It's death on an unimaginable scale, when a majority of Earth's species quickly die out. It's called "mass extinction," and it's happened at least five times before. Cataclysms, such as supervolcanoes or asteroids, are thought to cause these events, but some experts believe a man-made mass extinction could be next. Is our planet in trouble? And if so, is there anything we can do to stop the next catastrophic annihilation? Experts are traveling the world, performing groundbreaking scientific detective work to answer these very questions.
Nine miles off the coast of Oman, a zebra shark scans the ocean floor for crustaceans, while a menacing giant stingray floats by. Soon, night becomes day and new killers emerge, from toxic scorpion fish to crown-of-thorns starfish, both bringing coral devastation. Dive among these deadly marine carnivores.
This episode continues the study of mammals, and particularly those whose young gestate inside their bodies. Attenborough asks why these have become so varied and tries to discover the common theme that links them. Examples of primitive mammals that are still alive today include the treeshrew, the desman and the star-nosed mole. Insect eaters vary enormously from the aardvark, giant anteater and pangolin to those to which much of this programme is devoted: the bats, of which there are nearly 1,000 different species. These took to flying at night, and its possible that they evolved from treeshrews that jumped from tree to tree, in much the same way as a flying squirrel.
The Luangwa Valley in Zambia experiences one of the toughest dry seasons imaginable. Seven months with no rain and spiralling temperatures. And with this year’s El Nino conditions the drought is threatening to be even more intense than usual.
Professor Alice Roberts explores the story of human evolution, revealing how a humble African ape became a successful global species. With daring parkour athletes and life-size primate animatronics, Alice explores the greatest leaps in our evolution by conjuring fire and re-enacting how we spread across the globe.