Weirdest Planet Dinosaur Files


Weirdest

Jem Stansfield enters the amazing world of Planet Dinosaur. He investigates the really weird dinosaurs such as the pot-bellied nothronychus, a carnivore turned vegetarian.


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Transcript


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If you thought you knew all about dinosaurs, think again.

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This is Planet Dinosaur Files -

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the series that rewrites the prehistory books.

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We bring to life the most awesome beasts ever to walk the earth.

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With state-of-the-art CGI technology

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that makes you feel like you're right there.

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And I'll be discovering what made these massive,

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lethal and, frankly, bizarre beasts tick.

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This time, the demos get really weird.

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I'll be eating my greens, hunting for insects.

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And, when I put a dinosaur egg to the test, the yolk's on me.

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Argh!

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In the last 20 years,

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scientists have discovered more dinosaurs

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than in all the centuries that have gone before.

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Amazing new discoveries.

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They reveal a jaw-dropping cast list of creatures.

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Bigger, stranger,

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deadlier than we'd ever imagine.

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And this time, on Planet Dinosaur Files,

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I'm asking the question,

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which dinosaur was the weirdest in the prehistoric world?

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You might think you know about dinosaurs.

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Like the huge 12-tonne plant-eater, Diplodocus.

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Or the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex,

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a savage predator who dominated on land for almost five million years.

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Well, think again.

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Now let's meet the new, weird dinos on the block.

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Like Nothronychus.

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An odd, potbellied dinosaur,

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a meat-eater that turned veggie.

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Or Epidexipteryx,

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a strange creature with a very special way of getting a meal.

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A dinosaur that lived off insects.

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And the extraordinary Gigantoraptor,

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a weird, winged wonder that couldn't actually fly.

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All these weird creatures were actually dinosaurs.

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And I'm going to compare them to see which one really stands out.

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First, size.

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These weird creatures ranged between the very big and very small.

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But what difference does their size and shape make to them as dinosaurs?

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Next, the tools they used for getting food.

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And what did they eat, and where did they find it?

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And I'll be deciding

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what really makes these creatures especially weird.

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Let's meet our first contender.

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This is Nothronychus.

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It lived in swampy jungles like this,

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92 million years ago.

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Because it walks on two legs,

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Nothronychus has the classic look of a meat-eating dinosaur.

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But it's actually a vegetarian.

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It's one of a weird group of dinosaurs called Therizinosaurs.

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Twice as tall as an adult human,

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it had a lengthy neck, and powerful legs.

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It used its very long, curved claws

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to pull down branches to get nice, juicy leaves to eat.

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In fact, its name means "sloth-like claws".

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And here's why -

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Nothro's claws are very like those of this bizarre-looking creature,

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the sloth.

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This gentle, tree-dwelling mammal lives in South America

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and it uses it claws to grab and eat leaves

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in exactly the way that Nothronychus does.

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Unlike sloths though,

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Nothronychus had to be ready to defend itself

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against some dangerous predators...

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In these same swamps is an eight-metre long Tyrannosaur.

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A fearsome carnivore

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from the same family of dinosaurs as the famous T-Rex.

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And this Tyrannosaur fancies some Nothronychus for dinner.

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And it's at times like this

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that those claws become weapons of self-defence,

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making these pot-bellied beasts

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a match for the mighty Tyrannosaurs.

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Nothronychus is just as powerful and aggressive as these killers

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and that's because they're actually close relatives...

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So if they look like a carnivore and they fight like a carnivore,

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how can we be sure that they were actually herbivores?

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By taking a look at the evidence, that's how.

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In 2001, the bones of a dinosaur very like Nothronychus

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were discovered in the USA.

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Amongst them were fossil teeth.

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Their shape showed

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they were designed for eating leaves, not meat.

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NOTHRONYCHUS ROARS

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Nothronychus, just like these Tyrannosaurs,

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started off as a meat-eating dinosaur.

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But, over hundreds of thousands years,

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Nothronychus changed its eating habits.

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It still looked like a carnivore, with its upright stance,

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but now it lived off plants.

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Time to head to the dinosaur workshop.

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Each of our weird dinos

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is going to have its own special demo.

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First stop - the kitchen!

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Now it doesn't matter whether you're a bunch of hungry Tyrannosaurs,

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a Nothronychus, or me, a human being,

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you've got to eat to survive.

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Now for a human being like me, every day,

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I've got to consume something like this.

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Rice, pasta, egg, fruit and vegetables.

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It's got to add up to enough energy

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for me to do what I need to do.

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But what would a one-tonne dinosaur have to eat?

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Now remember, Nothronychus is descended

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from a long line of big carnivores and they ate meat -

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lots of it.

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A typical one-tonne meat-eater

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would be getting through around about ten kilos of flesh,

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every single day.

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So that's like this lot, and...

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probably my leg into the bargain!

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Now that may look like an awful lot to consume,

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until you remember Nothronychus is trying to get this amount of energy

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just by eating plant matter.

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And vegetation just isn't as energy-dense as meat.

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You've got to roughly eat five times as much to get what you need.

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So every day, a Nothronychus would be trying to get through...

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that.

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And probably that.

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And probably that. And maybe that too!

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It is an absolute stack of vegetation to chomp your way through

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every single day.

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Which is probably why Nothronychus

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was renowned for its large pot-belly.

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It had an awful lot to fit in.

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But why would it bother?

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Well, by eating vegetables,

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it didn't have to compete with all the large carnivores eating meat.

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ROAR!

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Easy, tiger!

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That's Nothronychus,

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a vegetarian dinosaur whose carnivore ancestry

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meant it could handle itself in a fight.

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For size, this was a pretty big dinosaur,

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nearly a tonne in weight and five metres long.

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Tools? It had those very handy claws.

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Great for grabbing leaves, and very effective weapons for defence.

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And weirdness?

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A really strange fella who gave up meat to eat huge amounts of veg,

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giving itself a pot-belly in the process.

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But weird dinosaurs come in all kinds of shapes and sizes,

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from the very big to the very small.

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Meet Epidexipteryx,

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a very strange-looking, pigeon-sized creature

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that you would have found in lush forests like this,

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154 million years ago.

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This dinosaur lived in Asia.

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It was small,

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only half a metre long from its head to the tip of its tail.

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And it had a bird-like skeleton, covered in feathers.

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Epidexipteryx was a dinosaur like no other.

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Everything about this creature is weird.

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Its tongue-twisting name,

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its gangly arms and odd, sticky-out teeth.

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Here it's looking for food inside this log,

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but if it's not careful,

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it could turn into someone else's dinner,

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because on its trail is a big, hungry carnivore called Sinraptor.

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Being small, though, means Epidex can escape those vicious jaws

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inside this hollowed-out log...

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But not for long...

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He makes a break for the trees and just manages to get away.

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Epidex's weird fingers come to the rescue.

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Those fingers, though, are for more than just climbing trees.

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Watch this.

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That third finger on both its clawed hands

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is much longer than all the others.

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It's a tool Epidex uses in a very clever way,

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for getting at food hidden inside the tree...

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It taps on the trunk and listens for the sounds of insects.

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If there's food in there,

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it will use that very long finger to get at what's inside...

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Amazingly, there is actually an animal today

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that uses the very same weird method for getting its dinner.

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This is an aye-aye.

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It's a small mammal

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that lives in Madagascar off the coast of Africa.

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Just like Epidex, it has a very long third finger.

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It taps on the tree and listens.

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When it hears something inside, it scrapes away at the bark,

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hoping to get some juicy insects to eat.

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Rewind 154 million years,

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our Epidexipteryx has struck gold...

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It's after a big, juicy beetle grub.

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Outside the dinosaur workshop,

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I'm turning myself into a very strange creature.

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Epidexipteryx had probably

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the weirdest set of hands I've ever seen.

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They kind of had these two shorter talons

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and then this one ludicrously long finger.

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Its way of life was to climb trees and eat grubs.

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Now what I want to do

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is get an idea of what that would have been like

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and the strengths and weaknesses of the features it had evolved.

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So I'm going to set off as a normal person

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to live the life of an Epidexipteryx.

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Got myself a jungle here.

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Hopefully there's some food in there somewhere.

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I'm going to see if I can find it.

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When it comes to climbing, our hands are actually pretty good.

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We've got sort of short, stubby, strong fingers

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that can grip

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and move our way up through the trees pretty effectively.

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But what about foraging for food?

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Now if I wanted to find maybe a big fat tasty grub to eat,

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what are my hands like then?

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A-ha! In here I see some food. There's a little grub in this log.

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The problem is,

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our strong stubby fingers haven't got the length

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to get into little nooks and crannies

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to pull grubs out.

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What I need is a new set of hands.

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On with my Epidexipteryx gloves.

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What I find,

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climbing as an Epidexipteryx...

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..I've got to climb in a different way.

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Because I've only got three fingers,

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I've got to use my feet more.

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Cos, even with my fingers, only two of them are any good for gripping.

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This third one feels like a positive disadvantage on the climbing front.

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But I'm getting used to it.

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Now, let me get up here, towards where the food is.

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Now... Now I can see this big fella coming into its own!

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Cos that little nest of grubs are now all within reach.

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Oh, got it!

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Come on!

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Look at that!

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Now I really am beginning to enjoy life as an Epidexipteryx!

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There are so many strange things about Epidexipteryx, aren't there?

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I mean, how can we be sure that a dinosaur like this really existed?

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By taking a look at the evidence - that's how.

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This extraordinary fossil was discovered recently in China.

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It shows a whole Epidexipteryx.

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Its bird-like appearance is clear,

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as are its odd-looking teeth on its skull.

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You can even see the long tail feathers.

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Epidexipteryx was about the size of a pigeon.

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But a pigeon's feathers help it to fly.

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The feathers on this dinosaur were for display.

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In other words, showing off.

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And that's the funny thing about Epidexipteryx -

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it had feathers,

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it looked like a bird,

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but it couldn't fly.

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And that means that when it drops this beetle...

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EPIDEXIPTERYX MOANS

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..and goes down onto the forest floor to get it back,

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it's vulnerable.

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Should have stayed up in the trees

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where it was safe.

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So that's Epidexipteryx.

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A tree-climbing, bird-like creature

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with a special way of getting food.

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For size, this was a very small dinosaur,

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a featherweight 200 grams,

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and just half a metre long.

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Tools?

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It has to be that amazing long finger

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for getting insects inside tree trunks.

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And Weirdness?

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Funny teeth, strange claws,

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and feathers but no wings.

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Basically, everything.

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Both Epidexipteryx and Nothronychus

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were pretty weird dinosaurs.

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But here's one to match them for strangeness.

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And beat them for deadliness.

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Meet Gigantoraptor.

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A breathtaking creature,

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with a body like a huge, overgrown ostrich

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and a head with a fearsome, parrot-like beak...

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It's the largest feathered animal ever discovered.

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Gigantoraptor was one and half tonnes in weight

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and a massive eight metres long.

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It had vicious dagger-like claws

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and lived 80 million years ago.

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Gigantoraptors were to be found in Asia,

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roughly where you'd find Mongolia today.

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They come from a family of dinosaurs known as Oviraptorids,

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but Gigantoraptor was by far and away

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the biggest member of this strange family.

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How do we know such an odd creature ever existed?

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By taking a look at the evidence - that's how.

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This is the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, Asia.

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In 2007, the bones of a Gigantoraptor were discovered here.

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They were huge -

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35 times bigger than any other of its close relatives.

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It's their sheer size that's incredible.

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It looks a bit like an ostrich.

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But it would need four ostriches standing on top of each other

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to match the height of a Gigantoraptor.

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We know that Gigantoraptors had feathers

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because they've been found on the fossils

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of other closely related dinosaurs.

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But Gigantoraptor's feathers weren't for flying,

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nor were they for keeping warm...

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These were feathers for display,

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especially for attracting a mate.

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Here, a male and female Gigantoraptor

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are doing a kind of dance.

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It's a bit like showing off your best dance moves

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at the school disco.

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Now, if that sounds just too far-fetched,

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take a look at these grebes.

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Just like the Gigantoraptors,

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they're carrying out what's called a courtship dance.

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They move in time, display their feathers,

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and copy each other's movements.

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The aim is to find and hopefully attract a mate.

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Gigantoraptor's similarity to birds really stands out.

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But there's more to this resemblance than feathers and beaks.

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That's because they laid eggs.

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However big or small,

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this is how dinosaurs gave birth.

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Even Argentinosaurus,

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the most massive dinosaur of all, laid eggs.

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But what's special about Gigantoraptor

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is the way it nested.

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It stayed with its eggs, protecting them,

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just like lots of birds do.

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It's called brooding.

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The idea is, that by looking after their eggs this way,

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there's more chance of them hatching successfully.

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Meanwhile, in the dinosaur workshop,

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I'm HATCHING a very EGG-CITING plan!

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Yeah, erm...sorry.

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There is one thing that all dinosaurs have in common -

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they lay eggs.

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And in the case of the Gigantoraptor,

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eggs like I have never seen before.

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To show you how odd they are,

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let's first look at more familiar eggs.

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That is a chicken's egg. We all know what these are like,

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they're three centimetres long, we have 'em for breakfast.

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This is an ostrich egg.

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Now, this is the biggest egg that's laid on the planet in modern times.

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It's a pretty good size

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and it comes from a pretty good-sized bird.

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And this is a genuine dinosaur egg,

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or at least a fossil of one.

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This would have been laid in muddy ground

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about 70 million years ago.

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And over that time, the mud has turned into rock

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and the egg has turned into a fossil.

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And this is our Gigantoraptor egg.

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I say ours, because we've made it.

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But we've made it very carefully

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to be the right size, shape, and strength

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to match fossilized Gigantoraptor eggs that were recently found.

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These eggs took about 80 days to hatch.

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Now, that is a long time for it to be exposed to potential predators.

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So they would have to have been made pretty strong.

0:22:030:22:07

How strong? Let's find out.

0:22:070:22:09

Naturally, my fellow dino engineers, Andy and Jim,

0:22:110:22:14

are filling my Gigantoraptor egg with white and yolk.

0:22:140:22:18

This is my egg strength testing machine.

0:22:200:22:22

Gigantoraptor egg is up there.

0:22:240:22:25

Whatever weight gets loaded on here,

0:22:250:22:28

gets felt by the egg up there.

0:22:280:22:30

When this weight here gets too much for that egg...

0:22:300:22:35

First - these bags weigh 25 kilos.

0:22:350:22:39

And the egg doesn't seem to care about that.

0:22:410:22:43

Looks like I might have to get involved here.

0:22:430:22:46

Not in my best t-shirt.

0:22:460:22:48

I'm 75 kilos.

0:22:520:22:53

100 kilos on our Gigantoraptor egg.

0:22:570:22:59

More weight.

0:23:010:23:03

That's 125 kilos.

0:23:080:23:11

Now, dinosaur experts did reckon that these eggs

0:23:110:23:14

would probably have taken that,

0:23:140:23:16

but they weren't sat underneath the egg at the time. More weight.

0:23:160:23:20

'This Gigantoraptor egg

0:23:200:23:22

'is living up to its tough reputation.'

0:23:220:23:25

That's 150 kilos.

0:23:290:23:31

GIGGLING

0:23:370:23:39

Aaaah!

0:23:400:23:42

Right, well, that's a nice piece of science

0:23:470:23:50

because that egg pretty much fitted

0:23:500:23:53

with what dinosaur experts reckoned

0:23:530:23:55

the Gigantoraptor egg would have taken...

0:23:550:23:58

Rewind 80 million years to Mongolia.

0:24:040:24:07

Our Gigantoraptor's nest is in great danger.

0:24:070:24:11

Two hunting Alectrosaurs.

0:24:130:24:15

These five-metre long carnivores are hungry

0:24:150:24:18

and those eggs would be a tasty treat...

0:24:180:24:21

if they can get past this mother Gigantoraptor.

0:24:210:24:25

She may be outnumbered, but when her nest is threatened

0:24:280:24:31

-she's a fearsome opponent.

-GIGANTORAPTOR ROARS

0:24:310:24:34

But while she's fighting off the Alectrosaurs,

0:24:410:24:44

another nest raider, an Oviraptor, has its eyes on her eggs.

0:24:440:24:48

Our Gigantoraptor gets back in the nick of time.

0:24:580:25:01

So that's Gigantoraptor,

0:25:040:25:06

an extraordinary creature.

0:25:060:25:09

A dinosaur that was a kind of huge flightless bird.

0:25:090:25:12

It would do anything to protect its young.

0:25:120:25:15

How does it match up with my other weird dinos?

0:25:150:25:19

There was the very strange Nothronychus.

0:25:210:25:25

For size, a pretty big dinosaur,

0:25:280:25:30

nearly one tonne in weight and five metres long.

0:25:300:25:35

Tools?

0:25:350:25:36

Remember those very handy claws.

0:25:360:25:38

Great for grabbing leaves and deadly in defence.

0:25:380:25:41

And weirdness?

0:25:420:25:43

Well, this was a very odd beast.

0:25:430:25:46

A carnivore turned herbivore, with that huge pot-belly.

0:25:460:25:50

And then the truly bizarre Epidexipteryx.

0:25:510:25:54

Size-wise, a very small dinosaur,

0:25:560:25:59

a featherweight 200 grams

0:25:590:26:01

and just half a metre long.

0:26:010:26:03

Its tools?

0:26:030:26:04

It has to be that extraordinary long finger

0:26:040:26:07

for getting insects inside trees.

0:26:070:26:09

And weirdness?

0:26:090:26:12

It was off the scale.

0:26:120:26:13

Funny teeth, strange claws,

0:26:130:26:16

and feathers but no wings.

0:26:160:26:18

Just about everything.

0:26:180:26:19

Finally, the outsized, outlandish Gigantoraptor.

0:26:200:26:25

Size?

0:26:250:26:26

A massive one and a half tonnes

0:26:260:26:28

and a towering eight metres.

0:26:280:26:30

For tools, it had those terrific defensive claws

0:26:300:26:34

and a big, parrot-like beak.

0:26:340:26:37

Weirdness?

0:26:380:26:39

Well, there was the courtship dancing

0:26:390:26:41

and those weird wings that couldn't fly.

0:26:410:26:44

This one is just too close to call.

0:26:450:26:48

All these creatures are equally weird.

0:26:480:26:52

So I'm going for my favourite, that tiny dinosaur

0:26:540:26:57

with strange big eyes and long spindly fingers -

0:26:570:27:01

Epidexipteryx.

0:27:010:27:03

In the end though,

0:27:090:27:10

Epidexipteryx, like nearly all the dinosaurs, was doomed.

0:27:100:27:14

Whether big or small,

0:27:170:27:18

they were wiped out when a huge asteroid,

0:27:180:27:21

nearly ten miles wide,

0:27:210:27:24

struck our planet 65 million years ago.

0:27:240:27:26

But, in a way, that isn't the end of dinosaurs on Earth.

0:27:310:27:36

Because their descendants, birds, are with us everywhere today.

0:27:390:27:45

So next time you see one in your garden,

0:27:450:27:49

remember where it came from.

0:27:490:27:52

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:27:550:27:58

E-mail [email protected]

0:27:580:28:01

Jem investigates the really weird dinosaurs. Like the pot-bellied nothronychus, a carnivore turned vegetarian, or the tongue-twistingly named epidexipteryx, a tiny creature that lived off beetle grubs. And in his dinosaur workshop, Jem unveils some very strange shaped eggs, including one that is 70 million years old.


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