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FW: The way TV documentaries work


The following is forwarded to the list on behalf of Darren Naish. (Bummer
about the Eotyrannus thing at the end! ONE of these days I'm going to find a
documentarian who is interested in dinosaur EVOLUTION rather than just
functional anatomy and behavior...):

-----Original Message-----

Following on from Ken, Jim and Tom?s comments about the
way TV documentary interviews are conducted, another
observation: whenever any interviewed expert is shown
talking to a presenter, you can GUARANTEE (like, be
100% sure) that the two resulting dialogues were NOT
filmed at the same time.

It is in fact SOP for any questions or responses (e.g., head
nodding, laughing etc) to be filmed AFTER the answers
were filmed. The original interview generally lacks
structure, is generally just a rambling discussion of the
subject area, and the answers that the expert provides guides
the presenter in their eventual choice of questions.

Picture the following imaginary TV interview between a
scientist (Dr Mike Lamtrill) and a TV presenter (Mr
Mackpah). They are talking about ichthyosaurs. They are
sat opposite one another and a large skull of an ichthyosaur,
a _Temnodontosaurus_, is on the ground in front of them.
Remember: Mackpah is the TV presenter; Lamtrill is the

Mackpah: Ok, we?re looking here at the ichthyosaurs, a
group of aquatic reptiles that inhabited the seas of the
Mesozoic. Mike, this structure within the orbit looks to me
like a sclerotic ring.

Lamtrill: Yes, that?s correct.
[shot of Mackpah nodding sagely, holding chin]

Mackpah: Of course sclerotic rings are seen quite widely in
animals, but I believe that in aquatic animals like
ichthyosaurs they may have helped the eye resist water
pressure? is that correct?

Lamtrill: Yes.
[shot of Mackpah nodding in a knowing sort of way]

Mackpah: Now I can see we also have elongate jaws and
sharp pointed teeth here. Does this indicate that these
animals ate? well, fish and swimming molluscs I suppose?

Lamtrill: Yes? ichthyosaurs probably used their jaws and
teeth to catch fish and swimming molluscs.

Mackpah: I can see we also have here these openings, I
believe the technical term you palaeontologists use for them
is ?supratemporal fenestrae?. Would they have functioned
in?. muscle attachment, stress dissipation, something like

Lamtrill: Yes, those are the supratemporal fenestrae. As in
living animals they may have served a variety of functions.

Of course the benefit of recording the questions _after_ the
answers have been given is quite obvious. The original
interview ? the one that really happened, and the one that
you won?t see on TV ? really went like this?.

Mackpah: So, tell us about ... what are they called? These
fish lizards.

Lamtrill: They?re properly called ichthyosaurs, they were
aquatic reptiles that inhabited the seas of the Mesozoic.

Mackpah: Now tell us about this ichthyosaur skull we have
with us here.

Lamtrill: Yes, like most ichthyosaurs you can see this
animal had elongate jaws and sharp pointed teeth.
Ichthyosaurs probably used their jaws and teeth to catch fish
and swimming molluscs. Another typical ichthyosaur trait
are these huge orbits, or eye sockets: these indicate that
ichthyosaurs had huge eyes, and they probably had
excellent vision, so they could hunt in dark waters, or in
waters where there was a lot of plankton or disturbed silt.
Another characteristic features are these ring-like structures
called sclerotic rings.

Mackpah: Clarotic? what?

Lamtrill: Yes, err? sclerotic rings. Each ring is composed
of many separate bones called sclerotic plates. Lots of
animals have sclerotic rings but in ichthyosaurs the rings are
made of particularly thick bone and it may be that they
helped the eyeball resist pressure at depth, or something like

Mackpah: And what are these? hole things here?
[he points to the supratemporal fenestrae]

Lamtrill: Yes, those are the supratemporal fenestrae: they?re
not unique to ichthyosaurs but are seen widely in reptiles
and other vertebrates. As in living animals they may have
served a variety of functions: certain jaw muscles are
attached to the edges of the fenestrae, and they may have
assisted in stress dissipation at the back of the skull.

Mackpah: Ok, that should be enough. It?s about lunch time.

Am I cynical, or just experienced?

For the record, the BBC people doing the tyrannosaur
programme were (on Tom?s advice) going to be doing a bit
on _Eotyrannus_, and I was to be involved. Alas, they
dropped it. Story of my life.

Darren Naish
School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
University of Portsmouth UK, PO1 3QL

email: darren.naish@port.ac.uk
tel: 023 92846045


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