Helen Macdonald traces the dramatic journey of Britain's greatest river, the Tay, over an entire year. Mixing natural history, cutting-edge science and historical biography with a spectacular travelogue, the film is a celebration of our largest river as it transforms from melting Highland snow to a vast torrent flowing into the cold North Sea.
This programme focuses on birds. The feather is key to everything that is crucial about a bird: it is both its aerofoil and its insulator. The earliest feathers were found on a fossilised Archaeopteryx skeleton in Bavaria. However, it had claws on its wings and there is only one species alive today that does so: the hoatzin, whose chicks possess them for about a week or so. Nevertheless, it serves to illustrate the probable movement of its ancestor. It may have taken to the trees to avoid predators, and over time, its bony, reptilian tail was replaced by feathers and its heavy jaw evolved into a keratin beak.
Life in the sea rebounded with a vengeance in the Devonian. Dozens of monstrous predators emerged, like the 40-foot long Dunkleosteus. Nearly everything was wiped out in Earth’s second mass extinction. But the stage was set for an explosion of life on land.
Oxygen – we all need it, we can't live without it. It's integral to life on this planet. And it's probable that, as you watch this film, you will be breathing in an oxygen atom that was also breathed by Genghis Khan – or by the first ever apes to stand upright on the plains of Africa. The oxygen that we breathe is made from two oxygen atoms joined together – O2. They were first joined more than 3 billion years ago by the earliest blue-green algae to evolve. The oxygen molecule first came from bacteria and was present in the fires that destroyed the dinosaurs and the chemical reactions in all human cells, and as ozone they protect the earth from radiation. Since then, both together and apart, they've had the most extraordinary adventures. Each of the two atoms in an oxygen molecule is virtually indestructible – so they have been first-hand players in some of the most dramatic events in the whole of Earth's history. It's often said that we are breathing the same oxygen that the cavemen did. The life of a single molecule of oxygen is traced on it's astonishing journey spanning millions of years, from its creation, into photosynthesis, through the age of the dinosaurs, early man, and on into today.
2008 • Nature
Coral reefs are home to a quarter of all marine species. Survival in these undersea mega-cities is a challenge with many different solutions. A turtle heads to the reef's equivalent of a health spa - but she must use trickery to avoid the queue. A remarkable Grouper uses the fish equivalent of sign language to collaborate with an octopus, flushing their prey out of hiding holes. A metre-long, ferocious-jawed Bobbit Worm hides in its tunnel. Monocle Bream retaliate by squirting water to expose its sandy lair.