Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Primeval - Season 1: pt. 3 The Creatures

Howdy guys! There are no updates this week, so we'll start off with my non-fiction article for this week.

Two weeks prior, we learned about the characters that make up the first season of the ITV show known as Primeval. But what's a series about extinct animals, without the creatures themselves? So this week we're going to wrap up my three-part review of the first season of Primeval with some information on each of the creatures that make an appearance. One thing I like about Primeval, is that many of the creatures they portray in the series aren't well known in popular culture (I mean, who's ever heard of a gorgonopsid or Anurognathus). As fanciful as they may seem, the creatures from the past are all found in the fossil record and really did exist on our planet (most of the ones in season 1 were found in pre-Flood sediments).

Here's a beautiful photo of Nick Cutter in the Permian habitat; a herd of elephant-sized Scutosaurus (bottom) and a pair of Coelurosauravus (top) are also visible.

It's a compact killing machine, and it's incredibly powerful; Stephen, if it is still out there, then you have to find it. Fast!
Connor Temple to Stephen Hart on the Gorgonopsid.

The gorgonopsid (“Gorgon face”) is the first animal to make an appearance in Primeval, and it wreaks havoc in both Episode 1.1 and Episode 1.6. This ferocious predator (which is one of my favorite extinct animals of all time) is from the Permian habitat and travels through and anomaly into the present. Nick Cutter's team first becomes aware of this beast when it is spotted by an eyewitness and they find out that this monster lurks in the Forest of Dean, where the anomaly opened. Throughout Episode 1.1, Nick's newly formed team must bring down the gorgonopsid before it kills anyone. It doesn't make another appearance until Episode 1.6 when Nick, Captain Ryan and his soldiers and Helen Cutter try to return the baby Future Predators to the future anomaly which is in turn in the Permian anomaly. (SPOILER ALERT!!!) This killer reptile has the endurance of a leopard; once it smells blood, it seldom gives up until it has caught its prey. Unfortunately, the mother Future Predator follows them, kills the soldiers and injures Captain Ryan to protect her babies. But as soon as she let's them free, a gorgonopsid enters the scene and an awesome fight takes place between one of the most ferocious killers ever to live on the planet, and another ferocious killer from the future. The gorgonopsid however manages to kill the Future Predator and eats three of the five babies (END OF SPOILER ALERT!!!). The gorgonopsid from the show is often identified by fans as a Gorgonops, a large predator from South Africa. But the problem with this is that the gorgonopsid in the series is depicted as living with Scutosaurus, which lives in Russia! The correct identification for the gorgonopsid in Primeval is Inostrancevia, the largest gorgonopsid ever to walk the earth as 12 feet in length – the size of a rhinoceros. Inostrancevia and other gorgonopsids were unique among most predators because they had a pair of saber-teeth in their jaws (these are weapons some that some famous feline Ice Age predators were known to have used). In Inostrancevia these saber-teeth grew four inches long. Inostrancevia was a fast, terrible and no doubt one of the most fearsome predators ever to exist on the planet – ranking with other predators like T. rex and the great white shark.

Rex (Coelurosauravus)
 "Rex! I swear, when I catch you, you're going to be the first animal to go extinct twice!"
- Connor to Rex, who's playing hard-to-get.

One of the favorite stars of the series is no doubt the flying lizard Coelurosauravus named Rex (another favorite of mine). Coelurosauravus is a  lizard that used to live in the pre-Flood Permian habitat. Rex exited the Forest of Dean anomaly and was discovered by a boy named Ben. Ben's family called a local zoo to take the exotic animal and sent Abby Maitland over to receive it, who incorrectly identified it as a new species of lizard (she wasn't an expert on extinct animals at the time). When Nick tried to return Rex through the anomaly, the flying lizard returned and ever since, Abby's been keeping him as a pet in her apartment and he's been a mascot for the Primeval series (sort like what Snoopy is to the Peanuts series). In the show, Rex is unusually active and intelligent for a cold-blooded reptile and has the ability to soar through the air using the extensions of its ribs that form wing-like structures on each side of its body. In Episode 1.5, Connor accidentally leaves a window open at Rex escapes, resulting in Abby's frustration with Connor as they attempt to track him down. This Coelurosauravus bonds very well with humans and, while a few other Coelurosauravus have made their appearance in Episode 1.1, Rex is the one we see most and an instant favorite of Primeval fans, in both America and Europe.

It's a reptile. Five or six tons at least. Large supratemporal bosses, huge osteoderms on its back... it must be some kind of anapsid.” 
Nick Cutter

In terms of actual body mass, Scutosaurus is the largest land animal to appear in season 1 of Primeval. It is first seen when it was discovered by Nick Cutter, Stephen Hart, Claudia Brown, Connor Temple and Abby Maitland in the Forest of Dean. Weighing up to five tons, Scutosaurus is an elephant-sized herbivore from the Permian habitat. Scutosaurus, which aptly means “shield reptile”, got its name from its tough, heavily armored body. It was first seen in Episode 1.1 of Primeval, but they make a cameo in Episode 1.6. These creatures appear to live in herds and are not dinosaurs, but pareiasaurs. The Scutosaurus from the show is larger than its real-life counterpart, which weighs closer to one ton; however, even at this smaller estimate, it was the largest pareiasaur that ever lived. We have no fossils from these beasts dating to after Noah's Flood and no dragon legend records of creatures resembling this animal, so Scutosaurus and its kin probably went extinct shortly after Flood of Noah's time.

Giant Carboniferous Spiders
Stephen: ". . . they're actually more scorpion than spider."
 Abby: "I feel better already."
- Stephen trying to encourage the arachnophobic Abby.

Abby, who's has a good-sized case of arachnophobia, isn't too fond of the group of Giant Carboniferous Spiders she, Stephen and Nick meet in Episode 1.2 while exploring the subway tunnels. In the series, these spiders have come to the present via an anomaly that leads to the Carboniferous habitat of the pre-Flood world (hence their nickname). These spiders appear to be a meter (three feet) wide and nest in groups. Despite what you might expect from a giant spider, the Giant Carboniferous Spiders are quite harmless and terrified of light, which tells them another, more dangerous creature is stalking the subway tunnels. Also, even though they're spiders, they lack venom, don't spin webs and have a pair of enormous pincers (not unlike the modern camel spider). The spiders in Primeval are based off of fragmentary fossils of large Carboniferous spiders; scientists once thought that the fossils of an arthropod called Megarachne was a giant meter-wide spider like the one in the series, but later found it to be a species of extinct sea scorpion.

Claudia: "I thought you said not dangerous!"
Connor: "I was only speculating!"
Connor and Claudia on how dangerous Arthopleura was.

Arthropleura is a 20-foot long relative of the modern millipede. Like its relatives, it has lots and lots and lots (and lots) of legs. Arthropleura appears in Episode 1.2 after Nick and the team discover that the Carboniferous Giant Spiders weren't responsible for the recent death of an exterminator. As Stephen soon learns the hard way, the easily-provoked Arthropleura has a pair of nasty pincers at the front that are used to inject lethal toxins in a victim. The only way to cure someone who has been bitten by an Arthropleura is by using the creature's venom to make anti-venom. Strangely though, Arthropleura doesn't eat its victims, so perhaps its attacks are more territorial. The real Arthropleura the one in Primeval is based on it half as large – ten feet long – and, fortunately for any pre-Flood humans exploring the Carboniferous habitat, it ate plants (we know this thanks to dung droppings and by looking at the stomach contents of Arthropleura).

Mosasaur, eh? Cretaceous sea marine predator, ranging from two to twenty meters in length and two tonnes in weight . . .!” 

The mosasaur is a large sea-going lizard that used to call the Cretaceous seas of the pre-Flood world home. The mosasaur exits an anomaly with the ability to change locations and, as expected, it soon uses its large size and awesome mouth to make short work of its victims in Episode 1.3. The mosasaur in Primeval reaches 65 feet in length and will gladly pursue prey in both fresh and salt water. It's one of the most ferocious predators that's ever existed and is even tenacious enough to launch itself out of the water to attack prey at the water's edge like a killer whale. However, they can't digest every part of their prey and will regurgitate the bits that don't agree with their stomachs. The mosasaur species of Primeval is probably Tylosaurus, Mosasaurus, or Hainosaurus, each of which were the “T. rex of the Sea”. Fossil finds tell us that mosasaurs were even so ferocious, they'd literally eat anything that moved – even other mosasaurs! The mosasaur of Primeval is mainly solitary – the only time when aggression isn't considered by mosasaurs that come into contact with other mosasaurs is when there's the possibility of mating. Better stay out of the water when mosasaurs are around!

 Hesperornis; scary up close but cumbersome, and very stupid.” 
Helen Cutter

Imagine a penguin that stands six feet tall when standing at full height, two small wings on each side, webbed feet, a long neck and a lengthy beak filled with needle-sharp teeth and you've got a Hesperornis. Like penguins, Episode 1.3 reveals that they live in flocks and spend much time in sea, hunting fish. They also come to land and rest on the seashore like penguins as well. But don't let their penguin-like appearance fool you – these creatures are much more ferocious, as one (SPOILER ALERT!!!) kills a plumber that tries to fix a supposed leak that seems to be flooding a woman's basement (though the water is really from an anomaly). (END OF SPOILER ALERT!!!) Helen Cutter though knows how to scare them off. But Hesperornis themselves are prey for larger creatures, such as the terrible mosasaurs. Unlike their Primeval counterparts, real Hesperornis are covered in feathers, not scaly skin (but real Hesperornis do have a toothy beak), and can't use their legs to hold their bodies up because they're too far spread out. Instead, the Hesperornis had to slide itself along when it was on land, making it cumbersome. In the water however, it transformed into a graceful and, in Primeval, terrifying swimmer.

Dodo Bird 
The Dodo was renowned for being slow, stupid and harmless.” 

Who doesn't love the dodo bird? These creatures are naturally placid, friendly and curious animals – not many creatures in Primeval can qualify for that! Dodo birds went extinct relatively recently, only a couple hundred years ago, and have been popular ever since their discovery on the island of Mauritius in the 18th century. Because the Dodo didn't flee upon meeting the first settlers, the settlers incorrectly assumed them to be dimwitted, but this isn't true. Instead, since the Dodo's didn't have any natural predators on Mauritius, they didn't think the humans would do them any harm; so instead of dumb, they were a little too trusting, as Abby puts it when Nick's team meet these birds in Episode 1.4. Being one of the few harmless a in the series, Nick and the others take an instant liking to these birds, and Connor's friends, Duncan and Tom steal one of them to take back to their apartment. Later however, if turns out Nick's team does have another escapade in store when they learn that some dodo's harbor a deadly parasite that can infect humans.

Isn't nature wonderful?” 
A sarcastic James Lester on the Parasite.

When Nick and the others meet the Dodo bird in Episode 1.4, they never expected them to harbor a deadly parasite! Nick and the others find that one of the four Dodos that exited the anomaly mysteriously died and Nick decided to do an autopsy on it to learn the cause of its death. They soon learn that the culprit is a little parasite that Nick identifies as a giant cestoid (that's the same group that contains tapeworms). The parasite lives inside its host and can semi-control the actions of its host; e.g. the parasite is sensitive to light, so it makes its host avoid light. Compared to modern parasites, this doesn't sound so bad, right? Well, I'm not finished with these guys yet! When it comes time for the parasite to breed, it causes its host to lash out at another organism by biting. The bite itself isn't lethal (considering the host doesn't have lots of sharp teeth of course), but that's how this parasite passes on its eggs to a new host. This is what happens to the Dodo (which is by nature, a gentle creature) that Connor's friends, Tom and Duncan steal and when the Dodo bites Tom, he becomes infected. Having passed on the eggs to another host, the parent parasite and its host die together. After Nick explains the parasite's reproduction cycle, Lester sarcastically replies, “Isn't nature wonderful?” The only way to save a bite-victim is to have the parasite surgically removed. The race is on for Nick's team to track Tom down before he infects countless numbers of people. Due to this creature's absence in the fossil record, many fans think that the parasite's origins actually lie in the future rather than when Dodo's lived.

". . . supposed to have eaten small reptiles and fish."
- Nick on Pteranodon's diet.

With a wingspan of 30 feet, the Pteranodon is one of the largest creatures ever to take to the wing. It wasn't a dinosaur, bird or bat, but instead a flying reptile called a pterosaur. Nick and his team find out about this creature after learning that there's an anomaly in the sky instead of hovering near the ground in Episode 1.4. When the Pteranodon is spotted, it's thought to be the creature responsible for the recent death of a golfer, but the bite wounds don't fit. Nick, believing the creature to eat only small reptiles and fish, tells Captain Ryan's soldiers to spare the pterosaur since it's harmless. So they tranquilize it instead of killing it and soon learn the truth – another creature is responsible for the death of the golfer. The portrayal of Pteranodon in Primeval is quite accurate to the true creature.

...when those things attacked us...” 
Claudia Brown references the pterosaurs.

Like Pteranodon, Anurognathus is a pterosaur, but much smaller. Instead of the toothless jaw that Pteranodon has, Anurognathus has dozens of needle-sharp teeth in its chompers and flies through the sky in swarms, seeking out their next meal. Episode 1.4 reveals them to have a very acute sense of smell and can smell just drops of blood from miles away. They are in fact, quite like flying piranhas. Claudia Brown and Nick Cutter are trapped in a mansion when these creatures attack them, but this is also a crucial moment in the series because it's when Nick and Claudia finally fall in love.

Future Predator
A[n] . . . ambush predator; intelligent, adaptable and ruthless.
Helen Cutter 
As the nickname suggests, this alien-looking creature isn't from the past, but from the future. In Episode 1.6, the final one in season 1, Abby's boss and a lion both disappear at a local zoo, in addition to three other people, as if they've just vanished. Helen returns to the present to inform the team that they have a new predator on their hands that's both ferocious and deadly. Technically, Connor believes that, since the DNA testing of the creature's blood is bat-like, this animal is a type of futuristic, flightless bat. Like modern bats, it's shown to have terrific hearing and stalks its prey using echolocation, but unlike modern bats, it's appears to be blind. The Future Predator has lightning fast reflexes and speed, but this comes at a huge sacrifice – it's very light-built, so the Future Predator can be easily knocked out (if you can get past its arms and sharp teeth and perhaps lunge a heavy object at its head), and (SPOILER ALERT!!!) a mother Future Predator pays this price when it's crushed by the heavier gorgonopsid at the end of the final episode. (END OF SPOILER ALERT!!!) Playing loud music can also be used to confuse a Future Predator since this scrambles its acute sense of hearing. Now of course, any creature from the future would have to be speculative, but as Helen points out , 75% of all modern mammals are either bats or rats, so this something like the Future Predator could very well make an appearance through a process of natural selection in real life.
You don't want to mess with a Future Predator!
HOLD ON! HOLD ON! HOLD ON! Before I get nasty complaints from fellow (Young-earth) creationists about a modern bat “evolving” into a creature similar to a Future Predator-like animal, let me do some explaining. I (and this website) for one, do not endorse the theory of evolution in anyway. Instead, I believe that the world originated just as the Bible says in Genesis chapter one. I do not believe that the everything originated from some bacteria or what have you and that it evolved over millions of years into insects, birds, mammals, plants and humans. Instead, I believe that God created everything in six, 24-hour days around 6,000 years ago (with no gap between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:3). So could a Future Predator really “evolve” from a modern bat? Well, I could do a whole article on this topic, but to prevent this article from getting infinitely long, I'll be brief. First of all, if a Future Predator-like animal did come about, it wouldn't be evolution; instead, it would be a process of natural selection (see this article for thedifference between evolution and natural selection).  Now, the Future Predator in Primeval has no wings and lives on the ground (though it is a terrific climber due to its ape-like body design). Does this sound a bit of a stretch for a bat? I'd say not, because believe it or not, there is a species of bat found in New Zealand today that, while it can fly, it hunts on the ground. Say one of these bats had the genes for a larger body which God already “programmed” in its DNA. That would mean that, if the environment around the bat favored large size, it could grow larger. This rule could be applied to loosing most of its fur, changing the body shape a little bit and greatly reducing the wing membranes and etc. Now you have a Future Predator, but no evolution is required. If this still seems a bit of a stretch to you, consider the variation we see in dogs! We have short dogs, tall dogs, long dogs, long-nosed dogs, short-nosed dogs, short-legged dogs, long-legged dogs, hairy dogs, shinny, dogs, fat dogs and etc, but they're all in the created dog kind! There you have it, I've just explained all that in less than 380 words. If you're still confused, please email me at the address you can find in my PS's near the bottom of the article.

Future Predators can be almost silent when stalking their prey.
Thanks for reading today's (lengthy) article. This article is wrapping up the third part of my review for Primeval season 1. If you've enjoyed it, please let me know in your comments. If you still haven't gotten enough of Primeval, that's OK! Because I'm planning a review on season 2 as well, but that's later. Please come back next week to read Joy Hammond's latest article. Until next time, see you around!

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