Plaything: A Review of Pterosaurs from My Youth and Beyond

Hello everyone!

Been a bit of a while since I posted I know – unfortunately it reached that point at the end of term where all the work you’ve been meaning to do catches up with you in one fell swoop, which put things on hold for a bit. Always the way. But here I am, back with a vengeance, and ready to get stuck into something really difficult to understand, that will completely change your perceptions… oh who am I kidding, let’s look at some toys.

I’ve mentioned previously that I used to be a bit of a dinosaur nerd as a kid, and as such I’ve accumulated a pretty large selection of dinosaur-based toys over the years. These managed to resurface a few days ago as I’m currently in the process of sorting out my room back at home. In doing so, I discovered I own some fairly interesting representations of a few species of pterosaurs. And so I had the idea of looking at them with a slightly more scientific mindset than I had as a 4-9 year old, as a light-hearted and fun post to get me back into the swing of things.

I think all the pterosaurs shown here are supposed to be Pteranodon longiceps, but as you’ll see there’s quite a bit of variation between them. I’ll kick things off with an old favourite; a pterosaur made to coincide with the first Jurassic Park movie and my very first prehistoric toy as a kid:

Jurassic Park Pteranodon longiceps perched up on it's wingtips. Niiiice and realistic...

Jurassic Park Pteranodon longiceps perched up on it’s wingtips. Niiiice and realistic…

Here you can see the oddly bent arms. Bit weird. The rest is pretty cool though!

Here you can see the oddly bent arms. Bit weird. The rest is pretty cool though!

Well, this one’s not actually too bad. A bit of Googling told me that it’s from the first wave of Jurassic Park toys released, which are considered to be mostly alright as far as dinosaur/archosaur reconstructions are concerned. It gets points for having almost the right number of toes (you’d be surprised how many don’t) and generally looking a bit pterosaur like, but there’s plenty of mistakes too. They’ve made the skin on the wings look super leathery, which is a bit annoying. Whilst flaps of skin exist above the arms as they should (these are held in place by something called the pteroid bone), the arms themselves are super bent and look a bit ridiculous. The rostrum (beak/jaw/whatever you want to call) it is also pretty stubby and wide, where it’s normally a lot flatter and elongate. The hands also look weirdly bent backwards. But overall, it could be a lot worse…

Juvenile Pteranodon. As you can see, it looks a bit weird.

Juvenile Pteranodon. As you can see, it looks a bit weird.

Here you can see the weird bat-like prongs along the wings. Definitely not right.

Here you can see the weird bat-like prongs along the wings. Definitely not right.

… Like this beast. I really don’t know what’s going on here. I think it’s supposed to be a juvenile Pteranodon, but the crest is already complete, something I thought only came with sexual maturity. It’s also gone down the horrible bat-like-wings path that so many have mistakenly gone down before. There’s a bit misconception within popular culture on how pterosaur wings work. Many people view them similar to bats, with individual fingers that spread out across the wing, supporting leathery skin between them. However, pterosaur wings are actually quite different to this. The main “wing” is made of a single elongated finger, with the rest of the hand above the wing. The adapted wing then stretches all the way back to the legs. You can see the differences below:

The differences between bat (A & A-1) and pterosaur (B & B-1) wings. as you can see, the differences in both bone orientation and wing shape are pretty different. Source

As you can see this is quite different to bat wings, and as such it really irritates me when people get this wrong. This model seems to have both, which is even more bizarre, and they appear to sprout off all over the place; off the hand and at multiple points along the upper arm. So no idea what’s going on here. Also, the previously mentioned elongated wing finger that supports the length of the wing from the hand onwards is bent right round, something that bones are notorious for not doing. Finally, its standing on its’ two hind legs, now viewed as an incorrect stance for pterosaurs on the ground. Have to say, poor guy isn’t great.

The pièce de résistance of my childhood collection is this bad boy: a much larger Pteranodon longiceps with foldable wing action and snapping mouth. Impressive eh?

The largest Pteranodon longiceps.

The largest Pteranodon longiceps.

Flying down flat. Cool fabric wings!

Flying down flat. Cool fabric wings!

Wings clipped into the body. Looks a bit odd I have to say.

Wings clipped into the body. Looks a bit odd I have to say.

This was always one of my favourites as a kid, and it’s easy to see why. It’s big, it’s got cool fabric wings that flap… what more can you want? Unfortunately, it definitely doesn’t get away without mistakes. Firstly, it has a frankly criminal 3 toes instead of the correct 5. There’s a weird bend in the neck too, which seems a bit odd, as well as odd lumps along the side of the rostrum. The wings are actually pretty good, apart from a lack of skin above the arm and the bat-like bit in the middle; however, I think this is more support for the fabric rather than actual representation of the animal.

So that’s all the beasts from my past. However, I was also lucky enough to receive some sweet flying pterosaur things for Christmas from my Aunt and Uncle. So as a bit of a bonus, here are some snaps and videos of me and father attempting to fly them on Christmas Day!

The three flying pterosaurs I was given from my aunt and Uncle; Pteranodon, Pterodactylus and Rhamphorhynchus.

The three flying pterosaurs I was given from my aunt and Uncle; Pteranodon, Pterodactylus and Rhamphorhynchus.

First, Pteranodon. Why do people insist on these rubbishy bat wing fingers?!

First, Pteranodon. Why do people insist on these rubbishy bat wing fingers?!

Next, Rhamphorhynchus. There is so much wrong with this it is just painful to look at. At least they got the whole hand thing right...

Next, Rhamphorhynchus. There is so much wrong with this it is just painful to look at. At least they got the whole hand thing right…

Pterodactylus comes next. This has got to be the worst for realism yet. Why are there exposed bones on the wing?! Does look badass though...

Pterodactylus comes next. This has got to be the worst for realism yet. Why are there exposed bones on the wing?! Does look badass though…

Getting in position...

Getting in position…

Ready to fly...

Ready to fly…

We didn’t attempt any more after that…

Well hope you’ve enjoyed this slightly more relaxed post, and see you shortly for getting stuck into my MSci project once again!

Today’s post title comes from this great song.

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