Adam Rutherford meets a new creature created by American scientists - the spider-goat. It is part goat, part spider, and its milk can be used to create artificial spider's web. It is part of a new field of research, synthetic biology, with a radical aim: to break down nature into spare parts so that we can rebuild it however we please.
This episode focuses on the Jurassic period, a time when the first giant killers stalked the Earth and lurked in the seas; a time when the slightest advantage meant the difference between life and death. In North America the iconic allosaurus, an ambush hunter with a lethal bite, dominated. Not even the heavily-armoured stegosaurus was safe from this killer, and incredible evidence reveals a glimpse of a vicious battle between these two giants. Life in Jurassic oceans was no easier; in 2008, a fossil was dug out of a frozen island high in the Arctic. It was a colossal marine reptile, twice as big as most ocean predators, at 15 metres long and weighing about 45 tonnes. This was Predator X. Its skull alone was nearly twice the size of a tyrannosaurus rex's, and its bite force unmatched by anything in the Jurassic seas. The balance of power between predator and prey is a fine one, as prey continually evolves different ways to avoid predators. But for the most successful and enduring predators, the battle to survive has always been tipped in their favour.
The Mesoamerican Reef is the second longest on the planet--a threatened world of coastal wetlands, mangrove forests, and seagrass beds. That it exists at all is testament to decades of tireless activism, sustainable tourism, responsible fishing, and strict policing. Join us as we tour its many delights.
At more than 1,200 miles, the Orange River is the longest in South Africa. Join as we trace its westward journey, bringing to its shores a diverse sample of African wildlife, large and small. From powerful swimming birds like the African darter, to flat lizards who inhabit the granite rocks of the mighty Augrabies Falls, it's the journey of life-bringing water passing through some of the continent's most diverse and dramatic landscapes.
Africa's wildest river is home to the most spectacular wildlife. Hippos fight for territory while herds of elephant, water buffalo and zebra depend on it for life. In the wet season the rains burst the riverbanks and everyone, including people, must move whilst fish swim through the villages. In the dry season the creatures fight over the few pools of water while predators prowl. At its heart it plunges over Victoria Falls and into wild ravines before draining into the Indian Ocean, where storm clouds cycle the water back into the heart of Africa.
Enter the world of the lizard: from the chameleons, masters of the arboreal life to geckos tapping a code to plant-hopper insects and baby pygmy blue-tongued skinks huddling in their burrows long after birth. In the deserts are found some of the most bizarre lizards: baby Bushveld lizards mimicking acid-squirting beetles; the well-armoured and bizarrely spiky; thorny devils and the lizard kings - the Australian monitors - fast, intelligent and efficient hunters.