Investigating extraordinary feats and strange powers of animals. A look at animals that possess senses more powerful than humans: sharks, dolphins, hippos, parrots, killer bees, rhinos, pelicans and elephants.
Sophie looks at one skill in particular that seems to give humans an advantage over all other animals - our superior talent for language. She explores what language really is, and how close other animals come to having it. She considers the world of primates and the theory that some apes may communicate through sign language, and reveals how, even in the womb, humans start to practise making the mouth movements needed for speech. But language isn't just a power to combine words. Professor Scott explores how we convey information through the tone of voice, our accents and the pace and pitch of our speech. But in a world when we regularly talk to computers, she also shows why scientists need to develop machines that can understand the subtleties of our speech. Finally, she looks at language in this digital age and explores the role that emojis play.
3/3 • Royal Institution Christmas Lectures: The Language of Life • 2017 • Nature
Grasslands cover one quarter of all land and support the vast gatherings of wildlife, but to survive here animals must endure the most hostile seasonal changes on the planet. From Asia's bizarre-looking Saiga antelope to the giant anteaters of Brazil, grassland animals have adapted in extraordinary ways to cope with these extremes. In the flooded Okavango, lions take on formidable buffalo in epic battles, on the savannah bee-eaters take advantage of elephants to help catch insects and, on the freezing northern tundra, caribou embark on great migrations shadowed by hungry Arctic wolves.
Andrew Scott narrates a special programme which celebrates winter and explores how animals and plants rise to the challenges it brings. With their world encased in snow and ice, animals must find the most inventive ways to survive and even benefit from the cold. Caribou become ice road travellers as it gets slippery underfoot, stoats make their own fur bedding, and snow monkeys find a warm bath. Emperor penguins are built for the cold weather, but even they must find their own tricks to endure the world's most savage winter.