Season 35 Episode 15

Dinosaurs in Your Garden

Aired Tuesday 9:00 PM Oct 08, 1998 on BBC Two
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Episode Summary

Dinosaurs in Your Garden
Horizon tells the story of the maverick scientist John Ostrom and his theory that birds are really just dinosaurs with feathers. Thirty years later, a revolution in palaeontology has proven him correct. Horizon looks at the compelling and recent evidence that shows how modern birds fine-tuned their unique design for flight. It also confirms that Velociraptor dinosaur is more closely related to the sparrow than it is to the crocodile.

When the fossils of an archaeopteryx was first discovered in 1861, the world was rocked. Half reptile and half bird, it seemed so fantastic that everyone thought the feathers must have been fake. But in 1973, a scientist from Yale came up with a controversial theory. John Ostrom argued that birds were not so much related to dinosaurs - they were dinosaurs. He compared the anatomy of archaeopteryx with a new type of raptor dinosaur that he discovered. At the time, he was widely criticized, but over the intervening period, more and more evidence has vindicated his original idea. In the last two years, missing links have been discovered in China. Called Caudipteryx, it shows the type of animal that lies halfway between the small predatory dinosaurs and archaeopteryx.

In August, an advocate of the Ostrom school of thought, Mark Norell, flew out to the Beijing Museum of Geology to take a closer look at these remarkable animals and Horizon travelled with him. By analyzing the fossils more closely, Norell looks at the skeleton architecture that is distinctly dinosaur but also bird-like. Whether Caudipteryx has flight feathers or not, is still contentious and part of Norell's mission to Beijing was to unravel this puzzle.

State-of-the-art computer animation brings these dinosaurs and ancient birds back to life. This film will ensure that you will never be able to look at the birds in your garden in the same way again.moreless

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