The hunt for life within the long-dead bones of dinosaurs may sound like the stuff of Hollywood fantasy - but one woman has found traces of life within the fossilised bones of a T rex. Dr Mary Schweitzer has seen the remains of red blood cells and touched the soft tissue of an animal that died 68 million years ago. Most excitingly of all, she believes she may just have found signs of DNA. Her work is revolutionising our understanding of these iconic beasts.
The final episode explores dinosaurs' extraordinary ability to survive. Featured dinosaurs include the bizarre magyarosaurus, which lived in the shadow of the biggest flying animal - hatzegopteryx - and showed an amazing adaptation to island life; and the weird nothronychus, a carnivore that gave up meat eating. This astonishing capacity to evolve into ever more diverse and bizarre forms meant that dinosaurs not only spread throughout the world, but also dominated life upon it for more than 160 million years. It was only an unprecedented extraterrestrial event that finally saw the end of planet dinosaur.
This instalment examines the earliest land vegetation and insects. The first plants, being devoid of stems, mainly comprised mosses and liverworts. Using both sexual and asexual methods of reproduction, they proliferated. Descended from segmented sea creatures, millipedes were among the first to take advantage of such a habitat and were quickly followed by other species. Without water to carry eggs, bodily contact between the sexes was now necessary. This was problematical for some hunters, such as spiders and scorpions, who developed courtship rituals to ensure that the female didn't eat the male.
Once life arrived in the Galapagos, it exploded into unique and spectacular forms. David Attenborough investigates the driving forces behind such evolutionary innovations. We learn that life must be able to adapt quickly in these ever-changing volcanic landscapes. It has resulted in species found nowhere else in the world, such as giant whale sharks and marine iguanas that can spit sea-salt from their noses, dandelion seeds that grow into tree-sized plants and spiders that can blend perfectly into the darkness. Adaptation has been the key to survival in these islands so far, but the story of life in the Galapagos doesn’t end here. The catalyst that triggers these explosions of life remains in place.
Our body is a true time machine. It is a mirror of the history of the living world. If an engineer today had to fabricate the ideal human, he would most likely not design us the way we are currently made. He would go to the most logical, the most efficient, the most rational; and when you look closely, this is not always what characterizes us.
On the southern coast of Africa lies Algoa Bay--a protected refuge for the continent's only penguin species. Join them in their quest for survival as they brave unforgiving elements to build an unlikely marine community.
Birds owe their global success to feathers - something no other animal has. They allow birds to do extraordinary things. For the first time, a slow-motion camera captures the unique flight of the marvellous spatuletail hummingbird as he flashes long, iridescent tail feathers in the gloomy undergrowth. Aerial photography takes us into the sky with an Ethiopian lammergeier dropping bones to smash them into edible-sized bits. Thousands of pink flamingoes promenade in one of nature's greatest spectacles. The sage grouse rubs his feathers against his chest in a comic display to make popping noises that attract females. The Vogelkop bowerbird makes up for his dull colour by building an intricate structure and decorating it with colourful beetles and snails.