A Winning Design • 2008 • episode "S1E1" The Life of Mammals

Category: Astronomy

Mammals have adapted to live almost anywhere - from freezing polar regions, to the hottest deserts and from steaming jungles, to the world's vast oceans. They survive on a great variety of different foods and it's what they eat that so often determines their behaviour - and that of course, includes our own.

The Life of Mammals • 2008 • 10 episodes •

A Winning Design

Mammals have adapted to live almost anywhere - from freezing polar regions, to the hottest deserts and from steaming jungles, to the world's vast oceans. They survive on a great variety of different foods and it's what they eat that so often determines their behaviour - and that of course, includes our own.

2008 • Astronomy

Insect Hunters

David Attenborough looks at the mammals that hunt insects. These creatures shared the planet with the dinosaurs, but when the giant reptiles disappeared they seized their chance to conquer new territory. David meets moles that swim through sand, a shrew that hunts underwater and another that sprints down polished running tracks so fast that most predators can't catch it.

2008 • Nature

Plant Predators

Some of the biggest predators to walk the earth face a constant battle - their prey is heavily armoured, indigestible and sometimes even poisonous. What makes this struggle more remarkable is that these predators do not prey on animals - but on plants.

2008 • Nature


Rodents like rats, mice and squirrels are the most numerous mammals on the planet. This programme reveals how, with their constantly growing, chisel-sharp front teeth, they are specialists in breaking into seeds. It also shows how they have adapted this talent to help them make their homes and even live underground, as well as revealing their ability to store food - and their ability to breed prolifically.

2008 • Nature

Meat Eaters

Join Sir David Attenborough in the fifth programme in the series, as he sits beside wild lions in the darkness of the night and meets a Siberian tiger face to face. From the first tree-dwelling hunters through to the modern-day big cats, we follow the true story about cats and dogs to find out what you need to be a true carnivore.

2008 • Nature


David Attenborough meets the omnivores - the opportunists. When it comes to food, this diverse range of animals, which includes grizzly bears at one end and rats on the other, are so adaptable that they can always make the most of whatever happens to be around at the time. They are nature's generalists but each is equipped with some very specialised skills.

2008 • Nature

Return to the Water

From the roughest seas to the crystal clear waters of the Florida springs, David Attenborough swims with sea otters and dives with manatees, as he follows those mammals who, millions of years ago, left dry land and returned to the water to feed.

2008 • Nature

Life in the Trees

David Attenborough meets the tree dwellers - those mammals that have adapted to a life at height. Some, like meerkats, might hardly seem to qualify but they do regularly climb small trees to scout for danger. Others, like gibbons, live 100 feet or more above the forest floor and never descend to the ground.

2008 • Nature

Social Climbers

In the penultimate episode, David Attenborough looks at monkeys. This group started its life in the tree-tops and this is where we join the capuchin, whose acute vision and lively intelligence helps them find clams in the mangrove swamps of Costa Rica and crack them open on tree-anvils. The swamps are also full of biting insects, but the monkeys rub themselves with a special plant that repels them.

2008 • Nature

Food for Thought

David Attenborough concludes his documentary series with a programme about our closest animal relatives, the intelligent great apes, and finds out how their large brains enabled one of their kind, an upright ape, to go on to dominate the planet. David travels to the forests of Borneo to meet a remarkable orangutan with a passion for DIY and a talent for rowing boats. He shifts continent to Africa and takes part in a special nut-cracking lesson with a group of chimps learning survival skills. He discovers how food - and the ways apes find it - has been key to the evolution of our large brains.

2008 • Nature

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Jupiter Revealed

'To send a spacecraft there is a little bit insane,' says Scott Bolton when talking about Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system. But that is exactly what he has done, because Scott is head of Juno, the Nasa mission designed to peer through Jupiter's swirling clouds and reveal the wonders within. But this is no ordinary world. This documentary, narrated by Toby Jones, journeys with the scientists into the heart of a giant. Professor Kaitlin Kratter shows us how extreme Jupiter is. She has come to a quarry to measure out each planet's mass with rocks, starting with the smallest. Mercury is a single kilogram, and the Earth is 17. But Jupiter is on another scale entirely. It is seven tonnes - that is two and a half times the mass of all the other planets combined. On Kaitlin's scale it is not a pile of rocks, it is the truck delivering them. With extreme size comes extreme radiation. Juno is in the most extreme environment Nasa has visited. By projecting a 70-foot-wide, life-size Juno on a Houston rooftop, Scott shows us how its fragile electronics are encased in 200kg of titanium. As Scott puts it, 'we had to build an armoured tank to go there.' The team's efforts have been worthwhile. Professor Andrew Ingersoll, Juno's space weatherman, reveals they have seen lightning inside Jupiter, perhaps a thousand times more powerful than Earth's lightning. This might be evidence for huge quantities of water inside Jupiter. Prof Ingersoll also tells us that the Great Red Spot, a vast hurricane-like storm that could swallow the Earth whole, goes down as far as they can see - 'it could go down 1,000s of kilometres'. Deeper into the planet and things get stranger still. At the National Ignition facility in northern California, Dr Marius Millot is using powerful lasers normally used for nuclear fusion for an astonishing experiment. He uses '500 times the power that is used for the entire United States at a given moment' to crush hydrogen to the pressures inside Jupiter. Under these extreme conditions, hydrogen becomes a liquid metal. Juno is finding out how much liquid metallic hydrogen is inside Jupiter, and scientists hope to better understand how this flowing metal produces the most powerful aurora in the Solar System. But what is at Jupiter's heart? In Nice, Prof Tristan Guillot explains how Juno uses gravity to map the planet's centre. This can take scientists back to the earliest days of the solar system, because Jupiter is the oldest planet and it should contain clues to its own creation. By chalking out an outline of the Jupiter, Tristan reveals there is a huge rocky core - perhaps ten times the mass of Earth. It is now thought Jupiter started as a small rocky world. But there is a surprise, because Juno's findings suggest this core might be 'fuzzy'. Tristan thinks the planet was bombarded with something akin to shooting stars. As he puts it, 'Jupiter is quite unlike we thought'.

Horizon • 2018 • Astronomy