David Attenborough's Natural History Museum Alive

Synopsis: This documentary narrated by David Attenborough was filmed at the Natural History Museum, London, and uses state of the art CGI imagery to bring to life several extinct animals in the museum, including Archaeoptery, the Moa Ratite bird (Dinornis) and Haast's eagle. The documentary was well-received, and won a TV BAFTA in the specialist factual category.
Genre: Documentary
Director(s): Daniel M. Smith
  1 win & 1 nomination.
64 min

But was it the largest bird

that had ever lived?

There were several different

species of moa,

but this one was the biggest.

It stands 3m tall.

But is this really what it

looked like when it was alive?

You can tell how an animal

holds its head

from the junction between the skull

and its neck.

If that is underneath the skull,

then its neck would have been


But this moa's neck joint

is at the back of the skull,

so it must have held its neck

more horizontally, like this.

So was the giant moa

the biggest bird

that has ever existed?

Well, if it craned up its neck,

it was almost certainly the tallest.

You might think

that such a gigantic bird

would have no enemies

in the remote and isolated forests

of New Zealand.

Well, there's also a Maori legend

of a huge predatory bird, an eagle,

that existed at the same time.

And what is more,

there are bones to prove it.

This colossal bird

was nearly twice as heavy

as today's most powerful eagle.

Bringing down a giant moa

must have been a huge task.

They, too, were strong and heavy.

But the eagle had

powerful eyesight...

...a beak the size of

a butcher's cleaver...

...and razor sharp talons

as big as the claws of a tiger.

The Greek for grappling hooks

is "harpax".

And that word gives this bird

its name.

This is Harpagornis.

It was a deadly predator.

It was the largest eagle

that has ever existed.

And it lived in the same forests

as the moas.

We know that Harpagornis

preyed on moas

because moa skeletons

have been found

with holes stabbed through

their pelvic bones

that exactly match the grasp

of the eagles' claws.

It was probably even strong enough

to cling to a moa's back

with one foot

while it slashed at its victim's

neck with the other.

But it looks as if this moa

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David Attenborough

Sir David Frederick Attenborough (; born 8 May 1926) is an English broadcaster and naturalist. He is best known for writing and presenting, in conjunction with the BBC Natural History Unit, the nine natural history documentary series that form the Life collection, which form a comprehensive survey of animal and plant life on Earth. He is a former senior manager at the BBC, having served as controller of BBC Two and director of programming for BBC Television in the 1960s and 1970s. He is the only person to have won BAFTAs for programmes in each of black and white, colour, HD, 3D and 4K.Attenborough is widely considered a national treasure in Britain, although he himself does not like the term. In 2002 he was named among the 100 Greatest Britons following a UK-wide poll for the BBC. He is the younger brother of the director, producer and actor Richard Attenborough, and older brother of the motor executive John Attenborough. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018


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