One of the world’s happiest, yet most vulnerable marsupials, the Quokka thrives only on Rottnest Island. In almost plague proportions over ten thousand of the strange relic wallabies live here. How do they survive here in such inhospitable conditions and nowhere else?
Supermarkets are stocked with fruit year round in a global permanent summertime, but despite its accessibility, have we lost the diversity that makes it so special? The second episode of The Fruit Hunters will look at what happens when we abandon the Garden of Eden for an industrialized monoculture. In lush jungles of Borneo, Bala Tingang, an elder of one of the last hunter-gatherer tribes, lives of the wild fruits that are the key to his tribe's survival. And yet, all around the world, natural diversity is being replaced with monocultures, plantations of only one variety, bred for long shelf life and transportability rather than their taste or health properties. Not only is this lost of diversity impoverishing our taste buds, but it has catastrophic implications for our food security. In the vast uniform banana fields of Honduras, Juan Aguilar, a banana scientist, frantically tries to breed a banana resistant to a deadly fungus.
This programme focuses on birds. The feather is key to everything that is crucial about a bird: it is both its aerofoil and its insulator. The earliest feathers were found on a fossilised Archaeopteryx skeleton in Bavaria. However, it had claws on its wings and there is only one species alive today that does so: the hoatzin, whose chicks possess them for about a week or so. Nevertheless, it serves to illustrate the probable movement of its ancestor. It may have taken to the trees to avoid predators, and over time, its bony, reptilian tail was replaced by feathers and its heavy jaw evolved into a keratin beak.