In the northeast corner of Botswana, the rainy season is months away. The sausage tree offers a beguiling oasis for wildlife--from birds and insects, to much larger mammals like elephants--all reeling from the dry conditions. Then, as the rains descend, brilliant red flowers bloom and entice parrots, squirrels, and sunbirds to help with pollination. Summer allows the sausage tree to live up to its name, delivering massive, sausage-shaped fruit, a nutritious feast and a cornerstone of life in this exotic ecosystem.
This episode continues the study of mammals, and particularly those whose young gestate inside their bodies. Attenborough asks why these have become so varied and tries to discover the common theme that links them. Examples of primitive mammals that are still alive today include the treeshrew, the desman and the star-nosed mole. Insect eaters vary enormously from the aardvark, giant anteater and pangolin to those to which much of this programme is devoted: the bats, of which there are nearly 1,000 different species. These took to flying at night, and its possible that they evolved from treeshrews that jumped from tree to tree, in much the same way as a flying squirrel.
Snakes have developed the ultimate economy of design and are the most elegant and iconic of hunters. Among the incredible species seen here are blind tiger snakes that hunt using their sense of smell, magnificent African spitting cobras and a bizarre turtle-headed sea-snake hunting on a coral reef. And, for the first time ever, cameras capture a snake ambush in the wild and the beautiful spectacle of yellow anacondas giving birth underwater.
Located on the Malilangwe Game Reserve in southern Zimbabwe, this 800-year-old baobab is a remarkable tree containing its own ecosystem. Capable of withstanding extreme drought by storing water in its hollow trunk, it draws a multitude of wildlife, from elephants who strip its bark in search of food, to vultures that nest on its branches. Remarkably, it also has another gift: a velvety fruit packed with an astonishing cocktail of nutrients. To witness the baobab is to be awed by the natural forces that produced it.
This instalment examines the earliest land vegetation and insects. The first plants, being devoid of stems, mainly comprised mosses and liverworts. Using both sexual and asexual methods of reproduction, they proliferated. Descended from segmented sea creatures, millipedes were among the first to take advantage of such a habitat and were quickly followed by other species. Without water to carry eggs, bodily contact between the sexes was now necessary. This was problematical for some hunters, such as spiders and scorpions, who developed courtship rituals to ensure that the female didn't eat the male.
The same submarine which successfully captured the world’s first moving images of a giant squid in its natural habitat is used for exploring the deep sea cliffs off the coast of New Guinea. The team encounters true living fossil species one after another. Join this exciting deep sea adventure!