Oxygen – we all need it, we can't live without it. It's integral to life on this planet. And it's probable that, as you watch this film, you will be breathing in an oxygen atom that was also breathed by Genghis Khan – or by the first ever apes to stand upright on the plains of Africa. The oxygen that we breathe is made from two oxygen atoms joined together – O2. They were first joined more than 3 billion years ago by the earliest blue-green algae to evolve. The oxygen molecule first came from bacteria and was present in the fires that destroyed the dinosaurs and the chemical reactions in all human cells, and as ozone they protect the earth from radiation. Since then, both together and apart, they've had the most extraordinary adventures. Each of the two atoms in an oxygen molecule is virtually indestructible – so they have been first-hand players in some of the most dramatic events in the whole of Earth's history. It's often said that we are breathing the same oxygen that the cavemen did. The life of a single molecule of oxygen is traced on it's astonishing journey spanning millions of years, from its creation, into photosynthesis, through the age of the dinosaurs, early man, and on into today.
During the rainy season in Africa, a herd of buffalo can create thousands of pounds of waste in a day, which would be an environmental disaster if not for the dung beetle. These extraordinary insects depend on waste to survive. They eat it, attract mates with it, and raise families in it. Although dung beetles are critical to the ecosystem, they don't have it easy. Every day, they must avoid being trampled, evade predators like bullfrogs, honey badgers, and rock monitor lizards, and rival dung beetle families desperate for the same fecal prize.
2018 • Nature
Steve Backshall explores the connections and relationship that we have with insects and other arthropods. In Kenya, huge armies of driver ants give houses a five-star clean-up, and in China, we discover how silkworm caterpillars have shaped our culture and distribution. While locusts devastate crops in Africa, bees and beetles across the world provide a key link in our food chains. Many of us perceive these animals merely as creepy crawlies and nothing more than a nuisance, but as Steve reveals, we couldn't live without them.
In the high Himalaya, yak-herder Thokmay Lowa and his small group steer his herd through one of the region's extreme mountain passes. For several months of the year, In the Canadian Arctic, traditional Inuit communities still forage for much of their food. 63-year-old Minnie Nappaaluk and her granddaughter Eva embark on one of the most hazardous expeditions for food Some Natural Wonders are threatened as never before - nowhere more so than the Brazilian Amazon. In the Mato Grosso, as a result of deforestation, the region's microclimate has changed. Now fires rage out of control in the dry season.
Life and Death explores the impact of Darwin’s ideas on our understanding of the meaning of extinction and the interconnections between all life on earth and the environment. Darwin learned many lessons from the giant fossils of extinct animals he found in Argentina and Chile. He eventually revealed to us the unpalatable truth that the logical conclusion to evolution is not perfection but extinction. The extinction of one species creates an environmental niche for new species to fill. Darwin’s theory also gives us vital knowledge we can use to help prolong the existence of our species by respecting the interconnections between all elements of the natural world and the environment. It’s a story in which Darwin’s ideas are taken up with great enthusiasm by his followers throughout the 20th century. But humanity misses one opportunity after another to acknowledge and reduce its destructive impact on the planet. As a result we have set in motion the sixth mass extinction of life on earth. And we are running out of time to do something about it by preserving ecological "hotspots" like certain rainforests which are some of the most productive cradles of evolution. This programme is a warning, but also a celebration, of the knowledge Charles Darwin gave us in his theory of evolution. It confirms that Darwin’s theory continues to inform our understanding of ourselves, our planet and the intricate interconnections between all life on earth.
The world of the armoured creature is equally fascinating and bizarre. Galapagos giant tortoises solve the problem of making love in a suit of armour; a heated sea turtle orgy leaves females in mortal danger and we witness the explosive arrival of a baby pig-nosed turtle. Giant salt-water crocodiles crowd a flooded river-run to fish for mullet and a caiman leads her brood in a touching trek to a communal crèche.