Walking with Dinosaurs: The 3D Movie has been eagerly anticipated both by dinosaur fans and by devotees of the groundbreaking BBC TV series Walking with Dinosaurs. Here's a handy list of the dinosaurs and prehistoric animals featured in the movie, and how they looked and behaved in real life.
You have to hand it to the producers at Fox and the BBC: it would have been an easy enough decision to make Triceratops
the star of Walking with Dinosaurs: The 3D Movie
, but instead they went with the much less well-known Pachyrhinosaurus
("thick-nosed lizard"). Like Triceratops, Pachyrhinosaurus was a ceratopsian
dinosaur, and what it lacked in horns it made up with its enormous nose, which males probably used to head-butt each other for dominance in the herd and the right to mate with available females. This multi-ton dinosaur of the late Cretaceous
period isn't new to the pop-culture spotlight, having already been featured in the Disney movie Dinosaur
and an episode of the less-than-accurate History Channel series Jurassic Fight Club
The pint-sized narrator of Walking with Dinosaurs: The 3D Movie
, Alexornis was a small, sparrow-sized bird of the late Cretaceous period, the exact details of which are still a matter of controversy. In the movie, Alexornis is depicted as having a symbiotic relationship with Pachyrhinosaurus, plucking pesky insects off this dinosaur's back and (in return) being protected from larger predators. This is a perfectly reasonable hypothesis--after all, the modern oxpecker bird has a symbiotic relationship with hippos--but, based on the available evidence, it's still a stretch. (For the record, Alexornis may, or may not, have been ancestral to modern woodpeckers
It's about time Quetzalcoatlus
got the recognition it deserves from Hollywood. The largest pterosaur
yet identified--and, for that matter, the largest animal ever to take to the sky--Quetzalcoatlus had a wingspan of over 35 feet, and weighed anywhere from 200 to 600 pounds (estimates of its bulk, based on modern aerodynamic simulations, vary widely). One thing we don't yet know about Quetzalcoatlus is how much time this pterosaur actually spent in the air; some paleontologists speculate that it spent most of its time on two legs, hunting for prey like a terrestrial theropod dinosaur, and only glided from place to place when absolutely necessary (or simply didn't fly at all).
Another risky choice by the Walking with Dinosaurs: The 3D Movie team
. Tyrannosaurus Rex
was by far the most famous predator of late Cretaceous North America, so why go with this dinosaur's less-well-known cousin, Gorgosaurus
? Well, as popular as T. Rex is, Gorgosaurus is represented by more numerous fossil remains, which makes it much easier to convincingly simulate this theropod's appearance and behavior. For example, we know that Gorgosaurus juveniles grew rapidly over the course of two or three years into full-grown adults, which may explain their predilection for plus-sized prey like Pachyrhinosaurus. (By the way, Gorgosaurus may yet turn out to have been the same dinosaur as Albertosaurus
was one of the best-known hadrosaurs
(duck-billed dinosaurs) of the late Cretaceous period, and is thus the logical choice to represent this none-too-bright breed in Walking with Dinosaurs: The 3D Movie
. This 40-foot-long, three-ton plant-eater was a crucial link in the North American food chain 70 million years ago, as juveniles (and even possibly full-grown adults) were hunted around the clock by raptors, tyrannosaurs, and other theropod dinosaurs. Still, Edmontosaurus wasn't content to play the victim all the time: paleontologists have unearthed the fossil of one adult that actually survived a Tyrannosaurus Rex bite!
Its name is similar to Edmontosaurus, above, but Edmontonia
was a very different kind of dinosaur: this ankylosaur
was covered with tough, bony plates of armor from its head all the way down to its butt, and it could (presumably) curl up into an impenetrable ball when threatened by predators. (Edmontonia, as a type of ankylosaur known as a "nodosaur," didn't even have a club on the end of its tail with which to ward off a hungry Gorgosaurus.) As a general rule, ankylosaurs were some of the dumbest dinosaurs of the late Cretaceous period, and they couldn't have been especially fast, either, given their low-slung postures and multi-ton weights.