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
Focuses on our skin, our armpits, belly buttons.We are not alone. We are home to a trillion cells that are not our own, but are very much the making of us. Both on us and inside us live bacteria, viruses, protozoans, fungi, worms, lice and mites that we carry throughout our lives. To say that we are in a minority in our own body is an understatement. Our ‘private wildlife’ keeps us healthy, sometimes makes us ill and even changes our behavior.
David Attenborough reveals that the animal inhabitants of this vast wilderness are every bit as extraordinary as they are bizarre. Unearthly calls of the notorious Tasmanian devil echo through the land, but following them over the course of a year reveals a surprisingly gentle side. In the dry east, rare white wallabies graze on the plains and jack jumper ants build huge nests – these venomous ants are amongst the most dangerous on earth. In the west, where it can rain nearly every day of the year, caves light up with the magical spectacle of thousands of glow-worms, and the trees are 100-metre towering monsters. Rivers are home to the peculiar platypus, and world’s largest freshwater invertebrate, the Tasmanian giant lobster. Miniature penguins come ashore to breed, and as winter approaches, the southern lights dance in the sky. Tasmania’s isolation and unique climate has created a world that is as weird as it is wonderful.
Attenborough describes the course the Amazon, starting high up in the Andes of Peru, whose streams flow into the great river. Young rivers are by nature vigorous and dangerous: they flow fast and form rapids, thick with mud and sediment.
From the snow-white peaks to scorching sun of deserts - all the Caucasus. Caucasus Mountains - not just a mountain ridge. This is a rich habitat for many species of flora and fauna, which feel great on the wooded slopes, and alpine meadows, and even in salt marshes. It is well settled down wild boar, Eurasian lynx, European bison and the rare fragile ophidian lizard. Caucasus - is another jewel in the crown of Wildlife Russia.
In The Secret Life of the Cat, 50 cats were fitted with GPS collars to track their every movement, and cat-cams to record their unique view of the world. In this groundbreaking experiment, a few cats stood out. They include the intruder cat, an unneutered tomcat, who comes into the village and seems to have no owner; the hunter, who prefers food that he can catch and kill to anything his owners might buy him; and the deserter cat who has abandoned his home in favour of a new set of owners. This film reveals that the relationship between cats and their owners isn't quite what we imagine.