Thanks to a recent remarkable discovery in the BBC's film vaults, the best of David Attenborough's early Zoo Quest adventures can now be seen as never before, in colour, and with it the remarkable story of how this pioneering television series was made. First broadcast in December 1954, Zoo Quest was one of the most popular television series of its time and launched the career of the young David Attenborough as a wildlife presenter. It completely changed how viewers saw the world, revealing wildlife and tribal communities that had never been filmed or even seen before. Broadcast ten years before colour television was seen in the UK, Zoo Quest was thought to have been filmed in black and white, until now. Using this extraordinary new-found colour film, together with new behind-the-scenes stories from David Attenborough and cameraman Charles Lagus, this special showcases the very best of Zoo Quest to West Africa, Zoo Quest to Guiana and Zoo Quest for a Dragon in stunning HD colour for the very first time.
David Attenborough visits archaeological sites where fossils were found illustrating the origins of life on earth, in the ocean. For long, evolution worked very slow and species remained primitive, mostly single-cell, alter fractal. Only the invention of sexual reproduction kick-started genetic diversification.
In this second episode we travel from January to the March equinox. Kate Humble gets closer to the Sun than she has ever been before, whilst Helen Czerski visits a place that gets some of the biggest and fastest snowstorms on Earth.
For 10,000 years or more, humans created new plant varieties for food by trial and error and a touch of serendipity. Then 150 years ago, a new era began. Pioneer botanists unlocked the patterns found in different types of plants and opened the door to a new branch of science - plant genetics. They discovered what controlled the random colours of snapdragon petals and the strange colours found in wild maize. This was vital information. Some botanists even gave their lives to protect their collection of seeds. American wheat farmer Norman Borlaug was awarded the Nobel peace prize after he bred a new strain of wheat that lifted millions of people around the world out of starvation. Today, botanists believe advances in plant genetics hold the key to feeding the world's growing population.
The first episode tells how invertebrates became the first creatures of any kind to colonise dry land. Their forerunners were shelled and segmented sea creatures that existed 400 million years ago. Some of them ventured out of the water to lay their eggs in safety, and Attenborough compares those first steps with today's mass spawning of horseshoe crabs off the Atlantic coast of North America.