David Attenborough’s new collection ultimately reveals dinosaurs in all their feathered glory | David Hone

The totally extraordinary Prehistoric Planet has returned this week for a second season and, as a palaeontologist, I stay totally enthralled by the entire thing. You may suppose I’d be spoiled for selection with the apparently never-ending parade of flicks, video video games and documentaries that includes animated dinosaurs, however this programme stands head and shoulders above anything by way of the accuracy of its animals and the naturalism they evoke.

The bounce from Ray Harryhausen classics similar to One Million Years BC within the mid-Nineteen Sixties to Jurassic Park in 1993 was huge. Jurassic Park confirmed dinosaurs in a brand new approach to huge audiences and ushered in a brand new wave of curiosity and illustration, most notably within the BBC’s Strolling with Dinosaurs collection in 1999. Nevertheless, 30 years on, most dinosaurs in mainstream movie and TV nonetheless comply with its appear and feel, regardless of our scientific understanding of dinosaurs and their contemporaries having superior enormously since then. Prehistoric Planet is as a lot, if no more, of a leap ahead in exhibiting dinosaurs as we predict they actually had been.

The obvious development is the variety of dinosaurs being appropriately proven with feathers and different filamentous coverings. For the reason that late Nineties, the truth that birds developed from dinosaurs has change into firmly established in palaeontology. Quite a few fossils of absolutely feathered dinosaurs have been found, implying that many extra bore feathers too. Seeing these animals rendered as they need to be could be very thrilling. The small print of the fashions, from the form of the pupils, the scale of the scales, the design of the colors, patterns and the curve of the claws, all communicate to a depth of organic understanding not seen on display earlier than.

In fact, some particulars are contentious and others unknowable, however the look and, extra importantly, actions of the dinosaurs in these collection are about as correct as they may very well be. The place sure concepts are inevitably considerably speculative, they’re based mostly on our present understanding. For instance, in collection one we see a herd of triceratops strolling into caves to entry some uncommon minerals wanted of their food regimen. This isn’t one thing recorded within the fossil file, however we all know that some fashionable animals – together with elephants – do it, so it’s completely cheap and sure that some dinosaurs did the identical.

For me, the important thing factor shouldn’t be that these historical animals are reproduced 100% precisely, however that they’re dropped at life realistically. Displaying dinosaur mating rituals, dad and mom nurturing their offspring and small animals difficult predators a dozen occasions their dimension is new, or very uncommon – and but these are behaviours which might be fully regular for animals. On prime of this, it’s simple to identify varied references to actual scientific papers on the behaviour, look, actions and ecology of dinosaurs and different animals in each episode. There may essentially be some extrapolation and filling in to account for the gaps within the fossil file, however this compelling tv is clearly based mostly on actual analysis.

And Prehistoric Planet doesn’t simply present the inevitable gory scenes, similar to a struggle to the dying between a tyrannosaurus and triceratops; it additionally offers the animals (and viewers) an opportunity to breathe and take within the view, whether or not it’s a swamp, desert or ice subject (not simply one other procession of jungles). Dinosaurs, pterosaurs, plesiosaurs and different historical animals usually are not monsters or legendary creatures, however had been actual (if very odd by as we speak’s requirements) dwelling, respiration and behaving creatures interacting in thriving ecosystems.

And so it’s welcome to see different animals getting their due alongside these nice reptiles. The inclusion of frogs, snakes, birds, mammals and ammonites, all set into coherent and practical environments, makes the programme stand out much more. Though tyrannosaurus, velociraptor and another family names seem, it’s extraordinarily refreshing to see animals that few individuals have heard of, from alcione to zalmoxes, in addition to quite a few animals and landscapes which have by no means been proven earlier than.

Science normally strikes on incrementally, and sometimes in main jumps, however public perceptions are inclined to lag behind. It takes time for brand spanking new concepts to change into mainstream after which to seem on display. Prehistoric Planet’s actual achievement is not only bringing these animals to life, however doing so on the chopping fringe of scientific discovery. It reveals the general public what palaeontologists consider these animals had been actually like, not only a barely polished model of what scriptwriters think about they had been.

As somebody who’s actively engaged in analysis into the biology of dinosaurs and pterosaurs, and in outreach and communication to the general public about these animals, I discover Prehistoric Planet to be a shining instance of bringing them to life. The brand new collection ought to be appreciated not only for its stunning cinematography and Attenborough’s narration, however as a bleeding-edge illustration of the science of the extinct.

  • Dr David Hone is a reader in zoology at Queen Mary, College of London, specialising in dinosaurs and pterosaurs. He blogs at Archosaur Musings, and presents the Horrible Lizards podcast. His newest e book is The Way forward for Dinosaurs

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *