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First Paleoworld Programs



 
So far two episodes of "Paleoworld" have aired -- "Rise of the Predators"
and "Flight of the Pterosaurs." The one on pterosaurs repeats on
Wednesday evening, October 5 at 8:00 p.m.
 
Both episodes, I felt, had their strong points and weak points.
The episode on predators did a nice job on tracing the development
of predatory archosaurs and putting the spotlight on (to the public)
lesser known early carnivorous dinosaurs such as Herrerasaurus.
Did I detect a serious error though when the script referred to
Dimetrodon, but a fossil reconstruction of Edaphosaurus was shown
on the screen? The animation left a little to be desired, especially
since the same sequence was over-repeated. I would much have preferred
shots of paintings by Gregory Paul, Doug Henderson, Mark Hallett and
other prominent artists.
 
The pterosaur episode appealed to me more, providing the lay viewer
with some insights to the nature of these primitive flyers. As the
script pointed out, until the advent of the pterosaurs, only insects
had developed wings to invade the air. (If this is incorrect, could
someone cite earlier winged vertebrates?) There was an interesting
discussion whether the pterosaurs were strong flyers or tended more
to soaring, and whether when on land they crawled like bats or walked
like birds. There was some very interesting footage of Dr. Paul
MacCready and his team testing the flight efficiency of
Quetzlcoatlus with a half-size model. I do not recall any mention
in the program about the skin covering of the pterosaurs, however,
which I think would have been of interest to the viewers.

A reminder that on October 11, "Dinosaur Hunting" will be repeated
at 4:00 in the morning on The Learning Channel. Although this is
a 13-minute show aimed at elementary school students, it should be
of interest to dinosaur enthusiasts because it 1) features both
Canadian and Chinese paleontologists (Dale Russell and
Dong Zhiming are introduced as the team leaders; Linda Strong
Watson is the only other paleontologist mentioned by name, although
I think Phil Currie is seen several times) ; 3) the steps of
hunting for the fossil, excavating it, coating with a a glue
mixture, then rice paper and plaster wrappings are all enumerated;
4) graphics (apparently by Chinese artists, since there are Chinese
captions) and three-dimensional stop-motion animation of (I believe)
Mamenchisaurus are shown. 

----- Amado Narvaez
      anarvaez@umd5.umd.edu