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Published: Monday, 7/28/2008

Series looks at prehistoric fight for survival

BY MIKE KELLY
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

You think you ve got it tough? Imagine being a dinosaur roaming the Earth millions of years ago. Your world is hot and volatile, with volcanoes blowing their tops without warning, and most days you wouldn t have enough food or water.

Oh, yeah, and perhaps worst of all, you d have an army of dangerous predators that would make your daily survival anything but a safe bet.

That perilous existence is brought vividly to life in a lively and sometimes violent new series on History (formerly the History Channel) called Jurassic Fight Club. The weekly series, which premieres tomorrow at 9 p.m., uses computer-generated imagery to illustrate how dinosaurs lived and especially how they battled each other for survival millions of years ago.

Each 60-minute episode will feature a particular dino confrontation, and all are based on recent paleontological findings and cutting-edge scientific analysis, including the same type of CAT scans that are used on humans. Relying on evidence uncovered at dig sites around the world, plus knowledge of modern animal behavior, experts have re-created what they claim are plausible scenarios for the mini-stories that will be told each week in the 12-part series.

Among the many experts who pop up along the way to give their take on prehistoric behavior are Dinosaur George Blasing, a nationally known paleontologist, and Ohio University s Lawrence Witmer, head of one of the most advanced dinosaur research labs in the country.

Tomorrow s debut episode of Fight Club stars a pair of Majungatholus (Mah-junga-thoe-lus) dinosaurs, ugly brutes who represented the top of the food chain some 70 million years ago on what s now the island of Madagascar off the coast of Africa. The Majungatholus was a meat-eater sometimes referred to as the T-Rex of the East.

While the Majungatholus had poor vision and wasn t overly fast, it was still a formidable foe. It used its domed head as a battering ram, had rows of sharp, serrated teeth, and could wield its powerful tail like an oversized baseball bat.

When a male Majung goes looking for a mate and comes across a female standing guard over her offspring, he has no idea what he s getting himself into. While he s thinking romance and languidly lapses into the instinctive moves of a reproductive dance, the female has other ideas. She initiates a fierce fight to the death to protect her baby.

As the bloody battle rages through the steamy jungle, narrators explain the respective strategies of the two foes like ringside announcers at a boxing match. When one of the creatures ultimately prevails and begins to devour the other, a breathless narrator reports that it s the first clear case of dinosaur cannibalism ever found in the prehistoric world.

Never mind that this so-called fact was extrapolated from a single set of teeth marks found on a fossil in Madagascar a dozen years ago. It still makes for good TV.

The series CGI graphics aren t quite up to the level of those used in, say, the Jurassic Park movies, but they re still pretty impressive, and plenty adequate for bringing science and history alive in a way that no textbook or lecture ever could.

Future episodes will feature confrontations involving raptors, Megaladons, T-Rexes, and a number of other unpronounceable species of dinosaur.

Accompanying the new series on the Internet is a free arcade-style game called Jurassic Fight Club: Turf Wars that lets players take control of prehistoric creatures and engage in their own no-holds-barred battles against other dinosaurs. As the series progresses, more of its featured creatures will be available to re-create some of the battles seen on television.

Players can access the game at www.history.com.



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