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WALKING WITH DINOSAURS

The Science That Inspired Walking With Dinosaurs
Since the original Walking with Dinosaurs television series aired, a wealth of new dinosaur finds has taken our understanding of these amazing creatures to new levels. Dinosaur remains have been unearthed on every continent, revealing that the group thrived around the globe during the Mesozoic era, which covers three important geologic periods: the Triassic, the Jurassic and the Cretaceous. The 3D movie is set towards the end of the Cretaceous Period.

Recent discoveries that inspired WALKING WITH DINOSAURS include:

The World of WALKING WITH DINOSAURS

Herds

Huge "bone-beds" found in Alaska and Canada over the past two decades have brought to our attention the remains of hundreds of similar animals, old and young, all jumbled together. This suggests a mass death caused by a catastrophe such as a flash-flood. (The movie presents a scenario in which ice breaks over a frozen lake). Most importantly for our story, these finds show that vast herds of large herbivores, including Pachyrhinosaurus and Edmontosaurus, roamed Late Cretaceous Alaska.

Migration

Large herds cannot remain in one location without destroying the vegetation that serves as their food source. So it is likely that some dinosaurs migrated great distances annually in search of food and more favorable environmental conditions - just as caribou do today.

Family Behavior

We meet Patchi in the nest being cared for by his mother and watched over by his formidable father Bulldust. All dinosaurs laid eggs. Some fossils suggest that certain dinosaur species looked after their young, including fossils of dinosaurs tending their eggs and fossils of nestlings in and around dinosaur nests.

Family group fossils - assemblages of fossil bones and footprints show that youngsters and adults of many dinosaur species travelled in groups, suggesting that adults and young remained together even after leaving the nesting area.

The cast of WALKING WITH DINOSAURS

The diverse cast of characters you meet in the movie is based on the range of animals found at the various fossil sites in Alaska and Canada, particularly from Prince Creek, Horseshoe Canyon, Bear Paw, Wapiti, and Dinosaur Provincial Park.

Ecology

The Denali excavations have built up a picture of an entire Late Cretaceous ecology, including the primary dinosaur species, mammals, birds (including shore birds, mud-peckers and waders), amphibians and insects. Together these finds, and other clues unearthed in Alaska and elsewhere, enabled us to reconstruct the world that served as home for these amazing dinosaurs.

Life-like Dinosaurs Brought to the Big Screen:

Controversy settled

When the Walking with Dinosaurs TV series was broadcast, the idea that birds were descended from dinosaurs was still a matter of hot debate. Now there is no doubt. Many new finds of bird-like dinosaurs and dinosaur-like birds, particularly those emerging from spectacular sites in China, have established the direct link between the theropod dinosaurs (like Gorgosaurus) and the lineage of birds.

So, contrary to popular belief, the dinosaurs did not go extinct 66 million years ago. They're still around us - as birds. In fact, with about 10,000 living bird species, there are more kinds of dinosaur descendants around on Earth today than mammals.

Skin and Feathers

We're used to seeing depictions of dinosaurs as giant reptiles - the word dinosaur means "terrible lizard" - and we've grown up imagining them as such. However many fossils have remains of soft tissue, skin impressions and impressions of feathers (particularly notable finds are those of feathered dinosaurs in China and Mongolia). It is now clear that many dinosaurs (and very likely all of the theropods) were feathered, particularly the young of the species, who might have lost their downy feathers as they aged.

Color

By the Late Cretaceous Period, flowering plants had evolved, suggesting a world rich with color. It is likely that dinosaurs would have had color vision in order to flourish. Following from this, it is likely they were colored themselves.

Very special fossils have been found in China and Mongolia, which show us the colors of dinosaurs. In particular, melanosomes (pigmentation structures within animal cells) have been preserved and from the shapes of these structures we can ascertain the types of colors and patterns these animals had. Anchiornis huxleyi was white, black and russet red. Sinosauropteryx was stripy ginger! Furthermore, dinosaurs like Microraptor have been found to have iridescent feathers like a number of birds today.

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/02/dinosaur-fossil-reveals-true-feather-colors/

The discovery of a mummified Hadrosaur, including some of its soft tissue, included skin texture, showing variation typical of striped color. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7124969.stm

New perception of Pterosaurs

Pterosaurs could move better on land than we once thought, and they could easily fly or glide long distances.

Adaptability

Dinosaurs have now been found on all continents across the prehistoric globe, including at both Poles with their long, harsh winters.

The Troodon you meet in WALKING WITH DINOSAURS are based on those found in Alaska. They had large eyes and were much bigger than other Troodon species in other parts of the world. Their large eyes probably gave them an advantage in the dark Arctic winter, and enabled them to become one of the area's most successful predators. This inspired their role in the movie as a constant predatory threat.

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