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Now out of print of course, are 18 video cassettes from Time-Life Video of episodes from the first three seasons. These were released in 1998 with two or three episodes per tape. For those keeping score, the PaleoWorld episodes not 'formally' released on U.S. VHS are: Early Birds (individual VHS and DVD only), Prehistoric Sharks (PAL DVD only), Loch Ness Secret, Valley of the Uglies and Valley of Venom. Some of these made it to overseas packages.
1 - African Graveyard: African Graveyard I - Hunting Dinosaurs / African Graveyard II - Discovering Dinosaurs / Flesh On the Bone
The video series starts with the opening to season 2. But that's fine because it's a fascinating two parter following Paul Sereno's 1995 expedition into the Sahara - the largest mounted. The group are colorful, energetic and youthful characters, far different than the usual suspects in the field. The hopes were initially to find a sauropod but they settle for some predators including the very big Carcharodontosaurus, represented by skull elements (but misrepresented by the show producers with an Allosaurus skull graphic at one point), and the headless Deltadromeus. One of the best programs for those interested in seeing how much work, pride and determination goes into this field. We could have done without Dave Marrs' painting ripoff of Gregory Paul's tyrannosaur pair drawing.
Flesh On the Bone is from the third season, and catches up with Sereno's unveiling of the above findings to the media and Canadians hired for the reconstructions. It took five of his men three hours to carry that Carcharodontosaurus skull matrix down the African mountainside. In Toronto, its skull is replicated in plastic by Jay McClellen, and Garfield Minott's stunning fleshed out version is shown both in progress and completed. The skull-less body of Deltadromeus is mounted in Alberta. Dave Marrs rips off Steve Czerkas this time (the sculpted allosaur).
2 - Prehistoric Man: Ape Man / Trail of the Neanderthal
(Hominids do not fall into the criteria so I will not review these.)
3 - Struggle to Survive: Missing Links / Mysteries of Extinction
As with the Vol. 4 I am not covering hominids. I can say the Missing Links in question are the Chinese Homo erectus finds.
Kirk Johnson looks for clues to the Mysteries of Extinction of dinosaurs in the North American badlands. He supports the long standing asteroid theory as does Stephen Jay Gould. Robert Bakker opposes the view, thinking it's more likely an earthbound suspect, a kind of Darwinian serial killer who spares the smaller forms. Ask not why the dinosaurs died but why the turtles lived, he says.
4 - Land of the Giants: The Legendary T-Rex / Carnosaurs
Not much to report on The Legendary T-Rex that is not well known by now, but in 1994, a program devoted exclusively to the king was different and welcome. It sums up its discovery, Hollywood and pop culture's fascination, the discovery of Sue (before her government confiscation), Horner's tired argument that Rex scavenged and Pete Larsen and Phil Currie telling us otherwise.
There's a lot of paleoart by virtually everyone in Carnosaurs such as Albertosaurus and T rex figure heavily (discussed by Phil Currie in Dinosaur Provincial Park) but we do have Jose Bonaparte showing off abelisaurid Carnotaurus and its skin (shown are Mark Hallett's allosaurs, being passed off as carnotaurs simply because of its eye horns). William Hammer showing skull remains of Cryolophosaurus, the Antarctic theropod. Too bad not much quality art was available on the creature then and even today it is largely unrestorable. Complaints would be too much Dinamation and throwaway lines like "Their steps made the earth tremble."
5 - Nomadic Survival: Horns and Herds / Monsters On the Move
We begin in Dinosaur Provincial Park with the ever-excavating local Phil Currie suspended mid-cliff, telling us of the mass grave of herding/migrating centrosaurines. Scott Sampson explains his osteologic research now confirms ceratopsian frill and horn changes over their lifespan. Peter Dodson gets in the ring with a Triceratops head on a stick to dramatize a mating head jousting match. Jim Kirkland Greg Wenzel's superb ceratopsian sculptures provide good visuals but the Tess Kissinger paintings are subpar. Horns and Herds ends with Jim Kirkland on how horned dinos attracted mates.
Not as visually interesting is Martin Lockley's research in trackways tells us about Monsters On the Move, namely in the Eastern Utah Canyonlands and in "Dinosaur Ridge". An Australian trackway is one of the few remnants of a fatal predator/prey confrontation which excites some researchers more than finding skeletons.
6 - Polar Dinos: Dinos In the Snow / Mystery of Dinosaur Cove
Roland Gangloff was the leading researcher in Alaskan Dinos in the Snow, and we follow him to the frozen north. Phil Currie uses Safari's old Authentics figures to show migration on a table-sized map. Greg Paul's arctic tyrannosaur drawing is shown a few times under a computer-added simulated aurora borealis; We keep seeing Bill Parsons' Edmontosaurus art but it is a bit old fashioned.
In Australia, Tom Rich risks injury to uncover the seaside fossils of Dinosaur Cove. He is the discoverer of the big eyed dinosaur Leallynasaura (named after his daughter). A protoceratopsid turns up down under too indicating the horned dinos may have evolved first there too. This episode loses viewer interest fairly quick with limited visuals including more Dave Marrs artwork ripped off from Greg Paul.
7 - Jurassic Seas: Back To the Seas / Sea Monsters
When and where mammals first went Back To the Seas is the pursuit of Philip Gingrich. One of the most blatant and best stories in evolution - and first suggested to much ridicule by Charles Darwin himself - is the story of how whales began with a terrestrial ancestor. Too bad they couldn't be proved wrong within his lifetime. Pakicetus and Indocetus are found first, revealing back legs had stayed behind (probably used for copulation gripping) but the missing link is finally unearthed: Ambulocetus, the "walking whale". Certainly not a purely aquatic creature, Gingrich theorizes it was amphibious like a seal is today, but its skull is clearly derived from a mesonychid ancestor.
Reptiles came before mammals and thus went back to the sea first however. Chris McGowen (of Royal Ontario Museum) and Robert Bakker talk ichthyosaurs, despite one part where we are randomly shown Mark Hallett's Tanystropheus painting. The manueverability and torpedo-like speed of plesiosaurs is mentioned too but the paintings unfortunately, while beautiful, suggest slow, graceful speeds. Bill Gallagher talks mosasaurs, the "T rex of the sea" - comparing their hidden secondary jaws to the creature of the""Alien: movies. And Mike Gottfried (of Calvert Marine Museum) fills in gaps on the real "Jaws", Megalodon. Sea Monsters indeed.
8 - Flying Dinos: Dinos In The Air / Flight of the Pterosaurs / Killer Birds
If anybody doesn't like the title Dinos in the Air, it would have to be the first paleontologist in the program, Larry Martin. You see, Larry is one of what, three guys? in the field who believes there's no evidence that dinosaurs evolved into birds, but that birds evolved from another common ancestor much earlier than the Jurassic. Near the end of the program he uses a Safari Ltd. velociraptor toy to show that "Deinonychus" couldn't climb. (As of this day, he has not found any proof there was an earlier ancestor. He points to Sankar Chatterjee's "Protoavis" which was never properly described or proven to be a bird.) Robert Bakker check lists the bird and dinosaur traits at a family's turkey dinner. Paleontologist Gregory Paul posted a review online in the Dinosaur Mailing List about the 'Dinos In the Air' episode: "(U. of Kansas Paleontologist) Larry Martin made odd assertions. His model of Archaeopteryx shows an animal with a flat body like a bird, and unlike deep bodied theropods. Birds and bats with flat bodies are often preserved belly down, with their limbs spread out to either side. Theropods are usually preserved lying on their side, where their deep bodies fell and rolled over. This includes the two Compsognathus specimen from the same sediments as Archaeopteryx. All the complete Archaeopteryx specimens are preserved like theropods, lying on their sides. The articulated specimens show that the pelvis was deep and narrow, like those of theropods. Martin's restoration alters Archaeopteryx into the bird he wants it to be, rather than the winged theropod that it was. Martin also said that theropods like Deinonychus were too deep bodied and big to climb, and lacked a reversable toe to grasp branches with. Tell that to a leopard, which is as big as the dromaeosaur, deep bodied, and has no hallux at all! Chimps are also big and they hunt monkeys in the trees! Of course, Martin's assertion was irrelevant arm waving. The theropods ancestoral to birds were probably wee little Jurassic forms. As for Bakker presenting a Thanksgiving turkey to a family during the program, that was just plain weird."
The next program is not limited to just Flight of the Pterosaurs, as the fossil record thus far has not preserved any in situ, how pterosaurs walked is also debated: Kevin Padian sees them walking like birds and some dinosaurs, David Unwin disagrees, envisioning them in bat posture. Chris Bennett sees them as neither, figuring they had a unique walking stance. Rhamphorhynchoids and pterodactyloids of all types are shown but mainly it's the albatross-like nature of Pteranodon and the great Quetzalcoatlus (represented by On the Wing footage of the QN robot designed by AeroVironment after work by Gregory Paul). Its stork like behavior downplayed. Harry Seeley and Georges Cuvier's 1800s research is fairly acknowledged. Robert Bakker expounds on the extinction of these first fliers. Artwork mostly by Mark Hallett, Doug Henderson, Jan Sovak.
Killer Birds profiled include the flightless ratite Andalgaornis and the larger Titanis, and the huge extinct flying Argentavis. Bob Chandler (of Florida Museum of Natural History) discovers that the titanis wingbone was very dinosaurian, allowing it to grip prey.
9 - Sauropods Puzzle: The Earthshakers / Mistaken Identity
The first episode gets off to a bad start by perpetuating the Earthshakers myth - that herds of sauropods shook the ground when they walked. The program is mainly about Argentinasaurus. Rudolfo Coria is shown digging a hole for three days to unearth more of the giant sauropod. This 3 ton rock matrix will take him months to fully study. McNeill Alexander uses Invicta's three sauropod models in water displacement tests to determine mass. Robert Bakker contra Alexander tells us that sauropods had fast growth verifiable by cutting their bones to see the inside structure. A lifesized Argentinosaurus is drawn on the side of a building by Bakker; "It had the brain the size of a cocktail weenie!" he says, holding a hot dog to its head. Kenneth Carpenter is on hand briefly to talk about Amphicoelias, whose only giant bone was lost in transit somehow and never showed up again.
The title of the package is a bit of a mistake itself as Mistaken Identity doesn't center on sauropods but rather various species that have been misidentified by paleontologists. In the 1920s Roy Chapman Andrews' assumption that the eggs in Mongolia were protoceratops' not the oviraptor's found with the eggs. Stephen Jay Gould reminds us that amateur naturalist Thomas Jefferson (yes, that one) thought a giant sloth's claw to belong to a lion. The most famous mistake was among the first (though the earlier 'Scrotum humanum' is not mentioned) Gideon Mantell's misidentification of Iguanodon's thumbspike as a tooth. The great Edwin Colbert touches on Edward Cope's plesiosaur with a head on its tail, and the second most famous faux pas of all: Marsh's brontosaur with the Camarasaurus skull, a mistake not rectified until the 1970s.
10 - Rats and Cats: Island of the Giant Rats / Dawn of the Cats
You wouldn't think so by the title but this excursion to Anguilla (once Island of the Giant Rats) in the Caribbean is one of the better PaleoWorlds. The title creatures - roughly bear-sized at 300 pounds each - ruled this island as recently as 100,000 years ago. Paleontologists Donald McFarland and Ross McPhee are forced to spend 12 hour days 70 feet underground in stench filled caves, hunting for the elusive giant rats' remains. Good stuff.
Through Chris Shaw at the Rancho La Brea tar pits in California we learn all about the greatest saber tooth of all time, Smilodon fatalis, then known only from oh, 166,000 remains! The main story of the Dawn of the Cats is told by Larry Martin, (taking a break from searching for the remains of a Triassic bird), who treats us to findings on Eusmilus, a smaller ancestor no less vicious. Barbourofelis is also compared. Most intriguing is Larry's belief that saber tooths can possibly re-evolve one day as they have many times before. Richard Tibbetts (and the great Charles Knight) supply the art.
11 - Using Your Head: Boneheads / Armored Dinos
Mike Triebold discovers the world's first complete Pachycephalosaurus in Hell Creek. Ralph Chapman (of the Smithsonian) agrees with Bakker's theory that the Boneheads were like nature's first football players (Bakker even "coaches" a high school team's practice while showing off a Stegoceras skull). Mike Goodwin (U Of Cal.) disagrees; plus microscopic analyses contradict Chapman and Bakker's not so solid argument that the bony domeheads head butted directly - they were too fragile, risking serious head fractures. Not much artwork but John Fischner's models do the job.
Thyreophorans are the subject of Armored Dinos, with Bakker even driving the point that these were nature's first tanks by actually speaking from inside one. Holding a Tyco DinoRiders Kentrosaurus toy he demonstrates the stegosaurian maneuverability was due to its huge deltoid muscle. Ken Carpenter's 1992 discovery in Garden Park, Colorado of a complete Stegosaurus (e.g. its in situ plate arrangement confirmed) tells us of its ugly tailspike infection and his belief that its plates were thermo regulators as well as for display. Nodosaurs round out the program with Jim Kirkland's Gastonia leading to the finding that it was pretty well protected against mortal enemy Utahraptor. PBS's Dinosaurs! stegosaur animation is used (the narrator hoping viewers don't mind Ceratosaurus substituing for Allosaurus).
12 - The Private Lives of Dinosaurs: Dino Diet / Dino Sex
First up the not so private activity of Dino Diet. Jim Farlow contends that sauropods were probably cold-blooded and ate far less than believed by most researchers. Greg Erickson (then of U. of Cal.) does his T rex bite force simulation to show that it did hunt and kill Triceratops (found with possibly healed bite marks on its pelvis). One of the silliest episodes yet - from the dino toys peeking behind menus in one of those tourist Dino Diners to Peter Dodson grape stopping in a vineyard to a simulated dino flatulence. Karen Chin guides us through the world of coprolites (dino dung) to see what lunch traces are found. Greg Paul's "Omeisaurus " family painting is shown four times. PBS's Dinosaurs! rex vs Triceratops animation is used.
The real private part of the tape is Dino Sex, long ignored and least researched by paleontologists. The 'money shot' would have to be Beverly Halstead's videotaped demonstration of the mounting positions of dinosaurs. "They literally had sex on the brains", Bakker says, pointing to the display frills and horns of ceratopsians. Darren Tanke demonstrates sexual dimorphism within the varied skull diversity of Pachyrhinosaurus (mispronounced every time by narrator Ben Gazzara as "pachyrhinoceros"). David Weishampel does his usual Parasaurolophus love making call impression. Dino parenting is covered in the last minutes by who else but Jack Horner.
13 - Lost Worlds: The Land That Time Forgot / Treasure Island
The Land That Time Forgot here is a South African basin where paleontologist Roger Smith hunts remains of Permian life, settling for dinocephalian tracks and gorgonopsid coprolites. Andrew Bain's initial discovery of dicynodonts - reptiles with mammalian teeth - is recounted, and the burrowing systems they used is simulated, culminating with the amazing in situ fossils of a pair that apparently died in their sleep when their burrow was flooded. Robert Bakker informs us the Permian predator/prey ratio/ecosystem was identical to the one on the African plains today before theorizing on the great Permian mass extinction.
On an expedition in rarely traveled Madagascar (Treasure Island) with Peter Dodson, Catherine Forster and Scott Sampson, we trace David Krauss' titanosaur discovery (this time with the precious elusive skull but perhaps more exciting, confirming its rumored armor scutes.) Sampson rejoices over finding the abelisaur Majungasaurus. Cameras even follow Dodson food shopping at the local bazaar in Majunga where he manages to pick up a case of (warm) beer. The writers were probably torn on namin these two episodes, as Madagascar is referred to as both the land that time forgot and treasure island in practically the same sentence.
14 - Bringing the Past To Life: Amber Hunters / Dino Docs
If you're thinking the Amber Hunters are a bunch of guys looking for insects from the Mesozoic so they can clone dinosaurs in Costa Rica, think again. Only 20 places in the world are known to have amber - which takes million years to make, and it's dangerous, deadly work retrieving samples from caves. It also takes thousands of pieces (at $2000 a piece) to weed through to find any "good ones". And all that sorting is done back at the American Museum of Natural History where Dave Grimaldi gleefully examines them with microscopes in his quest to understand prehistoric insect life. Do they inevitably mention Jurassic Park? Yes, fortunately to tell us how impossible it is to extract anything useful from trapped insects to use towards dinosaur cloning.
The Dino Docs episode opens with some background on George Poinar's DNA extraction from a 40 million year old bee trapped in amber but again the dinosaur cloning fantasy is dismissed though Mary Schweitzer's soft tissue analyses of T rex blood vessels holds the most promise were it possible to recode Dino DNA. As Greg Paul's rearing apatosaur is shown, Peter Dodson sounds off on how he thinks sauropods didn't rear up on hindlegs due to blood pressure, that cold bloodedness benefits large animals (he doesn't address warm blooded whales).
15 - Killer Elite: Rise of the Predators / Troodon: Dinosaur Genius
In Argentina's Valley of the Moon, researchers like William Sill and Paul Sereno have discovered (so far) the earliest dinosaur predators: Eoraptor, herrerasaurs. Doug Henderson gets the first artist to be shown in the series credit; Rise of the Predators (climaxing with the Utahraptor) was the first episode of PaleoWorld and it's only fitting it begins at the start of the dinosaur evolution.
Ah yes, the undiagnostic wonder Troodon, the genius genus...the apex of dinosaur intelligentsia. First discussed is the anatomy and behavior of this Archosaurian Einstein (did you know that Troodon was not only a five time chess world champion, but was also fluent in 7 languages?) More like Dinosaur Savant! All this and more, as Dale Russell sheds light on the brainiest of the dinosaurs. Are we spared the Dinosauroid? Of course not! it's a package deal. Dale Russell will not show off the Troodon sculpture without the Dinosauroid too. But gee, as lovely as Ron Seguin's reptilian sculpture is, they should have listened to Greg Paul back then and put some feathers on it. (Well, we will hold out for Saurornithoides...)
16 - Mammoths and Rhinos: Mammoths! / Are Rhinos Dinos?
Paleontologist Larry Agenbroad passionately talks about Columbian Mammoths! mostly - believed to have possessed the same social structure, emotions and language as African elephants do today. We meet Napolean, the first fossil mammoth to be preserved in anatomically natural position and learn about the pygmy mammoths that evolved from the Columbian mammoths. Scenes with actors dressed up as Clovis hunters intercut as Paul Martin shows off some Clovis arrowheads.
I can still hear the groans to this day about the episode - Are Rhinos Dinos? Not anymore than Are Dinos Rhinos? By far one of the poorest episodes in terms of writing (we're told twice that Teleoceros was like a hippo and that various species had "cast iron stomachs"). Donald Prothero covers brontotheres, Paraceratherium and Minoceros. Bob Hunt tells us how rhinos near a waterhole died an agonizing death from breathing volcanic ash. Five minutes into the program the writer is comparing the Triceratops body plan to the rhino's. We're still stuck with David Marrs' paintings (or tracings if you will). We should have had some paintings by Mark Hallett instead.
17 - Small But Mighty: Dwarf Dinos / Attack of the Killer Kangaroos
The great Hungarian Baron Franz Nopcza - dramatized here by an actor - was right when he theorized that the Dwarf Dinos of Eastern Europe evolved that way due to isolation on islands. Seeing Nopcza's old mansion and the pursuit of Cretaceous fossils in a mine is a highlight. The skeleton of the diminiutive Transylvanian iguanodont Telmatosaurus and David Weishampel (who penned Nopcza's bio) appears throughout. Points taken off for the use of leopard roars over bad John Sibbick paintings from the 1980s. It looks like Brian Franczak's painting was used mainly because no one else had bothered to restore Telmatosaurus.
We learn in the intro that the cute cuddly marsupials in Australia have some fearsome skeletons in the closet, with paleontologist Michael Archer as our guide. Why did virtually all marsupials on every continent perish except in Australia? Did they begin in Australia? Did they "win" the continent from the placentals and/or monotremes? While the program answers these questions, the focus is on the Attack of the Killer Kangaroos (and there's some shout outs to Borhyena and Marsupial Lions too). Mark Hallett's mammal paintings are seen throughout.
18 - Rise of the Reptiles: Tale of a Sail / Ancient Crocodiles
That Dimetrodon was cold blooded is undisputed. What it used its sail for is up for debate. The late great Nicholas Hotton III defends the function of its sail as a body temperature regulator while Bakker vehemently disagrees. "Things that stick out" on extant animals are for either sexual display or intimidation or both. One aspect we can all agree on is that all mammals can be traced back to Dimetrodon. We owe our skull design and dentition at least! Other mammal-like reptiles are featured with art by Brian Franczak, Mark Hallett, Doug Henderson and especially David Peters. No attempt was made to hide even yet another David Marrs' tracing of another man's work (this time, Peters' Estemmenosuchus) Their renditions appear back to back!
Paleontologists Wann Langston and Chris Brochu hunt for Ancient Crocodiles in Big Bend, Texas, chiefly interested in Deinosuchus, known only from skull remains and insignificant body traces. Art Busby compares extinct and extant crocodile behavior but the real fun is had by David Frehley who finds the skull of Porosaurus in the Amazon, which at five feet long and with two inch wide teeth is easily larger than Deinosuchus.
Prehistoric Giants is a repackage of a few of the final season episodes released to VHS by Bridgestone Media in 2000. The on-screen title "PaleoWorld' has been replaced during the intro titles but the episodes are otherwise intact.
Volume I: Dawn of the Dinosaurs / The Secrets of the Brontosaurus
Naturally the first episode is not about a prehistoric giant at all. Dawn of the Dinosaurs is more coverage of Coelophysis with Bakker's model of steak knives aligned in a frame to demonstrate the Triassic predator's innovative jaws. Kent Stevens' horizontal bridge computer model theory in The Secrets of the Brontosaurus is justifiably challenged, while Bakker chops the head off an outdated Invicta Apatosaurus model. Much is made about the 'new' skull, a find that was almost 20 years old by this time.
Volume II: Killer Raptors / Baby Monsters
Killer Raptors exploits Deinonychus and its victim Tenontosaurus. The 'monsters' in Baby Monsters are just duckbills and Jack Horner once again goes through the same set of maternal theories and the same old Doug Henderson paintings from the book 'Maia'.
Volume III: Clash of the Titans / Dinosaur Doomsday
'Ultimate Guide to T Rex' footage is reused in Clash of the Titans, that is, between rex and Giganotosaurus, introduced boxing match style by Peter Dodson. Highlight is the first ever T rex trackway find. Once again, the extinction theories are reviewed - despite an earlier episode covering the topic - in Dinosaur Doomsday.