Metamorphosis seems like the ultimate evolutionary magic trick - the amazing transformation of one creature into a totally different being: one life, two bodies. From Ovid to Kafka to X-Men, tales of metamorphosis richly permeate human culture. The myth of transformation is so common that it seems almost pre-programmed into our imagination. But is the scientific fact of metamorphosis just as strange as fiction or... even stranger? Filmmaker David Malone explores the science behind metamorphosis. How does it happen and why? And might it even, in some way, happen to us?
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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.
Spring arrives in the polar regions, and the sun appears after an absence of five months; warmth and life return to these magical ice worlds - the greatest seasonal transformation on our planet is underway. Male Adelie penguins arrive in Antarctica to build their nests - it takes a good property to attract the best mates and the males will stop at nothing to better their rivals! But these early birds face the fiercest storms on the planet. In the Arctic, a polar bear mother is hunting with her cubs. Inland, the frozen rivers start to break up and billions of tons of ice are swept downstream in the greatest of polar spectacles. This melt-water fertilizes the Arctic Ocean, feeding vast shoals of Arctic cod and narwhal. The influx of freshwater accelerates the breakup of the sea-ice - an area of ice the size of Australia will soon vanish from the Arctic. On land, a woolly bear caterpillar emerges from the snow having spent the winter frozen solid. Caterpillars normally become moths within months of hatching, but life is so harsh here that the woolly bear takes 14 years to reach adulthood. Once mature it has only days to find a mate before it dies! Alongside the caterpillars white Arctic wolves race to raise their adorable cubs before the cold returns.
Issues of genetics and DNA are constantly cropping up in the news from food production and health, to legal cases and ethics. We hear about DNA in movies like Jurassic Park and X-men, we learn bits and pieces about it from TV shows like Dexter and and CSI, but what exactly is DNA, and how does it work?