Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Jurassic Carnage

By David Luhrssen
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Nature is still red in tooth and claw, but the non-human world must have been even bloodier in earlier epochs, if the length of fossil teeth and claws is any indicator. The History Channel series “Jurassic Fight Club” capitalizes on this observation. It has been packaged with “Prehistoric Megastorms,” “Journey to 10,000 BC” and “Clash of the Cavemen” in an eight-DVD set, “The Prehistoric Collection,” out on May 26.

Everyone loves dinosaurs, making “Jurassic Fight Club” a good place to start. A caption, “Viewer Discretion is Advised,” warns of the computer-generated carnage to follow. Despite the patented Mr. Sinister narrator’s voice, issuing lurid descriptions of “a prehistoric bloodbath unlike any other” (how does he know?), “Jurassic Fight Club” distills some of the best current scientific wisdom through interviews with paleontologists. Working backwards from knowledge of contemporary animal behavior and piecing together patterns from fossil remains, they assemble a plausible storyline for an era when life on earth was always lived large. One memorable program recreates a fight to the death between various species of dinosaurs at a Utah watering hole, a lesson in the danger of dwindling resources. Another episode looks at the monsters that swam in the primeval oceans. One of the more speculative scientists even believes that the 50-foot ancestor of the great white shark might still lurk in the unlit, unexplored depths of the sea.

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