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The Spark of Life

       Science
The final part reveals how our knowledge of cells has brought us to the brink of one of the most important moments in history. Scientists are close to repeating what has happened only once in four billion years - the creation of a new life form.
Series: The Cell

Dragons of the Dry

   2008    Nature
About 340 million years ago a brand new family of animals was evolving in the primeval swamps. They were to go one step further than the amphibians who had emerged onto dry and before them. For they would eventually completely cut their ties with water. They were the ancestors of todays lizards. They evolved scaly impermeable skins and moved up into the forests. They diversified into a multitude of different shapes and sizes. They developed signalling systems to communicate with one another. And they squabbled as animals do. For food they hunted insects that were already well established on the land in great numbers. And here without returning to water they produced their families. They powered their bodies not only with food but with the heat that they drew directly from the sun.
As they diversified so they spread into the harshest of the lands habitats. The baking waterless deserts which eventually they would come to dominate. Discover jacky lizards that wave, wrestling beaded lizards and the the world's smallest chameleon, which is no bigger than his thumbnail, and the biggest lizard in Australia.
Series: Life In Cold Blood

Insect Hunters

   2002    Nature
Mammals from tiny shrews, giant anteaters, armoured armadillo to bats have specialised in eating insects. Some have evolved into complex and effective hunters, even pursued their prey into the skies
Series: The Life of Mammals

The Mastery of Flight

   1998    Nature
The second programme deals with the mechanics of flight. Getting into the air is by far the most exhausting of a bird's activities, and Sir Attenborough observes shearwaters in Japan that have taken to climbing trees to give them a good jumping-off point. The albatross is so large that it can only launch itself after a run-up to create a flow of air over its wings. A combination of aerodynamics and upward air currents (or thermals), together with the act of flapping or gliding is what keeps a bird aloft. Landing requires less energy but a greater degree of skill, particularly for a big bird, such as a swan. Weight is kept to a minimum by having a beak made of keratin instead of bone, a light frame, and a coat of feathers, which is maintained fastidiously. The peregrine falcon holds the record for being fastest in the air, diving at speeds of over 300 km/h. Conversely, the barn owl owes its predatory success to flying slowly, while the kestrel spots its quarry by hovering. However, the true specialists in this regard are the hummingbirds, whose wings beat at the rate of 25 times a second. The habits of migratory birds are explored. After stocking up with food during the brief summer of the north, such species will set off on huge journeys southwards. Some, such as snow geese, travel continuously, using both the stars and the sun for navigation. They are contrasted with hawks and vultures, which glide overland on warm air, and therefore have to stop overnight.
Series: The Life of Birds

The Insatiable Appetite

   1998    Nature
The next instalment focuses on dietary needs and how different species have evolved beaks to suit their individual requirements. The latter come in a multitude of forms. Blue tits and goldfinches have beaks akin to tweezers, with which to extract seeds, while the hawfinch's razor-like bill can deal with a cherry-stone. However, the crossbill is the only finch that can twist its mandibles in opposite directions. Jays store acorns for winter by burying them in the ground, whereas woodpeckers can keep up to 60,000 of them in one tree trunk. Sap is also desirable, and there are a variety of methods used to obtain it. The hoatzin is the only specialised leaf-eater, and accordingly has a digestive system more akin to that of cattle. Plants recruit birds to aid pollination, and offer nectar as a reward. Hummingbirds eat little else, and the sword-bill's beak is the longest of any bird in relation to its body. Insects are also highly prized, and Galapagos finches are shown to possess some ingenuity as they not only strip bark, but also use 'tools' to reach their prey. Crows are hailed as being among the most intelligent birds, and one is shown using a twig to spear a grub within a fallen log. The robin is an opportunist, and Sir Attenborough observes one seizing morsels as he digs a patch of earth. In South America, a cattle tyrant sits atop an obliging capybara and uses its vantage point to spot passing food that may be dislodged by its grazing partner.
Series: The Life of Birds
Zeitgeist
Zeitgeist

   2007    Culture
Love On The Spectrum
Love On The Spectrum

   2019    Culture
Natural World
Natural World

   2017    Nature
Motivation
Motivation

   2017    Culture
Rome Second Season
Rome Second Season

      History
The Toys that Made Us
The Toys that Made Us

   2017    Technology
Turkey with Simon Reeve
Turkey with Simon Reeve

   2017    Culture
Follow This
Follow This

   2018    Medicine