India is a vast land of seasonal extremes. Monsoon rains flood the land and make it green but once they are gone, heat and drought builds. It is a challenge for the animals but it also fosters an amazing variety of landscapes filled with diverse life. From semi-aquatic rhinos to desert lions, India's dynamic lands are full of surprises. It also attracts spectacular visitors from afar like the huge flocks of demoiselle cranes.
This episode details the relationship between flowers and insects. There are some one million classified species of insect, and two or three times as many that are yet to be labelled. Around 300 million years ago, plants began to enlist insects to help with their reproduction, and they did so with flowers. Although the magnolia, for instance, contains male and female cells, pollination from another plant is preferable as it ensures greater variation and thus evolution. Flowers advertise themselves by either scent or display. Some evolved to produce sweet-smelling nectar and in turn, several insects developed their mouth parts into feeding tubes in order to reach it.
This programme looks at the evolution of fish. They have developed a multitude of shapes, sizes and methods of propulsion and navigation. The sea squirt, the lancelet and the lamprey are given as examples of the earliest, simplest types. Then, about 400 million years ago, the first back-boned fish appeared. The Kimberley Ranges of Western Australia are, in fact, the remnants of a coral reef and the ancient seabed. There, Attenborough discovers fossils of the earliest fish to have developed jaws. These evolved into two shapes of creature with cartilaginous skeletons: wide ones (like rays and skates) and long ones (like sharks).
In hyena society, the females call the shots--but they're also charged with making difficult decisions. So when drought pushes a spotted hyena clan to the brink of starvation, the matriarch has a call to make: wait in the Liuwa Plains for rain that will bring wildebeest, or set out in search of a nourishing kill?
Venture into the lush confines of the Brazilian Pantanal, host to an assortment of unusual creatures with similarly strange habits. Among these, you'll encounter the piraputanga fish that leaps out of the water to pluck fruit off low-hanging branches and the lowland tapir--the largest land mammal in South America--who can eat up to 100 lbs. of vegetation each day.