This is the third in the Walking With Dinosaurs series in terms of geologic time and the second in terms of release date. Like others in the series it is unclear what is imagination and what is fact, but the rendering of extinct animals is excellent. One comment on all the “Walking With” videos — animals make sounds for a reason. It may be to freeze or to scatter prey, to communicate with others, or to intimidate a rival — but an animal waiting for an opportunity to attack is silent.

The video is ten years old and some of the paleontology is out of date. So are some of the locations – the evidence for land-dwelling forerunners of the whales, for instance, comes mainly from Pakistan and it is somewhat questionable to put an Ambulocetis in Germany.

The first DVD has six episodes. The first “New Dawn,” is set in the early Eocene, when the earth had settled down from the K-T boundary event and the extinction of virtually all large animals. Mammals are still small, and the descendants of dinosaurs — the birds — are the dominant predators.

Later in the Eocene the mammals are beginning to take over, and the second segment, “Whale Killer,” focuses on marine and estuarine life. It also considers the climatic results of changing ocean currents due to plate tectonics.

The third episode, “Land of Giants,” is set in the Oligocene and focuses on a single type of animal, the indricothere, although others are shown as well. Imagine a rhinocerous the size of a giraffe! I’m not sure they gave their indricotheres the right environment, though.

The early evolution of our own species is covered in the fourth episode, “Next of Kin,” which centers on an australopithecine clan. Grass has now evolved, making backgrounds much easier for the filmmakers to find. This episode is relatively recent, only a little more than 3 million years ago.

The fifth episode. “Sabre Tooth,” is set in South America a million years after the Panamanian land bridge has opened, ending 30 million years of isolation. The old top predators were terror birds, much like those of the first episode. This episode focuses on the North American predator that has replaced them, the sabertooth cat.

The sixth episode, “Mammoth Journey,” takes place in Europe at the height of the last ice age, when two sub-species of humans shared the territory with a number of cold-adapted animals. Living in Alaska and knowing that mammoths did quite well here during the ice age, I am not so sure that the cold would have forced them to migrate out of the lush pastures of the North Sea, though.

Don’t forget the second DVD in the set. This has a good deal of information on how the episodes were made, interviews with the producers, model-makers and animators, and some behind the scenes information on the animals themselves and the evidence for their existence.

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