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NOVA: Dinosaur Apocalypse

Sir David Attenborough in Virtual Studio setting. Behind him is a view of what the Late Cretaceous world might have looked within hours of the asteroid impact which led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Landscape. London
By Jon Sayer. Courtesy of BBC Studios
Sir David Attenborough in Virtual Studio setting. Behind him is a view of what the Late Cretaceous world might have looked within hours of the asteroid impact which led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Landscape. London

Premieres Wednesday, May 11, 2022 from 9-11 p.m. with encore Sunday, May 15 from 2-4 p.m. on KPBS TV + May 15 from 9-11 p.m. on KPBS 2 / On demand with PBS Video App

NOVA: DINOSAUR APOCALYPSE explores how a wealth of newly uncovered fossils may provide a never-before-seen glimpse of events on the day an asteroid struck Earth, ending the age of the dinosaurs. Viewers follow host Sir David Attenborough and a team of scientists as they try to reconstruct a detailed picture of one of the unluckiest days for life on Earth in two back-to-back, one-hour episodes, "Dinosaur Apocalypse: The New Evidence" and "Dinosaur Apocalypse: The Last Day."

Ian Kellett (DOP), Robert De Palma, David Burnham, filming the uncovering of a fossil in Tanis, Landscape. (undated photo)
By Eric Burge. Courtesy of BBC Studios
Ian Kellett (DOP), Robert De Palma, David Burnham, filming the uncovering of a fossil in Tanis, Landscape. (undated photo)

Sixty-six million years ago, a gigantic asteroid, larger than Mount Everest, slammed into Earth, killing the giant reptiles that had dominated the planet for over 150 million years. There is strong evidence of the impact, but no fossils of a dinosaur killed in the event itself have ever been found.

Landscape VFX image of Chicxulub Asteroid impact on earth as viewed from space
Lola Post Production / BBC Studios
Landscape VFX image of Chicxulub Asteroid impact on earth as viewed from space

Now, at a dig site hidden in the Badlands of North Dakota, scientists have uncovered a wealth of fossilized creatures that might be connected to the fateful day that ended the Cretaceous Period. In DINOSAUR APOCALYPSE, Sir David Attenborough follows clues from this prehistoric graveyard, where a team of paleontologists uncover evidence they believe could help shed light on some dinosaurs’ final moments on Earth.

Landscape VFX shot of dinosaurs on Tanis sandbank as a huge surge wave approaches.
Lola Post Production / BBC Studios
Landscape VFX shot of dinosaurs on Tanis sandbank as a huge surge wave approaches.

Filmed over the course of three years, the special follows paleontologist Robert DePalma and his team as they explore the site and ultimately unearth creatures that may shed light on life at the very end of the age of the dinosaurs. In both episodes, Attenborough examines some of the fossil finds with leading experts and follows the dig team as they carry out cutting-edge visualization and scanning techniques to reveal fossilized secrets invisible to the naked eye.

Palaeontologist Robert DePalma in London, examining the fossil of a turtle. Mid shot landscape
By Jon Sayer. Courtesy of BBC Studios
Palaeontologist Robert DePalma in London, examining the fossil of a turtle. Mid shot landscape

Stunning CGI storytelling, based on the evidence unearthed by DePalma and his team, is used to transport Attenborough back in time to the Late Cretaceous Period and bring the creatures that lived here to life. Interwoven with a range of expert interviews that provide scientific context throughout, the special follows Attenborough on a search for clues that could provide an unprecedented window into the last days of the dinosaur age and new insights into the events that may have unfolded when the Chicxulub asteroid collided with Earth.

Close up VFX shot T-Rex, Landscape
Lola Post Production / BBC Studios
Close up VFX shot T-Rex, Landscape

As horrific and devastating as that day was, Attenborough reminds us that if it weren’t for the asteroid that ended the dominance of dinosaurs, tiny mammals would probably never have evolved into the amazing variety of creatures that now populate Earth–including us.

And he reveals one final rare piece of evidence from the North Dakota site: the fossilized feather of a dinosaur. It’s a reminder that the dinosaurs did not all go extinct when the asteroid hit. Members of one group, known as avian dinosaurs, survived, evolved, and still live among us today. We know them as birds.

Sir David Attenborough in Virtual Studio setting. Behind him the kind of landscape that might have been found in the Late Cretaceous. Mid shot standing looking to camera. Portrait.
By Misan Harriman. Courtesy of BBC Studios
Sir David Attenborough in Virtual Studio setting. Behind him the kind of landscape that might have been found in the Late Cretaceous. Mid shot standing looking to camera. Portrait.
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What Tiny Fossils Tell Us About a Giant Extinction

This event is in the past.
Thursday, May 12, 2022 at 10 AM
Virtual
Free
NOVA and paleontologist Dr. Emily Bamforth team up to explore questions that have plagued paleontologists for decades -- was the meteor impact to blame for the dinosaur mass extinction, or was there already an extinction going on? And why did this meteor impact cause an extinction when others in Earth’s history didn’t?Dr. Emily Bamforth's research from studying over 12,000 microvertebrate (very small) fossils from the Late Cretaceous suggests that the ecosystem just before the mass extinction was unstable due to environmental factors like long-term climate change, mass volcanism, and more. When the meteor impact occurred, the ecosystems collapsed entirely, just like a Jenga Tower would if too many blocks had already been pulled out.To learn more about the day the dinosaurs died, watch NOVA "Dinosaur Apocalypse," a two-hour special premiering at 9/8c on Wednesday, May 11 on KPBS TV. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/series/dinosaur-apocalypse/RSVP NOWSpeaker Bio: Dr. Emily Bamforth decided to be a paleontologist at the age of four. She completed a BSc degree in Evolutionary Biology at the University of Alberta, which sparked a fascination in the origins of multicellular life on Earth. She earned her MSc degree at Queens University in Kingston, ON, studying fossils of some of the oldest complex multicellular life on the planet. She completed her PhD at McGill University in Montreal, with a thesis based on the dinosaur mass extinction in Saskatchewan. After graduating in 2014, she worked as a paleontologist with the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, where her research focused on Late Cretaceous and early Cenozoic paleoecology and paleobotany. Now at the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, she works with late Cretaceous paleoecosystems at high latitudes, which includes studying a massive dinosaur bonebed near Grande Prairie, Alberta. She is also an adjunct professor in the Geology Department at the University of Saskatchewan.

EPISODE GUIDE:

Dinosaur Apocalypse: The New Evidence premieres Wednesday, May 11 at 9 p.m. and Sunday, May 15 at 2 p.m. on KPBS TV + May 15 at 9 p.m. on KPBS 2 - In the Badlands of North Dakota, a team of scientists think they might have found the fossilized remains of animals killed on the day an asteroid struck Earth 66 million years ago. The evidence points to a catastrophic event, with a jumble of rare fossils, including a pterosaur embryo still in its shell and a well-preserved patch of triceratops skin, mixed in with tiny spheres of clay and glass that could be the fallout from the massive asteroid impact. Sir David Attenborough guides us on a search for clues that could give an unprecedented snapshot of what happened in the dinosaurs’ final moments on Earth.

Dinosaur Apocalypse: The New Evidence: Preview

Dinosaur Apocalypse: The Last Day premieres Wednesday, May 11 at 10 p.m. and Sunday, May 15 at 3 p.m. on KPBS TV + May 15 at 10 p.m. on KPBS 2 - In the second episode, the search continues for signs of what happened on the day the dinosaurs died. Scientists uncover extremely rare fossils and more evidence that could link the dig site in North Dakota to the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. Among the fossils are tiny spheres of glass locked in amber. Inside one of the spheres is a speck of rock that appears to be a chemical match to the killer asteroid itself. And scientists uncover one of the most spectacular finds of all: an almost perfectly preserved dinosaur leg. Sir David Attenborough guides us on a search for clues that could provide an unprecedented snapshot of what happened in the dinosaurs’ final moments on Earth.

Dinosaur Apocalypse: The Last Day: Preview

Watch On Your Schedule:

Both episodes will also be available for streaming online atpbs.org/nova and on the PBS video app, available on iOS, Android, Roku streaming devices, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast and VIZIO.

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Credits:

A BBC Studios Science Unit production with NOVA and GBH for BBC One and iPlayer, and PBS, co-produced with France Télévisions. The series is part of a co-production deal between PBS and BBC Studios. Commissioned for BBC One by Charlotte Moore, Chief Content Officer and Jack Bootle, Head of Commissioning, Science and Natural History and Executive in Charge for PBS is Bill Gardner, Vice President, Multiplatform Programming and Head of Development. Executive Producer is Helen Thomas and the Commissioning Editor is Tom Coveney. Executive Producers for NOVA are Julia Cort and Chris Schmidt. NOVA is a production of GBH.