First prog in series about fossils. David Attenborough travels in UK, Dominican Republic, West Germany & USA in search of fossils, & the palaeontological techniques to find and reveal them.
In this final installment to the series, David Attenborough travels to four unique locations about the globe where an abundance of fossilized plant and animal remains have given us a detailed picture of what life could have been like in prehistoric times. Each of the sites experienced its own set of circumstances which enabled it to preserve many perfect specimens for extraction and analysis. Piecing together the collected evidence, paleontologists have been able to determine early animal hierarchies, their diets and their evolutionary paths.
1989 • Nature
Siberian tigers are the largest of all cats. In historic times, the tiger's range was vast, covering much of Asia. Over the last century, they've experienced an almost total population crash, and at least 97% of those tigers have gone.
For the animals in the polar regions, autumn means dramatic battles and epic journeys. Time is running out - the Arctic Ocean is freezing over and the sea ice is advancing at 2.5 miles per day around Antarctica. Polar bears gather in large numbers on the Arctic coast as they wait for the return of the ice. Soon, tempers fray and violent sparring contests break out. Meanwhile 2,000 beluga whales head for one special estuary, a gigantic 'whale spa' where they will thrash their snow-white bodies against the gravel and exfoliate. Inland, the tundra undergoes a dramatic transformation from green to fiery red. Here, musk ox males slam head-first into each other with the force of a 30mph car crash as they struggle to defend their harems. Frisky young caribou males play a game of 'grandma's footsteps' as they try to steal the boss's female. Down in Antarctica, Adelie penguin chicks huddle together in creches. When a parent returns from fishing, it leads its twins on a comical steeplechase - sadly there's only enough for one, so the winner gets the meal. Two months later and the chicks are fully feathered apart from downy Mohican hairdos - they're ready to take their first swim - reluctantly though, as it seems penguins are not born with a love of water! And with good reason - a leopard seal explodes from the sea and pulls one from an ice floe, a hunting manoeuvre that has never been filmed before. As winter approaches and everyone has left, the giant emperor penguin arrives and makes an epic trek inland to breed. The mothers soon return to the sea leaving the fathers to hold the eggs and endure the coldest winter on earth.
Every year, thousands of salmon make their way upstream along the nearly 2000-mile-long mighty Yukon River, desperate to reach spawning beds. Eagerly checking their progress is a host of hungry predators, from grizzly bears to bald eagles-all desperate to stock up on protein before the long winter months ahead.
Reptiles and amphibians look like hang-overs from the past. But they overcome their shortcomings through amazing innovation. The pebble toad turns into a rubber ball to roll and bounce from its enemies. Extreme slow-motion shows how a Jesus Christ lizard runs on water, and how a chameleon fires an extendible tongue at its prey with unfailing accuracy. The camera dives with a Niuean sea snake, which must breed on land but avoids predators by swimming to an air bubble at the end of an underwater tunnel. In a TV first, Komodo dragons hunt a huge water-buffalo, biting it to inject venom, then waiting for weeks until it dies. Ten dragons strip the carcass to the bone in four hours.
Many of the great rivers of southern Africa start high up in mountain ranges, power their way eastwards across wild forests and grasslands, and eventually empty out into the Indian Ocean. Ride the currents of these powerful bodies of water as they reshape the lives of the wild animals who rely on them.