Despite their diminutive stature, little penguins are a formidable species. They spend months at sea hunting, they mate for life, and when gulls threaten to steal their hard-earned fish, they band together in groups for self-defense. Journey to the sandy beaches of Southern Australia, where the tiniest penguin species on the planet is living large.
The sound of the cuckoo is to many the very essence of spring, yet behind the magical call is a bird that is a cheat, a thief and a killer. Just how does the cuckoo trick other birds into accepting its eggs and raising its young? Why don't the duped foster parents react as they watch the baby cuckoo destroy their own eggs and chicks? And why do they work so relentlessly to feed a demanding chick that looks nothing like them and will soon dwarf them? In this film, new photography is combined with archive footage and the latest scientific findings to solve a puzzle which, as narrator David Attenborough explains, has perplexed nature watchers for thousands of years.
Mammals dominate the planet. They do it through having warm blood and by the care they lavish on their young. Weeks of filming in the bitter Antarctic winter reveal how a mother Weddell seal wears her teeth down keeping open a hole in the ice so she can catch fish for her pup. A powered hot air balloon produces stunning images of millions of migrating bats as they converge on fruiting trees in Zambia, and slow-motion cameras reveal how a mother rufous sengi exhausts a chasing lizard. A gyroscopically stabilised camera moves alongside migrating caribou, and a diving team swim among the planet's biggest fight as male humpback whales battle for a female.
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.
For 10,000 years or more, humans created new plant varieties for food by trial and error and a touch of serendipity. Then 150 years ago, a new era began. Pioneer botanists unlocked the patterns found in different types of plants and opened the door to a new branch of science - plant genetics. They discovered what controlled the random colours of snapdragon petals and the strange colours found in wild maize. This was vital information. Some botanists even gave their lives to protect their collection of seeds. American wheat farmer Norman Borlaug was awarded the Nobel peace prize after he bred a new strain of wheat that lifted millions of people around the world out of starvation. Today, botanists believe advances in plant genetics hold the key to feeding the world's growing population.
The first programme of Darwin's Dangerous Idea explores the impact of Darwin’s ideas on religion and morality. Andrew Marr discovers that an important part of the Beagle’s mission was to return three natives to their homeland, Tierra del Fuego, at the southernmost tip of Argentina. Years before he reached the Galapagos, they raised questions in his mind about the fragility of civilisation and what it really means to be human. Marr explores how Darwin developed his ideas when he returned to Britain and finally unleashed his theory of evolution by natural selection on the world. Darwin’s ideas are taken up by many of the major thinkers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries: Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud. We discover that his ideas helped motivate the Kaiser’s army in the First World War and would also help convince the United States government to drop its isolationist policy and enter the conflict. In the 20th century, we discover a growing backlash against Darwin’s ideas among fundamentalists from the world’s major religions. At the same time science has been showing that Darwin’s theory of natural selection holds sway over our behaviour - including our morality - as much as it does over the evolution of our bodies. There is significant scientific evidence that suggests that Darwin has returned humanity to nature, in all its wonder, its glory and its danger.