In the final challenge of the game of life, raising offspring is the ultimate prize. Continuing the line through the next generation, is the next best thing to immortality. But it’s far from easy... Some parents must risk their own lives for their offspring.
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 this episode, Iolo investigates the courtship and nesting behaviour of birds, including the amazing courtship display of great crested grebes at a reservoir near Pontypool, the impressive sky dance of hen harriers in the dramatic Cambrian Mountains, how nuthatch use mud like cement to prepare their nest in a woodland near Harlech, and why long-tailed tits near Newtown are exceptional nest builders. On the Lleyn Peninsula near Trefor, he looks at why one colony of shags nest earlier than any others in Wales, and in Pembrokeshire he finds out where house martins nested before they used our buildings. Iolo also looks at the variety of places birds like to nest, from little ringed plovers on shingle banks along the River Tywi to puffins underground on Skomer.
Sophie looks at one skill in particular that seems to give humans an advantage over all other animals - our superior talent for language. She explores what language really is, and how close other animals come to having it. She considers the world of primates and the theory that some apes may communicate through sign language, and reveals how, even in the womb, humans start to practise making the mouth movements needed for speech. But language isn't just a power to combine words. Professor Scott explores how we convey information through the tone of voice, our accents and the pace and pitch of our speech. But in a world when we regularly talk to computers, she also shows why scientists need to develop machines that can understand the subtleties of our speech. Finally, she looks at language in this digital age and explores the role that emojis play.
3/3 • Royal Institution Christmas Lectures: The Language of Life • 2017 • Nature
On the eastern coast of Africa lies a subtropical realm of staggering beauty and diversity--a mangrove forest where saltwater meets fresh and a variety of secretive forest dwellers work feverishly to survive. Take a thrilling journey into this rarest of ecosystems, one that few get to witness.
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.