In this highlights programme compiled from the recent Life Story series, David Attenborough brings us the universal story that unites each of us with every animal on the planet, the story of the greatest of all adventures - the journey through life. For each stage of life we see the most spectacular, beautiful or dramatic stories from the Life Story series.
2014 • Nature
Totalling an estimated 10 million species, the insects and their close relatives are the most abundant and diverse group of animals in the world, so what is the secret of their success? Their hard external skeleton provides strength and protection and their small size allows them to exploit many microhabitats. In Yellowstone, Steve Backshall reveals how teamwork allows a colony of bees to scare off a hungry bear, and in Australia this same teamwork allows a colony of ants to beat the rising tide. But to unlock the real secret of their success Steve visits the Swiss Alps, where an incredible relationship exists between the ant, the wasp and the butterfly.
The penultimate instalment investigates the primates, whose defining characteristics are forward-facing eyes for judging distance, and gripping hands with which to grasp branches, manipulate food and groom one another. The programme begins in Madagascar, home to the lemurs, of which there are some 20 different types. Two examples are the sifaka, which is a specialised jumper, and the indri, which has a well-developed voice. Away from Madagascar, the only lemur relatives to have survived are nocturnal, such as the bushbaby, the potto and the loris. The others were supplanted by the monkeys and a primitive species that still exists is the smallest, the marmoset. However, Attenborough selects the squirrel monkey as being typical of the group. Howler monkeys demonstrate why they are so named their chorus is said to the loudest of any mammal and their prehensile tails illustrate their agility.
This programme surveys mammal herbivores and their predators. The herbivores began to populate the forests when the dinosaurs disappeared, and many took to gathering food at night. To prepare for winter, some store it in vast quantities, some hibernate and others make do as best they can. However, the carnivores joined them, and when a drying climate triggered the spread of grass, they followed their prey out on to the plains. Grass is not easily digestible and most animals that eat it have to regurgitate it and chew the cud. Out in the open, the leaf-eaters had to develop means of protection.
Fish dominate the planet's waters through their astonishing variety of shape and behaviour. The beautiful weedy sea dragon looks like a creature from a fairytale, and the male protects their eggs by carrying them on his tail for months. The sarcastic fringehead, meanwhile, appears to turn its head inside out when it fights. Slow-motion cameras show the flying fish gliding through the air like a flock of birds and capture the world's fastest swimmer, the sailfish, plucking sardines from a shoal at 70 mph. And the tiny Hawaiian goby undertakes one of nature's most daunting journeys, climbing a massive waterfall to find safe pools for breeding.