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.
Steve Backshall leads a team of elite explorers - including world leading underwater cave explorer Robbie Schmittner, former Royal Marine Aldo Kane and diving camera operator Katy Fraser - into the wilds of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Under the vast jungle here is the largest unexplored network of caves in the world, comprising thousands of kilometres of passageways. They are stunningly beautiful but incredibly dangerous - much of the system is under water. First the team must trek through tough, scorpion-infested jungle to camp alongside a giant sinkhole in the jungle floor - a dark gateway to an underworld full of nightmarish creatures.
From the dangerous tarantulas on the forest floor to the high flyers in the canopy, spiders thrive on every level of this tropical rainforest. Starting on the ground and working the way up to the top, visit with and learn about a few of the 46 thousand species of spiders.
2018 • Nature