The penultimate episode focuses on the relationships between invertebrates and plants or other animals. It begins with ants and aphids: the former 'herd' the latter and protect them in return for secreted honeydew.
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
Supermarkets are stocked with fruit year round in a global permanent summertime, but despite its accessibility, have we lost the diversity that makes it so special? The second episode of The Fruit Hunters will look at what happens when we abandon the Garden of Eden for an industrialized monoculture. In lush jungles of Borneo, Bala Tingang, an elder of one of the last hunter-gatherer tribes, lives of the wild fruits that are the key to his tribe's survival. And yet, all around the world, natural diversity is being replaced with monocultures, plantations of only one variety, bred for long shelf life and transportability rather than their taste or health properties. Not only is this lost of diversity impoverishing our taste buds, but it has catastrophic implications for our food security. In the vast uniform banana fields of Honduras, Juan Aguilar, a banana scientist, frantically tries to breed a banana resistant to a deadly fungus.
Pumas are also known by the names of cougar or mountain lion. However, these cats are only distantly related to lions. They're much more closely related to cheetahs. And while pumas are often found in mountains, they're just as at home in the lowlands, dense forests, or deserts.
With a million species at risk of extinction, Sir David Attenborough explores how this crisis of biodiversity has consequences for us all, threatening food and water security, undermining our ability to control our climate and even putting us at greater risk of pandemic diseases. Extinction is now happening up to 100 times faster than the natural evolutionary rate, but the issue is about more than the loss of individual species. Everything in the natural world is connected in networks that support the whole of life on earth, including us, and we are losing many of the benefits that nature provides to us. The loss of insects is threatening the pollination of crops, while the loss of biodiversity in the soil also threatens plants growth. Plants underpin many of the things that we need, and yet one in four is now threatened with extinction. Last year, a UN report identified the key drivers of biodiversity loss, including overfishing, climate change and pollution. But the single biggest driver of biodiversity loss is the destruction of natural habitats. Seventy-five per cent of Earth's land surface (where not covered by ice) has been changed by humans, much of it for agriculture, and as consumers we may unwittingly be contributing towards the loss of species through what we buy in the supermarket. Our destructive relationship with the natural world isn’t just putting the ecosystems that we rely on at risk. Human activities like the trade in animals and the destruction of habitats drive the emergence of diseases. Disease ecologists believe that if we continue on this pathway, this year’s pandemic will not be a one-off event.
2020 • Nature
We look at the ways in which plants have adapted to survive in the harshest climates on Earth. Whether in the driest, hottest deserts or the coldest Arctic wastes, plants have come up with some ingenious ways of surviving, including eating animals and actually caring for their offspring.