Some animals appear to have taken Nature’s gifts and stretched them to extreme limits. With these two natural curiosities one creature, the giraffe, has ended up with a super-stretched neck, the other, the chameleon, a super stretchy tongue. In both cases nature has found a way to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.
Zebra stripes vary subtly between the different species but there is one group of animals that has evolved colourful patterns of seemingly infinite variety, the butterflies. In this episode David looks at two examples of animal patterns that have bedazzled and baffled science for a long time, and uses modern tools to unlock their secrets.
David Attenborough highlights the curiosities that have led to accusations of forgery, but have ultimately helped assist the rethinking of evolution. When early explorers brought the first specimen of a duck-billed platypus to England in 1799, it was considered so bizarre it was deemed a hoax. Similarly, the midwife toad became the centre of a scientific storm in the 1920s that led to accusations of fakery.
2013 • Nature
"Magical Appearances" explores how swallows magically appear each spring and asks how did complex and beautiful insects like butterflies suddenly arrive in the summer.The discovery of the swallow’s epic migration and the revelation that butterflies could metamorphose into totally different looking adults were scientific stories both cloaked in mystery and controversy.
2014 • Nature
Hybrids can be bizarre and they can be deadly. We look at two hybrid animals that owe their existence to human interference - the pizzly bear (a cross between a polar bear and grizzly), which has come into being because of global warming, and the killer bee, brought into existence because of the transfer of African bees to South America.
2018 • Nature
Some animals have an extraordinary ability to find their way. The dung beetle, an insect revered by ancient Egyptians, uses the sun, the moon and even the Milky Way to move its prized ball of dung in the right direction. Pigeons are often considered feeble birdbrains, but they have incredible memories that can recall several complex travel routes with amazing accuracy and they even use man-made roads and hedgerows to find the quickest way home.
2018 • Nature
The giant panda gives birth to the smallest baby of any mammal and has to care for and protect it for many months. Why don't they give birth to more developed, robust young? The kiwi lays one of the largest eggs in the bird world, which produces a very well-developed chick. Why do kiwis produce a single egg that is a quarter of its body mass and almost too big to lay?
2018 • Nature
Can animals count? This is a question that has intrigued and fooled investigators for a long time. Just over 100 years ago, a German horse called Hans was declared a mathematical genius but all was not as it seemed. And strangely, some bamboos around the world flower exactly at the same no matter where they are. Are they counting down the years?
2018 • Nature
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.
2018 • Nature
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?
2018 • Nature
The broadcaster continues his bug-eyed view of the world of creepy-crawlies, revealing how predators defuse the defences of their prey. Highlights include the cockroach wasp, busy preparing a tasty - and very live - treat for its young, the whirligig beetle, which employs a water-based radar system, and the jumping Portia spider, which feeds on other arachnids.
Unlike the many freshwater lagoons in South Africa, the Langebaan consists of 18.5 square miles of saltwater from the Atlantic Ocean. Of all the creatures that rely on it, two are pivotal for its own rejuvenation and sustenance: the regal flamingos and the nutrient-producing prawns.
With the help of some surprising creatures from around the world, this series sets out to discover how animals take to the air, defying the force all airborne animals must conquer, gravity. Part 1: Defying Gravity In Africa, a caracal's 'rocket-propelled' launch enables it to catch birds in flight. In the Australian outback, a kangaroo's hop is key to finding water in a desert of over a million square kilometres. On an English farm, an insect's ultimate ejector seat accelerates it to 700G with help from a clutch in its crotch. And high above the jungles of Borneo, a leaping snake's unique shape allows it to glide, even without wings.
The series starts in North Africa, where two of the world's biggest predators once battled for supremacy. At 13m and seven tonnes, the carcharodontosaurus was a huge beast, a gigantic lizard-like carnivore with shark-like teeth over six inches long. It was an efficient hunter that would slash at its prey until it bled to death. But the discovery of an upper jaw in Morocco revealed an even bigger carnivorous killer - spinosaurus. Four metres longer than Tyrannosaurus rex, spinosaurus is thought to have been one of the biggest killers to ever walk the Earth. But unlike the meat-eating carcharodontosaurus, spinosaurus mainly ate fish, living and hunting almost exclusively in the water. Like all predators that share an environment, the two may once have had to compete for food. Planet Dinosaur takes a look at what one such deadly battle may have looked like and finds out which giant beast would have been most likely to survive a fight to the death.
David Attenborough takes a breathtaking journey through the vast and diverse continent of Africa as it has never been seen before. (Part 6: The Future) David Attenborough comes face-to-face with a baby rhino and asks what the future holds for this little one. He meets the local people who are standing side-by-side with the wildlife at this pivotal moment in their history. We discover what it takes to save a species, hold back a desert and even resurrect an entire wilderness - revealing what the world was like before modern man.