Some animals appear to have taken Nature’s gifts and stretched them to extreme limits. With these two natural curiosities one creature, the giraffe, has ended up with a super-stretched neck, the other, the chameleon, a super stretchy tongue. In both cases nature has found a way to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.
Zebra stripes vary subtly between the different species but there is one group of animals that has evolved colourful patterns of seemingly infinite variety, the butterflies. In this episode David looks at two examples of animal patterns that have bedazzled and baffled science for a long time, and uses modern tools to unlock their secrets.
David Attenborough highlights the curiosities that have led to accusations of forgery, but have ultimately helped assist the rethinking of evolution. When early explorers brought the first specimen of a duck-billed platypus to England in 1799, it was considered so bizarre it was deemed a hoax. Similarly, the midwife toad became the centre of a scientific storm in the 1920s that led to accusations of fakery.
2013 • Nature
"Magical Appearances" explores how swallows magically appear each spring and asks how did complex and beautiful insects like butterflies suddenly arrive in the summer.The discovery of the swallow’s epic migration and the revelation that butterflies could metamorphose into totally different looking adults were scientific stories both cloaked in mystery and controversy.
2014 • Nature
Huge changes have swept across Arabia since the discovery of oil and the Arab relationship with nature has changed too. This is summed up by the changes to camel racing, now an ultra hi-tech sport. Arabia's animals now live alongside a very modern society but Arabia's people are using technology to protect nature: dugongs are fitted with satellite transmitters; hunting falcons chase down radio-controlled planes and the world's first carbon-neutral city is being built in the very heart of oil country.
Armed with the latest global scientific research, Chris Packham and Liz Bonnin battle it out to find the definitive answer to the burning question - which are best, cats or dogs? Part 1: The animals go head to head in a series of rounds testing different aspects, beginning in this edition with intelligence, sensory powers and physical prowess. On the search for answers, dog-lover Chris comes face to face with a pack of wolves, while feline fan Liz confronts an Arabian wild cat to discover how the relationship humans and their pets have evolved.
This is the story of two tiny animals coming of age. In the wild woods of North America, a young chipmunk is gathering a vital store of nuts ahead of his first winter - in his way are ruthless rivals and giant predators. In the steaming rainforest, a young tree-shrew is forced deep into the jungle to find food. She must draw on all her intelligence and agility if she is to escape the ultimate jungle predator - a reticulated python!
Using a specially designed hive, with a formidable arsenal of cutting-edge technology to monitor the bees, we enter the bees' miniature world. Chris and Martha also put to the test the very latest scientific findings about bees, to discover why they are one of the most incredible creatures on our planet.
This instalment is the first of several to concentrate on mammals. The platypus and the echidna are the only mammals that lay eggs (in much the same manner of reptiles), and it is from such animals that others in the group evolved. Since mammals have warm blood and most have dense fur, they can hunt at night when temperatures drop. It is for this reason that they became more successful than their reptile ancestors, who needed to heat themselves externally. Much of the programme is devoted to marsupials (whose young are partially formed at birth) of which fossils have been found in the Americas dating back 60 million years.