You find fungi in Antarctica and in nuclear reactors. They live inside your lungs and your skin is covered with them. Fungi are the most under appreciated and unexplained organisms, yet they could cure you from smallpox and turn cardboard boxes into forests. They could even transform Mars into Eden. There are vastly more fungi species than plants and each and every one of them plays a crucial role in life’s support systems. Join us on a journey into the mysterious world of Fungi to witness their beauty, unravel their mysteries and discover how this secret kingdom is essential to life on Earth, and may in fact hold the key to our future.
There is no greater test for life than winter, as temperatures plummet to 70 below and winds reach 200kph. Darkness and ice extend across the polar regions and only a few remarkable survivors gamble on remaining. We join a female polar bear trekking into the Arctic mountains to give birth as the first blizzards arrive. Out on the frozen ocean, the entire world's population of spectacled eider ducks brave the winter in a giant ice hole kept open by ferocious currents. Arctic forests transform into a wonderland of frost and snow - the scene of a desperate and bloody battle between wolf and bison, but also where a remarkable alliance between raven and wolverine is made. Beneath the snow lies a magical world of winter survivors. Here tiny voles dodge the clutches of the great grey owl, but cannot escape the ultimate under-show predator - the least weasel. Midwinter and a male polar bear wanders alone across the dark, empty icescape. Below the snow, polar bear cubs begin life in an icy den while fantastical auroras light the night skies above. In Antarctica, we join male emperor penguins in their darkest hour, battling to protect precious eggs from fierce polar storms. Weddell seals escape to a hidden world of jewel-coloured corals and alien-looking creatures but frozen devastation follows as sinister ice stalactites reach down with deadly effect.
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.
In the thick of the jungle of Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park, an infant mountain gorilla has been caught in a snare. If the rope is not removed quickly enough, the young gorilla could lose its hand. In order to remove the snare, a team of veterinarians will first need to sedate the infant's mother. But if the infant screams too much, the three 400-pound adult males that form part of this gorilla group will all attack. Everything must go perfectly, or there's no telling what could happen. And being jungle medicine, things rarely go perfectly. The pioneering group of vets performing this medical intervention is known as Gorilla Doctors. Led by Canadian Mike Cranfield, they work in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, where the world's last Mountain Gorillas can be found.
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.