Some animals appear to have taken Nature’s gifts and stretched them to extreme limits. With these two natural curiosities one creature, the giraffe, has ended up with a super-stretched neck, the other, the chameleon, a super stretchy tongue. In both cases nature has found a way to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.
Zebra stripes vary subtly between the different species but there is one group of animals that has evolved colourful patterns of seemingly infinite variety, the butterflies. In this episode David looks at two examples of animal patterns that have bedazzled and baffled science for a long time, and uses modern tools to unlock their secrets.
David Attenborough highlights the curiosities that have led to accusations of forgery, but have ultimately helped assist the rethinking of evolution. When early explorers brought the first specimen of a duck-billed platypus to England in 1799, it was considered so bizarre it was deemed a hoax. Similarly, the midwife toad became the centre of a scientific storm in the 1920s that led to accusations of fakery.
2013 • Nature
"Magical Appearances" explores how swallows magically appear each spring and asks how did complex and beautiful insects like butterflies suddenly arrive in the summer.The discovery of the swallow’s epic migration and the revelation that butterflies could metamorphose into totally different looking adults were scientific stories both cloaked in mystery and controversy.
2014 • Nature
Hybrids can be bizarre and they can be deadly. We look at two hybrid animals that owe their existence to human interference - the pizzly bear (a cross between a polar bear and grizzly), which has come into being because of global warming, and the killer bee, brought into existence because of the transfer of African bees to South America.
2018 • Nature
Some animals have an extraordinary ability to find their way. The dung beetle, an insect revered by ancient Egyptians, uses the sun, the moon and even the Milky Way to move its prized ball of dung in the right direction. Pigeons are often considered feeble birdbrains, but they have incredible memories that can recall several complex travel routes with amazing accuracy and they even use man-made roads and hedgerows to find the quickest way home.
2018 • Nature
The giant panda gives birth to the smallest baby of any mammal and has to care for and protect it for many months. Why don't they give birth to more developed, robust young? The kiwi lays one of the largest eggs in the bird world, which produces a very well-developed chick. Why do kiwis produce a single egg that is a quarter of its body mass and almost too big to lay?
2018 • Nature
Can animals count? This is a question that has intrigued and fooled investigators for a long time. Just over 100 years ago, a German horse called Hans was declared a mathematical genius but all was not as it seemed. And strangely, some bamboos around the world flower exactly at the same no matter where they are. Are they counting down the years?
2018 • Nature
David Attenborough investigates two shells that have proved to be winners in evolution: the tortoise's shell and the shells of birds' eggs. The ostrich egg is so strong it is possible for a person to stand on it without it breaking, but how does the chick break out of this fortress? The evolution of the tortoise shell was for a long time a mystery and this bony box offers a lot more than just protection.
2018 • Nature
The Siamese fighting fish is so aggressive it will fight its own reflection until it is exhausted. Recent research shows that the fighting behaviour varies and depends on the personality of the fish! Male kangaroos were once pitted against humans in the boxing ring, with the most impressive male kangaroos being solid blocks of muscle with a kick that can kill. Why do they fight and what skills must a winner have?
2018 • Nature
Professor Richard Fortey travels to northeastern China to see a fossil site known as the 'Dinosaur Pompeii' - a place that has yielded spectacular remains of feathered dinosaurs and rewritten the story of the origins of birds. Among the amazing finds he investigates are the feathered cousin of T-rex, a feathered dinosaur with strong parallels to living pandas and some of the most remarkable flying animals that have ever lived.
Despite the scorching heat, a cold upwelling of nutrients in the Gulf of Oman creates favorable conditions for a host of marine migrants. The behemoth whale shark, hawksbill turtle, and millions of tiny, exotic fish settle in to feast. Take a plunge into the algae-cloaked coral reefs of this underwater tapestry.
Riding onboard with a cheetah, a green turtle and a white-tailed sea eagle as they show us around their respective homes. With natural sounds and elegant embedded graphics delivering information, this is an immersive journey into their world like no other. Each section rides onboard with one of the animals as it shows us around its world. Revealing how they go through their daily routines, journey across different parts of their homes and introduce us to the other animals they share them with, in this extraordinary immersive show. A trio of cheetahs hunting on the Namibian bushveld, a green turtle cruising the reefs of Indonesia and a white-tailed sea eagle as it soars above the west coast of Scotland. All the animals are part of ongoing scientific studies or research projects, they are habituated or trained to carry small, lightweight cameras capable of capturing images in high definition. With often bespoke technology developed and pioneered by research scientists and the teams from Blue Planet II and forthcoming series Animals With Cameras. This is the core of this immersive BBC Four series that reveals the natural world through the perspective of its subjects, and has afforded the scientific community an even deeper understanding of their subjects.
2017 • Nature
This instalment is the first of several to concentrate on mammals. The platypus and the echidna are the only mammals that lay eggs (in much the same manner of reptiles), and it is from such animals that others in the group evolved. Since mammals have warm blood and most have dense fur, they can hunt at night when temperatures drop. It is for this reason that they became more successful than their reptile ancestors, who needed to heat themselves externally. Much of the programme is devoted to marsupials (whose young are partially formed at birth) of which fossils have been found in the Americas dating back 60 million years.
The annual migration of wildebeest through the plains of the Serengeti reaches its unforgiving apex at the banks of the crocodile-infested Mara River. Undeterred, the herd leaps in despite the deadly predators within. Join wildlife expert Jean du Plessis as he charts this epic and often-deadly journey.