The third episode of Prehistoric Planet provides reassurance that at least some of our favourite stars will return. Velociraptor is the first animal to make a re-appearance, this time depicted hunting roosting pterosaurs on a cliff face around a waterfall. Not content with just sticking fantastic-looking feathers on their maniraptors and calling it a day, the Prehistoric Planet team want to show us exactly how the creatures make use of their plumage. In this case, Velociraptor utilises its ‘wings’ and broad tail to cushion falls and maintain balance while hunting prey on difficult terrain. Three of the predators are shown hunting together, but it becomes clear that they are more of a loose coalition, not really displaying any sophisticated pack-hunting behaviour (thus avoiding that hoary old cliché from back in the day). It’s a thoroughly enjoyable sequence, again placing a well-known creature in a context that we haven’t seen before.
Tyrannosaurus reappears, too. Here, a battle-scarred old male (who is actually somewhat less beaten up than some real T. rex specimens – I mean, he still has most of his tail) encounters a female at the river’s edge. Although wary of each other at first, the male initiates a ritualistic mating greeting, and plenty of…copulating follows. Once again, the show’s T. rex model simply looks fantastic, and moves in a highly convincing way that belies its great size, appearing heavy and a little ‘stiff’ (as opposed to excessively bouncy). When the male lifts its head easily upon the sky, a ton of sculptured stone, the sense of sheer mass is palpable. It’s also noteworthy that, again, the tyrannosaurs aren’t excessively noisy, nor do they roar like a synchronised pride of lions. These are reptiles. I do hope we get to see them again at least one more time.
Skipping back over the globe, another giant theropod is next up, wading through fresh water – that’s right, it’s Spinosaurus! And T. rex appears and they have a Transformers-esque fight! Only kidding. It’s Deinocheirus, one of the most fantastic-looking dinosaurs to yet appear. Perhaps the presence of such a hugely shaggy coat on an elephant-sized animal living in a warm environment is a little dubious, but then again, the creature is so well-realised you won’t care all that much. Once more, the sense of scale and mass, and the careful attention to the way that the animal moves, means that you completely buy into this absurd-looking animal (absurd-looking because, well, that’s the way it really was). It’s surprisingly charismatic, to boot. Until its plant-based diet leads to it dropping a colossal turd into the water like some kind of Goosezilla.
Quetzalcoatlus appears in a less-terrifying-than-usual guise as a careful mother seeking out a suitable nesting site, only to have its nest raided by another Quetzalcoatlus after the same spot – an enjoyably nasty, but plausible speculative behaviour. That’s nature, kids! (And being so naturalistic is this show’s greatest strength.) Masiakasaurus is also a little unlucky in its parenting efforts. Drawn to mudflats by the appearance of a large number of tasty crabs, one of its tiny offspring gets careless and is promptly devoured by Beelzebufo, the “devil toad”. The latter, in particular, is an absolutely marvelous CG creation, although Masiakasaurus isn’t half bad either, and it’s a treat to see a fully-realised, animated reconstruction of it like this. Intriguingly, although predominantly scaly, it does seem to sport some wispy fibres here and there – mildly controversial for a noasaur (but probably not much more than sticking lips on certain theropods).
And finally…some elasmosaurs travel up a river estuary to feed, much as some living ocean-going animals are wont to do. Much pretty natural history photography ensues. We sigh wistfully…
Today’s All Yesterdays moment
Er…there isn’t really one. You could make a few tenuous links, but there are no direct references. I didn’t really think this through, did I? I’m sure there’ll be another tomorrow.