendable puppets like those that are in the newsstands. The PNSO Helicoprion is therefore the first real attempt to make a realistic and as faithful as possible replica of the animal, which has certainly placed the company in the need to gather all the information necessary to reconstruct a fish that, by nature, apart from a few portions of the skull it doesn’t leaves bone remains after death, except under exceptional circumstances.
To determine the shape of the body, they, therefore, used the postcranial remains of some eugeneodontids – the order to which Helicoprion belongs – such as Caseodus, Fadenia, and Romerodus. Thanks to the analysis of different remains found in various states of conservation including teeth, skulls, pectoral and caudal fins, it was possible for PNSO to sculpt a fusiform body – therefore more similar to that of sharks than to that of chimeras – with triangular pectoral fins. There is a single large, triangular dorsal fin without a rigid spine attached to it and the caudal fin is tall and forked with two lobes of equal size (homocercal). This body structure is basically shared by fish such as tuna and swordfish, and reptiles such as ichthyosaurs, which are active predators specialized in open-water hunting. Based on the Eugeneodontids, no pelvic and anal fins were added, and, using Romerodus as a reference, broad keels were sculpted along the side of the body up to the caudal fin. the shape of the fins is however irregular, with various ripples and cuts that add realism to the Sculpt. Fadenia also had five gill slits, which were also carved on this Helicoprion.
The head is obviously the trademark of this animal, and the PNSO model fully captures its peculiarities: the cranial area is crossed by grooves similar to those that can be seen in chimeras, and the bizarre set of teeth is reproduced following the most recent reconstruction (Tapanila et al., 2013).
Talking specifically about the teeth, the jaw is articulated: although the joint is visible and breaks the sculpt a little, the general effect is much more pleasant than that of the previous Megalodon and works well both with open and closed mouth, with the spiral that falls almost entirely into the hollow of the palate-square.
The joint also has considerable educational value, as it allows us to show how Helicoprion is believed to feed (Ramsay et al., 2014). Studies on the mechanics of jaws and teeth suggest a hunting style based on the removal of the soft parts of ammonoids and nautiloids from the hard shell without the need to crush the shell: anterior teeth snag the prey, then a quick and strong closure of the jaw dragged the soft part in the oral cavity, effectively tearing it from the shell, while middle teeth held it by spearing it and posterior teeth pushed it towards the pharyngeal cavity (the Youtuber DinosDragons made a demonstration on his video, further confirmation of how useful this kind of models are to talk about these animals).
A few words about color are a must: even if from the first photos it seemed rather bland, the scheme used performs its function of Countershading well and the emerald eye is a pleasant reference to the Chimaeridae. In addition, the body of the Helicoprion has a sort of green-purple iridescence that runs through its entire upper part: a beautiful effect that in person surpasses any dot or stripe that could have been added.
For this and many other peculiarities, the Helicoprion is a real gem in the already impressive PNSO model gallery.