Dawn of an Era

Setting: Arizona, USA

Time Period: Late Triassic, 220 million years ago

Plot Summary: The Triassic Period was a time when a strange myriad of different animals lived, all competing in an evolutionary arms race over dominion of planet Earth after an extinction event that had wiped out 90% of all life. One of which was Camposaurus, a slim and swift dinosaur from Arizona. This episode follows the journey of a young female that lost her sense of smell due to physical trauma in her early youth, leaving her with a deformed snout. She eventually encounters the apex predator of the region, a Postosuchus, and begins following him everywhere she goes so she can scavenge his kills to compensate for her disability. Will the Postosuchus discover his stalker? And if he does, what will happen to her? Watch the first gripping, tense episode of Dinosauria: Ascension, Domination, Downfall to find out!

The Evidence

A formation that perfectly showcases the bizarre variety of animals in the Triassic is the Chinle Formation, specifically the Placerias Quarry in Arizona. This formation was the source of the vast majority of the things you see in "Dawn of an Era".

Camposaurus arizonensis

Camposaurus is the main focus and dinosaur representative of the episode. It was a member of one of the earliest and most prominent dinosaur groups of them all, the theropods. They are typically carnivorous and characterized by hollow bones, bipedalism and three-toed limbs. Later members of the group include the highly recognizable Spinosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex, which were the top predators of their respective ecosystems (as explored in their upcoming respective episodes), as were many other large theropod predators that lived in the Jurassic and Cretaceous like them. This program showcases the humble beginnings of the theropods, and in turn, dinosaurs as a whole.

There are countless families of theropods. Camposaurus is part of a primitive theropod group that was very common in the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic, the coelophysids, which have distinctive long, slender skulls and light skeletons built for speed. Camposaurus in this documentary is heavily based upon its closest relative, rhodesiensis, due to Camposaurus' rather scant fossil material. We used Camposaurus in the episode instead of the better studied Coelophysis as it's the only known coelophysid from the Placerias Quarry, and it was important to set the episode in this quarry so the animal it's named after could appear in the episode (more on this later).