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Cretaceous dinosaurs come to life in stunning footage from 'Prehistoric Planet'

Tyrannosaurus rex youngsters paddle through shallow ocean water near a sandy shore, their powerful legs working hard to make up for their disproportionately tiny arms. Long-necked sauropods nuzzle their heads together in affectionate mating displays. And packs of duck-billed dinosaurs raise dust clouds as they migrate across vast deserts. These and other scenes in the official trailer for "Prehistoric Planet," a new documentary series from Apple TV+, offer a glimpse of dinosaurs and their Cretaceous neighbors, much in the way a nature documentary would feature dramatic moments in the lives of modern animals. 

Released on April 20, the trailer showcases stunning footage from around the world, combined with astonishingly realistic computer-generated imagery, to bring an assortment of Cretaceous creatures back to life — and to challenge what viewers thought they knew about these animals that once dominated ecosystems on every continent.

The new five-part series introduces habits, lifestyles and behaviors of long-extinct species and shows how dinosaurs that lived millions of years ago interacted, Apple TV+ representatives said in a statement (opens in new tab).

With scenes that unfold beneath the ocean's surface to brutal battles on icy plateaus, the trailer features diverse habitats and offers a fresh perspective on a variety of dinosaurs, from the famed Triceratops to the less-familiar, heavily armored and tanklike Nodosaurus

Related: 10 extraordinary dinosaur discoveries from 2021

Renowned nature documentary presenter Sir David Attenborough narrates the series, and the trailer hints at untold stories about thrilling mating competitions between colossal sauropods; standoffs between theropod predators and Triceratops prey; and the nesting habits of cliff-dwelling pterosaurs. (Pterosaurs were flying archosaurs, not dinosaurs, but they lived alongside dinosaurs during the Jurassic, Triassic and Cretaceous periods.) 

Recent discoveries in paleontology informed how the dinosaurs and other Cretaceous animals of "Prehistoric Planet" look, move and behave, according to Apple TV+. Viewers will meet two relatively recently discovered species of tyrannosaur: Qianzhousaurus rex from eastern China, described in 2014 in the journal Nature Communications (opens in new tab), and the diminutive Nanuqsaurus — whose name means "polar bear lizard," taken from the Alaskan Inupiat word "Nanuq" — which was also described in 2014, in the journal PLOS One.

A pair of sauropods share a tender moment, in the trailer of a new documentary series about life during the Cretaceous.

A pair of sauropods share a tender moment, in the trailer of a new documentary series about life during the Cretaceous. (Image credit: Apple TV+)

Qianzhousaurus was slightly smaller and more slender than T. rex, Live Science reported in 2014. It had a long snout, which led scientists to lend it the nickname "Pinocchio rex."

Other well-known dinosaurs, such as Velociraptor, have previously appeared in popular movies wearing scaly, lizard-like skin, but in the "Prehistoric Planet" trailer, these dinosaurs are covered in feathers, reflecting recent discoveries about how commonly feathers appeared across the theropod lineage. In one of the trailer's most dramatic images, an extreme close-up of a Velociraptor's enormous claw hints at further adaptations that contributed to this dinosaur's reputation as a deadly predator.

We'll be bringing you more sneak peeks of this series in the coming weeks, check back here at Live Science for more theropod teasers and sauropod surprises!

"Prehistoric Planet" premieres May 23 on Apple TV+ (opens in new tab).

Originally published on Live Science.

Mindy Weisberger is a Live Science senior writer covering a general beat that includes climate change, paleontology, weird animal behavior, and space. Mindy holds an M.F.A. in Film from Columbia University; prior to Live Science she produced, wrote and directed media for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Her videos about dinosaurs, astrophysics, biodiversity and evolution appear in museums and science centers worldwide, earning awards such as the CINE Golden Eagle and the Communicator Award of Excellence. Her writing has also appeared in Scientific American, The Washington Post and How It Works Magazine.