Tapejara Safari Carnegie Wild Safari Model Review
With the dominance of Pteranodon models and replicas on the market, it’s always a pleasure to hear about a manufacturer pushing the boundaries a bit and presenting a museum-quality replica of a lesser known but equally interesting Pterosaur. This is exactly what the American company Safari has done with its new model of the flying reptile Tapejara.
This particular pterosaur (the name literally means flying lizard), is known for an excellent fossil material from the Santana Formation of Brazil. The name Tapejara is pronounced Tap-eh-jar-rah and means “the old self” in the native Tupi Indian language. It is one of the earliest known forms of toothless pterosaur, with fossils dating to the limit of the Aptian / Albiana fauna stage, approximately 112 million years ago. At least three species of Tapejara are now attributed to this genus, although determining a species from the many well-preserved fossil remains found in this part of Brazil is far from easy. He also has to deal with the fragmentary remains; there appears to have been a high degree of sexual dimorphism with the distinctive head ridges. In fact, some scientists have commented that the Tapejara species already described may actually be juveniles or sexually immature individuals of larger species. Determining the best way to represent the distinctive head ridge on this new model must have been one of the many “headaches” that model sculptors encountered, sorry for the pun. All Taperjara genera have overgrown and oddly shaped head ridges. These ridges appear to have been more obvious in mature males and probably played a role in courtship or social behavior. At Tapejara, the head crest was so prominent and large that when flying in crosswinds this pterosaur would have been very vulnerable. Perhaps having such an ostentatious helmet shape was the male’s method of showing nearby females how virile and strong he was. After all, if you could sport such a destabilizing ridge on the head, then you could be the strongest of the males and therefore the one chosen for mating.
The Safari team has gone to great lengths to try to produce a replica that reflects current fossil evidence. The head crest on the model is large and therefore it can be assumed that the sculptors have attempted to depict a sexually mature male pterosaur. The crest is also brightly colored (a brilliant scarlet) and this is also based on current scientific thinking that flying reptiles have good color vision. A large, brightly colored crest could be used in flamboyant courtship displays, males with the intention of attracting a female. The rest of the model is painted in various shades of brown to contrast the bright red head crest. The only exception to this is the beak and wide eyes, which have been painted a vivid, almost metallic blue. These features contrast well with the red shield and with all the new Safari models the paint has been taken care of and many fine details have been revealed as a result. The model is depicted in a typical flight position with the wings fully extended and slightly back. The scale of this model is not certain, but it does not seem out of place compared to other manufacturers’ models of larger pterosaurs, such as Pteranodon longiceps. In fact, based on the scale and size of the ridge, I would suggest that Safari has produced a model of the largest known Tapejara species, the splendidly titled Tapejara imperator. This particular pterosaur species is estimated to have a wingspan of more than 5 meters.
Taking advantage of an emerging ocean
During this time in the Cretaceous period, the great southern supercontinent of Gondwanaland was beginning to break up. Over millions of years, the Atlantic Ocean began to form, separating Africa from the continent of South America. In fact, this process continues today, the Atlantic is still widening. Pterosaurs like Tapejara lived off the coast of this newly formed ocean and scientists believe that these animals hunted fish that swooped over the water to catch their prey with their large downward-turned beaks. The model does not show the upside down very clearly, but since we have not had a chance to personally inspect the fossil material of the jaw, we can only assume that previous descriptions of this flying reptile have been updated and the mouth made less pronounced.
Fine detail represented in the model
The body of the Tapejara model shows many fine details. Safari has taken care to give the impression that the body and arms of this pterosaur were covered with fine and soft hair. Scientists have found fossils of other (albeit smaller pterosaurs); which seem to indicate that these flying animals were covered in hair or down. If this is the case, then these animals were likely warm-blooded and the hair acted as an insulator to help these animals regulate their body temperature and keep warm. If they were active flyers and not just passive gliders, then these kinds of prehistoric animals were probably endothermic (warm-blooded). It’s nice to note that Safari has tried to incorporate this theory into their new pterosaur model.
It would have been nice if this model had been supplied with a discreetly rear-mounted grommet. This would have allowed collectors to suspend this replica with fishing line and depict this animal in a relatively realistic pose, perhaps flying over other models in their dinosaur collection. However, this is a minor quibble, the new Tapejara model is well painted and shows many details. It is a very valuable addition to the flying reptile model collectors section of your prehistoric animal model sets.