Intelligence and adaptability allow primates to tackle the many challenges of life, and this is what makes our closest relatives so successful. This resourcefulness has enabled primates to conquer an incredible diversity of habitat. Hamadryas baboons live on the open plains of Ethiopia in groups up to 400 strong. Strength in numbers gives them some protection from potential predators. But, should their path cross with other baboon troops, it can lead to all-out battle, as males try to steal females from one another, and even settle old scores. Japanese macaques are the most northerly-dwelling primates and they experience completely different challenges. Some beat the freezing conditions by having access to a thermal spa in the middle of winter. But this privilege is only for those born of the right female bloodline. For western lowland gorillas, it's the male silverback that leads his family group in the rich forests of the Congo basin. He advertises his status to all with a powerful chest-beating display. Most primates are forest dwellers, and one of the strangest is the tarsier – the only purely carnivorous primate. As it hunts for insects the tarsier leaps from tree to tree in the dead of night, using its huge forward-facing eyes to safely judge each jump. Good communication is essential for success in primate society.
Category:Nature Duration:59:00 Series: Life
Sagan discusses the story of the Heike crab and artificial selection of crabs resembling samurai warriors, as an opening into a larger discussion of evolution through natural selection (and the pitfalls of intelligent design). Among the topics are the development of life on the Cosmic Calendar and the Cambrian explosion; the function of DNA in growth; genetic replication, repairs, and mutation; the common biochemistry of terrestrial organisms; the creation of the molecules of life in the Miller-Urey experiment; and speculation on alien life (such as life in Jupiter's clouds). In the Cosmos Update ten years later, Sagan remarks on RNA also controlling chemical reactions and reproducing itself and the different roles of comets (potentially carrying organic molecules or causing the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event).
Category:Science Duration:01:00:00 Series: Cosmos
This episode explores how scientists delved ever deeper into the world of the cell, seeking to reveal the magic ingredient that can spark a bundle of chemicals into life. Their discoveries have brought us to the brink of being able to create life for ourselves.
Category:Science Duration:58:00 Series: The Cell
Evolution tells us that all life exists for only one purpose: to reproduce. But is that all there is? How could such a simple imperative lead us to create great art and civilizations? A new theory suggests that instead of passing on genes, our ultimate purpose is to process and pass on information. We are the universe figuring itself out. Scientists dig deep into DNA, chemistry, technology and engineering to find the meaning of life. One thing is certain: living is easier if you find a reason for living.
Category:Science Duration:45:00 Series: Through the Wormhole Season 6
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