In this episode, Chris reveals how the world's most spectacular grasslands flourish, despite being short of one essential nutrient - nitrogen. As it turns out, the secret lies with the animals. There are the white rhinos of Kenya that create nitrogen hotspots by trimming and fertilising the grass. They are drawn to these particular points by communal toilets or 'fecal facebooks', where they meet and greet each other. In the whistling acacia grasslands of Kenya, Chris reveals the amazing relationships between termites, geckos, ants, monkeys and giraffes that make these places so rich in wildlife
2012 • Nature
There are 200 million insects for each of us. They are the most successful animal group ever. Their key is an armoured covering that takes on almost any shape. Darwin's stag beetle fights in the tree tops with huge curved jaws. The camera flies with millions of monarch butterflies which migrate 2000 miles, navigating by the sun. Super slow motion shows a bombardier beetle firing boiling liquid at enemies through a rotating nozzle. A honey bee army stings a raiding bear into submission. Grass cutter ants march like a Roman army, harvesting grass they cannot actually eat. They cultivate a fungus that breaks the grass down for them. Their giant colony is the closest thing in nature to the complexity of a human city.
The Taiga forest, on the edge of the Arctic, is a silent world of stunted conifers. The trees may be small but filming from the air reveals its true scale. A third of all trees on Earth grow here and during the short summer they produce enough oxygen to change the atmosphere.
After the Permian period, the epic saga of evolution and extinction on Earth produced the world's first dinosaurs, plesiosaurs and pterosaurs. They dominated land, sea and air until another period of extreme volcanism generated vast waves of lava and toxic gas and killed roughly 75% of all species.
Professor Richard Fortey investigates the remains of ancient volcanic lake in Germany where stunningly well-preserved fossils of early mammals, giant insects and even perhaps our oldest known ancestor have been found. Among the amazing finds are bats as advanced and sophisticated as anything living today, more than 50-million-years-later; dog-sized 'Dawn' horses, the ancestor of the modern horse; and giant ants as large as a hummingbird.