David Attenborough travels to the Canadian Rockies where fossils document an explosion in animal diversity. Going on to Africa, Australia and Scotland, Attenborough discovers how animals evolved to conquer not only the oceans but also the land and air.
David Attenborough visits archaeological sites where fossils were found illustrating the origins of life on earth, in the ocean. For long, evolution worked very slow and species remained primitive, mostly single-cell, alter fractal. Only the invention of sexual reproduction kick-started genetic diversification.
Located on the Malilangwe Game Reserve in southern Zimbabwe, this 800-year-old baobab is a remarkable tree containing its own ecosystem. Capable of withstanding extreme drought by storing water in its hollow trunk, it draws a multitude of wildlife, from elephants who strip its bark in search of food, to vultures that nest on its branches. Remarkably, it also has another gift: a velvety fruit packed with an astonishing cocktail of nutrients. To witness the baobab is to be awed by the natural forces that produced it.
Antarctica is the most remote and pristine wilderness on the planet. , It is a timeless and harsh land like no other. Night here can last three months and in the peak of summer the sun never sets. To understand how life can exist in this continent of snow and icebergs you must spend a year there. You discover that despite being the least habitable place on Earth, life abounds in Antarctica. Megafauna such as humpback whales and orca, massive seals and stately penguins all take the brutal conditions head on and thrive in this year on ice.
2017 • Nature
Nine miles off the coast of Oman, a zebra shark scans the ocean floor for crustaceans, while a menacing giant stingray floats by. Soon, night becomes day and new killers emerge, from toxic scorpion fish to crown-of-thorns starfish, both bringing coral devastation. Dive among these deadly marine carnivores.
For 10,000 years or more, humans created new plant varieties for food by trial and error and a touch of serendipity. Then 150 years ago, a new era began. Pioneer botanists unlocked the patterns found in different types of plants and opened the door to a new branch of science - plant genetics. They discovered what controlled the random colours of snapdragon petals and the strange colours found in wild maize. This was vital information. Some botanists even gave their lives to protect their collection of seeds. American wheat farmer Norman Borlaug was awarded the Nobel peace prize after he bred a new strain of wheat that lifted millions of people around the world out of starvation. Today, botanists believe advances in plant genetics hold the key to feeding the world's growing population.
Fortey travels to the rainforests of Madagascar - an ancient island that has spawned some of the most extraordinary groups of plants and animals anywhere in the world. From beautiful Indri lemurs, toxic frogs, and the cat-like giant mongoose called the fossa, to evolutionary oddities like the giraffe-necked weevil and the otherworldly aye-aye, he uncovers the secrets of the evolutionary niche - examining how, given millions of years, animals and plants can adapt to fill almost any opportunity they find.