Prehistoric Planet (2022) s01e02 Episode Script


Surely, one of the most remarkable animals that has ever existed, and certainly one of the most famous, is a dinosaur.
Tyrannosaurus rex.
An animal to spark the imagination for all of us.
What kind of an animal was it? What did it look like? How did it live? Now, scientific research has answered such questions.
And not just about T.
rex, but the other species that lived alongside it.
And the latest imaging technology enables us to bring them all to life.
Planet Earth, 66 million years ago.
The skies are filled with flying giants.
In the seas, monstrous reptiles patrol the depths.
And on land, dinosaurs of every kind, all facing the struggle to survive.
We now know so much about a world that was ruled by the dinosaurs.
This is their story.
The west of South America and one of the most desolate places on this prehistoric planet.
Few animals venture here, yet it is the stage for one of the most extraordinary gatherings on Earth.
Eighty-five feet long and weighing 40 tons.
These are all males, and they're many miles from their rich forest feeding grounds.
They come here for only one reason: to fight for the chance to mate.
Crowds of females scrutinize the newly arriving males, assessing their strength and suitability.
The titanosaurs' immense necks are supported by an ultralightweight air-filled skeleton.
Their hollow neck bones are connected to a series of bellows that inflate bizarre gular air sacs.
Those males with the most impressive displays will attract the most females.
This huge bull, white with dust, has held the center stage for two weeks.
He weighs nearly 50 tons.
And his display has, so far, intimidated all challengers.
But this new arrival is not deterred.
Lifting up such a huge body is exhausting.
It's a battle of endurance.
As the conflict intensifies, each fighter tries to wound the other, stabbing with sharp dagger-like spikes on each thumb and raking the skin with their teeth.
Until, eventually the knockout blow.
The old bull's rule is finally over.
The young victor takes his turn on the center stage.
The price of defeat, for some, is very high.
Even though some animals are well adapted to desert conditions, their survival is often on a knife-edge.
Especially here in Asia, where, in the height of summer, temperatures soar above 60 degrees Celsius and water evaporates in an instant.
There are ferocious-looking reptiles here too.
But this little lizard is only a few inches long.
Here, getting a meal is never easy.
This immense carcass could be promising.
A dead sauropod.
A potential feast for many.
But, strangely, all is quiet.
Tarbosaurus the equivalent, in this desert, of T.
They keep everyone else away.
But for the lizard, they might bring an opportunity.
If there is one thing that attracts flies more than a carcass it's a sleeping tarbosaur that has been feeding on that carcass.
Time to be bold.
A Velociraptor.
Time to be careful.
Because Velociraptors often hunt together.
The tarbosaurs move on.
And now the pterosaurs can come down and claim a share of the carcass.
For the little lizard, the opportunity has gone.
Making the most of fleeting chances is key to surviving in the desert, and some dinosaurs manage to do so very effectively indeed.
Mononykus is a desert specialist.
Like many desert animals, she must patrol a huge area if she is to find enough food.
Bare legs help keep her body cool.
Feathers on her body shield her from the sun's rays, and they provide her with a super sense.
They form facial discs that help her detect the faintest of sounds.
Such hypersensitive directional hearing gives her a mental map of this hollow log and what lies within.
She now uses the weapon that gives this hunter its name.
Mononykus, single giant claw.
Just what she needs to open a termite's nest.
And she has another special piece of equipment.
A flexible tongue twice the length of her head.
An excellent protein-packed meal, if only termites weren't quite so irritating.
Specialists like Mononykus can thrive in this arid desert.
But such conditions don't always stay the same.
On rare occasions, cooler mountain winds sweep in and mix with the rising hot air.
A desert storm, bringing with it welcome rain.
She may never before have seen the land soaked like this.
It transforms this landscape in unexpected ways.
Seeds that have been lying dormant burst into life.
They transform this arid landscape in a matter of days.
And with the vegetation comes an abundance of food, if you know how to catch it.
Enantiornithines, an ancient type of bird.
But perhaps a little too big to tackle.
It can be hard adapting to such a different and unfamiliar world.
Oh, dear.
Finally, she's got something.
But these new challenges will be brief.
One thing is certain in the desert: Searing heat and scorched earth will soon return.
Flowers will be nothing more than a distant memory.
It's not just the unrelenting power of the sun that makes deserts so inhospitable.
So too do winds.
Here in central Asia, they rip across the landscape, drying out the land still further and uprooting vegetation.
Large dinosaurs keep on the move to try to cope with these harsh conditions.
These duck-billed dinosaurs are Barsboldia.
They are long-distance specialists and can go without water for an astonishing length of time.
But on rare occasions, there is an abundance.
When rain does fall, it can seep into the land and travel great distances underground.
Until, in some special places, the water rises to the surface and creates an oasis.
Open water attracts desert animals of every kind from many miles away.
Some dwarf everyone else.
The Mongolian titan.
They are colossal.
Weighing over 70 tons, they are among the biggest animals to have ever walked the Earth.
A risky place for a tiny Mononykus to come for a drink.
There may be a crowd, but if you've got the longest neck on Earth, you can jump the queue.
Such a gathering attracts attention.
A tarbosaur.
But like everyone else, the hunter is here just for water.
With so many thirsty mouths drinking day and night, the water doesn't last long.
The animals disperse, and once again, the harsh, arid conditions return.
Over millions of years, water has carved some deserts into spectacular landscapes as here in North Africa.
These canyon lands offer some desert visitors special opportunities.
With a 17-foot wingspan, Barbaridactylus, a type of pterosaur, can exploit the thermals with effortless skill and so cover great distances, despite the fact that some have enormous head crests.
Every year, males and females gather at these special places in the sky in their thousands.
There are no ground predators on the summits of these isolated plateaus, so they're safe places on which to land.
Large males select an area in which to perform their displays whilst eager young bachelors circle overhead.
Territory holders warn off any challengers.
A message that sometimes needs to be violently reinforced.
But you don't necessarily have to be a heavyweight to succeed.
There are some males that don't develop the huge head crest.
They are sneaky males that look like females and so, can try to remain unnoticed.
It's a dangerous game to play because the large males are regularly on patrol.
And they perform their displays.
The sneak has been spotted.
But in fact he caught the eye of the large male.
But the sneak pretends to be a reluctant female and rejects the male's advances.
Now, back to the mission in hand and time to make his move.
Large males might seem more attractive, but the females, it seems, ensure producing the fittest young by mating with as many partners as they can whether they're impressively adorned or just sneaky.
It's not just extraordinary, bizarre animals that live in the deserts of the prehistoric planet.
There are strange, otherworldly landscapes too.
Such as here in South America.
This may look like a dusting of snow, but these great dunes are composed not of sand, but of gypsum.
Gypsum is a fine, white mineral that dissolves in water so easily, it can only exist in solid form in the driest areas on Earth.
These dunes are so dry that living here is almost impossible.
Yet some dinosaurs manage to do so.
Secernosaurus, a type of small hadrosaur.
Although they can survive on a poor-quality diet, every decade or so this area dries out so extremely that almost all the vegetation shrivels and dies.
With young to care for, this could be the end of the herd.
But some of the older, more experienced individuals may remember other potential sources of food and water.
And they know that the way to survive is not to try to leave the desert but to continue traveling across its baking dunes.
With high winds and shifting sands, the desert is always on the move.
And that makes navigation tricky.
The herd prefers to travel at night.
It's not only cooler but also reveals a map that could enable an animal to find its way through the featureless yet ever-changing desert.
A map in the sky.
Like many migrating animals, hadrosaurs can recognize celestial signposts.
By day, the blistering sun still beats down from overhead.
Even if they can find shade, this for some could be journey's end.
But there is something else that may help them.
The deep, rumbling sound of waves crashing onto the distant shoreline travels for miles through the dunes.
The sound is so low that many animals cannot hear it.
But hadrosaurs can, and so are able to find their way towards the coast.
But this desert still has one more obstacle that must be overcome.
Giant coastal dunes block their path.
Steep, unstable sand saps energy with every step.
They have made it.
And their first reward is to lick droplets of water that condense on their skin from the fog that forms where dunes and ocean meet.
And this fog also nourishes a rich coastal paradise.
This is enough to feed the herd for now, but once it runs out, they will be forced to move on and once more endure the trials of life in the deserts of the prehistoric planet.
Next on Prehistoric Planet, one of the strangest dinosaurs that has ever lived.
A bizarre, duck-billed giant feeds in a vast inland swamp.
And as fresh water flows from source to sea, it shapes the lives of all it touches.
To discover the science behind the stories, go now to the Prehistoric Planet show page.

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