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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If you thought you knew all about dinosaurs, think again.
This is Planet Dinosaur Files -
the series that rewrites the prehistory books.
We bring to life the most awesome beasts ever to walk the earth.
With state-of-the-art CGI technology
that makes you feel like you're right there.
And I'll be discovering what made these massive,
lethal and, frankly, bizarre beasts tick.
This time, the demos get really weird.
I'll be eating my greens, hunting for insects.
And, when I put a dinosaur egg to the test, the yolk's on me.
In the last 20 years,
scientists have discovered more dinosaurs
than in all the centuries that have gone before.
Amazing new discoveries.
They reveal a jaw-dropping cast list of creatures.
deadlier than we'd ever imagine.
And this time, on Planet Dinosaur Files,
I'm asking the question,
which dinosaur was the weirdest in the prehistoric world?
You might think you know about dinosaurs.
Like the huge 12-tonne plant-eater, Diplodocus.
Or the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex,
a savage predator who dominated on land for almost five million years.
Well, think again.
Now let's meet the new, weird dinos on the block.
An odd, potbellied dinosaur,
a meat-eater that turned veggie.
a strange creature with a very special way of getting a meal.
A dinosaur that lived off insects.
And the extraordinary Gigantoraptor,
a weird, winged wonder that couldn't actually fly.
All these weird creatures were actually dinosaurs.
And I'm going to compare them to see which one really stands out.
These weird creatures ranged between the very big and very small.
But what difference does their size and shape make to them as dinosaurs?
Next, the tools they used for getting food.
And what did they eat, and where did they find it?
And I'll be deciding
what really makes these creatures especially weird.
Let's meet our first contender.
This is Nothronychus.
It lived in swampy jungles like this,
92 million years ago.
Because it walks on two legs,
Nothronychus has the classic look of a meat-eating dinosaur.
But it's actually a vegetarian.
It's one of a weird group of dinosaurs called Therizinosaurs.
Twice as tall as an adult human,
it had a lengthy neck, and powerful legs.
It used its very long, curved claws
to pull down branches to get nice, juicy leaves to eat.
In fact, its name means "sloth-like claws".
And here's why -
Nothro's claws are very like those of this bizarre-looking creature,
This gentle, tree-dwelling mammal lives in South America
and it uses it claws to grab and eat leaves
in exactly the way that Nothronychus does.
Unlike sloths though,
Nothronychus had to be ready to defend itself
against some dangerous predators...
In these same swamps is an eight-metre long Tyrannosaur.
A fearsome carnivore
from the same family of dinosaurs as the famous T-Rex.
And this Tyrannosaur fancies some Nothronychus for dinner.
And it's at times like this
that those claws become weapons of self-defence,
making these pot-bellied beasts
a match for the mighty Tyrannosaurs.
Nothronychus is just as powerful and aggressive as these killers
and that's because they're actually close relatives...
So if they look like a carnivore and they fight like a carnivore,
how can we be sure that they were actually herbivores?
By taking a look at the evidence, that's how.
In 2001, the bones of a dinosaur very like Nothronychus
were discovered in the USA.
Amongst them were fossil teeth.
Their shape showed
they were designed for eating leaves, not meat.
Nothronychus, just like these Tyrannosaurs,
started off as a meat-eating dinosaur.
But, over hundreds of thousands years,
Nothronychus changed its eating habits.
It still looked like a carnivore, with its upright stance,
but now it lived off plants.
Time to head to the dinosaur workshop.
Each of our weird dinos
is going to have its own special demo.
First stop - the kitchen!
Now it doesn't matter whether you're a bunch of hungry Tyrannosaurs,
a Nothronychus, or me, a human being,
you've got to eat to survive.
Now for a human being like me, every day,
I've got to consume something like this.
Rice, pasta, egg, fruit and vegetables.
It's got to add up to enough energy
for me to do what I need to do.
But what would a one-tonne dinosaur have to eat?
Now remember, Nothronychus is descended
from a long line of big carnivores and they ate meat -
lots of it.
A typical one-tonne meat-eater
would be getting through around about ten kilos of flesh,
every single day.
So that's like this lot, and...
probably my leg into the bargain!
Now that may look like an awful lot to consume,
until you remember Nothronychus is trying to get this amount of energy
just by eating plant matter.
And vegetation just isn't as energy-dense as meat.
You've got to roughly eat five times as much to get what you need.
So every day, a Nothronychus would be trying to get through...
And probably that.
And probably that. And maybe that too!
It is an absolute stack of vegetation to chomp your way through
every single day.
Which is probably why Nothronychus
was renowned for its large pot-belly.
It had an awful lot to fit in.
But why would it bother?
Well, by eating vegetables,
it didn't have to compete with all the large carnivores eating meat.
a vegetarian dinosaur whose carnivore ancestry
meant it could handle itself in a fight.
For size, this was a pretty big dinosaur,
nearly a tonne in weight and five metres long.
Tools? It had those very handy claws.
Great for grabbing leaves, and very effective weapons for defence.
A really strange fella who gave up meat to eat huge amounts of veg,
giving itself a pot-belly in the process.
But weird dinosaurs come in all kinds of shapes and sizes,
from the very big to the very small.
a very strange-looking, pigeon-sized creature
that you would have found in lush forests like this,
154 million years ago.
This dinosaur lived in Asia.
It was small,
only half a metre long from its head to the tip of its tail.
And it had a bird-like skeleton, covered in feathers.
Epidexipteryx was a dinosaur like no other.
Everything about this creature is weird.
Its tongue-twisting name,
its gangly arms and odd, sticky-out teeth.
Here it's looking for food inside this log,
but if it's not careful,
it could turn into someone else's dinner,
because on its trail is a big, hungry carnivore called Sinraptor.
Being small, though, means Epidex can escape those vicious jaws
inside this hollowed-out log...
But not for long...
He makes a break for the trees and just manages to get away.
Epidex's weird fingers come to the rescue.
Those fingers, though, are for more than just climbing trees.
That third finger on both its clawed hands
is much longer than all the others.
It's a tool Epidex uses in a very clever way,
for getting at food hidden inside the tree...
It taps on the trunk and listens for the sounds of insects.
If there's food in there,
it will use that very long finger to get at what's inside...
Amazingly, there is actually an animal today
that uses the very same weird method for getting its dinner.
This is an aye-aye.
It's a small mammal
that lives in Madagascar off the coast of Africa.
Just like Epidex, it has a very long third finger.
It taps on the tree and listens.
When it hears something inside, it scrapes away at the bark,
hoping to get some juicy insects to eat.
Rewind 154 million years,
our Epidexipteryx has struck gold...
It's after a big, juicy beetle grub.
Outside the dinosaur workshop,
I'm turning myself into a very strange creature.
Epidexipteryx had probably
the weirdest set of hands I've ever seen.
They kind of had these two shorter talons
and then this one ludicrously long finger.
Its way of life was to climb trees and eat grubs.
Now what I want to do
is get an idea of what that would have been like
and the strengths and weaknesses of the features it had evolved.
So I'm going to set off as a normal person
to live the life of an Epidexipteryx.
Got myself a jungle here.
Hopefully there's some food in there somewhere.
I'm going to see if I can find it.
When it comes to climbing, our hands are actually pretty good.
We've got sort of short, stubby, strong fingers
that can grip
and move our way up through the trees pretty effectively.
But what about foraging for food?
Now if I wanted to find maybe a big fat tasty grub to eat,
what are my hands like then?
A-ha! In here I see some food. There's a little grub in this log.
The problem is,
our strong stubby fingers haven't got the length
to get into little nooks and crannies
to pull grubs out.
What I need is a new set of hands.
On with my Epidexipteryx gloves.
What I find,
climbing as an Epidexipteryx...
..I've got to climb in a different way.
Because I've only got three fingers,
I've got to use my feet more.
Cos, even with my fingers, only two of them are any good for gripping.
This third one feels like a positive disadvantage on the climbing front.
But I'm getting used to it.
Now, let me get up here, towards where the food is.
Now... Now I can see this big fella coming into its own!
Cos that little nest of grubs are now all within reach.
Oh, got it!
Look at that!
Now I really am beginning to enjoy life as an Epidexipteryx!
There are so many strange things about Epidexipteryx, aren't there?
I mean, how can we be sure that a dinosaur like this really existed?
By taking a look at the evidence - that's how.
This extraordinary fossil was discovered recently in China.
It shows a whole Epidexipteryx.
Its bird-like appearance is clear,
as are its odd-looking teeth on its skull.
You can even see the long tail feathers.
Epidexipteryx was about the size of a pigeon.
But a pigeon's feathers help it to fly.
The feathers on this dinosaur were for display.
In other words, showing off.
And that's the funny thing about Epidexipteryx -
it had feathers,
it looked like a bird,
but it couldn't fly.
And that means that when it drops this beetle...
..and goes down onto the forest floor to get it back,
Should have stayed up in the trees
where it was safe.
So that's Epidexipteryx.
A tree-climbing, bird-like creature
with a special way of getting food.
For size, this was a very small dinosaur,
a featherweight 200 grams,
and just half a metre long.
It has to be that amazing long finger
for getting insects inside tree trunks.
Funny teeth, strange claws,
and feathers but no wings.
Both Epidexipteryx and Nothronychus
were pretty weird dinosaurs.
But here's one to match them for strangeness.
And beat them for deadliness.
A breathtaking creature,
with a body like a huge, overgrown ostrich
and a head with a fearsome, parrot-like beak...
It's the largest feathered animal ever discovered.
Gigantoraptor was one and half tonnes in weight
and a massive eight metres long.
It had vicious dagger-like claws
and lived 80 million years ago.
Gigantoraptors were to be found in Asia,
roughly where you'd find Mongolia today.
They come from a family of dinosaurs known as Oviraptorids,
but Gigantoraptor was by far and away
the biggest member of this strange family.
How do we know such an odd creature ever existed?
By taking a look at the evidence - that's how.
This is the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, Asia.
In 2007, the bones of a Gigantoraptor were discovered here.
They were huge -
35 times bigger than any other of its close relatives.
It's their sheer size that's incredible.
It looks a bit like an ostrich.
But it would need four ostriches standing on top of each other
to match the height of a Gigantoraptor.
We know that Gigantoraptors had feathers
because they've been found on the fossils
of other closely related dinosaurs.
But Gigantoraptor's feathers weren't for flying,
nor were they for keeping warm...
These were feathers for display,
especially for attracting a mate.
Here, a male and female Gigantoraptor
are doing a kind of dance.
It's a bit like showing off your best dance moves
at the school disco.
Now, if that sounds just too far-fetched,
take a look at these grebes.
Just like the Gigantoraptors,
they're carrying out what's called a courtship dance.
They move in time, display their feathers,
and copy each other's movements.
The aim is to find and hopefully attract a mate.
Gigantoraptor's similarity to birds really stands out.
But there's more to this resemblance than feathers and beaks.
That's because they laid eggs.
However big or small,
this is how dinosaurs gave birth.
the most massive dinosaur of all, laid eggs.
But what's special about Gigantoraptor
is the way it nested.
It stayed with its eggs, protecting them,
just like lots of birds do.
It's called brooding.
The idea is, that by looking after their eggs this way,
there's more chance of them hatching successfully.
Meanwhile, in the dinosaur workshop,
I'm HATCHING a very EGG-CITING plan!
There is one thing that all dinosaurs have in common -
they lay eggs.
And in the case of the Gigantoraptor,
eggs like I have never seen before.
To show you how odd they are,
let's first look at more familiar eggs.
That is a chicken's egg. We all know what these are like,
they're three centimetres long, we have 'em for breakfast.
This is an ostrich egg.
Now, this is the biggest egg that's laid on the planet in modern times.
It's a pretty good size
and it comes from a pretty good-sized bird.
And this is a genuine dinosaur egg,
or at least a fossil of one.
This would have been laid in muddy ground
about 70 million years ago.
And over that time, the mud has turned into rock
and the egg has turned into a fossil.
And this is our Gigantoraptor egg.
I say ours, because we've made it.
But we've made it very carefully
to be the right size, shape, and strength
to match fossilized Gigantoraptor eggs that were recently found.
These eggs took about 80 days to hatch.
Now, that is a long time for it to be exposed to potential predators.
So they would have to have been made pretty strong.
How strong? Let's find out.
Naturally, my fellow dino engineers, Andy and Jim,
are filling my Gigantoraptor egg with white and yolk.
This is my egg strength testing machine.
Gigantoraptor egg is up there.
Whatever weight gets loaded on here,
gets felt by the egg up there.
When this weight here gets too much for that egg...
First - these bags weigh 25 kilos.
And the egg doesn't seem to care about that.
Looks like I might have to get involved here.
Not in my best t-shirt.
I'm 75 kilos.
100 kilos on our Gigantoraptor egg.
That's 125 kilos.
Now, dinosaur experts did reckon that these eggs
would probably have taken that,
but they weren't sat underneath the egg at the time. More weight.
'This Gigantoraptor egg
'is living up to its tough reputation.'
That's 150 kilos.
Right, well, that's a nice piece of science
because that egg pretty much fitted
with what dinosaur experts reckoned
the Gigantoraptor egg would have taken...
Rewind 80 million years to Mongolia.
Our Gigantoraptor's nest is in great danger.
Two hunting Alectrosaurs.
These five-metre long carnivores are hungry
and those eggs would be a tasty treat...
if they can get past this mother Gigantoraptor.
She may be outnumbered, but when her nest is threatened
-she's a fearsome opponent.
But while she's fighting off the Alectrosaurs,
another nest raider, an Oviraptor, has its eyes on her eggs.
Our Gigantoraptor gets back in the nick of time.
So that's Gigantoraptor,
an extraordinary creature.
A dinosaur that was a kind of huge flightless bird.
It would do anything to protect its young.
How does it match up with my other weird dinos?
There was the very strange Nothronychus.
For size, a pretty big dinosaur,
nearly one tonne in weight and five metres long.
Remember those very handy claws.
Great for grabbing leaves and deadly in defence.
Well, this was a very odd beast.
A carnivore turned herbivore, with that huge pot-belly.
And then the truly bizarre Epidexipteryx.
Size-wise, a very small dinosaur,
a featherweight 200 grams
and just half a metre long.
It has to be that extraordinary long finger
for getting insects inside trees.
It was off the scale.
Funny teeth, strange claws,
and feathers but no wings.
Just about everything.
Finally, the outsized, outlandish Gigantoraptor.
A massive one and a half tonnes
and a towering eight metres.
For tools, it had those terrific defensive claws
and a big, parrot-like beak.
Well, there was the courtship dancing
and those weird wings that couldn't fly.
This one is just too close to call.
All these creatures are equally weird.
So I'm going for my favourite, that tiny dinosaur
with strange big eyes and long spindly fingers -
In the end though,
Epidexipteryx, like nearly all the dinosaurs, was doomed.
Whether big or small,
they were wiped out when a huge asteroid,
nearly ten miles wide,
struck our planet 65 million years ago.
But, in a way, that isn't the end of dinosaurs on Earth.
Because their descendants, birds, are with us everywhere today.
So next time you see one in your garden,
remember where it came from.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
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.