Sinraptor dongi (Currie & Zhao, 1994) is a Chinese theropod known for a wonderfully preserved skeleton, with only part of the tail and the forelimb missing. This genus is part ofMetriacanthosauridae, a branch of Allosauroidea mainly known from Jurassic rocks of Eurasia. Vitae released its Sinraptor in 2018, but shortly after the company disappeared from the radar, returning at the end of 2020 with two new models and a re-release of the previous ones, which are now available in three versions: cheap (with a simplified paint), regular (just like the 2018 release) and deluxe (with a more detailed paintjob and a resin base). Here we’ll review the 2018 version and the deluxe (“1:35 Scenario Set”).
The 2018 version featured only a plastic tray to prevent the warping of the hindlimbs, while the deluxe version is placed in plastic packaging inside a cardboard box, to protect it during shipment. The packaging itself has its own artistic value, featuring on the back an illustration of Sinraptor by Cheung Chung Tat (and his works appeared in museums and press released of articles!). In addition to the illustration, there is a description in English and Chinese and a QR code leading to Paleontological Resources Network, a site (only in Chinese) where you can see many digital models of Cheung Chung Tat.
Looking at the model, it is impossible not to see that the skull is exactly that of Sinraptor – as Paul had described it, with “the nasal ridges and orbital horn combined into a prominent pair of long, low, rugose-surfaced crests”. This is one of the traits differentiating Sinraptor from the other famous Chinese metriacanthosaurid, Yangchuanosaurus, which has higher and more jagged, rugose ridges; in addition, as featured in the Vitae model, the skull is more elongated (it is about 1/5 of its lenght, while in Yangchuanosaurus it’s 1/4 of its lenght). So Sinraptor has these low ridges, and what else? In the area behind the orbit of the Vitae model we see bosses, supported by the presence in the fossil of considerable roughness in the postorbital, which indicate a keratinous covering. A similar texture is present in the area of the maxillary bone, too: in the fossil, the roughness indicating keratin is present on the anterior margin of the maxilla and immediately above the teeth. Teeth that are visible when the mouth is closed: the debate on theropod lips is still open, but Cheung Chung Tat here used a more diplomatic “half lips” approach rather than “fully uncovered teeth”. The palate is wide and flat, as in current reptiles and birds and unlike the cavernous, mammal-like palates popularized by Jurassic Park, and you can see the openings of the coanae – a detail often overlooked. Opening the jaw we encounter what is perhaps the only real issue of this model: the articulation was not realized in the best of the ways and leaves about three millimeters of the muscle uncovered when the jaws are completely spread open.
Currie & Zhao note that Sinraptor has a remarkable nuchal crest and that the epiphyses of the neural spines are well developed: this is faithfully reproduced in the model with a robust neck, which seems even higher due to a crest of spikes that runs from the top of the head to the tip of the tail. We have no evidence of such structures in theropods, but paleoartists often feature them to make the animal more visually interesting. The spikes are not sculpted one by one – perhaps due to the material used, or their proximity impeding it? – but nevertheless they are rendered in great detail: if we look at them closely we notice that it’s not the “usual” spiky midline featured in many restorations, and that it’s irregular and that near the shoulders many spines are missing from the central line – perhaps the consequence of a wound? – while there are two accessory rows that reach up to the hips. A slight narrowing of the torso just below the additional row of spines signals a trait of this theropod: relatively elongated neural spines (a bit like Acrocanthosaurus, although not that much): years ago Sinraptor would’ve been restored with a “sail” of skin, but luckly that times are gone for good and tis feature, more than being visible, is noticeable to the touch.
The rest of the body is adequately robust: the thigh continues seamlessly in the base of the tail, which – even if it’s not almost circular as in the much larger Giganotosaurus – is still realistically wide. The Vitae Sinraptor also lacks the protruding pubic boot, something that would’ve been normal only for a starving animal but which still plagues other models. The animal is turning to the right and looking at it from above you can see the slight asymmetry of the torso, following the movement: a praise to the sculptural skills of Cheung Chung Tat. The forelimb is short, with the typical theropod formula: the first finger is shorter but carries the largest claw, the second is the longest, and the third is of intermediate length between the first two. The first phalanges of the second and third fingers looks fused: this is a trait that has recently developed in paleoart and it’s justified by being the third finger a supporting element of the second one when the animal grips something. The pose partly hides this trait, but an attentive observer will notice the unusually long legs: a feature of Sinraptor is the greater elongation of the metatarsal bones – in the model covered by the scutes found in Concavenator – compared to other Jurassic theropods, meaning that Cheung Chung Tat did his homework.
As mentioned at the beginning of the review, there are three color variants for this model. The price difference between the regular and the deluxe is about ten euros, but I dare say that it’s worth all of them: the colour of the regular variant is pleasant and surely fans of conservatively coloured theropods will appreciate it (it resembles a lot a previous Sinraptor illustration by Cheung Chung Tat), but the deluxe is something for sure: the tones contrast more sharply and way more shades where used in the painting, as it can be seen – for example – inside the mouth, which in the regular version is simply pink. Perhaps the most noticeable feature is the blue streaks that run through the muzzle and the back. In both versions, a dark wash makes the details stand out. The eyes are black, but a white dot has been added to give a touch of life.
Unlike the dinosaur, the base (present only in the deluxe version) is made of resin. It’s the most complex of the Vitae bases of this size, featuring outcropping rocks, mud cracks, small three-toed footprints and a plant. About the plant, be careful: it’s made with a dry moss-like material and it’s extremely fragile: if your model has a rough shipping, you’ll find inside the box a green powder meaning that a few millimeters of plant disgregated. That being said, this does not affect the overall appearance and the result is very realistic. On the underside of the base there is a velvet-like material which allows you to make it slide without risking damage to the shelves – a welcomed note for collectors, who will be pleased not to find their wooden shelves all scratched after moving the models for cleaning. A novelty of Vitaes when compared with other models with bases is that the dinosaurs are not simply posed or pinned to the base, having instead a small magnet under the feet (in Sinraptor, under the right foot) that adheres to a specific area of the base, making easy to remove the model and at the same time ensuring stability.
As indicated in the name of the “Scenario Set”, the Sinraptor Vitae is supposed to be 1/35: in truth, considering that the holotype skull is about 90 cm long, the model is closer to a 1/26. However, in the same formation of Sinraptor were unearthed fragmentary remains belonging to a much larger animal (Xu and Clark, 2008; He, Clark and Xu, 2013). Molina-Pérez and Larramendi in 2016 estimated its length at 11 meters and, if we give credit to these fossils, the Vitae Sinraptor could represent a 1/35 animal.
In conclusion we can say that the Vitae Sinraptor, like all of Cheung Chung Tat’s models, combines an interesting aesthetic with anatomical fidelity. The regular version is available for more or less15 euros, while the deluxe sells for 25-30 euros: a surprisingly low price, taking into account that models of similar size are sold for the same amount and without the magnificent base that accompanies the Vitae. Those interested in theropods cannot miss it!
Currie P.J.; Zhao X.J, (1994) A new carnosaur (Dinosauria, Theropoda) from the Jurassic of Xinjiang, People’s Republic of China. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences. 30(10), 2037-2081
Molina-Pérez R.: Larramendi A. (2019) Dinosaur Facts and Figures: The Theropods and Other Dinosauriformes. Princeton University Press. 288 pp.
Paul G.S. (1988) Predatory Dinosaurs of the World. Simon & Schuster, New York. 464 pp.
Xu X.; Clark J.M. (2008) The presence of a gigantic theropod in the Jurassic Shishugou Formation, Junggar Basin, Western China. Vertebrata PalAsiatica. 46(2), 157-160
He Y.M.; Clark J.M.; Xu X. (2013) A large theropod metatarsal from the upper part of Jurassic Shishugou Formation in Junggar Basin, Xinjiang, China. Vertebrata PalAsiatica. 51(1), 29-42.
The author would also like to thank Dan Folkes for his Sinraptor skeletal and his advice about this animal and Cheung Chung Tat for providing the material used in this review.