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RE: Dinosaur Planet



> From: owner-dinosaur@usc.edu [mailto:owner-dinosaur@usc.edu]On Behalf Of
> James R. Cunningham
>
> I watched a few minutes of Dinosaur Planet tonight.  Learned lots of
> amazing things about Quetzalcoatlus.  I never realized before how much
> the living creatures resembled lawn darts and how little they resemble
> their fossil remains.  I'm still chuckling.

Some good, some bad on that show.

Kudos for keeping a relatively tight focus (Campanian faunas of different
parts of the world).  Much kudos for having a good talking head (Scott
Sampson) to help explain the material, even if he is forced to speak in
"commercial documentary".

Some comments:
* REALLY nice to see Scott be able to interact with one of his own "babies",
Einiosaurus!

* Holtz's first rule of reconstructing fossil animals: "The skeleton has to
fit inside your reconstruction".  They failed that in a couple of cases.
For instance, the hindlimbs (especially at the ankles and feet) of the
Maiasaura are FAR FAR too slender.  Also, rather than use allometry, the
juveniles of the Two Medicine critters apparently grow by isometry (probably
by changing the size function on the graphic...).  So Little Das and the
Maiasaura Twins (sounds like an old band name...) should NOT have had
mommy's proportions.

* I've worked for the folks from Evergreen Films before ("When Dinosaurs
Ruled America"), and they have a good team.  Their getting better at
feathering, and probably only the lag time between production and release of
the films prevented them from increasing the arm feathers (and adding leg
feathers) to the maniraptorans.

* Unfortunately, they don't have the kind of resources that Framestore and
the "Walking with Dinosaurs" folks do in terms of field crews, so they can't
do as much interactivity with the real environment as in WWD.  So many times
the animals move through the environment and don't disturb the dirt or
plants.

* And speaking of the latter: Campanian Montana did NOT look like modern
Montana with CG volcanoes and dinosaurs!!!  URGH!  (Okay, I recall an
conversation related to WDRA, when a producer said "we just can't find any
good sites with fern prairies", to which I replied "that's because grass
won.")  Somewhat less annoying were the palo verde bushes that were all over
the Djadokhta.

* Incidentally, a note on the Djadokhta carnivore numbers: while it is true
that theropods outnumber other dinosaurs in that environment, the
predator-prey ratio isn't so bad when you consider all the little bit of
Nature's popcorn (i.e., lizards and mammals) that were scuttling all over
the place.  And what is the ONE food item found so far in the belly of
Oviraptor...?  Yes, a lizard.  Indeed, other than Velociraptor, there is no
reason to suspect the Djadokhtan theropods ate anything larger than their
own head, if even that.  In fact, it would have been nice to see a LOT more
little mammals and lizards scuttling about the Mongolian episode.

* Why Quetzaloatlus rather than Montanazhdarcho (which is actually KNOWN
from the Two Med?).

* Really sad to see that they didn't download and update their Anatotitan
files from WDRA to create the  Edmontosaurus cameo at the end of the Two
Medicine episode (during the Hell Creek flashforward).  Edmonto. is not
particularly Maiasaura-like.

* And why oh why would a series set in the Campanian use a STEGOSAURUS back
in their logo?!?!?!  (Okay, that's easy: recognition).

                Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
                Vertebrate Paleontologist
Department of Geology           Director, Earth, Life & Time Program
University of Maryland          College Park Scholars
                College Park, MD  20742
http://www.geol.umd.edu/~tholtz/tholtz.htm
http://www.geol.umd.edu/~jmerck/eltsite
Phone:  301-405-4084    Email:  tholtz@geol.umd.edu
Fax (Geol):  301-314-9661       Fax (CPS-ELT): 301-405-0796