Walking with Monsters


Walking with Monsters

Infobox Television
show_name = Walking with Monsters


genre = Documentary
runtime = 2 hr (including commercials)
developer = Andrew Wilks
producer = Chloe Leland
executive_producer = Tim Haines
narrated = Kenneth Branagh
theme_music_composer = Ben Bartlett
country = UK
language = English
network = BBC
first_aired = November 5, 2005
related = Walking with Dinosaurs, Walking with Beasts
website = http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0490048/

"Walking with Monsters" (also distributed as "Before the Dinosaurs: Walking With Monsters" or "Walking with Monsters: Life before Dinosaurs") is a three-part British documentary film series about life in the Paleozoic, bringing to life extinct arthropods, fish, amphibians, synapsids, and reptiles. It is narrated by Kenneth Branagh, and by Avery Brooks in the American version. Using state-of-the-art visual effects, this prequel to Walking with Dinosaurs shows for example how a two-ton predatory fish came on land to hunt. The series draws on the knowledge of over 600 scientists and shows nearly 300 million years of Paleozoic history, from the Cambrian Period (530 million years ago) to the Early Triassic Period (248 million years ago). It was written and directed by Tim Haines.

As with some of the other BBC specials, it was renamed in North America, where its title was "Before the Dinosaurs: Walking With Monsters". It has also aired as a two-hour special on the Canadian and American Discovery Channel.

At the 58th Primetime Emmy Awards in 2006 it won the Emmy Award in the category "Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming One Hour or More)".

Episode One

The first episode begins with an illustration of the giant impact hypothesis: approximately 4.4 billion years ago when the Earth was formed, it is conjectured that a planet-like object referred to as Theia collided into the early Earth, dynamically reshaping the Earth and forming the moon. The episode then jumps ahead to the Cambrian Explosion, showing the first diversification of life in the sea. Strange predators called "Anomalocaris" feed on Trilobites, fight with each other, whereupon the wounded loser is attacked by a school of "Haikouichthys", described as the first vertebrate.

The segment moves on to the Silurian period, where Haikouichthys has evolved into the jawless-fish "Cephalaspis". The marine scorpion "Brontoscorpio" pursues a Cephalaspis but falls victim to the giant eurypterid "Pterygotus". Later a shoal of "Cephalspis" migrate into the shallows to spawn, navigating via memory thanks to their advanced (for the time) vertebrate brains. As they cross a shallow embankment, they are ambushed by several "Brontoscorpio" which are depicted as the first animals capable of walking on land. Several fish are killed but the majority slip past the scorpions and arrive at spawning site.

A short sequence depicts "Cephalaspis" evolving into "Hynerpeton" (erroneously bypassing the lobe-finned fish stage), amphibian-like tetrapods. Though capable of terrestrial movement, "Hynerpeton" have to remain near water to keep moist and reproduce. A lone male "Hynerpeton" hunting underwater is threatened by predatory fish, at first by a "Stethacanthus" which is itself eaten by a two-ton "Hyneria" that chases the amphibian out of the water. After seeing off a rival during the night, the male finds a receptive female at dawn and the two mate at the waters edge. They are ambushed by the "Hyneria", which drags itself ashore to grab the fleeing male. Despite his untimely death, the 'Hynerpeton' eggs were successfully fertilized and sink into the water to develop. A sequence depicts them acquiring hard shells as the first reptiles evolve.

:530 Million Years Ago — Cambrian — the Chengjiang biota, China:
* "Anomalocaris"
* "trilobite"
* "Haikouichthys"
* jellyfish (live acted)

:418 Million Years Ago — Silurian — South Wales, UK:
* "Cephalaspis"
* "Brontoscorpio"
* "Cameroceras"
* "Pterygotus'
* sea urchin
* sponge:Filming Location: Devil's Postpile National Monument, California, USA

:360 Million Years Ago — Devonian — Pennsylvania, USA:
* "Hynerpeton"
* "Hyneria"
* "Stethacanthus"
* Emperor scorpion

Episode Two

The second episode shows the swampy coal forests of the Carboniferous. It explains that because of a much higher oxygen content in the atmosphere, giant land arthropods evolved, such as a Mesothelae (a member of the primitive spider suborder), "Meganeura", a dragonfly and "Arthropleura",a huge millipede relative. A Mesothelae hunts down a "Petrolacosaurus", the descendant of "Hynerpeton" from the first episode. she comes back from her hunting expedition only to find her burrow has flooded. Not only that, the "Petrolacosaurus" she caught is stolen by a "Meganeura". On the Mesothelae's search for a new burrow, she was chased by an "Arthropleura", which is later killed in a fight with a "Proterogyrinus", a huge, seven-foot amphibian. The Mesothelae finally chases a "Petrolacosaurus" out of its own burrow and moves in. Thunder, rain and a forest fire pours in, devastating the life around. At last, only some animals survive...including "Petrolacosaurus", who finds the dead body of the Mesothelae (the animal was hit by lightning) and begins to feed upon the spider's carcass.

The episode then moves on to the early Permian, where the swamp-loving trees of the Carboniferous have been replaced with more advanced conifers that are better adapted to survive in a changing climate. "Petrolacosaurus" has evolved into "Edaphosaurus", a pelycosaur (this is impossible, as "Petrolacosaurus" was a diapsid reptile, related to modern lizards, snakes, crocodiles, and birds, whereas "Edaphosaurus" was a synapsid reptile, related to modern mammals). They live in herds and have outgrown their arthropod contemporaries in size so they are no longer a threat to them. A female "Dimetrodon", another pelycosaur, hunts down a baby "Edaphosaurus" after dispersing a herd of them. She is getting ready to lay eggs. She abandons her kill when the scent of blood attracts male "Dimetrodon". She forms a nest on a hill and while she lays her eggs, she is watched by a "Seymouria". Some time after laying her eggs, another female "Dimetrodon" tries to take over her nest. They fight for an entire day, and the original female manages to win. But she is weakened and has her right eye bitten out. The "Seymouria" takes the chance to steal some eggs in the mother's weakened state. Luckily, a male "Dimetrodon" eats the "Seymouria" and the eggs are unharmed. But when the eggs hatch, the mother-young bond is severed. This episode ends with the female "Dimetrodon" joining other adult "Dimetrodon" to cannibalize some of the young "Dimetrodon" while they race to the trees and hide in dung to escape. At the end the narrator says that the reptiles evolve to tighten their grip on land, evolving into "new reptiles."

:Filming Location: Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Florida, USA, and some painted or computer-generated backgrounds. A model of a fallen rotted-out Lepidodendron or Sigillaria trunk is sometimes used as a prop.

:300 Million Years Ago — Carboniferous — Kansas, USA (in a coal forest):
* "Petrolacosaurus"
* "Mesothelae"
* "Arthropleura"
* "Meganeura"
* "Proterogyrinus"

:Filming Location: Inyo National Forest, California, USA:280 Million Years Ago — Early Permian — Bromacker Quarry, Thuringia, Germany:
* "Dimetrodon"
* "Edaphosaurus"
* "Seymouria"

Episode Three

The third episode is set in the Late Permian, on the supercontinent Pangaea, which was covered by a vast and inhospitable desert. In this arid climate, early therapsids, which are described as more "mammal-like" than reptile, are shown fighting to survive. The programme starts with an old "Scutosaurus", an ancestor of turtles, being killed by a female "Gorgonops". She then joins other members of her kind at a small waterhole but scares them off at first. Other inhabitants include "Diictodon", a small burrowing dicynodont (a type of mammal like "reptile"). In the pool itself is a large amphibian "Rhinesuchus", which ambushes the female "Gorgonops" in desperation. She latches onto the large animal's jaw but gives up. A herd of "Scutosaurus" arrive and eventually drink the waterhole dry. The female "Gorgonops" tries to dig out some "Diictodon" but is unsuccessful. She returns to the waterhole and un-earth the "Rhinesuchus" wrapped in a "cocoon" which it utilized to live through the drought. Because it is in a torpid state, it is helpless and is eaten by the "Gorgonops". The "Gorgonops" is eventually killed by a sandstorm which is a foreshadowing of the oncoming Permian-Triassic extinction event.

* "Gorgonops"
* "Rhinesuchus"
* "Diictodon"
* "Scutosaurus"

The scene ends with the Diictodon evolving into Lystrosaurus. The Lystrosaurus population is growing. The Lystrosaurus need to migrate to areas plenty of food to survive. When they cross a ravine, a Lystrosaurus gets eaten by a pack of Euchambersia. They come to a river and are attacked by a group of Chasmatosaurus. Many escape, and continue to migrate. The mini-episode ends when the Euparkeria is confronted by a Chasmatosaurus. The Euparkeria evolves into an Allosaurus, frightening the Chasmatosaurus away. The Allosaurus approaches a pair of Stegosaurus. the scene flicks to a herd of three Diplodocus and a Brachiosaurus, fortelling the reign of the dinosaurs

* "Lystrosaurus"
* "Euparkeria"
* "Euchambersia"
* "Chasmatosaurus"
* "dragonfly"

Artistic Touches

As in the entire "Walking with" line of films, the animals sometimes interact with the camera:
* A "Brontoscorpio" stings the camera and breaks it.
* Another "Brontoscorpio" bumps the camera with its claw as it crawls onto land.
* A "Hynerpeton" knocks the camera while he is swimming, so does a "Hyneria".
* A "Hynerpeton" breathes on the camera.
* A "Hyneria" splatters water on the camera while diving back into the water.
* A "Mesothelae" crawls on the camera, and so does an "Arthropleura".
* A "Mesothelae" kicks dirt on the camera when she crawls over it.
* A "Dimetrodon" shakes intestines to avoid eating the feces inside, and most of the feces and blood splats onto the camera.
* A "Dimetrodon" digs up some dirt, and it lands on the camera.
* A baby "Dimetrodon" splatters some dung on the camera when it jumps in a pile of it.
* A "Gorgonops" sniffs the camera.
* A "Gorgonops" splatters water on the camera when it jumps in some water.
* A "Diictodon" looks curiously at the camera.
* A "Proterosuchus" knocks the camera while it is swimming.
* A "Lystrosaurus" bumps and sniffs the camera.

Body Part Close-Ups

Occasionally, the camera gets a close-up of certain body parts of animals. Here are the list of body part close-ups:
* "Anomalocaris"' eyes
* "Haikouichthys"' backbone
* "Cephalaspis"' sensory gland
* "Cephalaspis"' brain
* "Brontoscorpio"' lungs
* "Hynerpeton"'s lung
* "Hynerpeton"'s skin
* "Petrolacosaurus"' skin
* "Petrolacosaurus"' heart
* "Edaphosaurus"' sail
* "Dimetrodon"'s teeth
* "Diictodon"'s ear bone
* "Scutosaurus"' stomach
* "Euparkeria"'s hip bones

Palaeontological inaccuracies

"See more info on Walking with...#Palaeontological inaccuracies"Because the series takes an artistic license with regards to its views on evolution, there are a number of inaccuracies especially related to ancestor-descendant relationships. According to the cladistics viewpoint which is favored by modern evolutionary biologists, one can never scientifically claim that a particular fossil form must be directly ancestral to another life form (fossil or not), at most it can be claimed what fossil forms are likely basal to what other life forms. [ [http://people.hofstra.edu/J_B_Bennington/137notes/cladistics.html Phylogenetics and Cladistics] ] [ [http://home.planet.nl/~gkorthof/kortho49.htm Review of "In Search of Deep Time" by Henry Gee] ] Not only does the series repeatedly suggest this anyway, many of the claimed 'direct ancestors' are not even considered basal:
* "Cephalaspis" was not the ancestor of gnathostomes (jawed vertebrates) or tetrapods as gnathostomes appear in the fossil record well before "Cephalaspis". Furthermore, even though "Cephalaspis" was found only during the early Devonian, it is shown being pursued by the Late Silurian "Brontoscorpio".
* "Diictodon", "Gorgonops" and "Rhinesuchus" are only known from South Africa, yet in episode 3 they are portrayed living with "Scutosaurus", which lived only in Siberia.However, the Gorgonops is intended to be a generic gorgonopsid.
* In the series, "Petrolacosaurus" is incorrectly identified as an ancestral synapsid, when in fact, it was an early diapsid and could therefore not have been the ancestor of any synapsids (e.g. "Edaphosaurus"). The most basal synapsid, "Archaeothyris", would have been a more suitable candidate.
* The makers of "Walking with Monsters" originally intended to portray "Megarachne". During production, "Megarachne" was reidentified as a freshwater eurypterid, and as such, the giant spider was renamed "Mesothelae"," which is actually a suborder of spider.

Criticism

"See more info on Walking with... Inaccuracies"

Some viewers criticize "Walking with Monsters" to be an overly dramatic presentation of speculation as fact. [http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000BNI9EU] (see editorial review)

In the "Trilogy of Life" documentary, included on the "Walking With Monsters" DVD, the producers of the "Walking With" trilogy state that their intention was not to write a scientific thesis but to bring prehistoric animals to life. The documentary also states that science is littered with mistakes (some scientists might even say that science only progresses by making mistakes) and that while scientists can make guesses as to how these prehistoric creatures might have looked or behaved while they were alive, there is no guarantee that these guesses are correct and in this case, we have no way of knowing for sure.

Evolution According to the Program

"Haikouichthys" → "Cephalaspis" → "Hynerpeton" → "Petrolacosaurus" [The Hynerpeton does not evolve into a Petrolacosaurus in the adult stage, but with an egg. The Hynerpeton egg did not have a shell, and it evolves into Petrolacosaurus by evolving a shell and the Carboniferous part of the program starts with a Petrolacosaurus hatching from its egg. ] → Synapsids ("Dimetrodon", "Edaphosaurus", etc} → therapsids ("Gorgonops", "Diictodon") → "Lystrosaurus"

"Euparkeria" → dinosaurs ("Allosaurus", etc)

"Brontoscorpio" → Modern scorpion "Meganeura" → Dragonfly

Notes

ee also

* Walking with Dinosaurs
* Chased by Dinosaurs
* The Ballad of Big Al
* Walking with Beasts
* Sea Monsters
* Prehistoric Park

References

* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/prehistoric_life/galleries/wwmonsters/index.shtml BBC Walking with Monsters]
* [http://www.bbcproducts.com/default.asp?cpa=product&id=3590&ctl=81&cc=21239&tt= BBC Shop Before the Dinosaurs: Walking with Monsters DVD]
* [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0490048/ "Walking with Monsters"] at the Internet Movie Database
* [http://discoverychannel.ca/on_tv/releases/walking_with_monsters/ Discovery channel press release]


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