BBC | David Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities

A five part series in which Sir David Attenborough shines the spotlight on some of nature’s evolutionary anomalies and how these curious animals continue to baffle and fascinate. Attenborough turns away from the kind of widescreen wildlife that often sweeps across our screens and adopts a more zoomed-in approach. As you’d expect, it’s exemplary broadcasting. What the series lacks in lush landscapes and beauty shots, it more than makes up for with extraordinary stats. It’s the best kind of educational television.

Part 1: Stretched to the Limit
David explores nature’s evolutionary anomalies and examines two creatures whose stretched features have given them an edge in the natural world. The chameleon has an extra-long tongue that helps it catch prey and the giraffe’s neck is so long it is easily able to reach the tops of trees for food.

Part 2: A Curious Hoax
David Attenborough highlights the curiosities that have led to accusations of forgery, but have ultimately helped assist the rethinking of evolution. When early explorers brought the first specimen of a duck-billed platypus to England in 1799, it was considered so bizarre it was deemed a hoax. Similarly, the midwife toad became the centre of a scientific storm in the 1920s that led to accusations of fakery.

Part 3: Young Wrinklies
David Attenborough encounters two species with wrinkly skin, where nature has tinkered with the aging process to different effect. The mole rat retains its looks while growing old and the elephant looks old from birth. Both creatures live relatively long lives.

Part 4: A Curious Twist
The single spiral tusk of the narwhal inspiration for tales of unicorns and the myriad variations on the twist of the snail shell have delighted and fascinated naturalists and artists since the dawn of civilization

Part 5: Seeing the Pattern
Zebra stripes vary subtly between the different species but there is one group of animals that has evolved colourful patterns of seemingly infinite variety, the butterflies. In this episode David looks at two examples of animal patterns that have bedazzled and baffled science for a long time, and uses modern tools to unlock their secrets.

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