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Re: Terra Nova: thoughts
But I found the idea of curious and peaceful brontosauruses taking tree
branches from a kid unexpectedly cute.
Do you think that in real life, highly intelligent "slashers" would have
gotten the kids out of that tank? Small dinosaurs in the cage behind me are
looking for who to bite. Tweewoo!
Thomas, if everyone gets into the high level philosophies behind the program
the way you do, it just might survive! LOL! Not, I understand one word of
what you wrote. Other than about the descriptions of dinosaurs.
I am sure that this list will now have an extended high level discussion of
philosophies of science fiction.
I've an idea that the grain would adapt, but if they kill just one
brontosaurus they will have enough food for a long time. And scrambled
brontosaurus egg would feed teh colony for a week. I wonder what they'll
do for calcium, though. Not even much carbonate rock, in that time. Most
of it in Texas, anyway, formed during the Cretaceous.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Thomas R. Holtz, Jr." <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 9:00 AM
Subject: Terra Nova: thoughts
First, a news article:
Synopsis (superbrief): Colonists from a dystopian mid-22nd Century
populated entirely by early 21st century suburban Americans
facing environmental catastrophes flee via a rift in time to the early
Santonian (85 Ma), where they have to deal with dinosaurs,
intra-colony rivalries, and Steven Speilberg.
My Facebook observations are a) kids love the show and b) those who have
been around the block more often find it tedious, poorly
placed, and a poor execution of some halfway decent ideas.
Now, my thoughts:
Plot/setting: "Political refugees and misfits escape via stable oneway
timerift to a parallel past" is a combination of science
fiction tropes that work fine for plot reasons. Parallel past allows for
people to actually act and do things without consequences
for the future (Utley's Silurian short story cycle and Stirling's
Nantucket series both used this premise). The "political refugees
and misfits escape via stable oneway time rift" is the same background of
May's Saga of Pliocene Exile, and plenty of good stories
(Steele's Coyote colony books) [and, of course, reality!!] have been
written about misfits and other refugees as pioneers.
The idea of using the Santonian is a good one: it is largely a "twilight
zone" in terms of our paleontological knowledge, which
gives greater freedom to the writers. It stands between the pretty well
known communities of the Cenomanian and the extraordinarily
well known faunas of the Campano-Maastrichtian. If the writers were clever
(ah, if only...) they could draw upon both time slices to
create late survivors of the Cenomanian faunas and early precursors of the
latest K. But more about what they actually did below...
I am not quite certain if they established WHERE on the Earth the colony
is (I missed it if they said). This is an issue, because by
the Santonian you are getting regionalization of faunas to some degree,
and that is going to effect your taxon choice. Or at least,
it SHOULD affect your taxon choice.
The mountainous setting has multiple uses: From the point of view of the
audience, it is pretty. From the point of view of
characters in the story, it makes sense: running fresh water, and the
potential for hydroelectic power. From the point of view of
the writers, the fact that montane faunas basically don't wind up as
fossils gives them additional leeway in creating taxa.
* Brachiosaurus. Umm, Brachiosaurus. Apparently a very late surviving
population... And they obviously went back in time prior to
the 2000s to find these ones, because they hadn't heard about the
repositioning of the fleshy nostrils! (My suspicion: they modded
the CGI models from Jurassic Park, and didn't correct this issue). Nice
aspect: they make reference to the fact (in our world,
possibility) that they occasionally chomped on small animals, too: hat tip
to Greg Paul. On the other hand, they referred to
"incisors" on these guys...
* Carnotaurus. A very early population of these... (Redated, Carnotaurus
is one of the youngest of the abelisaurids. But it was once
considered Aptian/Albian. Maybe this is a population in transit due to the
redating...) Utterly failed to get the forearms right on
them (again!): so far Dinosaur Revolution and Planet Dinosaur's models are
the only correct abelisaurid arms in CG. While we do not
have Carnotaurus' metatarsi, they gave it feet that are probably far too
long and slender based on other abelisaurids.
They could have said "brachiosaur" and "abelisaur" and it would have been
fine: we might get both of these 85 Ma. Specifying the
genus name (okay, I know that etymologically that phrase is inaccurate!)
sets them up to be wrong. If I were a consultant on this
(which I'm not), I would encourage them not to use particular known
Also, this is where knowledge of where on Earth they are is important. If
North America or mainland Asia, the presence of an
abelisaurid is just contradictory to our current information on
dinosaurian biogeography! Any other continent, not so bad.
* Acceraptor. An invented dinosaur, nicknamed "the slasher". Inventing new
dinosaurs isn't a bad idea, so long as the invention is
reasonable, given that new species are named at a rate of about 1/week or
more. This thing, though: it looks something like a
toothed oviraptorosaur (or an oviraptorosaur-crested dromaeosaur) with
Jurassic Park "bunny hands" syndrome and a slashing tail
weapon. If it were me, I'd have suggested some sort of megaraptoran
neovenatorid. (And jeez, if you want a pack hunting predator,
you are smack dab in the middle of Eudromaeosauria's stratigraphic range!)
* Giant centipedes. Yes, you read me right: giant freaking scolopendrid
centipedes. Maybe 2 m long. What is next: giant man-eating
plants with mobile tentacles?!? Shades of bad "lost world" movies of
However, food may be an issue: most grains use the C4 metabolic pathway,
and these plants do poorly in higher CO2 conditions. They
will probably have to mostly live off the land.
SPECULATIONS (you are warned): There are mysterious writing (equations)
left on rocks that the colony leader has forbidden people to
see. Given these, and some other comments, I suspect that the secret
mission of the colony is actually to set up a reverse time rift
to ship back natural resources to their home timeline. Or maybe not, we'll
Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Email: email@example.com Phone: 301-405-4084
Office: Centreville 1216
Senior Lecturer, Vertebrate Paleontology
Dept. of Geology, University of Maryland