Thursday, 10 May 2018

Along the coast of the interior seaway

Early morning, misty and damp. A mother and small child walk through a dense part of forest where they have been sleeping under the cover of trees. They are heading towards an open field to catch the rays of the sun and warm a little before continuing their way along the coast of the western interior seaway. It is the cretaceous, 66.000.000 years BC.

The Tyrannosaurus Rex

The Tyrannosaurus Rex is probably the most famous dinosaur to date. It lived in what is now North-America during the last million years of the cretaceous, an geological time 145 million years to 65 million years ago. During the last few million years of the cretaceous the climate was hotter then today, probably due to volcanic activity. There was snowfall but this was restricted to mountains in polar regions. The sea level also was a lot higher compared to today flooding what now is the mid-west and dividing North-America in 3 large landmasses. The sea is called the 'western interior seaway' and was shallow, warm and full of life. The fauna of the time was much like it is today, only grasses had not evolved yet and broadleaved trees and flowers where relatively new. Large parts of North-America could very well have looked similar to a present day in summer with pine forests. On the west most landmass, Laramidia, the Tyrannosaurus Rex roamed.

The Tyrannosaurus Rex was a member of the Tyrannosauridea, a family of meat-eating dinosaurs walking on their hind legs and with tiny fore-arms living in what is now Asia and North-America. The fore arms are still the size of human arms and are fully developed so they are no vestigial parts of the animal. The Tyrannosaurus Rex probably didn't had 'feathers' or a very limited amount. The feathers that had evolved at this point are called 'dinofuzz' or filaments and are more primitive then the flight feathers of modern birds/dinosaurs. Here an interpretation of the Tyrannosauridea Yutyrannus Huali with filaments. This is a smaller member of he Tyrannosauridea form China and it looks like even scarier like this then with scales. A documentary on the Tyranosaurus Rex reveals the latest research on this beast:

The Tamiya Dinosaurs Diorama Series

In 1993 Tamiya released 7 diorama sets with dinosaurs in 1/35 scale. These sets are based on the scientific knowledge from the time. Most of it is still accurate until today for as far as I know with two noticeable exception:
  1. The Velociraptors are a lot smaller in reality then in set 60105. These are probably Deinonychus. A member of the dromaeosaurs family. This is the dinosaur featured in Micheal Critons book 'Jurassic Park' but somehow the name became 'velociraptor' in the movie version. These sets are released in the same year although they are are not official merchandise (that is good news for price and availability)
  2. The velociraptors/Deinonychus and oviraptor from the Mesozoic Creatures set (60107) had feathers. This was unknown at the time these sets where made.
In the 'Dinosaur Diorama Series' the following sets are available:
Item. No.Main subjectExtra accessories
60101ChasmosaurusJuvenile, small lizard, turtle, tree base, base plate
60102Tyrannosaurus Rex2 Cycads, Parasaurolophus bones, base plate
60103ParasaurolophusA Cycad, 3 flying reptiles, baseplate
60104Triceratops2 velociraptors, fishes, a small palm like plant, pine trunk, base plate
60105Velociraptors (6x)None
60106BrachiosaurusJuvenile, Archaeopteryx, base plate
60107Mesozoic setSet contains: Juvenile Parasaurolophus, Juvenile Tyrannosaurus Rex, Hypsilophodon, Oviraptor, Crocodile and Archaeopteryx
These sets are very nicely made, the accessories make it possible to faithfully recreate a piece of natural history in scale. Tamiya hired the Japanese Paleontologist/artist Kunihiko Hisa to assist in the creation of these sets. Apart from the Mesozoic set all sets include a figure for size comparison. All sets do include a booklet with a lot of information on the featured dinosaur. Although released alongside the Jurassic Park movie Tamiya made their own choice in what dinosaurs to model. I think it is great they didn't just include the most famous dinosaurs but also scientific and evolutionary important subjects such as the Hypsilophodon and Archaeopteryx. With the inclusion of the Parasaurolophus an iconic member of the too often ignored Hadrosaurus family is also included. Even the flora of the time hasn't been forgotten.

The Tyrannosaurus Rex

I build the Tyrannosaurus Rex from set 60102. The nameplate for the Tyrannosaurus suggests this could be in either present day Asia or North-America. The Tyrannosaurus Rex didn't live in Asia but the Tarbosaurus Bataar did 5 million years earlier. They are both Tyrannosauridea and look almost identical. The largest Tarbosaurus found is slightly smaller then the largest Tyrannosaurus Rex specimen. Also the Tarbosaurus arms are relatively smaller then those of the Tyrannosaurus Rex and it probarbly didn't have binoculair vision. The text suggests the Tyrannosaurus Rex also lived in Asia but that is not the case. The model can be build as a Tarbosaurus for all intents and purposes however. I suggest painting the eyes as side looking and leaving the model as it is when choosing to interped it as a Tarbosaurus.
The model can be build depicting the animal with it's jaws open or closed and in a walking or running position. The total model consists out of 17 parts. I usually don't build a lot of large scale models but I have a few 1/25 tanks and 1/16 figures. This model comes in a large box and it barley fits in, it is simply huge! The model is 37 cm long (1 foot, 2 inch), 14 cm (5 2/5 inch) high and 7 cm (2 4/5 inch) wide. I build mine in a walking, jaws closed position. A metal rod is included to attach the model more firmly to it's base but is doesn't look good. The model is well balanced and the rod is not needed when fixing the model to the base. Under one foot there is a peg for an even better attachment so I don't think the rod is needed even when building the model in running position. If you want to use the rod you have to remove a small section of plastic from the belly of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, so the model doesn't have a gaping hole when you don't use the rod.
For a Tamiya model a lot filler is required to get all the seams between the parts away. The attachment point of the head to the neck needs a bit more. There are no holes but there is a pronounced 'didge' there. The head does fits good and it is easy to make a strong connection however. I also made the juvenile Tyrannosaurus Rex from the 60107 Mesozoic set. This model has 8 parts and only a bit of filler on the legs and on the underside of the jaw was requerd. The arm fit but are easy too glue in the wrong position so extra attention is needed here. I made pine trees because they where also abundant in the cretaceous but the Cycads supplied are very nice and authentic. The instructions detail how to easily and fast make the leaves from green paper that is supplied in a more then sufficient quantity. I didn't use the Parasaurolophus bones because this animal lived a few milions of years prior of the Tyrannosaurus Rex. I decorated base plate with mosses and ferns.

The model with filler. The spot on the middel of the tail is a spill. On the next photo the model with the first two shades of ocker (Revell 88) lightend with white.

What colors dinosaurs have is unknown. Skin impressions give some clues and I am aware of only three dinosaurs of which the coloration is known. All are stripped and we are talking about a Hadrosaurus and 'bird like' species but not a Tyrannosauridea. Blue and green are generally difficult colors to produce for animals and most animals are 'counter shadeded' (light on the underside, darker on the top). Apart from that the sky is the limit when it comes to colors and patterns. I was inspired by a few birds of prey I saw often on my way to work in the summer so I painted them this color since birds literally are dinosaurs too. Many animals have brown as a camouflage because many animals are (partially) colorblind and reds/browns look the same to them as greens, that is why brown is so common on fur but also feathers.

The photo's of the finished model:

This was a very nice diorama and model fun to build. The model holds up well in the face of 25 years of new paleological finds and research. It is a nice change to recreate a piece of natural history still fueling the imagination today. Although the model is very long, the dinosaur itself should fit in most display cabinets. You don't have to be a brilliant model builder or painter to create something nice and complete from this set. It holds up very good in the face of the latest research. Highly recommended.

Okey, finally the most iconic scene from the movie that started it all:

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