[6 parts merged into one] Featuring groundbreaking new science, experiments and leading scientists from a variety of disciplines, the series unravels the natural history of the body's largest organ. Skin is an incredible, multi-function organ that science is still learning so much about. It has adapted to allow animals to conquer virtually every habitat on the planet.
The island of Barro Colorado in the Panama Canal is full of mysteries, some involving the wide diversity of wildlife, and some involving the island itself. Every year, hundreds of scientists and students come here to uncover the rainforest's secrets, but this year is very different. The island is running dry and no one knows why. Follow several research teams as they observe, experiment, and conduct research in this pristine habitat, and most pressing of all, try to find out what happened to the rain and when it will come again.
2016 • Nature
Why are vultures bald? Why do some orangutans have big cheeks? And if giraffes have long necks to help them reach the highest leaves, why do they mostly eat low-lying shrubs? Embark on a whirlwind tour around the world as we explore some of nature's most-fascinating evolutionary wonders.
The next instalment describes the move from water to land. The fish that did so may have been forced to because of drought, or chose to in search of food. Either way, they eventually evolved into amphibians. Such creatures needed two things: limbs for mobility and lungs to breathe. The coelacanth is shown as a fish with bony fins that could have developed into legs, and the lungfish is able to absorb gaseous oxygen. However, evidence of an animal that possessed both is presented in the 450 million-year-old fossilised remains of a fish called a eusthenopteron. Three groups of amphibians are explored.
In many of the earth's natural wonders there is an abundance of animals. These can be a devastating threat to the people who live there, or they can provide a means of survival, but often at a high price. In the coastal salt marshes of northern Australia's Arnhem Land, Indigenous Australians still go hunting for the eggs of one of the world's most aggressive predators - the saltwater crocodile. Vanuatu is an island paradise in the south Pacific, but life here isn't perhaps as idyllic as it appears. Overfishing has reduced fish stocks, making food harder to come by for the indigenous islanders like 45-year-old Nigasau.
In the Land of the Cave Bear, Alice ventures to the parts of the northern hemisphere, hit hardest by the cold - Europe and Siberia. High in the mountains of Transylvania, a cave sealed for thousands of years reveals grisly evidence for a fight to the death between two staving giants, a cave bear and a cave lion. Yet Alice discovers that for woolly rhinos and woolly mammoths, the Ice Age created a bounty. The Mammoth Steppe, a vast tract of land which went half way round the world, provided food all year round, for those that liked the cold. It was these mammoths that Europe's most dangerous predators hunted for their survival.
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.