Secret History documentary charting an astounding archaeological investigation in South Africa that has discovered the remains of an entirely new species of human ancestor: Homo naledi. Following an expedition by a team of experts, led by Professor Lee Berger, as they recover over 1,500 fossilised bone fragments from a deep and nearly inaccessible cave and conduct extensive analysis
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 next instalment describes the move from water to land. The fish that did so may have been forced to because of drought, or chose to in search of food. Either way, they eventually evolved into amphibians. Such creatures needed two things: limbs for mobility and lungs to breathe. The coelacanth is shown as a fish with bony fins that could have developed into legs, and the lungfish is able to absorb gaseous oxygen. However, evidence of an animal that possessed both is presented in the 450 million-year-old fossilised remains of a fish called a eusthenopteron. Three groups of amphibians are explored.
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.
Once a rich wilderness teeming with lions, tigers and cheetahs, the Gangetic plains of northern India have been transformed into the most densely populated place on Earth. The film explores the impact of this tide of humanity on the wildlife of the plains - from the all-out war between elephants and villagers to worship of the deadly cobra.
Once a mountain kingdom of ancient palaces and emperors, Korea in the 21st century is largely known for its modern cities and decades of conflict. Tensions between North and South may be what defines it to outsiders but beyond the battle scars there is another side to Korea. In the south are large pockets of untouched wilderness where extraordinary animals flourish and Koreans continue to practice age-old traditions in tandem with the seasons and with nature. It is in these connections, rather than in division, that we see the true Korea. At the southernmost tip of the peninsular we follow a pod of bottlenose dolphins through the volcanic islands of Jeju. They click at each other as they encounter a human in their midst, but the dolphins know this diver well - they have shared the ocean with the Haenyeo, or sea women, for thousands of years. We travel onwards to the isolated island of Marado, where three generations of sea women are preparing for a dive. Today is the start of the conch season, and they work hard whatever the weather to maximise their catch. In the grounds of an ancient palace on the mainland, a raccoon dog family takes advantage of a rare event. Just once every five years, hundreds of cicadas emerge from below ground providing an easy feast for the raccoon dogs who voraciously fill their bellies. Those that escape their jaws make for the safety of the trees, where they metamorphosise into their flying form. On the mud flats of Suncheon Bay we find a habitat that is neither land nor sea. Only recently has the ecological value of mudflats been recognised. A staggering 50 per cent of the earth's oxygen is produced by phytoplankton - microscopic algae that are found here in great abundance. That is why the mudflats are known locally as the lungs of the earth. Plankton is far from the only life here - the mud of the bay is rich in nutrients and supports one of the most diverse ecosystems on the peninsula. We follow the story of a young mudskipper who has emerged for his first mating season. His journey to find love is paved with obstacles.
2018 • Nature
The migration of the painted lady has long fascinated scientists, artists and nature lovers alike. The longest butterfly migration on earth, it sees millions of these delicate creatures travel from the desert fringes of north Africa, across thousands of miles of land and sea, before settling in the UK. However, the migration has never truly been understood, the mysteries of the painted lady never unravelled - until now.
2016 • Nature