Picture the last two hundred years without the publication of Darwin's "On The Origin of Species" -- how might the scientific conversation have developed? What were the influences in Victorian England during Darwin's youth, and how tenuous was his opportunity for sailing on the Beagle's voyage?
Gorillas, rhinos, and elephants, three of nature's largest animals, deliver enormous babies. But the immense size of these newborns stands in stark contrast to their vulnerability. Everything from feeding to protection against predators to learning essential life skills falls on one devoted parent: their mothers.
Intelligence and adaptability allow primates to tackle the many challenges of life, and this is what makes our closest relatives so successful. This resourcefulness has enabled primates to conquer an incredible diversity of habitat. Hamadryas baboons live on the open plains of Ethiopia in groups up to 400 strong. Strength in numbers gives them some protection from potential predators. But, should their path cross with other baboon troops, it can lead to all-out battle, as males try to steal females from one another, and even settle old scores. Japanese macaques are the most northerly-dwelling primates and they experience completely different challenges. Some beat the freezing conditions by having access to a thermal spa in the middle of winter. But this privilege is only for those born of the right female bloodline. For western lowland gorillas, it's the male silverback that leads his family group in the rich forests of the Congo basin. He advertises his status to all with a powerful chest-beating display. Most primates are forest dwellers, and one of the strangest is the tarsier – the only purely carnivorous primate. As it hunts for insects the tarsier leaps from tree to tree in the dead of night, using its huge forward-facing eyes to safely judge each jump. Good communication is essential for success in primate society.
Much of Australia consists of vast tracts of uninhabited land, a perfect hunting ground for the country's imperious birds of prey. From the brown falcons that feed on the country's deadliest snakes, to eagles that have been known to start fires on purpose so they can hunt fleeing animals, soar above the diverse habitats of this island continent in the company of its most accomplished aerial predators.
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?