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At Safari Ltd, we pride ourselves on making “Toys That Teach”. To that end, we’re always working to ensure that the figures we create are not only full of stunning detail, but also as accurate as they can be (while still being accessible, affordable, and able to be appreciated by fans of all ages).
It can be a delicate balance to strike, especially when it comes to ancient animals from prehistory. Extinct animals from the distant past, like dinosaurs, are almost entirely known only from fossil remains that only paint a partial picture of what these creatures looked like in life. It can be tough to create a scientifically accurate figure of an animal that no longer exists, and it’s made even tougher by the fact that new and exciting discoveries happen all the time that can completely change and re-shape the way we look at these dynamic beasts of the paleo-world (as recently happened with the popular meat-eater Spinosaurus.
At Safari Ltd, we strive to use the most up to date information available when creating and designing toys for our Wild Safari Prehistoric World collection. Our figures may eventually become outdated due to new discoveries, but we attempt to make the most accurate and realistic figures we can with the information available currently at the time we design and create them.
Here are some ways the dinosaur toys in our Prehistoric World collection reflect modern findings and discoveries to make the most real and true dino figures possible.
In the past, most people thought of dinosaurs as scaly and reptilian…and, in many cases, this is still the truth. However, it’s now known that many dinosaurs had feathers in addition to, or in some cases instead of, scales. In fact, today the scientific consensus among paleontologists is that today’s birds are actually modern day dinosaurs, with a direct ancestral link to the “terrible lizards” that largely disappeared over 65 million years ago.
Often, when it is found that a known dinosaur that was often depicted as scaly was actually much more feathery, representations of that dinosaur will be much the same, but with feathers hastily tacked on to the more reptilian body. But, in modern day birds, that’s not really how feathers work at all. Feathers add volume to the form and shape of birds; they aren’t plastered to their skin. Why would dinosaurs be any different?
Two popular dinosaurs, Deinonychus and Velociraptor, are now known to be much more bird-like than previously thought. These two dinosaurs are closely related to each other, and fossil evidence has been found that show Velociraptor, Deinonychus, and their close relatives had feathers.
Our most recent figures of these two prehistoric predators takes their feathers into account, and attempts to show how these dinos may have been much more like birds than anyone thought. The way the feathers are sculpted onto these figures adds appropriate volume and bulk to the shape of the dinosaurs, which were often shown to be rather slender and skinny in earlier figures, with thin necks and arms, and a long pointed tail. The feathers of these dinosaur toys, rather than being an afterthought added to an already established idea of how these dinosaurs looked, instead highlight the close connection with birds, making for a more accurate and realistic dinosaur toy.
Not all dinosaurs were feathered. Some, indeed, had scales like we’ve thought for centuries. But what did these scales look like? If all we’ve got to go on are bones, scientists have to make an educated guess. However, in some cases, other material has been preserved in the fossil record, including scale impressions. This helps us get a clearer picture of what living dinosaurs looked like.
Ceratopsians are a group of dinosaurs that includes one of the most popular dinosaurs of all time – Triceratops. These four-legged, plant-eating dinos had horns on their faces, parrot-like beaks, and large bony shield-like frills covering their necks.
Recently, skin impressions of Triceratops were found, showing not only that these dinosaurs were covered in scales, but also the size and shape of these scales. This has helped Safari Ltd in creating our most recent Triceratops figures, as well as figures of close relatives in the ceratopsian category.
It was shown in these impressions that Triceratops had large scales that were more or less shaped like six-sided hexagons, and every so often one of these scales would be larger than the others, with a small bump-like protrusion in the middle. It was also shown that Triceratops scales were flatter and more square-shaped on its belly. Our latest Safari Ltd Triceratops figure takes both of these discoveries into account. This information has also been carried over to our other recent ceratopsian figures, such as Styracosaurus.
One of the most controversial issues surrounding dinosaur reconstructions in the modern day is whether or not some dinosaurs had lips to cover their teeth when their mouths were closed. In the past, especially with meat-eating dinosaurs, lips were usually not included in reconstructions of dinosaurs.
We know that some dinosaurs had horned beaks, and others had duck-like bills, but when it comes to meat-eaters like Tyrannosaurus rex, it’s more of a mystery. Recently, scientists have argued that despite often being shown with protruding teeth when their mouths were closed, it's likely these dinosaurs had lips that concealed their teeth most of the time.
It does make a certain amount of sense. Some reptiles, like crocodiles and alligators, have exposed teeth. However, they live in an aquatic environment, that allows their teeth to stay moist. Without moisture, teeth that are exposed to the elements would become brittle and crack easily. Therefore, a dinosaur that lived on dry land most of the time would probably have had lips, or some other way of covering its teeth.
While we aren’t always perfect, Safari Ltd still tries to stay on top of the most current dino discoveries, so we can offer kids and grown-ups alike the most accurate teaching tools possible. You can’t always go see the bones in a museum, and you certainly can’t travel millions of years back into the past to see these prehistoric beasts in the flesh, but you can certainly take your favorite Safari Ltd dinosaur toys home with you to treasure and appreciate up close.