Walking with Monsters

Life before dinosaurs

Walking with Monsters: Life Before Dinosaurs takes a look at the Paleozoic, an era on earth existing between 541 to 252 million years ago. Through visual art and re-enactment, the documentary series bring renewed life to extinct arthropods, fish, amphibians, synapsids, and reptiles.

Using the then (year 2005) state-of-the-art visual effects, this prequel to Walking with Dinosaurs shows, amongst others, how a two-ton predatory fish came on land to hunt.

The amazing series draws on the knowledge of over 600 scientists and shows nearly 300 million years of Paleozoic history, from the Cambrian period (530 million years ago) to the Early Triassic period (248 million years ago).

Walking with Monsters was written by Tim Haines. Water Dwellers and Reptile’s Beginnings was directed by Cloë Leland, and Clash of Titans was directed by Tim Haines.

Palaeontological inaccuracies

Because the series takes an artistic license with regards to its views on evolution, there are a number of inaccuracies especially related to ancestor-descendant relationships, sceptics claim.

According to the cladistics viewpoint which is favored by modern evolutionary biologists, one can never scientifically claim that a particular fossil form must be directly ancestral to another life form (fossil or not), at most it can be claimed what fossil forms are likely basal to what other life forms.

Not only does the series repeatedly suggest this anyway, many of the claimed ‘direct ancestors’ are not even considered basal.

Cephalaspis was not the ancestor of gnathostomes (jawed vertebrates) or tetrapods. Gnathostomes (in the form of placoderms and acanthodians) appear in the fossil record before Cephalaspis, probably originated from, or are closely related to, thelodonts, instead. Furthermore, even though Cephalaspis was found only during the early Devonian, it is shown being pursued by the Late Silurian Brontoscorpio.

Diictodon, Gorgonops and Rhinesuchus are only known from South Africa, yet in episode 3 they are portrayed living with Scutosaurus which lived only in Siberia.

In the series, Petrolacosaurus is incorrectly identified as an ancestral synaspid, when in fact, it was an early diapsid and could therefore not have been the ancestor of any synapsids (e.g. Edaphosaurus). The most basal synapsid, Archaeothyris, would have been a more suitable candidate.

More in this series

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Walking with Monsters
  • Episodes
  • Episode 1Water Dwellers
  • Episode 2Reptile's Beginnings
  • Episode 3Clash of Titans
  • Info
  • Released5 Nov, 2005
  • Produced forBBC One
  • ProducersChloë Leland, Tim Haines
  • NarratorKenneth Branagh