Paleo World: Sea Monsters [VHS]

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Twenty-five million years ago, 50-foot-long, 50-ton ancestors of great white sharks terrorized the seas. How sea creatures developed into these oversized killers and why they died out is the subject of Sea Monsters, the first episode of this 73-minute video. In Back to the Seas, scientists look for a reason that mammals wound up in the earth's waters after evolving as land dwellers. Beginning with a much-ridiculed observation by Charles Darwin more than a century ago and eventually supported by a series of skeleton finds in the 1980s and 1990s, narrator Ben Gazarra takes viewers on a fascinating paleontologic ride back to the moment a starving wolflike creature decided to take a little swim in search of food. Tale of a Sail examines the early dinosaur known as Dimetrodon, a hippo-sized beast that carried a sail on its back and proto-mammalian teeth in its mouth. Paleontologists debate the function of the sail, but not the fact that the Dimetrodon straddled the line between lizards--which went on to dominate the planet for millions of years--and mammals, which were reduced to rodent-sized prey until dinosaur extinction. While kids will enjoy the fierce-looking artistic renditions of the sea monsters, it's the examination of prehistoric mysteries and the search for the elusive skeletons that will explain everything that makes this part of the Paleo World series a satisfying experience. --Kimberly Heinrichs

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