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Series / Walking with Beasts

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Walking with Beasts is the 2001 spinoff of the Speculative Documentary series, Walking with Dinosaurs. Following the mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, Beasts focuses on life during the Cenozoic era as mammals evolve to fill in the new niches left behind by their Mesozoic counterparts.

Like in WWD six episodes were made, each focusing on different time periods and ecosystems under a chronological criterium.

  • New Dawn: (49 MYA, Germany) In the early Eocene, near the start of the Mammal Age, giant flightless birds like Gastornis are portrayed as the dominant species, while small mammals like Leptictidium, Propalaeotherium and Godinotia are potentially easy prey for them.
  • Whale Killer (36 MYA, Tethys Sea) A pregnant specimen of the early predatory cetacean Basilosaurus, after some unsuccessful hunts, is obligated to go to extreme methods to feed herself and her unborn calf.
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  • Land of Giants (25 MYA, Mongolia) A young Paraceratherium (a.k.a. Indricotherium) must endure the hardships of the Mongolian desert on its journey to become the largest land mammal to roam the Earth.
  • Next of Kin (3.2 MYA, Ethiopia) A tribe of the early human-ancestors Australopithecus must cope with the harsh savannah landscape filled with dangerous animals and rival tribes. The story focuses mainly to a young orphan member named "Blue" who has to fight to be considered by the other members of his own tribe.
  • Sabre Tooth (1 MYA, Paraguay) A saber-toothed cat Smilodon named Half-Tooth has his pride taken away from him by a brotherly pair of rival males. He rejoins its family at the end by killing the only still-living male.
  • Mammoth Journey (30 KYA, Western Europe) A herd of Woolly Mammoths begin their annual migration from the North Sea (a dry plain in this time) to the Swiss Alps for the winter, and must brave the harsh elements and the hungry predators to get there, including early man.

This work provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptational Wimp: Terror birds like Phorusrhacos, despite being successful predators with a long history of dominance in South America, were portrayed as having lost their spot in the food chain to the newly arrived sabertooths and condemned to scavenging and opportunistic predation of immature animals. Andrewsarchus, despite being a contender for largest mammalian land carnivore at the time of production and having a massive skull and pointed teeth, was portrayed as a rather wimpy scavenger and opportunistic predator of smaller animals. Ironically, Andrewsarchus is nowadays believed to be a relative or ecological forerunner of the entelodonts, which were portrayed as outright nightmarish in "Land of Giants".
  • All There in the Manual: The genus is actually Paraceratherium, but the narration prefers calling them "indricotheres", after a synonym, Indricotherium. The brontotheres are likewise identified only as Embolotherium in supplementary material. The chalicotheres, on the other hand, avert this — while based off Chalicotherium, the supplementary material says they are not, as this genus had not appeared yet.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • "Land of Giants" includes a chalicothere based on, well, Chalicotherium — which appeared slightly later in real life. The accompanying material handwaves this as the chalicothere being a currently undiscovered close relative of the later species.
    • The bear-dog in the same episode is based on Cynodictis, which was already extinct. This is probably why it is also called a "bear dog" and not Cynodictis.
    • In the episode "Saber Tooth", the terror bird Phorusrhacos is featured as a lesser rival predator to Smilodon. However, by the time the episode is set, all terror birds had already gone extinct (the case of the Miocene Phorusrhacos being present in the Pleistocene falls under Science Marches On, as it was once thought younger terror bird species belonged under Phorusrhacos).
    • In "Next of Kin", set in Africa 3.2 million years ago, the Australopithecus are seen feeding on a zebra carcass. The genus Equus (which includes zebras) didn't enter Africa until 2.3 million years ago. The closest thing at the time and place would be the hipparionine horse Eurygnathohippus, which was smaller, had three hooves in each foot instead of one, and, like Australopithecus, was not completely adapted to life in the open plain.
  • An Aesop: Kenneth Branagh's delivery of the final line in the series is potent.
    Narrator: We have since built museums to celebrate the past, and spent decades studying prehistoric lives. And if all this has taught us anything, it is this: no species lasts forever.
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: Averted multiple times, like in other installments.
    • A Basilosaurus outright massacres the calves of a pod of Dorudon, a close (but smaller) relative.
    • Two giant entelodonts (basically a cross between boars and hippos, filling the niche of hyenas) bite each other on the head until one flees with horrific injuries that could kill it in the long run.
    • Two invading Smilodon kill another Smilodon's cubs, a behaviour based on modern lions.
  • Artistic License – Paleontology: Contrary to what "New Dawn" claims, large mammals already appeared by the time of Gastornis. That includes not only herbivores like the pantodonts, but also carnivores such as the mesonychids.
  • Astronomic Zoom: The series ends on an aerial zoom-out shot from the Oxford Museum of Natural History, then panning around the Earth.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: At the end of "Next of Kin", the Australopithecus get over their fear of the Dinofelis and band together to save Blue, the omega of the group who had been ignored through the episode. Hercules and Grey also fight side by side, despite their early fight for leadership of the group.
  • Beauty = Goodness: Deinotherium is a distant relative of elephants with tusks only in its lower jaws, the opposite of modern pachyderms. So, it's viewed as "ugly" by some. Their species is portrayed as a sorta Jerkass villain who attacks frequently other creatures, in vivid contrast with the fluffy (and more similar to modern elephants) Woolly Mammoth, and also with the small early tapir-looking Moeritherium which looks rather harmless. Both the Woolly and Moeritherium are notably more heroic and gentle than Deinotherium, never attacking or menacing everyone.
  • Beware My Stinger Tail: Doedicurus, a glyptodont, is a giant armored beast related with modern armadillos but with a spiked club at the end of its tail, very similar by coincidence to the unrelated dinosaur Ankylosaurus.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • The Australopithecus gang banding together to save their resident Butt-Monkey, Blue.
    • A Smilodon cub is chased by a pair of Phorusrhacos at the beginning of the Saber Tooth episode, but then Half-Tooth appears out of nowhere and scares the Terror Birds away just when they're about to eat the cub.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation:
    • The Castilian Spanish dub mirrors the English "brontothere", "indricothere", etc. without realizing that these are common names. Thus comes pseudo-scienstific names like "Brontothia" and "Indricothia", instead of the actual translation (brontoterio and indricoterio). Basilosaurus is also changed to "basilosaurio" despite never being called "basilosaur" in the original.
    • The Hungarian VHS dub misinterpreted the names in a similar way, even preserving the plural marker "-s" at the end of "chalicotheres" as if that were part of their name. The dub included other mistakes as well, like calling the indricothere calf a cat at one point, changing carbon-dioxide to carbon-monoxide in "New Dawn", mixing up male and female when describing the Doedicurus' mating habits, and using the outdated term "kétlaki" in reference to amphibious animals (the word nowadays predominantly means "dioecious" and is mostly used in botany).
    • Subverted by the German dub: Out of convenience, saber tooth cats are referred to by their outdated name, saber tooth tigers, but the narrator mentions that this term is actually incorrect.
  • Canis Major: Several wolf-like or dog-like animals appear in the show, some of them really big as per the trope and others smaller.
    • Andrewsarchus, known only from a skull in Real Life, is restored as a massive wolf-like beast "as tall as a horse and weighing a ton"; it was believed at one point to be a contender for largest mammalian carnivore of all time. But it's actually represented as a scavenger and opportunistic predator that never takes part in a fight unlike a wolf. Two andrewsarchuses are easily kept at bay by a mother Embolotherium (a rhino-looking mammal even bigger in size) that is oblivious to her calf's death.
    • Small canine-like carnivores (a miacid in "New Dawn" and a bear-dog in "Land of Giants") appear as small creatures, preyed on or "bullied" by larger ones.
    • Hyenodon is a loosely canine-like predator bigger than a modern brown bear, but was not an actual canine and not even related with every other modern carnivore, not even the namesake hyena. Unlike wolves, it's sociotolerant rather than social, thus more cat-like than dog-like or even hyena-like. In the show, a lone hyaenodont kills easily a specimen of the bigger herbivorous chalicothere, while another is seen pursuing an entelodont (a boar-like mammal). In contrast, they don't manage to kill a baby Indricothere in pack, also because his vigilant mother weighs 15 tons and is hugely bigger than them. The one who had killed the chalicothere is then chased away by a group of three entelodonts which aimed to the fresh kill.
    • An actual live-acted wolf shows up in "Mammoth Journey": it's solitary, and one of the two kinds of animal shown gathering to wait for a trapped mammoth to die and feed on its corpse. The other kind are members of our own species.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Megatherium, meet Smilodon. One slap later, Smilodon meets the Grim Reaper.
    • Basilosaurus playing catch with two live sharks.
    • A Hyenodon catching a sitting chalicothere by surprise and killing it with one bite to the throat. Despite the chalicothere being armed with hand claws comparable to Megatherium and a similar lifestyle, it doesn't even have the chance of using them for self-defense.
    • A wooly rhino running down a passing neanderthal. Not that the neanderthal had the will or was in a position to fight.
    • Humans (modern and neanderthal) bring down a Megaloceros and two mammoths with little effort and no casualties in both cases, thanks to their mastery of group strategy and technology.
  • Dark Reprise:
    • A double one. When the neanderthals begin their plan to drive the mammoths off a cliff, the music shifts from the usual "travel" theme used in the episode to a more suspenseful version with rather ominous tribal chanting and drums. The chants are similar to, but slightly more sinister than the ones during the humans' Megaloceros hunt, leaving it sounding like the unholy fusion of both tracks.
    • In "New Dawn", the constant jungle theme becomes louder and faster when the Gastornis attacks.
  • Determinator:
    • Half-Tooth. He never gives up on being the Top Cat, even after being ousted by the brothers.
    • Poor Blue never stops trying to be a part of the clan. His persistence also pays off.
  • Death of a Child: All but Once an Episode. The Gastornis chick gets eaten by giant ants, some Smilodon cubs are killed by other Smilodons, a good many Dorudon calves are eaten by Basilosaurus, a brontothere calf is shown dead, some baby bear dogs are killed in a flood, and a baby Macrauchenia gets downed by a terror bird. In the book, the latter is replaced by a Hippidion calf. Also, while it doesn't happen in the program or the book, there exists a promo image which shows a Hyaenodon dragging a dead indricothere calf.
  • Eats Babies: Young animals are very vulnerable, and convenient targets to predators. The giant ants and Basilosaurus succeed. The Hyaenodon, Phorusrhacos, and cave lion try to, but fail. Being a Mama Bear to prevent exactly that, is a cultivated talent among both mammals and birds.
  • Devious Dolphins: There's an episode ("Whale Killer") centered on the Basilosaurus, a prehistoric killer whale with massive teeth. Various other predatory cetaceans are shown as well.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Small primates Godinotia and Apidium may count as subversions. Despite being more comical than other animals, they have very minor roles that don't influence the plot and serve mostly as easy kills for other animals.
  • Expy: Like Walking with Dinosaurs, the main attractive of the show is portraying extinct animals as just that, living animals in a faux-wildlife documentary, rather than as prehistoric monsters. However, because the animals of Beasts have closer living relatives, it is more common for them to mirror modern animals entirely.
    • A time when this is not based on evolutionary relationship but convergence evolution is the Ambulocetus in "New Dawn", which is identical to a Nile crocodile, other than swimming up and down like the mammal it is.
    • "Whale Killer": Despite being a very primitive whale with an uniquely elongated body, the behavior of Basilosaurus is practically that of, well, a Killer Whale. The only notable difference is the animals being solitary. Dorudon are just as primitive, but are portrayed as basically pilot whales in a different skin.
    • "Land of Giants": The primary focus of the episode, the relationship of an indricothere calf to his mother, is based on modern-day rhinoceros behavior.
    • "Next of Kin": Deinotherium behave like African elephants, Dinofelis behaves like a leopard (although it was larger and heavier), Australopithecus takes its showcased behaviors from chimpanzees, modern humans, or both.
    • "Saber Tooth": The behavior of Smilodon populator is copied to a T from modern lions, despite this being at odds with the actual evidence.
  • Feathered Fiend: Phorusrhacos and Gastornis are both portrayed as gigantic, flightless, predatory birds. While Phorusrhacos is an Adaptational Wimp, hunting small mammals and scavenging, and fleeing away at the sight of a Smilodon, Gastornis is portrayed as a territorial Mama Bear and top predator (in defiance of later discoveries establishing that it was a herbivore in Real Life).
  • Foreshadowing: The Neanderthal is first seen collecting large dry sticks and branches before getting attacked by the Rhino. These are later used to attack the mammoths with fire to drive them over the cliff.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Humanity. Different primates appear in the early episodes as easy prey to other animals; their main talents like intelligence, sociality and 3-D navigation are just enough to keep them from going extinct. When the first hominid appears in "Next of Kin", Australopithecus, it is still in constant fear of large cats like Dinofelis but also relentlessly bullied by the giant of the African savanna, Deinotherium... until it manages to use those special talents to drive away an attacking Dinofelis. By the next episode, "Mammoth Journey", humans have gone from common prey to a terrifying predator from animal eyes, capable of using technology to ignore the weather and create weapons to kill from a distance, bringing down much larger animals through elaborate strategies, and controlling fire.
  • Full-Boar Action: The entelodonts are referred to as "pigs from Hell", even though strictly speaking they aren't pigs. They appear in the episode fighting each other or scaring away predators from their kills.
  • Hemisphere Bias: The last episode ends with a pull-out from the United Kingdom (due to the last scene being a pull-out from the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.)
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Gastornis in specific is portrayed as an apex predator, and large carnivorous birds are claimed to be the top predators around the globe, when in fact they had to compete with mesonychids and were far less cosmopolitan a trend than the show claims.
  • Honorable Elephant: Proboscideans are most often portrayed as minding their own business and taking care of their own. The exception is the Deinotherium of "Next of Kin", which are portrayed as brutish bullies while still displaying behaviors of modern day elephants only, due to Protagonist-Centered Morality.
  • Humans Are Special: Zigzagged. The human ancestor Australopithecus is in the focus of an entire episode (and hightlights many of its unique milestones abilities, which also apply to modern humans), but in the episode where modern humans (cro-magnons) actually appear, they are not treated any differently than any other animal, as can be seen when the narrator remarks on a pair of cave lions feeding on a straggler, at first implied to be a mammoth, but immediately after is seen to be a human. The final line of the series also says "no species lasts forever".
  • Inferred Holocaust: In-universe. Many episodes end with a remark about how the climate shifted later and the species portrayed disappeared with no modern descendants. While this is averted in "Next of Kin", which ends on a positive note and Australopithecus being lauded as a forefather to Humanity, the sequel series Walking With Cavemen tells explicitely that a climate change at the beginning of the Pleistocene drove to extinction Ancylotherium, Deinotherium, Dinofelis and the Australopithecus descendants that stuck to a vegetarian only diet (Paranthropus) instead of increasing their meat consumption (Homo habilis).
  • Jerkass:
    • Entelodonts are portrayed as the bullies of the oligocene, attacking other animals for little reason. At one point they are referred to as "pigs from hell".
    • The Deinotherium are the only proboscideans to avert the Honorable Elephant trope relentlessly, taking an apparent sadistic glee in bullying the Australopithecus out of a waterhole or (in the case of the bull in musth) because they (literally) feel like it.
    • The Smilodon brothers that drive Half-Tooth out of his pack. Despite behaving exactly like lions do in real life, and Half-Tooth most likely having done the exact same thing to another male at one point (which we can chalk to Protagonist-Centered Morality).
  • Killer Rabbit:
    • It turns out, the elephant-sized sloth Megatherium can kill a Smilodon with a swipe of its claws. Then again, it is the size of an elephant, has armour-plated skin, stands 3 metres high, and has huge claws.
    • Hominids aren't suited for combat biologically, but they make for it with brains.
  • Mama Bear: The brontothere and indricothere are both extremely protective of their calves, fighting off gigantic predators such as the Andrewsarchus and the Hyaenodon.
  • Mammoths Mean Ice Age: The Ice Age segment, "Mammoth Journey", is as the name implies focused around the yearly migration of a herd of wooly mammoths heading from the plains of the then-dry North Sea to the Alps and then back over the course of a year. Other creatures — Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal humans, cave lions, wooly rhinos, Megaloceros — appear, but the mammoth herd's migration remains the main focus and framing device, with the other creatures appearing as animals the mammoths encounter or (in the case of the humans and lion) predators menacing them.
  • Match Cut: The brilliant cut from a Homo sapiens carving a mammoth sculpture from wood, to it appearing eons later in an exhibit at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.
  • Mega Neko: Smilodon and Dinofelis, two enormous prehistoric cats. Cave lions, despite being larger than modern lions (and as a result, the largest cats portrayed in the series) are not given enough time or prominence to count.
  • Misplaced Wildlife:
    • The Indian, marine Ambulocetus appears in a freshwater lake of Germany, where it would be in direct competition with crocodiles. This is Handwaved as the animal swimming upriver from the ocean.
    • Andrewsarchus and Embolotherium, only known from Mongolia, are moved to the Pakistani coast to keep the episode's maritime theme. In the case of Andrewsarchus this is at at least handwaved with the explanation of the prolonged drought forcing them to look for food outside their usual habitat.
    • Invoked by the narrator when a cave lion first appears in "Mammoth Journey", which is set in Ice Age Europe, and then explained that lions were not limited to the Tropics in this time (European cave hyenas are also mentioned for the same reason, but never elaborated). The protagonic mammoths themselves descend from originally African ancestors who migrated north and adapted to the cold, as explained in the first making-off, "Triumph of the Beasts".
  • Mix-and-Match Critters:
    • The bizarre Leptictidium of the European Eocene has the size of a large rabbit but the teeth and snout of an elephant shrew, and moves by hopping like a kangaroo.
    • Ambulocetus: Despite being an early whale, it resembles the unholy hybrid of a crocodile and an otter, and has the size of a sea lion.
    • Moeritherium: A goofy-looking elephant compressed to tapir size. It behaves much like a hippopotamus, but without typical hippo assholery.
    • Indricotherium: A hornless rhinoceros brought to titanosaur dimensions, feeding on the treetops and using its long neck to fight for dominance like a giraffe.
    • Chalicotherium has a horse-like face, arched back and arms like a gorilla, and long curved claws like a ground sloth. The color of the face loosely resembles a panda.
    • Averted with the bear-dog, which is one of the smaller, fully dog-like species and not one of the larger species which did combine bear and dog-like features.
    • The entelodonts loosely resemble pigs but have massive opening jaws they use to fight, like hippopotamuses, and walk on comparatively tall, thin legs like a bovid.
    • Australopithecus: Basically a hairy child with a chimpanzee's head.
    • Macrauchenia: May pass for a camel if it didn't have a tapir-like head with a functional trunk. Unlike most reconstructions, the show takes inspiration from large African antelopes instead of giving it an uniform sandy coloration.
  • Monster Is a Mommy: The pregnancy of the protagonic Basilosaurus is used to draw sympathy to it. Having to feed yourself is sometimes just not good enough.
  • Narrative-Driven Nature Documentary: Building upon the success of Walking with Dinosaurs, Beasts had a much tighter narrative focus in each of episodes and clearly defined characters than its predecessor, such as a Smilodon fatalis called Half-Tooth. Despite this, it still very much acts out as a nature documentary, even going so far as to be Darker and Edgier than Dinosaurs.
  • Noisy Nature: Gastornis and the Entelodonts are particularly prone to this; Gastornis in particular announcing its attacks with loud screeches.
  • Non-Standard Character Design:
    • The young indricothere's mother has one ear permanently lower than the other.
    • Male Smilodon are larger than females and have manes. Half-Tooth also lost his left fang in a fight years before.
    • Among the Australopithecus, Blue can be told apart from the other two children because he is slightly older, taller and thinner, but he is still much smaller than the adults. Of the two adult males, Grey has grey hair and a blind eye.
    • The old, male wooly mammoth is massive compared to the females, and has gigantic, asymmetric tusks that bend to the point of almost driving circles.
  • Panda-ing to the Audience: The Chalicotherium's faces recall that of a giand panda in colors, and the narrator explicitly says "they walk like gorillas and eat like pandas, but their closest relatives are actually horses". The latter is actually an imprecision, because despite their horse-like head, chalicotheres were not more related with equines than to tapirs and rhinoceroses.
  • Perspective Flip: One episode may show a predator as heroic if it is the protagonist, then another show a close relative with a very similar behavior as a villain because the prey is the protagonist. See Protagonist-Centered Morality.
  • Plot Threads: A subplot of the evolution of humans runs through the show, with New Dawn and Whale Killer showing the primates of their time, while Next of Kin focuses on a step in human evolution, and Mammoth Journey features two hominid species (one of which being us) and ends by focusing on one.
  • Prehistoric Monster: At the end of the day, all the animals portrayed are just that, animals. However, due to Protagonist-Centered Morality, many qualify in one way or another, such as Gastornis, Ambulocetus, Basilosaurus, Hyenodon, the entelodonts, Phorusrhacos, Megatherium, Dinofelis and Deinotherium.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Each episode is centered on one animal. Nature being as bleak as it is, this often results in the audience cheering for what would be a monster from the point of view of their prey and rivals.
    • The Basilosaurus borders on Villain Protagonist, acting as a Super-Persistent Predator to the Moeritherium and slaughtering the youngest generation of a pod of closely related Dorudon, but it is all for the survival of her unborn child. The birth of the calf is a happy ending.
    • "Land of Giants" follows the POV of a young indricothere from its birth to the point it is large enough to not fear predators anymore. The mother mating again, driving it away and then having another calf all come across as tragedies. Nevermind that it would be counterproductive for the mother to stick with this calf after it was big enogh to fend for itself and that the younger sibling can't be faulted for being born.
    • Compare the Deinotherium in "Next of Kin" and the mammoths in "Mammoth Journey". Both are based on the behavior of modern elephants. However, while Deinotherium come across as bullies (charging at an Australopithecus couple because they were on their path to drink from a waterhole, and a male in musth randomly attacks the Australopithecus group and almost kills one of their young), the mammoths are a showcase of the Honorable Elephant trope, displaying affection and caring for their injured, delayed and newborn relatives. The "charging at random animals blocking their path" still appear, but it is brief and directed to larger animals like bison and cave lions. In the latter case, those lions were feeding on a human, so they weren't very likely to be seen as victims.
    • Likewise, compare the Dinofelis in "Next of Kin" and the Smilodon in "Saber Tooth". Both are sabertooth cats that hunt animals to survive, but the first comes across as a scary monster for predating on the human-like Australopithecus before getting his "comeuppance" when the group drives it away with a rain of rocks. Smilodon, on the other hand, is a total badass for hunting and fighting other animals.
    • At individual level, the audience is intended to cheer for Half Tooth for making a comeback and retaking his pride from the brothers, especially after they kill Half Tooth's cubs to induce heat in the females. This is typical behavior for lions and it is portrayed as typical for Smilodon. As a result, it is extremely likely that Half Tooth did the exact same thing to his predecessor and whatever cubs it may have.
  • Rhino Rampage: The woolly rhino attacks a Neanderthal for little reason. Although not actual rhinos, the brontotheres also invoke this, with the mother brontothere charging at the Andrewsarchus defending her already dead calf. The rhino relative Indricotherium displays some rhino-like behavior, but it fights like a giraffe due to having a longer neck and no horns.
  • Scavengers Are Scum: Played straight mainly with the entelodonts. They are portrayed as scary as possible, with enormously wide open mouths, always-growling attitude, and are even called the Hogs from Hell at one point. They mainly appear bullying other animals or fighting each other in their episode, but to be fair, they are also shown suffering from starvation and as a prey for the predatory Hyaenodons — even though these things have passed less-noticed. True predators like Smilodon tend to receive a more neutral, sometimes even heroic, portrayal, like what happens in the classic true documentaries showing lions and hyenas to make things clear.
    • Andrewsarchus and Phorusrhacos were both depicted as scavengers and unable to take on animals of their own size (see Adaptational Wimp), in addition to acting as secondary "villains" of their episodes.
  • Sea Monster: Basilosaurus, a predatory whale the size of modern filter-feeding whales, is viewed as such by some, but like all the other characters of the program is actually a real animal trying to survive in a hard environment with scarce available food.
  • Seldom-Seen Species: Most creatures, except for the Woolly Mammoth, the saber-toothed Smilodon, and the Ice Age humans, were quite uncommon in TV programs before the show.
    • New Dawn: Leptictidium, Gastornis, Ambulocetus, Propalaeotherium, Godinotia, Titanomyrma
    • Whale Killer: Basilosaurus, Andrewsarchus, Embolotherium, Dorudon, Moeritherium, Apidium, Physogaleus
    • Land of Giants: Paraceratherium, Hyaenodon, Chalicotherium, Entelodon, Cynodictis
    • Next of Kin: Australopithecus, Dinofelis, Ancylotherium, Deinotherium
    • Saber Tooth: Macrauchenia, Phorusrhacos, Doedicurus, Megatherium
    • Mammoth Journey: Woolly Rhino, Irish Elk, European Lion
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: The scene of the mating Australopithecus even had to be censored with a huge blur for the American release (but strangely did't cut it entirely, like in Australia), because it looked exactly like the way humans do it. Even in the uncensored version there is some Scenery Censor, as the mating happens in high grass.
    • Otherwise averted practically Once an Episode, where we explicitly see copulating Godinotia, Basilosaurus (which mate face to face, and have comically large penises), Indricotherium, Smilodon and wooly mammoths.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: The second Smilodon brother is fatally wounded in the original episode, but in the corresponding chapter of the book, he just runs away.

  • Subverted Trope: In the previous series, Walking with Dinosaurs, an animal lineage's long-term success would be paralleled by their representative doing well in the episode, such as the Coelophysis's success in New Dawn and the mammal's success in Death of a Dynasy. New Dawn flips this on its head; the three animals that get killed by the gas wave- Ambulocetus, Godinotia, and Propaleotherium, are all part of families that lived to the modern day. The two genus that escape it- Leptictidium and Gastornis, do not.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: Basilosaurus chases a Moeritherium to a inlet and circles around it while the tide rises enough; the Moeritherium escapes only because the Basilosaurus miscalculates and attacks too early. Later, the Basilosaurus keeps stalking and attacking the same pod of Dorudon again until no calves are left.
  • Techno Wizard: Mankind. Australopithecus search for roots with sticks and make a Dinofelis leave by throwing rocks at it; Hercules also uses the same stick in his fight against Grey for dominance of the group. Homo make and use tents, anti-mosquito dust, clothes, javelins, spears, torches, and even art.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Remember the scared, foresaken juvenile indricothere who vanished? When he returns, he's adolescent and bullies the major bullies of the area (entelodonts) from a watering hole. He even engages in some Camera Abuse just for the hell of it.
    • The Australopithecus band at the end of "Next of Kin".
  • The Usurper: The Indricotherium's younger brother in "Land of Giants", the rival Australopithecus group in "Next of Kin", and the brothers in "Saber Tooth". The sabertooth kind as a whole (originally North American) to the South American terror birds.
  • The Worf Effect:
    • In Land of Giants, a mob of entelodonts have this on a lone Hyaenodon, but a lone entelodont is then chased by a hyaenodon and another is scared away by the indricothere calf. Meanwhile in the book, it's a pair of Hyaenodon that drive off a single entelodont.
    • "Whale Killer" starts with two sharks attacking a school of fish while the narrator says that sharks were free of competition after the sea reptiles of the Mesozoic disappeared. Cue Basilosaurus playing with them like ragdolls and eating them while ignoring the fish.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?:
    • Next Of Kin focuses on the human ancestors Australopithecus, showing them in a protagonist role.
    • Averted in 'Mammoth Journey', where the humans (neanderthals and modern humans) are treated like any other predator, and the mammoths are the clear protagonists.
      • Just to be clear how much this is averted, in "Mammoth Journey" a mammoth bull casually finds two cave lions feeding on a dead man. We don't even see how he died, only the mammoth scaring the lions away because they are on his path.
  • Who's Laughing Now?:
    • Entelodonts bully every creature in their way, but get a taste of their own medicide when an adolescent male indricothere shows them who the real beast is.
    • Gastornis is the terror of land mammals in "New Dawn", none of which is larger than a cat, but its only chick is then eaten alive by giant ants. The imagery is repeated with Phorusrhacos chasing a Smilodon cub at the beginning of "Saber Tooth", but then the cub's father intervenes. Yep, mammal carnivores have grown a lot since the Eocene.
    • After much misery, the Australopithecus band together and shower an attacking Dinofelis with rocks until it is forced to run away.
    • The Leptictidium family survives the release of volcanic gas from the lake. They smell and hop pass the once terrifying Ambulocetus, who did not.
  • Zerg Rush: Most gruesomely, giant ants against the Gastornis chick.

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