David Attenborough travels to the Jura Mountains in the Swiss Alps, to find out about one of the largest animal societies in the world, where over a billion ants live in peace.
The most extreme and wild parts of New Zealand are in the South Island, which lie towards Antarctica, in the path of the tempestuous 'roaring forties'. This is home to some of the most rapidly rising mountains in the world, the Southern Alps. From hyper-intelligent parrots to sinister snails with teeth and magical constellations of glow-worms, this is the story of New Zealand's wildest places and its most resilient pioneers, all of whom must embrace radical solutions to survive.
We flail, we swat, we sweat. We spray, cover up, and hide. But still the tiny, fearsome mosquito penetrates our best defenses. ZAPPED: the buzz about mosquitoes is the story of our ongoing struggle to conquer a little insect that is both delicate and deadly. As the program reveals, this beautiful and versatile blood-sucker has always managed to stay one step ahead of us. As tortured as we are Zapped uncovers, in exquisite detail, how the mosquito goes about its handiwork. It's really only the females that are the problem – they need our blood to incubate their eggs. And, out of more than 3500 species, only 200 or so transmit disease.
This programme focuses on birds. The feather is key to everything that is crucial about a bird: it is both its aerofoil and its insulator. The earliest feathers were found on a fossilised Archaeopteryx skeleton in Bavaria. However, it had claws on its wings and there is only one species alive today that does so: the hoatzin, whose chicks possess them for about a week or so. Nevertheless, it serves to illustrate the probable movement of its ancestor. It may have taken to the trees to avoid predators, and over time, its bony, reptilian tail was replaced by feathers and its heavy jaw evolved into a keratin beak.
The final programme looks at the superorganisms formed by bees, ants and termites. Attenborough reveals that their colonies, whose individuals were once considered purely servile, are "full of conflict, power struggles and mutinies." They evolved when such creatures moved away from a solitary existence and started building nests side-by-side, which led to a collective approach to caring for their young.
The undercover cameras reveal how animals often get up to mischief among themselves - and some are downright criminal. A colony of adelie penguins hunker down to avoid a storm, unaware one of them is a thief out to steal the stones that make up their nests, and Spy Tropicbird witnesses an aerial attack by aggressive frigate birds who attempt to steal his fish. A boisterous elephant has a temper tantrum in the mud near the waterhole, chimpanzees have extra-marital affairs and lemurs get high by sniffing toxic millipedes.
Professor Richard Fortey travels to northeastern China to see a fossil site known as the 'Dinosaur Pompeii' - a place that has yielded spectacular remains of feathered dinosaurs and rewritten the story of the origins of birds. Among the amazing finds he investigates are the feathered cousin of T-rex, a feathered dinosaur with strong parallels to living pandas and some of the most remarkable flying animals that have ever lived.