By now, you’ve probably seen GIFs or videos of the iconic Carnotaurus mating dance from Prehistoric Planet, which featured heavily in the trailers before debuting in the final episode of the 5-part documentary.
For those not in the loop, the documentary takes a brief moment to focus on Carnotaurus- a dinosaur most commonly portrayed as “T.Rex with horns”.
In reality, however, Carnotaurus was quite different from its cousin- sporting a smaller head, and even smaller hands alongside its huge body.
The Prehistoric Planet episode shows one such Carnotaurus trying to woo a mate- with an excellent dance that takes into factor one unique feature about Carnotaurus’ arms- a ball-and-socket joint, meaning more mobility for the animal.
EDIT: This section has been edited with further clarification from Dr Witton on the similarities to Caspar. We apologize for the mistake on our part.
Dr Mark Witton, a palaeontologist who worked on Prehistoric Planet, says that while the iconic pop-up was based on fossil evidence (such as the aforementioned joints), the little spin by the eager Carnotaurus bears a lot of resemblance to his own pet rooster.
…because of this guy: Caspar, our bantam rooster. @Gizz47 and I adopted Caspar from @KatrinavanGrouw in 2019 to live with our rescue hens and, despite his tiny size, he was always displaying to the females. Shuffling, wing-dragging and twirling. Twirling, twirling, twirling. pic.twitter.com/TN2d8Y7Hfs
— Mark Witton (@MarkWitton) May 27, 2022
“@Gizz47and I adopted Caspar from @KatrinavanGrouw in 2019 to live with our rescue hens and, despite his tiny size, he was always displaying to the females. Shuffling, wing-dragging and twirling. Twirling, twirling, twirling”, he says in a tweet.
“I thought a Caspar-like spinning Carnotaurus would be pretty endearing, but had no input on the sequence after my week in Bristol and didn’t know if this idea made the cut. To my delight, the male Carnotaurus does, indeed, spin around several times!“, Dr Witton continues.
Unfotunately, Dr Witton says Caspar passed away before the launch of the series.
“On a massive project like [Prehistoric Planet] it can be hard to know where ideas come from, but I hope the seeds of twirling abelisaurs did, indeed, stem from Caspar. Knowing their possible origins, seeing the twirls was genuinely emotional because after looking after him for years, Caspar’s heart suddenly gave out a month or so ago and he had to be put down. He was 8 or 9 years old”, Dr Witton continues. “The thought of his legacy being immortalised in PP is genuinely heartwarming. RIP, little man”.
You can also check out a brief explainer on the science behind the scene on the Apple TV YouTube channel: