Vault tales 79 Safari Sarcoprion

Who makes it? Safari Ltd as part of the Prehistoric Sharks toob. The toob item number is 679904.

When did it come out? I think 2010…that sounds about right.

Not the whorl-tooth shark we usually hear about–this one is much pointier!

Still available? Sadly, no. Like other great toobs from Safari, this one has been discontinued.

Where can it be found in my displays? I actually have a few of them. One is one the main shelves with lots of Safari toob figures, the others are stored.

Note the teeth in the upper jaw. They packed a lot of details into this very small shark figure.

How does it fit in the collection? It’s a small prehistoric shark (not a shark) from the Safari toob heyday. Of course I have it. It ticks off all of those boxes for some of my favorite things! And I do have a personal connection to this set as well…

Any story behind it? Oh heck yeah. I’ve mentioned working in a dino museum. I didn’t mention that I was involved with developing some products with Safari, did I? A fellow collector (Randy Knoll, a contributor to Prehistoric Times among many other things) put me in touch with Safari leadership–they wanted us to carry their product (which, yeah we did). But also wanted some suggestions. I went to the dino toy forum, asked what people were looking/hoping for, and among those were prehistoric shark toobs. I made that suggestion (and others–notably the also-extinct prehistoric crocodiles toob) and had some role in the species choices (ever wonder why it’s Cretoxyrhina and not megalodon? Now you know). I had presented a list of several desired species, and Safari used it as a jumping point. Their main stipulation was that the species would be specifically sharks (I really pushed for Iniopteryx or Echinochimaera), no rays or holocephalans, which is funny because…

From above. It has a very smooth, serpentine motion to it.

Notable remarks about this figure (a review that isn’t really a review):Sarcoprion, like other figures in the toob (notably Helicoprion and Edestus) were later determined to be a group of holocephalans, closer to modern ratfish and chimaeras. So maybe by accident, but this figure isn’t a shark! That said, the reconstruction hasn’t really altered because of the taxonomic change–maybe because much of the skeleton is still speculative. The figure has the long, fusiform body usually given these fish, with a long pointed snout. Overall, a sleek, hydrodynamic figure. There is a single dorsal fin and only one pair of paired fins, the pectorals, which is hard to verify. And the big asymmetrical tail. Overall, it looks like a very simplified shark with a pointy nose. At the time, that was the assumption most of us were under. Then the connection to chimaeras showed up…and now it’s hard to say. The figure has 5 gill slits like a shark, but maybe it should have a gill cover like a ratfish? And of course the teeth in the upper jaw–from the one image of the fossils I could find, Sarcoprion probably had small teeth there (unlike Helicoprion) but I think they’re a little too pronounced here. Otherwise, it’s a nice figure of an unusual extinct fish. The two-tone counter shade in brown also gives the figure a distinctive look, rather than sticking with the more common greys. Also, like the other figures in the Prehistoric Sharks toob, it is relatively large for a set of mini figures, at about 9cm long.

If the diver were a bit of a shorter guy, these models are to scale. It’s hard to picture how many relatively huge sharks and kin existed in the past. The Sarcoprion is about 1:65 scale (assuming a length of 6m)

Would I recommend it? How could I not, seriously? I will never think there is enough diversity in shark figures, and that goes double for extinct shark figures (more megalodon? Pass). Or chimaera figures, I suppose, which are even more sorely underrepresented. Either way, it is too bad the set was discontinued a year or two ago, because these are the kinds of figures we need to really express the diversity of the past. And being small but well done, they’re great for shelves and toy boxes too. I am pretty sure that the toobs are still out there for sale if you look in the right places so you should do that. More sharky things is always good!