The highest mountains on Earth are home to snow leopards, golden eagles, mountain goats, barnacle goslings, and gelada monkeys; only the toughest of animals can endure the extreme weather, scarce food supplies and limited oxygen on these peaks.
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.
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.
How have some plants managed to live 5000 years? They are masters of photosynthesis and have survived on trips into space. In fact, there are now "plantimals". Perhaps it is time we learned more from plants about our world and how to live in it as partners.
How can you tell the two poles apart? Where are the penguins? What about the bears? The Arctic pole is located in the Northern Hemisphere within the deep Arctic Ocean, while the Antarctic pole is smack in the middle of the ice-covered Antarctica. Camille Seaman describes how enterprising people and organisms have found ways to reside around both poles despite the frigid temperatures.
For most of the Earth's history, life consisted of the simplest organisms; but then something happened that would give rise to staggering diversity, and, ultimately, life as complex as that which we see today. Scientists are still struggling to figure out just what that was.
This special, narrated by Andrew Scott, celebrates spring on planet Earth, and the extraordinary tricks that animals and plants find to rise to the new challenges it brings. This magical season brings a burst of new life - but as soon as the air starts to warm, it's a race to wake up and get ahead of everyone else. For many, it's the perfect time to find a mate and raise babies - but for everything, from adventurous grizzly bear cubs and amorous dancing grebes, to flowers in the desert and swifts that fly marathons, spring is about rushing to make the most of the opportunities this busy season brings.