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What Killed the Mega-Beasts

4 customer reviews

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(Sep 24, 2002)
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Editorial Reviews

Imagine a world overrun by 9-foot flightless birds, 17-foot giant beavers and predatory marsupial lions as tall as elephants! Two million years ago, these enormous creatures - Mega Beasts - roamed the continents in bursting populations. Despite the fact that each gargantuan species is now extinct, the mystery of their demise lives on. Watch the most rivetingly realistic computer animation available as What Killed the Mega Beasts? takes you on a fascinating journey through time. Now you too can attempt to solve one of the greatest riddles ever, one that to this day keeps scientist from Patagonia to Colorado to New Zealand debating and searching for answers. Join us as we explore these questions: Is it the "Chill Theory," which argues that profound climactic change accounts for the death of the Mega Beasts? Is it the fact that big animals adapt to environmental changes less easily than do smaller ones? What if a "killer virus" swept away these extraordinary, fearsome beings? Or, finally, as those who ascribe to the "Kill Theory" assert, is it possible that the Mega Beasts were slaughtered by a creature more terrifying than any other - man?

Special Features


Product Details

  • Format: Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Discovery Channel
  • DVD Release Date: September 24, 2002
  • Run Time: 92 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00006G8FG
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #178,306 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Christopher Coleman on February 6, 2004
Format: DVD
"What Killed the Mega-Beasts?" is a Discovery Channel production. As an introduction some of to the giant mammals (and in one instance, bird) of the Plesticene it may have some interest, but it is flawed in far too many ways.
First: the suppositions. 1) There are a class of animals generally known as Mega-Beasts: this is merely a sensationalist term for large creatures as diverse as reptiles, mammals, birds; carnivores, herbivores, omnivores, that have existed since the time of the dinosaurs. (The special concentrates on only a few of these--the wooly mammoth/mastodon, the giant beaver, the giant lemur, the giant ground sloth, the marsupial lion and the moa.) 2) These giant beasts have all suffered a single, individual fate--namely, extinction. Of course, Africa and Asia still have a number of "Mega-Beasts" surviving, although perhaps precariously, into the present day, including elephants, rhinos, hippos, and tigers. 3) The extinction of the creatures considered, although it occured the world over and over the span of at least 50,000 years, has a single, or at least common, cause. This point infuriated me--there's no reason at all, or certainly no reason shown on this program--to believe that the cause of the moa's extinction 700 years ago in New Zealand is identical to the cause of the extinction of the Giant Beaver in North America 20,000 years ago. And while the individual scientists (with one rather remarkable exception) are fairly careful not to make this claim, the narration repeatedly implies it ad nauseum. Only in the last 15 minutes is any consideration given to a complex of factors as the cause for extinction, and then again, it's all or nothing.
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Format: DVD
"What Killed The Mega Beasts?" is a documentary that explores three theories of how the large mega-fauna that once inhabited our planet vanished in various locales around the globe. Think about it: When was the last time you saw a Columbian Mammoth, Marsupial Lion or Elephant Bird wander past your living room picture window? The three theories are dubbed: Chill that denotes climate change as the culprit; Ill that denotes an all-infecting virus as the source; and Kill that believes that human hunters were the cause.

I know, of course, 'tis not good to overly criticize a team for making the film that they made rather than the movie that you wish that they had made. Having said that, separating this question into these three categories is pretty much the same as separating the biological origins of the world and its species into Old Earth Creationism, Young Earth Creationism and Evolution. One particular theory (theory in a scientific sense) has more credence and credibility than the other two.

As the film progresses, this becomes clearer by the frame. Despite the passionate advocacy of their proponents, two of the theories have little basis in actual factual findings, and the logical objections to them are strong ones. In the narration, the makers of the film themselves admit major flaws in both of these theories. There is even a bit near the end where they attempt to expand the definition of Kill to include environmental degradation by humans to create a fourth compromise position.

There, also, appears to be an elephant in the room that no-one wants to acknowledge. 'Tis hard to imagine that scientists would be reluctant to blame Caucasians of European descent for hunting the Carolina Parakeet and the Passenger Pigeon to extinction.
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Format: DVD
The "Overkill" theory, the hypothesis that humans hunted many large animals, mostly mammals, to extinction in the past 50,000 years is discussed extensively by Peter D. Ward in his "Rivers in Time", esp. Chapter 10 "Overkill". The evidence is rather compelling, if not overwhelming. Humans arrived in Australia ca 35-50,000 years ago, finding perhaps 50 genera of marsupials, many quite large. In only 5000 years these animals were extinct. Only four marsupials remain. A similar situation unfolded in New Zealand. Humans arriving in the many South Pacific islands found no large animals, but their arrival frequently resulted in the extinction of 50% of native animals and many plant species. Polynesian arrival at Hawaii in ca. 300 A.D. quickly led to extinction of 50% of native bird species. A similar story is that of Madagascar, the world's fourth largest island, where 80% of species were unique.
In the Americas, the arrival of the Clovis people ca. 12,000 years ago, at the end of the last glaciation, resulted in the extinction of all native large mammals, some 35 of 55 genera. Only 12 large mammals now exist, all arriving with humans over the land bridge with Asia. In South America, 46 mammal genera went extinct. While kill sites are rare and poorly informative, it seems certain that Clovis people hunted mastodons, mammoths, large sloths, wooly rhino, for food, resulting in their scavengers and predators also going extinct. They did so in only 1-2,000 years, so that by the differentiation of the Clovis into the hundreds of American Indian tribes, ca. 10,000 years ago, all such native mammals were gone.
Elsewhere, Peter Ward writes that some have said that humans in North America have replaced a billion animals with 300 million humans, reducing the biodiversity of Planet Earth. The 7 billion humans on Earth are acting similarly to the entire planet.
This is an important book and I urge everyone with any interest to read it.
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