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.
This episode examines how plants either share environments harmoniously or compete for dominance within them. It looks at the ways in which plants have to fight to survive, using any means available, be it excessive growth, capitalizing on disaster or even courting.
For the animals in the polar regions, autumn means dramatic battles and epic journeys. Time is running out - the Arctic Ocean is freezing over and the sea ice is advancing at 2.5 miles per day around Antarctica. Polar bears gather in large numbers on the Arctic coast as they wait for the return of the ice. Soon, tempers fray and violent sparring contests break out. Meanwhile 2,000 beluga whales head for one special estuary, a gigantic 'whale spa' where they will thrash their snow-white bodies against the gravel and exfoliate. Inland, the tundra undergoes a dramatic transformation from green to fiery red. Here, musk ox males slam head-first into each other with the force of a 30mph car crash as they struggle to defend their harems. Frisky young caribou males play a game of 'grandma's footsteps' as they try to steal the boss's female. Down in Antarctica, Adelie penguin chicks huddle together in creches. When a parent returns from fishing, it leads its twins on a comical steeplechase - sadly there's only enough for one, so the winner gets the meal. Two months later and the chicks are fully feathered apart from downy Mohican hairdos - they're ready to take their first swim - reluctantly though, as it seems penguins are not born with a love of water! And with good reason - a leopard seal explodes from the sea and pulls one from an ice floe, a hunting manoeuvre that has never been filmed before. As winter approaches and everyone has left, the giant emperor penguin arrives and makes an epic trek inland to breed. The mothers soon return to the sea leaving the fathers to hold the eggs and endure the coldest winter on earth.
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).
Professor Brian Cox follows Earth's epic journey through space. He takes to the air in a top-secret fighter jet to race the spin of the planet and reverse the passage of the day. In Brazil, a monstrous wave that surges up the Amazon River provides an epic ride of a different kind - chased by a top surfer through the rainforest, this tidal wave marks Earth's constant dance with the Moon. Greenland experiences some of the biggest swings in seasons in the world, but despite the deep freeze, the harsh winter brings opportunity to the Inuit people who live there. All this spectacle here on Earth signals that we are thundering through the universe at breakneck speed. Brian explains why we can't feel it and how understanding motion brings us to understanding the nature of space and time itself, leading to the astonishing conclusion that the past, present and future all exist right now.