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.
Watching the fascinating display of leafcutter ants at the Natural History Museum in London is one of my favourite ways to while away a few hours, but David Attenborough is operating on a much grander scale here in the last in the series. In Argentina he observes some cousins of the leafcutters who are part of a community so vast it spans an entire continent. It’s one of the mandible-dropping facts in a look at one of the key inventions of arthropods: colonies. From termites and honey bees to the leafcutters, it seems that if you want to get ahead, you move to the big city.
Take flight across Botswana's sprawling Kalahari Desert, through the Okavango Delta, and deep into its dynamic history. During the journey, Botswana's history of ancient civilizations, notorious slave traders, and enormous wealth are brought to life.
Are you genetically destined to despise brussels sprouts? We’re all human, but why are we all so different? With the help of a line-up of dogs and many sets of twins, Prof Alice Roberts explores what makes each of us totally unique.
Once a mountain kingdom of ancient palaces and emperors, Korea in the 21st century is largely known for its modern cities and decades of conflict. Tensions between North and South may be what defines it to outsiders but beyond the battle scars there is another side to Korea. In the south are large pockets of untouched wilderness where extraordinary animals flourish and Koreans continue to practice age-old traditions in tandem with the seasons and with nature. It is in these connections, rather than in division, that we see the true Korea. At the southernmost tip of the peninsular we follow a pod of bottlenose dolphins through the volcanic islands of Jeju. They click at each other as they encounter a human in their midst, but the dolphins know this diver well - they have shared the ocean with the Haenyeo, or sea women, for thousands of years. We travel onwards to the isolated island of Marado, where three generations of sea women are preparing for a dive. Today is the start of the conch season, and they work hard whatever the weather to maximise their catch. In the grounds of an ancient palace on the mainland, a raccoon dog family takes advantage of a rare event. Just once every five years, hundreds of cicadas emerge from below ground providing an easy feast for the raccoon dogs who voraciously fill their bellies. Those that escape their jaws make for the safety of the trees, where they metamorphosise into their flying form. On the mud flats of Suncheon Bay we find a habitat that is neither land nor sea. Only recently has the ecological value of mudflats been recognised. A staggering 50 per cent of the earth's oxygen is produced by phytoplankton - microscopic algae that are found here in great abundance. That is why the mudflats are known locally as the lungs of the earth. Plankton is far from the only life here - the mud of the bay is rich in nutrients and supports one of the most diverse ecosystems on the peninsula. We follow the story of a young mudskipper who has emerged for his first mating season. His journey to find love is paved with obstacles.
2018 • Nature