Review and images by Suspsy; edited by bmathison1972
Of all the creatures in the world’s oceans, none are more bizarre and more terrifying to behold than those that dwell in the darkest depths where the light does not penetrate. Seven of these strange species are to be found in the 2014 Deep Sea Creatures TOOB courtesy of Safari Ltd.
First up is perhaps the most iconic of all deep sea dwellers: the anglerfish. More specifically, this is a humpback angler (Melanocetus johnsonii), which is usually found between depths of 100 and 1500 metres. It measures about 7 cm long and is made entirely of transparent plastic. The body has been painted over with dark brown while the teeth and fins have been left blank. The luring apparatus protruding from the angler’s head is also transparent, but features a sky blue bulb at the tip. As anyone who’s seen Finding Nemo knows full well, this bioluminiscent adapatation is used to attract prey to the angler’s waiting mouth, which is equipped with a frightful array of sharp teeth! The body is covered in faint groves and the fins have a ribbed texture to them. A small but pleasing toy overall. It is also the only fish in this set that can stand without a support, although I mounted it on one anyway so it would photograph better.
Second is the black dragonfish (Idiacanthus atlanticus). This would be the longest toy in the TOOB were it not sculpted with its serpentine body coiled up in an S-shape. Instead, it measures 8 cm long and is coloured entirely black save for its light green eyes and tail. The mouth features lots of sharp teeth that look menacing in spite of their lack of paint, and when you factor in the pointed spines running down the body, it’s easy to see how this predator got its name. The long barbel extending from the chin is moulded to the body, which is the sort of thing I don’t care for on animal toys, but it does ensure no breakage. Unfortunately, this dragonfish can’t seem to decide on its gender. It has the characteristic black coloration and barbel of a female, but its lack of pelvic fins is in keeping with a male. Incidentally, female dragonfish can achieve 40 cm in length, but males reach only 5 cm.
Our third deep sea denizen is the giant isopod (Bathynomus giganteus), a crustacean which lives at depths of 310 to 2120 metres and can grow to a cringeworthy length of 50 cm. They are carnivores, feeding ravenously on any carcass that sinks all the way to the sea bottom. Because this happens infrequently, they can go up to several years without eating. This 7 cm long rendition is coloured sky blue with black eyes and airbrushed pink. It boasts some of the most detailed sculpting in the TOOB, with a segmented carapace and limbs and tiny mouth parts. However, while a real giant isopod possesses seven pairs of limbs, this toy only has six.
Next up is a glass squid. There are around 60 known species, so I could very well be wrong, but I think this represents Bathothauma lyromma, better known as the lyre cranch squid. This one appears to be in the paralarval stage, judging from the description and images I found online. It measures nearly 9 cm long and is transparent with sky blue stripes and orange for its bulging eyes and the spots on its tentacles. Paralarval B. lyromma inhabit depths ranging from under 100 down to 300 metres. As they mature, they migrate down to greater depths and lose their stalk-eyed appearance. A neat choice for this assortment.
And now we come to my personal favorite deep sea creature: the gulper or pelican eel (Eurypharynx pelecanoides). Like the dragonfish, its body is coiled up in an S-shape with its mouth wide open, albeit not to its maximum extent. Measuring 8.5 cm long, it is entirely dark brown with orange for the tiny eyes and the tail tip, which on a real gulper eel glows pink and gives off occasional red flashes, presumably for attracting prey. The ginormous mouth is lined with plenty of small, but sharp teeth. Although the sheer size of the mouth would appear to suggest that the gulper eel consumes large or even larger fish, its small teeth are poorly adapted for such prey. Instead, it feeds mainly on shrimp, squid, and other small invertebrates. Very few gulper eel toys currently exist, so it’s great that Safari included this one in their TOOB!
Yet another familiar deep sea animal is the hatchetfish, of which there are 70 known species. This one, I think, is supposed to be an Atlantic silver hatchetfish (Argyropelecus aculeatus). Like most deep sea hatchetfish, it is a vertical migrator, remaining at depths of 3600 metres during the day and rising to under 100 metres at night to feed. This toy measures 7 cm long and is made of transparent plastic painted over with metallic silver, with purple for the bulging eyes. While it features decent sculpting, the fins are all wrong and the dentition even more so when compared with this scientific illustration. Hatchetfish are known for having tiny teeth, but this one possesses enormous fangs that would look better on a fangtooth!
Finally, here is an 8.5 cm long viperfish painted sky blue with black eyes. Its large, wide open mouth features six pointed teeth and like the hatchetfish, its body and fins have fairly good sculpting for a small fish toy. Unfortunately, I’ve been quite unable to narrow down the exact species it’s supposed to represent. All viperfish belong to the genus Chauliodus, but not one of them is like this toy. The head is the wrong shape, the teeth are too few, the body is too short and chunky, and all the fins are wrong to boot. It’s quite perplexing given how easy it is to find images of viperfish on Google. For the sake of the blog’s tags, I’ll just say it’s a Pacific viperfish (C. macouni) and leave it at that.
On the whole, I think the Deep Sea Creatures TOOB is a pretty fun set. Granted, the inaccuracy of those last two toys might make an ichthyologist wince, but even they still succeed in being freaky-looking and fun to play with. And the ones that do rate high in accuracy even more so. This TOOB can generally be found wherever Safari Ltd. products are sold.