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Australia: The Time Traveller's Guide -

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in the making. Four-and-a-half billion years A land as old as the Earth itself. new world you might expect. Australia. It's not the brave ? Theme music

in Australia, When Europeans first arrived a kind of separate creation. they saw it as a young country... further from the truth. But nothing could've been (Roars) inhabited continent on Earth The oldest, flattest, driest in prehistoric times. is a puzzle put together

that unlock the mystery And the clues across Australia's sunburnt face. can be found scattered And this is an amazing country. My name is Richard Smith. every rock has a history, For a scientist like me, against the odds. every creature a tale of survival billion years on the big island So join me and spend a few at the bottom of the world. to get the big picture. It's a great place Of all continents on Earth, of our planet none preserved the great saga quite like this one. and the evolution of life jump in a car Nowhere else can you so simply to the dawn of time. and travel back (Music continues)

back to our modern world It's a long journey from distant, ancient Australia. to the present day, From the birth of the Earth a mind-boggling 4.6 billion years. the road of time stretches just for a moment It helps to imagine travel through time. that this car can for a million years per minute. I set the controls for every hour That's 60 million years of history we travel down the road. Australia? It's quite a ride. You want to see the real old is the Mesozoic. GPS: Your destination per minute, Travelling at a million years and the planet the entire story of Australia three days of solid driving. is condensed into a little over first three days And for most of those the infancy and childhood we have roared through of the Australian continent. of my journey behind me Now with 70 hours and only another four to go, of Australia's wild adolescence. we've arrived at the start It's the Mesozoic. (Roars) is the one geological era The Mesozoic and for good reason. nearly everyone has heard of... home of the Triassic, Jurassic It's in the Mesozoic - that dinosaurs ruled the Earth. and Cretaceous periods - But despite such world domination, of Australia evidence for their conquest on the ground... until now. has been a little thin of dinosaurs Down Under. It's time for the age of the three great periods The Triassic, the first got off to a pretty shaky start. that made up the Mesozoic, catastrophic extinction event, The Permian crisis, the world's most was over. But gone with it was perhaps of the planet. 95% of the biological diversity all but wiped out in the sea Around the world, life had been and devastated on land. and confusion Yet somehow out of the carnage rose a new one. of that devastated world, sandstone landscape of Sydney. And with it the dramatic have to be one of the best places I think, Richard, this would to see the Sydney sandstone. there is North Head over there, There is the Pacific Ocean, Harbour just behind us there. there is the entrance to Sydney Over here is The Gap. And a lot of rock underneath us. of solid sandstone. There is about 250m in this story... But there is a lot of history the landscape of my hometown well. Biologist Tim Flannery knows on the aftermath of disaster. Sydney it seems, was built this sandstone was laid down, We would have been standing when in a post-catastrophic world. of the Permian extinction, We've had the great disaster 95% of all species gone. with life almost extinguished, Even plants struggled to recover. coal swamps of the Sydney basin The colourful forests and rich the next 20 million years had gone, and over buried deeper and deeper in sand. the lush world of the Permian was studies suggesting that this sand There has been some recent may have come from here particularly, and that is a massive distance. as far away as East Antarctica on those distant mountains Storms raged from their denuded slopes, and rivers thundered quantities of sand carrying unimaginable spreading flood plains. northwards across vast, when life was slowly recovering, This rock talks to me of a time life and vegetation but there is not even enough of the river together - to hold the banks braided system it's just this great, running across the landscape. seeing these ripples 6m high, I can just imagine standing there, physical processes of the planet imagining this world where the are just laid so bare. they... These sand grains saw that, down on the planet The sun that was shining that we are standing on now. then struck those sand grains physical reminder. It's that great That's why I love geology, you know? that rock was there at the time, That you know that 230 million years ago. (Jackhammers grinding) a deep connection between The sandstone offers Sydneysiders we all live and work on today. the planet of the past and the one dark for some 230 million years, Now after waiting quietly in the have a new job the lost sands of Antarctica of a great global city. as the bedrock and building blocks by its Triassic geology. Sydney is defined of its stone buildings... From the warm glow the sandstone dictates everything to the shape of its harbour, to the form of its native flora. from the flow of traffic stand hard and proud The sandstone cliffs against the Pacific Ocean and weather into the soft, golden sands of the surf line. The sand also buries the Permian peak lands, allowing them to become the coal that powers the city. And rising to the west, this same sandstone forms the rocky ramparts of the Blue Mountains and the Great Dividing Range. All of this a legacy from the dark days when the Earth nearly died. It was the sudden lurch into an intense greenhouse climate that seems to have triggered the initial disaster at the end of the Permian. A series of wild climate swings plagued the early Triassic before the planet finally stabilised. And even when it did, temperatures still simmered. In the Triassic, conditions would have remained pretty hot and dry, no matter where you went on the planet. Australia was still part of the super-continent Gondwana, but Gondwana was now part of a super-super-continent called Pangaea where all lands were one and given a decent four-wheel drive, you really could have gone just about anywhere. Australia had joined the Wild Bunch... ..though it was very much at the bottom of the continental pack. The far-western New South Wales town of Bourke has always been thought of as a long way from anywhere. (Flies buzzing) There was some historical basis for this in the Triassic, when Down Under really was 'down under'. There was no back of Bourke - this was at the South Pole and everything from here was up. And this is a South Pole in a greenhouse world. It was so hot there was no permanent ice. Instead there were ferns and Ginkgo trees, freshwater fish and giant carnivorous amphibians. Some were taking to the air, others to the sea. Walking the land were lizard-like reptiles, mammal-like reptiles and the first dinosaurian reptiles as well. We know these early dinosaurs roamed across southern Gondwana, though they've left almost no trace here in Triassic Australia. (Crunching) But the evidence for Australian dinosaurs is out there if you know where to look. The old gold-mining town of Mt Morgan in Central Queensland is one such place. When the old miners excavated clay from a nearby hill, what they dug away was the mud that once filled a Jurassic lake. So this was all lake, lake deposit here? It was. So we're in underneath where the dinosaurs walked on the edge of that freshwater shallow lake. Left behind in the rocky ceiling are the three-toed imprints of dinosaurs that walked on the lake's muddy fringe. (Growling) The ghosts of dinosaurs-past still haunt this caverns. There's a few up here. Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes. These footprints and those from other mines help flesh out a Jurassic Australia rich in forests and waterways. I'm standing in what was the muddy edge of a lake and up there on the lake's surface, a therapod once walked above me about 195 million years ago. An imprint as clear as day. Remarkable. Unfortunately, like the rest of Australia's Jurassic dinosaurs, it remains just tantalisingly out of reach.

(Roaring and stomping) Bones of some of these Jurassic dinosaurs have been found, but the record is scrappy at best, just enough to fill a display case in the Queensland Museum. It's a tricky question, 'Why haven't we found them before?' We're a big continent, we should be able to find them we've got lots of rocks that are the right age. It's simply the size of the area to look. Australia is big and old and red and flat. This is a geological landscape that keeps it Mesozoic secrets well hidden. The botanical landscapes Australia's dinosaurs walked in, though, are much easier to experience. You can still walk in them today. The Mesozoic was a great time for plants. The Earth was an ice-free greenhouse world, warm and wet. Thick forests spread around the globe and the southern lands of Gondwana were no exception. Cycads, ferns and gingkoes were common... ..and had now been joined by the tree ferns that still abound in the rainforests and gullies of eastern Australia.

But the stand-out trees of the Mesozoic forests worldwide were the giant conifers. Luckily, some of those giant conifers are still with us. This towering sentinel is a Queensland bunya pine and it's remarkable not only for its great size but because it's so little-changed. The bunya, hoop and kauri pines of eastern Australia are well-known living fossils from the days of the dinosaurs. But in 1994 the ultimate pinosaur was discovered - the Wollemi Pine. A green giant, 40m-tall, hiding less than 200km from Sydney. Here, in a couple of secret canyons, were less than a hundred of perhaps the oldest-surviving tree species in the world. The spitting image of fossils from as far away as Antarctica. Today, the great conifer forests of Australia have gone. But the few surviving pockets allow you to dream of the days when you could have driven from coast to coast with not a gumleaf in sight. But the Mesozoic Earth was restless. Like a teenager with a growth spurt, it was on the move again. The Super continent Pangaea was breaking up. Leaving Australia still attached to a remodelled Gondwana in the southern hemisphere. And towards the close of the Jurassic, a little extra remodelling was applied from space. A falling rock in the shape of an asteroid or comet... ..slammed into central Australia. It was a bullseye that you can still see. Almost bang in the middle of the continent. As impressive as it is, Gosse's Bluff or Tnorala to give it its indigenous name is a shadow of its former self. Most of the original 20km wide crater has been worn away. What's left is merely the bowl punched deep into the Earth below ground zero. Still, the ring of low hills gives a pretty good hint at the scale of utter devastation that must have been visited upon the land for at least 100km in every direction. Sometimes, you get a chance to truly grasp the scale of past geological events and, when you do, it's truly humbling. It wasn't the Gosse's Bluff impact that saw off the dinosaurs but it was a portent of dangers to come. When dawn broke on the Cretaceous, dinosaurs still had their claws on the continent... ..from one side of it to the other. It's been a long wait but, finally, the 21st century is throwing new light on the Australian dinosaur story. For years, the ancient secrets of the Kimberly coastline near Broome have been guarded by extreme tides and extensive mud flats. It makes for an easy place to imagine what might have been walking the land in the primeval past. But imagination alone is not required here. The giant pieces of the early Cretaceous have made their presence clear to us. The first clear chapter in Australia's rather secret history of dinosaurs starts here on the beaches near Broome in the Kimberleys. Back then, this was a vast coastal forest running down to floodplains and estuaries near the sea. Not radically different from the tropical mudflats of today except for the 15 or so species of very large dinosaurs that have left their marks in the rocks here. Footprint evidence shows dinosaurs stomped along a staggering hundred-kilometre stretch of this coast. They must have been everywhere. Even the quintessential stegosaurus left its mark here. One of only a handful of prints in the world. and most abundant footfalls But the largest vegetarian sauropods. belonged to the towering of one large sauropod And this is the track way that came wandering past Broome about a 132, 135 million years ago. One there, another one there. Big footprints. A big footprint here. some smaller footprints, And interspersed amongst them, wandering with its mother. thought to have been made by a calf for parental care in sauropods. There is little evidence though there's little need for it. Once you reach this sort of size, Finding enough to eat than avoiding predators. was probably a bigger concern But for most Australian dinosaurs, was a hazardous experience... day to day life near Winton, a small herd discovered 95 million years ago. at Lark Quarry. That moment is frozen in time here dinosaur stampede. The site of the worlds only recorded one ordinary day in the Cretaceous. Picture the scene here, down into a lake just over there. This was a broad muddy spit running a mixed herd of small dinosaurs Now, sometime during the day, a drink at the waters edge. wandered across the mud to take the very clear footprints Here, you can see of a small chicken sized meat-eater. of an ornithopod dinosaur. And here, the emu-sized tracks more or less where the wall is, But behind me, probably of tree ferns and Ginkgo trees. was the start of a forest dominated by conifers, These rich forests, provided shelter and food... ..and cover for a meat-eater. Even for a wary dinosaur, was no time for complacency. the Cretaceous and looked back this way, Now, if you popped your head up you would have seen one very large... and heading your way. ..very hungry therapod head down In the pandemonium that followed, scattered in all directions, 150 terrified dinosaurs and crashing into each other, sliding on the mud of the forest beyond. they raced to reach relative safety tell part of the story. Footprints, though, can only ever of Australia to life... Bringing the dinky di dinosaurs needs bones. have also started turning up. And, finally, those bones Oh, thank you. Here's your coffee. How is it going? very, very slowly. Slowly coming together, place in the lives They've come to occupy a very special David and Judy Elliott. of husband and wife graziers You're going well. Only about 10,000 pieces to go. Yeah, I'm doing really well. on their kitchen table. And, yet, that is a dinosaur that's got tiny bones in it. It's a pile of rock or Chooky, And we've dubbed it Chook, because that is about the size relate to, so... it's Chooky. of the animals that the bones have outgrown the kitchen. Most of Belmont Station's dinosaurs in the general Winton area Bones are coming out of the ground have helped establish on such a scale now that the Elliotts a purpose built dinolab and museum to process and display the finds the Australian Age of Dinosaurs. dubbed appropriately how these dinosaurs in Australia There is so little known about different ways away have evolved in their own little that they all started off from. from the core groups of the Elliotts' business plan Hunting dinosaurs was never part but they're fast becoming experts. to is probably the most exciting This dinosaur site that we're going of what I've found so far and definitely the most significant a tremendous amount and it's a place that's produced of material in quite a short time. odyssey by accident - The Elliotts' began their dinosaur over the bones pretty much by tripping on their property. of some of some dead ones Yeah, here we are. So this is big hole in the ground? This is where it all started. years ago, If you can imagine 95 to 100 million in a lush rainforest area. we're sitting we have nice flat open grasslands, Look back in the north and where that would have been an inland sea. coming in and bringing silt What we had were these big rivers and just depositing silt so, slowly, to the north. that sea was being pushed back it was lush, it was green, This country here was cool, of lung fish and turtles, the rivers would have been full and freshwater fish... big crocodiles And look out on the planes out there huge conifer trees, and that would have been ferns, gingkoes, cycads - animals could have lived on. lush type of trees that those From what they have seen so far, unearthed have a unique pedigree. David's convinced the dinosaurs being are totally different The dinosaurs out here everything Australian, isn't it? and that's so true for just about bit different, aren't we? Even us. (Chuckles) We are a little themselves in western Queensland, Before the dinosaurs showed its association with a water hole. Winton was most famous for is said to have inspired A visit to this billabong country's most famous national song. bush poet Banjo Patterson to pen the That legacy lives on. Each animal being revealed to us, is given a local nickname. bone by ancient bone, comes from the Winton area, When a dinosaur then it needs to have that context of course, with Winton and one of the strongest contexts, Waltzing Matilda, and that link. is Banjo Patterson, but here's one big boned girl - Not exactly waltzing, the sauropod Matilda. You are talking about a sauropod that is about 4m high at the hip and probably 18m long. And then there is Banjo himself, the fearsome southern hunter. and they're just biddy bones really, You look at these things they don't look all that significant out and putting sinews on them, but you start fleshing these bones putting muscles on them, that animal as it would have stood and then you put that leg on what we are dealing with and you can see that isn't any spring chicken, and very dangerous dinosaur. it is one hell of a big you'd like to have chasing you It's not the sort of thing or down the hallway. up the garden path didn't rely on its teeth to kill. What you've got is an animal that massive, big beefed up arms. Massive claws, its claws in, driving them in, Imagine it just getting and it would have had that strength. and just tearing them apart

Researchers now think that one of Banjos kind was the hungry meat-eater responsible for all the panic at the Lark Quarry stampede. And in an extraordinary twist of irony, it now turns out that the spot where the bones of both Banjo and Matilda were found was indeed a billabong.

It's not quite Jurassic Park but after years languishing as a dinosaur backwater, outback Australia is opening up as the hot new Cretaceous playground for palaeontologists.

It's always been a big country out here and after an unusually wet year, this landscape is so green it even looks like it could carry some pretty large livestock. An 800km drive south of Winton brings you to the site of some of of the biggest dinosaur discoveries yet, near the small town of Eromanga. Population 171. A hot summer day here is 47 degrees. As far as towns go, Eromanga is no titan but that's not so true of the bones found on nearby Plevna Downs Station. In a thundering echo of the Winton story, graziers Robyn and Stuart Mackenzie have been unearthing bones belonging to some of the largest dinosaurs to have ever shaken the planet. This enormous drumstick is over 2m long.

A giant leg bone from an as yet undescribed species of titanosaur. A big bloke called Cooper. Cooper's approximately 95 million years old... and so what we've got here is the largest bone of the largest animal that ever walked around on Australian soils and is actually up there in the top ten in the world.

At over 100 tonnes and with a hip height as high as the hotel roof, this giant would have barely fit in Eromanga's main street. Australia is really in a natural history revolution. There is dinosaurs being found all over Queensland, central, central Queensland from Winton down to Eromanga and even in Southern Australia. So in the last decade, we've found hundreds and hundreds of dinosaur bones from the smallest dinosaurs to the largest. There is no stop to it now, the train is left the station, the dinosaurs are out, there's going to be more discoveries over the next few decades. For a tiny town, Eromanga can make some big claims to fame. Being furthest town from the sea in Australia is another one. But it wasn't always so. Ask a geologist and they'll tell you the town has leant its name to the largest inland sea in Australian history. By the middle of the Cretaceous, ocean levels already high rose to staggering heights.

Over 200m above today's levels. And the sea flooded into central Australia. In Eromanga town, it's a rare day that you can wash the dust from the flag. 1909 it was first sunk. The only reliable source of water comes from underground. The Great Artesian Basin. Approximately 1.2km deep. It's the largest artesian basin on the planet. It's 160 psi of pressure, at 100 degrees Celsius. You've got to be very careful working around it. The heat comes from the warmth of the Earth from a kilometre below us.

It's smelly because it's been trapped down there for a million years. Of course, this isn't stinky prehistoric seawater coming out, rather it's fresh ground water that has taken an age to seep deep into the porous stone that was once the sand at the bottom of the Eromanga sea. Without the Eromanga sea, there wouldn't be a Great Artesian Basin. It's the fine muds of the old Eromanga sea floor that seal the top of the artesian basin. Mark out the bore holes that tap into it and you can pretty much draw a map of where the ocean used to be. About 120 million years ago, a quarter of the continent. the Eromanga sea spread out over on its southern shoreline. I'm heading to Cooper Pedy of the Moon Plain Normally, the barren rocky surface blisters in the sun. surrounding the town of Cooper Pedy This year, it's a sea of green. are strange clues to its past. Scattered across the plane Petrified driftwood. The salty glint of gypsum. that once rafted overhead. Even rocks dropped from winter ice landscape was once a seascape. Today's mysteriously beautiful made it out here When the first European explorers to central Australia, an inland sea. some of them expected to find Now we all know they failed, but not because it was a silly idea. too late. They just got here 120 million years was still in... Arrived when the tide Eromanga Sea full of monsters. ..and they would have found the Toothy marine reptile monsters like plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs. that had returned to the sea. Air-breathing animals Both these types of reptiles in Eromanga waters. are known to have hunted And they died here too. to the sea floor Sometimes, a corpse sank and fell all the way into the future. Cooper Pedy bakes in the heat. These days, collection of mine shafts, It might look like a ramshackle underground houses and tourist traps but this is Opal Central. The diggings here produce over 90% of this rainbow-hued treasure. of the world's supply Australia's national gemstone. So it's no surprise opal is and you're gonna go down slowly. What you do is pull it Yeah, don't looking up too much. I feel like an ant. make their living Brothers Steve and Drago Marianovich from the ancient seabed prizing these precious stones on the outskirts of town. This is their daily commute, a tight fit dangling on a wire, 20m down a giant wormhole Wow. Hi, Drago. How you going, mate? reptile expert Maria Zamitt and I Drago has offered to lead marine Eromanga sea floor. deep into the prehistoric an extraordinary catacomb The brothers have dug into a Cretaceous marine graveyard. of shafts and tunnels through this? So, Drago, is it hard to tunnel Oh, yeah. water leached through the rock... Opal formed here when silica-laden ..pooled where it met resistance and then slowly evaporated. My goodness, Drago! down here. You've been tunnelling to China A fair few miles. water encountered a fossil, Occasionally, when this mineral rich a mineralogical one as well. a biological treasure became that green one is stunning. Wow, that is just beautiful And it's clearly a shell. really see that they're shells. You're absolutely right, you can seabed that was here at the time. That tells us a little bit about the favourite are the vertebrate fossils However, for me, of course, the of those marine reptiles so the parts that do occasionally get opalised. body parts recovered so far. These are some of the opalised Back bones, rib bones... ..tail bones and flipper bones. long-dead reptilian sea monsters. Near complete skeletons from of them being like a snake, I've heard of some descriptions of a turtle. threaded through the body what they look like. And that's really attached to this body They've got these gigantic flippers stretching out in front. and then you've got this long neck have now been found Enough plesiosaur remains in the area were juveniles. to determine that many found that are only about this big. You do see some So they are obviously juveniles. if they are just newborn babies How young we don't know than that or if they are slightly older because we see so many specimens but it is suggested that young, that it was a nursery. that show these signs of being quite

is that these reptiles migrated The current thinking coastline to feed and breed down to the southern Eromanga of the polar summer. during the relative warmth in the nutrient-rich waters, Plesiosaurs would calf and fatten up before the winter returned. heading north again than most It might have been a safer place in a dangerous ocean. to raise a youngster Sail out into the Eromanga sea of strange Cretaceous sea creatures. and you would have encountered a host were all as friendly as dolphins. And it's highly unlikely that they this was 100 million years ago, What I think is amazing is if very similar seas to this we'd be travelling over but when we got there, for these strange animals. we wouldn't be looking They'd be looking at us. Mark Norman and I are off to meet from these Cretaceous seas. one of the strangest survivors Not the great sea turtles, on the scene by now. though they were already It's the nautilus. through here. No, it should have been straight It's not easy to find. hides away These days, this ancient mollusc in the Coral Sea... on the darkest, deepest reef walls below the surface. ..nearly half a kilometre at depth overnight. A trap has been sitting Set with some unusual bait. Wahoo! went against them. Their taste for chicken gets used a lot The phrase living fossil ancient groups of animals. for these long-lived mass extinctions. These went through seven through one. The dinosaurs didn't make it The nautilus and their relatives are the great survivors. over 500 million years survivors are squids, Modern-day relatives of the nautilus cuttlefish, and octopus - all cephalopods, a clan with a long and proud history. This is a face from the distant past. Eyes for seeing 90 tentacles, a mouth for eating. and, hidden within a nest of Primitive it may be is jet propelled. but this whole prehistoric package nautilus were the nautiloids. The distant ancestors of the modern from their fossil shells, We know them were mostly straight. which, in the early days, For hundreds of millions of years, dominated our oceans these sorts of animals and got to massive sizes. to 10m long Some of the straight ones got so they were like giant telephone poles, bobbling along, hoovering up trilobites. By the Cretaceous, it was the nautiloids' coiled cousins, the ammonites, who ruled the molluscan world and the Eromanga Sea was full of them. Some grew larger than tractor tyres... ..and they must have had an appetite to match. Even on a calm day, there was a wildness to the sea. Rich pickings were to be had throughout the Eromanga... ..for mollusc and reptile alike. Out here, even the long necked plesiosaur needed eyes in the back of its head. For the Eromanga was the hunting ground of perhaps the greatest sea monster of all time. The pliosaur kronosaurus. So here we have just the skull of the kronosaurus queenslandicus, the largest marine predator of all time. We start at its snout, we go past these amazing teeth, these crushing, bone crushing teeth, back to the back of the skull here is where the actual eyes would have been and right where I'm standing 2m away is the back of the skull. This toothy monster was a meat-eating machine and we can even see what its last meal was. Because right here is a rib cage of kronosaurus. Inside its stomach, we can see the vertebrae of its meal. This is a long neck plesiosaur and it even preserves the stomach stones from this animal. On top of that, we have turtle. So this animal was eating long neck plesiosaurs and turtles. These were the dying days of Gondwana. Africa had long ago slipped off to the west. Now India was gone too. Even at the bottom of the world, the strain between Australia and Antarctica was beginning to show. Marking the boundary between the separating continents was a rift valley, rich in forests, lakes and rivers. But this entire landscape lay within the Antarctic Circle. So close to the South Pole

that, in the summer, the sun never set and midwinter would be dark for months on end. And that made it interesting when dinosaurs started turning up here as well. For over three decades, palaeontologist Tom Rich has been on the hunt for bones of animals that lived in these primeval polar forests. There weren't many places anywhere in the world where you get polar dinosaurs so that makes this site and this area particularly important. Australia was one of the most isolated blocks of land at that time in the world so things we might find out about this are things we won't find anywhere else. It's almost as if there's an independent experiment in evolution going on here. Some of these antipodean experiments were small ornithopod species like these. Outwardly conventional, these were rare dinosaurs,

thought to be permanent polar residents. Clues in their bones suggest they remained active right through the long chilly gloom of the sunless winter. But the dinosaurs weren't the only polar pioneers living in these dark forests. Some had fur. While reptiles may have ruled the world from the poles to the tropics, it's easy to forget they didn't have the planet all to themselves. There was another type of animal hiding in these prehistoric forests. They're still here and there is one just over there. The ancestors of the platypus had been poking their mammalian noses into the billabongs and waterways of Australia for at least 120 million years. Proof is kept locked in this safe at the Australian Museum in Sydney. It's another opalised national treasure - a tiny lower jaw from an ancestral platypus. A wonderful iridescent gem recovered from a Lightning Ridge opal mine.

Warm blooded, furry and, for the most part, small, the mammals we know existed at the time could hide and hunt in the shadows of the giants. They were born survivors. It went with the territory. Like all empires, the reign of the dinosaurs was coming to an end. And they might have seen it coming if they'd looked to the sky. When an asteroid slammed into Mexico's Yucatan at the end of the Cretaceous, it knocked every corner of the globe for a six. Though Gondwana and Australia escaped a direct hit, within an hour of impact, bits of pulverised Mexican sea floor flung into space began raining back down all over the planet. In places, it would have turned the sky as hot as a giant kebab grill. No good record of this bad day on Planet Earth has been found yet in the rocks of Australia. But step over the ditch to the South Island of New Zealand

and you'll find hard evidence for the blanket of cosmic dust that settled over the planet. This believe it or not is the moment that the world changed forever. Now it might not look like much but this thin grey band of rock found around the world offers a remarkable window into one of the most dramatic events in the planet's history. Below this boundary lie dinosaur bones, and rising in the rocks above is a world clearly recovering from a catastrophe. The days were numbered for any Australian dinosaurs that clung on after the initial impact. A tremendous darkness, it's thought, in the form of soot, dust and smoke, settled over much of the world in the immediate aftermath, lasting months, years or even decades. Temperatures plummeted, plants withered, dinosaurs disappeared. The great lizards were gone. But the show was far from over. Like the Permian crisis before it, the tremendous calamity at the end of the Cretaceous had cleared the global stage, though, this time, not simply for the next scene in the great drama of life on Earth, but for the appearance of the Australia we know today. Now the final run to reach the present begins. With the end of the Cretaceous, Australia sails off alone an island ark adrift on a sea of change. The new mammalian stars of the show must fight for survival as climate and continent shift around them.

And now we, too, have climbed aboard to join them. Closed Captions by CSI

This Program is Captioned Live.

Good evening. The Syrian

Government says it will not

withdraw its forces without

written guarantees that the

Opposition will also lay down

its arms. Observers believe

more than 100 civilians have

died in one of the bloodiest

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uprising last year. They say

dozens were killed in the

province of Hama describing it

as a massacre by shelling. The

actor Matthew Newton has been

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drunk and belligerent so he

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refused to leaf. There a -

leave. There appears little

hope of finding more than 130

people buried in an avalanche

in Pakistan. A military camp

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