David Attenborough's entertaining romp through the world of monkeys has a serious side: for when we look at monkeys, we can see ourselves. From memory to morality, from 'crying wolf' to politics, monkeys are our basic blueprint. Pygmy marmosets 'farm' tree sap; bearded capuchins in Brazil develop a production line for extracting palm nuts; white-faced capuchins in Costa Rica tenderly nurse the victims of battle; and in the Ethiopian highlands, a deposed gelada baboon has got the blues. Cheating, lying and bare-faced murder are all there too. These revelations of simian science, combined with captivating photography, make this film about monkey business our business.
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Sophie is joined in the theatre by chirping crickets, hissing cockroaches and groaning deer to reveal the very different ways that animals have adapted their bodies to send audible messages that are vital to their species. She also explores how and why the human voice evolved to become the most versatile sound producer in the natural world. She demonstrates what sound actually is and how it travels. Unpacking the power behind sound, she uses it to shatter glass and reveal how the human body can resonate in a way that amplifies our voices to send our messages further. She also explores how different species use very different frequencies to communicate and why humans can only hear a fraction of these animal messages. Finally, she investigates why we all have unique vocal prints, and how computers are learning to recognise these.
S1E1 • Royal Institution Christmas Lectures: The Language of Life • 2017 • Nature
Unlike the many freshwater lagoons in South Africa, the Langebaan consists of 18.5 square miles of saltwater from the Atlantic Ocean. Of all the creatures that rely on it, two are pivotal for its own rejuvenation and sustenance: the regal flamingos and the nutrient-producing prawns.
Making of David Attenborough’s Galapagos, which is aired first, offers an unrivalled and actually far more interesting view of the dramas that went into capturing all that footage. The way all the shots have been so calmly edited together makes the process look so effortless, but nothing could be further from the truth. There are broken helicopters and broken camera cables that threaten the whole enterprise and the grunting of mating tortoises that threaten to drown out Attenborough’s pieces to camera. This making of programme also includes the discovery of a previously unknown species of pink iguana, as well as the final television appearance of the last-remaining member of another species – the iconic long-necked tortoise known as Lonesome George. “He’s about 80 years old and he’s getting a bit creaky in his joints,” whispers Attenborough. “As indeed am I.”
Fortey is on Hawaii to investigate how life colonises a newly-born island. The most remote island group in the world, by some estimates only one new species successfully colonised Hawaii every 35,000 years - yet the Hawaiian Islands teem with a great diversity of life. In search of the evolutionary secrets of how one species becomes many, Fortey encounters beautiful honeycreeper birds whose evolution rivals that of the Darwin's famous finches; carnivorous caterpillars who now can't eat leaves; and giant silversword plants that thrive in parched volcanic soil at 10,000 feet.