Some animals appear to have taken Nature’s gifts and stretched them to extreme limits. With these two natural curiosities one creature, the giraffe, has ended up with a super-stretched neck, the other, the chameleon, a super stretchy tongue. In both cases nature has found a way to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.
Zebra stripes vary subtly between the different species but there is one group of animals that has evolved colourful patterns of seemingly infinite variety, the butterflies. In this episode David looks at two examples of animal patterns that have bedazzled and baffled science for a long time, and uses modern tools to unlock their secrets.
David Attenborough highlights the curiosities that have led to accusations of forgery, but have ultimately helped assist the rethinking of evolution. When early explorers brought the first specimen of a duck-billed platypus to England in 1799, it was considered so bizarre it was deemed a hoax. Similarly, the midwife toad became the centre of a scientific storm in the 1920s that led to accusations of fakery.
2013 • Nature
"Magical Appearances" explores how swallows magically appear each spring and asks how did complex and beautiful insects like butterflies suddenly arrive in the summer.The discovery of the swallow’s epic migration and the revelation that butterflies could metamorphose into totally different looking adults were scientific stories both cloaked in mystery and controversy.
2014 • Nature
Hybrids can be bizarre and they can be deadly. We look at two hybrid animals that owe their existence to human interference - the pizzly bear (a cross between a polar bear and grizzly), which has come into being because of global warming, and the killer bee, brought into existence because of the transfer of African bees to South America.
2018 • Nature
Some animals have an extraordinary ability to find their way. The dung beetle, an insect revered by ancient Egyptians, uses the sun, the moon and even the Milky Way to move its prized ball of dung in the right direction. Pigeons are often considered feeble birdbrains, but they have incredible memories that can recall several complex travel routes with amazing accuracy and they even use man-made roads and hedgerows to find the quickest way home.
2018 • Nature
The giant panda gives birth to the smallest baby of any mammal and has to care for and protect it for many months. Why don't they give birth to more developed, robust young? The kiwi lays one of the largest eggs in the bird world, which produces a very well-developed chick. Why do kiwis produce a single egg that is a quarter of its body mass and almost too big to lay?
2018 • Nature
Can animals count? This is a question that has intrigued and fooled investigators for a long time. Just over 100 years ago, a German horse called Hans was declared a mathematical genius but all was not as it seemed. And strangely, some bamboos around the world flower exactly at the same no matter where they are. Are they counting down the years?
2018 • Nature
David Attenborough investigates two shells that have proved to be winners in evolution: the tortoise's shell and the shells of birds' eggs. The ostrich egg is so strong it is possible for a person to stand on it without it breaking, but how does the chick break out of this fortress? The evolution of the tortoise shell was for a long time a mystery and this bony box offers a lot more than just protection.
2018 • Nature
The Siamese fighting fish is so aggressive it will fight its own reflection until it is exhausted. Recent research shows that the fighting behaviour varies and depends on the personality of the fish! Male kangaroos were once pitted against humans in the boxing ring, with the most impressive male kangaroos being solid blocks of muscle with a kick that can kill. Why do they fight and what skills must a winner have?
2018 • Nature
Garden Route National Park is a patchwork of protected areas that safeguard a range of land and marine habitats in southern Africa. Take a tour of this conservationist paradise offering hope for creatures as varied as the humpback whale, the blue duiker antelope, and the Knysna seahorse--the only endangered seahorse in the world.
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.
Cats are said to hate water, crave warmth and only eat meat. But in episode three, Super Cats, viewers are introduced to the wild cats that break all the feline rules. From jaguars with sub-aqua skills to tigers that can survive temperatures of minus forty, the programme reveals how cats have developed super powers to survive in the most unlikely landscapes. As well as the iconic big cats, in this final episode viewers get a glimpse into the lives of the most rare and strange cats of all – including a real-life Garfield recently discovered living high in the Himalayas. It’s revealed how the cats’ ability to adapt to extremes has made them some of the most successful predators on the planet.
Indonesia's marine rainforests are under threat, and rising sea temperatures and destructive fishing practices have taken a toll. However, conservation initiatives in hundreds of protected marine zones have given hope to the giant manta rays, 300 species of coral, and six of the world's seven sea turtle species that call this ecosystem home.
Emus are unique: Native only to Australia, they're the second largest bird in the world and can trace their lineage back to the dinosaurs. When males incubate their eggs, they don't eat, drink, or even go to the bathroom until the job is done. Follow the fascinating life of this flightless bird as it stubbornly defies the odds by doing things its own way.
In this episode, Professor Brian Cox shows how Earth's basic ingredients, like the pure sulphur mined in the heart of a deadly volcano in Indonesia, have become the building blocks of life. Hidden deep in a cave in the Dominican Republic lies a magical world created by the same property of water that makes it essential to life. Clinging to a precipitous dam wall in Italy, baby mountain goats seek out Earth's chemical elements essential to their survival. In the middle of the night in a bay off Japan, Brian explains how the dazzling display of thousands of glowing squid shows how life has taken Earth's chemistry and turned it into the chemistry of life.