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How Apple TV’s Prehistoric Planet Decided What The Dinosaurs Should Sound Like

Dinosaurs on Prehistoric Planet.
(Image credit: Apple TV+)

Anytime a movie or TV show depicts something that’s either not real or no longer around, decisions have to be made about a whole lot of specifics. Perhaps the best example is dinosaurs. The ever-popular prehistoric reptiles have left behind enough of a fossil record that we know, in general, their basic shapes, but when it comes to appearances and noises, it’s a lot of educated guessing.

As such, it should come as no surprise that there was a lot of educated guessing going on when decisions were made about how to depict the dinosaurs in Apple TV’s awesome new series Prehistoric Planet. Gizmodo recently sat down with Paleozoologist Darren Naish who worked as the chief scientific consultant to ask him a host of questions about choices the show had to make during production. How the dinosaurs sounded, of course, came up, and you can read a portion of his thoughtful answer below…

We’ve got firstly every reason to think that extinct dinosaurs would be very vocal because crocodiles and alligators and birds are. We’ve got every reason to think they would have made a load of low-frequency grumbles because big birds—cassowaries, emus, ostriches, etc.—and crocodilians actually make pretty similar sounds. They make them in pretty similar ways as well.

Birds are, of course, dinosaurs, and they also have strong ties to crocodiles and alligators; so, it’s not surprising they’d start there. That process is apparently called phylogenetic bracketing. It involves taking the species in question and figuring out exactly where they fit in the tree of life. You can then use the species who are still around and nearby to make thoughtful guesses for things like behavior and physical characteristics.

The reviews for Apple TV’s prehistoric planet have been, on the whole, really, really positive with many pointing to the special effects as a huge standout. The five part series has rolled out one episode at a time this week on Apple TV +,with the last one premiering earlier today. If you have a subscription to Apple TV+, you can hop back and watch all the episodes. If you don’t have a subscription, you can grab a 7 day free trial right here (opens in new tab)and check out both this show and the larger service. 

Mack Rawden
Mack Rawden

Enthusiastic about Clue, case-of-the-week mysteries, the NBA and cookies at Disney World. Less enthusiastic about the pricing structure of cable, loud noises and Tuesdays.