The first episode tells how invertebrates became the first creatures of any kind to colonise dry land. Their forerunners were shelled and segmented sea creatures that existed 400 million years ago. Some of them ventured out of the water to lay their eggs in safety, and Attenborough compares those first steps with today's mass spawning of horseshoe crabs off the Atlantic coast of North America.
2005 • Nature
The next programme deals with flying insects. It begins in Central Europe, where the Körös River plays host to millions of giant mayflies as they rise from their larval skins to mate. — the climax of their lives. Mayflies and dragonflies were among the first to take to the air about 320 million years ago, and fossils reveal that some were similar in size to a seagull. Damselflies are also looked at in detail.
2005 • Nature
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.
2005 • Nature
In Tokyo, there are unapproachable "lost islands" with unspoiled environs and rich wildlife. Minami Iwo-to, part of the Ogasawara island chain, is about 1,300km from the Japanese capital. Normally, entry is banned to protect the environment. An exception was made in 2017 for the first comprehensive scientific survey in 10 years. The island compresses multiple climate zones into a small area, offering researchers a rare opportunity to view evolution in action. Braving an arduous climb and a swarm of seabirds, the team discovers one new species after another.
2019 • Nature
Across the dunes of the Kalahari, a towering, 200-year-old tree extends its branches to the heavens. This camel thorn Acacia is a secret refuge for those in the know. Colonies of sociable weavers use its branches for their oversized nests. Oryx, kudu, and other herbivores feed on her ripened pods, helping soften the seeds for germination. As the rainy season descends, its branches become draped with golden flowers, a magnet for pollinating insects. For many, the Acacia is a 'tree of life.' It's a relationship as old as the Kalahari itself.
Siberian tigers are the largest of all cats. In historic times, the tiger's range was vast, covering much of Asia. Over the last century, they've experienced an almost total population crash, and at least 97% of those tigers have gone.
David Attenborough investigates two shells that have proved to be winners in evolution: the tortoise's shell and the shells of birds' eggs. The ostrich egg is so strong it is possible for a person to stand on it without it breaking, but how does the chick break out of this fortress? The evolution of the tortoise shell was for a long time a mystery and this bony box offers a lot more than just protection.
Professor David Scheel takes an octopus into his home to learn about its intelligence and the extraordinary relationship he and his daughter develop with the creature. Named Heidi, the octopus is seen unravelling puzzles, recognising individual humans and even watching TV with the family. The film also looks at the remarkable behaviour of other octopuses around the world, from those that can change their colour and texture in a split second to the octopus that carries around its own coconut shell to hide in.
Eagles are the most powerful birds in the sky, capable of tackling enormous prey, spotting food at vast distances and soaring for miles on the wing. Armed with cutting-edge filming technology, this documentary examines the science behind such extraordinary abilities. Featuring dramatic stories and some remarkable experiments, the film follows the story of a family of bald eagles in Iowa as two chicks face the challenges of life in the wild. Plus, bird specialist Lloyd Buck puts his trained golden eagle Tilly's skills to the test.