Category: Radio Reviews

Review of David Attenborough’s Life Stories – Quetzalcoatlus

Review of Life Stories – Quetzalcoatlus

In yesterday evening’s, Radio 4 broadcast, naturalist and presenter Sir David Attenborough discussed Quetzalcoatlus (Q. northropi).  In this ten minute programme, part of the “Life Stories” series written and presented by Sir David, he talked about the discovery of the first Pterosaur fossils, how the name Pterodactyl came into scientific usage (merci Cuvier), and the finding of the fragmentary fossils of a huge flying reptile in Texas in 1971.

It was great to hear him discuss the contribution of Mary Anning and his thoughts on how Quetzalcoatlus, the name of the flying reptile discovered in Texas, might have lived.  The long stiff neck and the large, toothless beak may have been used to probe inside the carcases of dead dinosaurs.  Sir David had observed vultures with their long necks reaching inside the body cavities of dead antelopes in Africa, so he surmised that an animal such as Quetzalcoatlus  may have had a similar niche in the Late Cretaceous food chain.

The talk was delivered in Sir David’s usual elegant and erudite style, just a couple of points that our sharp-eared team members who listened picked up on.  Firstly, the concept of Quetzalcoatlus scavenging the carcases of T. rex and Giganotosaurus was mentioned.  Whilst in theory, Quetzalcoatlus could have fed on the remains of Tyrannosaurus, Giganotosaurus (G. carolini) lived in South America a long way from where the fossil remains of this Pterosaur have been found and indeed, Giganotosaurus lived millions of years earlier.

Also, although other Azhdarchidae fossil sites (Quetzalcoatlus is a member of the Azhdarchidae Pterosaur family), were briefly mentioned, there is  a debate as to whether this particular Pterosaur is the largest flying creature known to science.  Recently, the fossils of another large Pterosaur have been uncovered in eastern Europe.  This animal has been named Hatzegopteryx (H. thambema) and it may have had an even bigger wingspan.

However, these points are only minor.  It would have been good to have heard a little about Sir David’s views on the fact that until the discovery of the fossils of Quetzalcoatlus, large Pterosaur fossils were nearly all associated with marine environments, whereas Quetzalcoatlus many have lived far inland.  It was wonderful to hear how enthusiastically Sir David described watching a remote controlled Pterosaur model flying over the Dorset cliffs, as part of a television documentary programme.

Try to catch the repeat if you can on Radio 4 this Sunday at 8.45am or thereabouts.

Attenborough in Search of the Elephant Bird and his Fossil Fascination

Highlights on Television and Radio this Week

Tonight the BBC are showing a documentary entitled “Attenborough and the Giant Egg”, this is part of the BBC Natural History Unit’s documentary series on the amazing fauna and flora of Madagascar.  These programmes have been narrated by Sir David Attenborough and the programme being shown tonight recounts Sir David’s quest to find out more about the Elephant Bird that once lived on the island.

The hour long programme starts at 8pm on BBC2, it combines archive footage of Sir David’s Zoo Quest television show which documented his visit to Madagascar in 1960, with an update on the story.

Back in 1960 he tried to piece together a egg from the giant Elephant bird, (Aepyornis genus), which lived on the island before being wiped out by hunters in the 17th Century.  This flightless bird was one of the most massive birds known to science and certainly the largest seen by modern people.

David enquired amongst locals for pieces of egg shell and offered a reward for any pieces that could be found.  He was inundated with fragments and then one native brought him an almost complete egg.  He was astonished at just how many pieces of egg shell that turned up and the documentary tonight, filmed fifty years later, goes in search of the birds that laid these eggs.

Should be a fascinating programme.

Also, don’t forget to tune into Radio 4, Friday 8.50pm GMT (repeated Sunday mornings 08.50am GMT) for the latest instalment of David Attenborough’s Life Stories.  In the next programme, Sir David discusses his fascination with fossils.  So this week we have both compulsive viewing and listening to look forward to.

Review of David Attenborough’ s Life Stories

David Attenborough’s Life Stories – Given a big Thumbs Up!

One of the United Kingdom’s most popular presenters and incidentally, one of the people that we would invite over to dinner when we play our “who would you like to invite to your fantasy dinner party game”, when things are quiet in the office – David Attenborough; has just started a new series of “Life Stories” on radio 4.

Episode one of the series of twenty short programmes had David Attenborough explaining a little of what it was like to try and film in the rain-forest canopy.  His engaging and enthusiastic style of narration shone through.  These monologues allow Sir David to draw on his many years of natural history broadcasting, examining marvels of the natural world and we all agreed as we listened to the repeated programme this morning how fascinating a life this gentleman has led.  His ability to convey the wonders of the natural world is second to none in our opinion and these short ten minute radio programmes are going to be compulsive listening for us over the next few weeks.

A great radio programme from a truly great broadcaster and who involved deserve our heartfelt congratulations.  We are already looking forward to next week’s broadcast, all about that most enigmatic member of the Aves – the Kiwi.

David Attenborough’s Life Stories Series Two on Radio 4

First Life – Back on Air

The highly acclaimed “First Life” radio series, a collection of stories and anecdotes by Sir David Attenborough is starting a second series.  One of the world’s best known and most popular presenters, Sir David examines twenty marvels of the natural world, a collection of experiences in some fifty years of broadcasting.

Each ten minute programme deals with a different subject and they are on radio four at 8.50pm on Friday evening (GMT) repeated the following Sunday at 8.50am.  Sir David’s enthusiasm is infectious and his curiosity for the natural world really comes out in these broadcasts.

Well worth a listen, and we suspect the series will be available on CD from the BBC in the Summer.

A Mention for Nessie

The Loch Ness Monster a Good subject for a Quiz Question

We hear that in a recent Radio Four quiz programme broadcast by the BBC there was a question about the famous Loch Ness Monster, or should we use Nessie’s proper scientific name – N. rhombopteryx.  It is always a pleasure to hear that this elusive creature can still attract media interest.

The quiz master asked the contestants to link the following incidents together:

“The Surgeon’s” 1934, “Dinsdale” 1960 and the “Rines study” in 1972.  These are all linked to sightings, film or other evidence of the existence of the Loch Ness Monster.

Naturally, although there have been a number of sightings, pictures and perhaps most intriguing of all, sonar echoes, we don’t believe in Nessie as a member of the Plesiosauria.

After all, the scientific name Nessitera rhombopteryx announced by British naturalist in 1975 (the name means “The Ness monster with diamond-shaped fins”) was pointed out to be an anagram for “monster hoax by Sir Peter S”

David Attenborough Life Stories

David Attenborough Life Stories

A little present was waiting for us at the Everything Dinosaur offices this morning.  The complete set of David Attenborough’s radio 4 series “Life Stories”.  We had been able to listen to a number of these short, ten-minute monologues written and presented by Sir David Attenborough when they were first featured on radio 4 and subsequently repeated on radio 7.  Now we have all twenty on a set of CDs (running time over 3 hours).

Sir David Attenborough recounts some of the amazing things that he has witnessed in his fifty years of broadcasting.  He examines twenty natural wonders that he has encountered on his many years of travelling and documenting the incredible creatures and plants on our planet.  He covers a huge range of topics from the Coelacanth and Trilobites from North Africa, to birds nest soup and the use of eyebrows in human communication.

This is a fascinating listen and Sir David’s enthusiasm and knowledge really comes through in what was an excellently produced radio series.

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