It seems like not that long ago I did a whole long post on the original run of FaunaFiguresFishes models. In that set I had mentioned that a couple of models were later made as a revised concept for the line–bigger, a little more detail, that kind of thing. And due to the vagaries of my random number generator, the only modern figure thus far created is today’s topic–the Ornate Bichir Polypterus ornatipinnis!
When we discussed coming back to the lines (life things had gotten in the way of carrying on with the original ones) Brandon wanted to move to larger models for better opportunities for details. I was okay with that, and since bichirs are my favorite fish we decided to go and give another shot to the first fish that was made originally. Except this time, it would be one of the most dramatically patterned species. So in summer of 2018, the first new model was brought out. I was personally very excited to finally have it.
I have kept many species of bichirs over the years, but one of my favorites was an ornate named Plato (he just looked like a Plato, there was no other reason for that). I had him for several years until he outgrew me–or, actually, our ability to move around his indoor pond (there were other fish too). He lived out his days at a dinosaur museum (not the one I worked at) and I believe when he died he would have been around 19 years old. Not bad for a dinosaur fish. But even then, I couldn’t figure out why, when cool fish toys were made, none were ornate bichirs? Since that time there have been a few bichir models, all from Japan, and all Polypterus endlicheri, an admittedly impressive-looking beast of it’s own, and overall a larger species…but not as fancy looking. And…I did have one at the same time as Plato (his name was Spartaacus if you’re wondering). I just wanted more species!
So hey, great for me–now there’s a model of this species! As I may have said, I am super happy to have it. Is it perfect? No, but it is very well-crafted. The sculpt captures the morphology well, with fins in proper proportion and position. The tail reflects the weird heterocercal shape very well also. The scales and sculpting of the head plates are also visible form up close, just like the real fish. And the pose make me happy personally, a very active and alert animal, one that looks like it’s actually alive! If I had to quibble, the paint is a bit rough. Ornates have a very distinct and unique patterning of black, white and yellow/orange–I would imagine a difficult pattern to replicate (I say as someone that is a terrible painter–maybe that’s why no company has been brave enough to make one?). But it could probably use a bit more yellow over the back instead of white. That said, every figure is hand-painted, and it does vary for each model. Finally, it is a ‘robust’ body, while the real animal should be more slender–or it should be longer, to be this thick. Again, probably a sculpting choice.
I may have sounded like I have problems with the figure, but I don’t really. It’s just that I notice things on a species that’s near and dear to me! I really enjoy the active pose, and the size is a decent one–not huge, but reasonable to give a good sense of the details of these animals. The figure is about 13cm long–a full grown ornate bichir can get up to 60cm long (maybe more) so it is roughly 1:4.5 scale, but probably relatively larger for most that people see (I have seen ones for sale at around the length of the figure!). The wider diameter of the body is out of proportion, but I can live with that. Or…you can have fun with it! There is a large, possibly 3 metre, relative of bichirs found in Cretaceous Africa called Bawitius. Not only was it very long, but I have seen reconstructions that it might have been relatively more hefty than Polypterus species. At this scale, our FaunaFiguresFishes ornate bichir can become a pretty decent stand in against 1:20 or 1:30 dinosaur figures from the same time and place (roughly) like Spinosaurus. Especially since Bawitius figures don’t actually exist (I mean, have one but it’s a custom-made one).
So now that I have enamored people with this ornate bichir, there is good news. Unlike the other FaunaFiguresFishes models that are completely unavailable, there are still some of the ornate bichirs for sale. They are limited to what I have, but I still have a fair number. Definitely an odd addition to a collection of primitive or prehistoric animals, or of fish in general–hard to represent the range of living fish without the most primitive ray-finned group in there! I am glad to be able to promote these weird fish just a little more and I think other people should enjoy them too! I should mention, as always, that they are not a toy-material. They are tough, and I have dropped them enough times to know, but they wouldn’t be great as toys for kids. Maybe when they’re older or learn to be careful!