From the stealthy tarantula to the prehistoric Komodo dragon to the deceptive mosquito--one of the more prolific modern predators--killers come in all shapes and sizes. Join us as we examine the deadly adaptations of these cold-blooded culprits.
The human eye is an amazing mechanism, able to detect anywhere from a few photons to a few quadrillion, or switch focus from the screen in front of you to the distant horizon in a third of a second. How did these complex structures evolve? Joshua Harvey details the 500 million year story of the human eye.
The second episode of Andrew Marr's exploration of Darwin explores the impact of Darwin’s ideas on society and politics. Darwin’s first port of call on the Beagle was Salvador in Brazil – then a major port for the international slave trade. His experience there confirmed his enlightenment views of liberty and progress and his hatred of slavery. But his theory of evolution that began to take root on that epic voyage would describe a world of conflict, ruthless competition and struggle. It would be taken up and abused by some of the most reactionary movements of the late-19th and 20th centuries. The phrase “survival of the fittest” would help propel Darwin’s theory as a scientific justification for eugenics, enforced sterilisation and genocide. But after the Second World War, Darwin’s theory finds redemption in the United Nations statement on race which confirms Darwin’s long-held view that all humans are members of the same race and deserving of equal treatment. This is further reinforced in the extraordinary work of a small Jewish community in New York who used DNA testing and a voluntary and anonymous form of selective breeding to eliminate a debilitating disease from the Jewish community. DNA testing is the final frontier of Darwin’s Dangerous idea. But the lessons from history suggest that the new choices we face about what to do with the knowledge Darwin has given us when combined with genetics and DNA testing remains a major social and political challenge.
Even after thousands of years of ice crushing the northern hemisphere and temperatures of 20 degrees lower than those of today, many of the great giants of the ice age still walked the earth. It was only when the world had warmed up again that mammoths, woolly rhinos, sabre-toothed cats, giant ground sloths and glyptodonts finally became extinct. Professor Alice Roberts sets off on her last voyage back to the Ice Age to discover why.
The story of how more than 220 dinosaur bones were found in the Argentinean desert, which were found to have come from a previously undiscovered species, which is the largest land dwelling animal known to have existed. David Attenborough visits the archaeological dig and a laboratory where the remains are being cleaned and analysed with lead scientist Dr Diego Pol and evolutionary biologist Ben Garrod, and meets animators, model-makers, paleontologists and anatomy experts who are working to reconstruct what the 37 metre-long creature would have looked like.
2016 • Nature