New Dawn
New Dawn Title
General information
SeriesWalking With Beasts
Episode number1
Featured creaturesLeptictidium
Giant Ants
Broadcast information
Original airdate15 November 2001
Chronological information
Previous episode
Big Al Uncovered
Following episode
Triumph of the Beasts

New Dawn is the first episode in the Walking with Beasts series. It depicted the Messel pits at the late Paleocene-early Eocene epochs 49 Million years ago. This episode deals with the beginning of the Cenozoic and the beginning of mammal evolution, as mammals struggle to survive alongside such early menaces as giant flightless birds and insects.

Episode synopsisEdit

The first 3–4 minutes of the episode are taken by the synopses of the series in total as well as the brief overview of the mammal evolution after the K-T Extinction before opening credits roll. Then the camera reveals the Paleogene Earth, following the path of a meteorite. It is only a small one and is not a threat.

The episode depicts 24 hours, from one morning to another around the Messel pits.

Early MorningEdit

This episode introduces Leptictidium and Gastornis - this is the only time in Earth's history when it was ruled by the birds. The Leptictidium manages to escape the flightless bird and several hours later she goes to the water to drink, but there is an Ambulocetus, so she is frustrated for the moment. Meanwhile, the Gastornis is confronted by another member of her species but manages to drive it away, failing to notice LeptictidiumAmbulocetus, meanwhile, moves back underwater, where it tries to ambush its prey. It tries to do with a Propalaeotherium, but the tiny horse manages to escape.


The Leptictidium family emerges from their home to hunt and to learn the edible insects. The Propalaeotherium are feeding on fallen fermented grapes. The Ambulocetus emerged from water to lay in ambush on the river shore for more potential prey. Godinotia sleep in trees. The Gastornis chick begins to hatch, just as a swarm of Giant Ants come upon it and eats it. The mother Gastornis doesn't learn about it until it is too late - and she kills one of the Propalaeotherium in the process. The Leptictidium family successfully escapes an Ambulocetus ambush and goes to sleep just as the giant ants attack the chick.

Evening, Night, and MorningEdit

The Godinotia wake up and start to socialize. Ambulocetus succeeds in catching a meal and goes on shore to sleep. An earthquake begins, releasing gas from the bottom of the lake that kill various animals, including the Ambulocetus and one Propalaeotherium. The Leptictidium family is unharmed and they ignore the dead Ambulocetus. However, at the end of the Eocene when the climate will become drier, primitive mammals such as Leptictidium will die out without any descendants, while Ambulocetus is the one with the big future - its descendants will evolve into whales, the most magnificent dynasty of mammals, and the focus of the next episode, Whale Killer.



Gastornis is the first bird to be featured in Walking with Beasts. Birds were just as important (and more numerous) as mammals in the Cenozoic Era, but they were less adaptable: they had to fly, which limited their size, and if they grew big enough to live on the ground, they were flightless and their nests were vulnerable to predators (and so were the birds themselves if they guarded their eggs). By the end of the Eocene flightless birds disappeared from most of the planet, except for such places as Australia and South America. Mammals would rule the world instead.

Giant AntsEdit

The Eocene was time of giant insects, similar to the much earlier Carboniferous. The climate was warmer, the plants were even more numerous than during the Recent, and there was more oxygen in the air, which allowed the insects to grow larger. However, at the end of the Eocene, when the climate changed and the oxygen content dropped, the giant insects died out just as most of the flightless birds did.


Except for Ambulocetus the mammals shown in this episode were small and rather primitive, unable to survive in any conditions other than the lush and tropical ones. Their small size and mottled coloration allowed them to blend-in with jungle and hide in various nooks and crannies.  As the climate and geography of the world changed, however, some of these primitive mammals died out, while others became the ancestors of modern mammals, including whales and horses who began to rule the world.


Humans are absent for this episode, but their ancestors, the lemur-like Godinotia, are present. They are solitary, nocturnal mammals, but they will evolve social bonds and become diurnal, evolving into monkeys by the end of the Eocene.


Promotional ImagesEdit

Episode ScreenshotsEdit


Original airdateEdit

  • 15 November 2001 20.30 BBC One


  • 18 November 2001 16.30 BBC One
  • 19 February 2003 19.00 BBC Four
  • 25 November 2006 20.00 BBC Three