Ancient Earth

Travel back in time to the five major extinction periods in history and experience the creatures that dominated land, air and sea.

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    In the first Episode, the new expedition to the ice continent of Antarctica begins. Scientists arrive at their camp on Shackleton glacier, located in the Transantarctic mountains, to begin their 6 week long dig.

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    In this episode we find out how the great discovery in the 1990s of the Cryolophosaurus, dubbed the T-Rex of Antarctica, and a 25-foot-long plant eater, the Glacialisaurus, lead to a renewed interest in a continent that was once thought to be largely devoid of life.

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    Planet Earth was inhabited by many wondrous creatures throughout the Permian period. Massive geologic changes finally allowed life to thrive on land and sea, producing voracious saber-toothed carnivores like Gorgonopsid and the terrifying 40-foot shark Helicoprion. But it couldn't last forever...

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    After the Permian period, the epic saga of evolution and extinction on Earth produced the world's first dinosaurs, plesiosaurs and pterosaurs. They dominated land, sea and air until another period of extreme volcanism generated vast waves of lava and toxic gas and killed roughly 75% of all species.

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    The Cretaceous was the golden age on ancient Earth. Magnificent and terrifying dinosaurs like Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus ruled the land. But they were all wiped out in an instant by one of the most powerful impacts our Earth has ever endured -- a collision with an asteroid!

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    Giant insects once dominated the earth before the dinosaurs. Thanks to new technologies combining genetics, ethology, geology and even particle physics, paleontologists can now recreate the missing branches of the tree of life. Assumptions have been shattered and all the rules are changing.

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    Thanks to new technologies combining genetics, ethology, geology and even particle physics, paleontologists can now recreate the missing branches of the tree of life. Now, paleontologists can show that there were far more feathered dinosaurs than previously believed.

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    Thanks to new technologies combining genetics, ethology, geology and even particle physics, paleontologists can now recreate the missing branches of the tree of life. Because of this, it has been discovered that prehistoric mammals were more varied and numerous than previously thought.

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    For nearly 4 billion years, the continents of Earth were lifeless. But during the Ordovician, there was an explosion of life beneath the sea. Many strange creatures evolved, from eel-like conodonts to voracious cephalopods, until nearly all life was wiped out in our planet’s first mass extinction.

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    Life in the sea rebounded with a vengeance in the Devonian. Dozens of monstrous predators emerged, like the 40-foot long Dunkleosteus. Nearly everything was wiped out in Earth’s second mass extinction. But the stage was set for an explosion of life on land.

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    The Greater Yellowstone Area was once a rich grazing ground for huge Columbian mammoths. Now, it’s a prime hunting ground for paleontologists and archaeologists to study the remains of the gargantuan beasts – and their significance to the early Native peoples who hunted them.

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    Montana’s Hell Creek Formation is home to a trove of late Cretaceous fossils unlike any other in the world, revealing the last days of the great dinosaurs. Researchers have now found a complete Triceratops skull that may reveal one of the last prehistoric battles before dinosaurs vanished forever.

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    Craters of the Moon National Monument is desolate – but 2,200 years ago, it was the site of today’s Yellowstone Hotspot, known for violent eruptions and huge craters. Constantly shifting due to tectonic activity, will Yellowstone one day resemble this lifeless place...when the Hotspot moves again?

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    Microbes found in Yellowstone National Park's thermal pools have structures so ancient that scientists now believe that they could be close to the root in the universal tree of life. These microbes are becoming the models for understanding the biology necessary for life at high temperatures.

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    There are places in Greater Yellowstone where the snow never melts, or at least, it never used to. Climate change is causing Yellowstone’s ice patches to recede, so many archaeological treasures—if not rescued—will disintegrate within days.

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    Greater Yellowstone sits on top of a volcanic hot spot where devastating geological events unfolded. The result? A bizarre cemetery of fossilized forests that contain the remains of trees that died from molten lava, ash, and mud around 50 million years ago.