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.
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David Schwimmer meets some of the strangest creatures on Earth. Komodo Dragons are excellent swimmers who have migrated far from the Komodo Islands in the past. Without the need for any males to reproduce, and one single female could potentially populate an entire island on her own.
The vibrant reef ecosystem of Raja Ampat, off the coast of Indonesia, is home to a conservation sanctuary twice the size of Singapore. It's one of the few places on Earth where two different species of manta ray live side by side. Join a dedicated team of conservationists as they track these mysterious creatures to safeguard their future.
In the heart of Brazil lie the immense wetlands of the Pantanal--an area 10 times the size of the Florida Everglades. In the dry season, over 650 species of birds descend onto the shallow marshes to feast, breed, and raise their young, including the the regal jabiru, the colorful hyacinth macaw, and the noisy chacalaca.
In nature, living long enough to breed is a monumental struggle. Many animals and plants go to extremes to give themselves a chance. Uniquely, three brother cheetahs band together to bring down a huge ostrich. Aerial photography reveals how bottle-nosed dolphins trap fish in a ring of mud, and time-lapse cameras show how the Venus flytrap ensnares insect victims. The strawberry frog carries a tadpole high into a tree and drops it in a water-filled bromeliad. The frog must climb back from the ground every day to feed it. Fledgling chinstrap penguins undertake a heroic and tragic journey through the broken ice to get out to sea. Many can barely swim and the formidable leopard seal lies in wait.
Liz Bonnin meets the animals using outlandish means to find a mate and raise a family. From feisty mongooses who start wars to pick the perfect partner, to swaggering peacocks faking a mating call and thieving macaques who kidnap babies to get ahead, the natural world appears to be rife with animal rogues.