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Life of Mammals Previous Broadcasts

Life in the Trees (Episode #108Z)

KQED Plus: Thu, Jan 31, 2013 -- 8:50 PM

An emergent tree in a tropical forest can grow to over forty metres high. The first branch may be twenty metres from the ground. A slip from this height would almost certainly be fatal. To make matters worse, branches may break without warning, or the tree may blow over. But, though life may seem precarious here, for those mammals which have made this three dimensional world their home the rewards are great; trees provide food, security from ground living predators and a refuge from the elements.
To reap these benefits, however, some very specialised adaptations are needed. Rock hyrax are not your typical tree dweller. They look more like ground hugging guinea pigs than accomplished climbers but, surprisingly, they are well adapted to walking around the low level branches of the acacia trees on which they feed. The soles of their feet are moist and rubbery creating a slight suction which allows the hyrax to almost stick to the branches.
But this adaptation would not be sufficient to negotiate much taller trees - for that, tree dwelling mammals have evolved other more unique adaptations. Clearly a good grip is a basic requirement for moving around at height - sloths and slender lorises may have very different looking mechanisms for gripping (claws on one, fingers and thumbs on the other) but both can grip tightly with all four limbs. If, however, you require both your hands for feeding, like the tamandua, another adaptation is necessary - a prehensile tail. This gripping tail allows the termite eating tamandua to hang on while keeping its front limbs free for breaking into the hard mounds of its prey.
Some tree dwelling mammals spend little time actually hanging on to branches. A grey squirrel's agility is legendary - their light body, balancing tail and sharp claws allows them to move around the tree tops at an astonishing speed. But evolution hasn't stopped there. Flying squirrels don't just leap they glide - as much as 90 metres. Fruit bats, or flying foxes let go of the trees all together. They, along with their insectivorous cousins, are the only group of mammals to have developed true flight. For the flying foxes, this ability has enabled them to travel large distances looking for fruiting trees.
Across the globe, mammals have evolved to exploit every conceivable type of forest. In one special place - the island of Madagascar - an ancestral tree dweller diversified into an astonishing range of species. Lemurs have now filled almost every niche - the sifaka is perhaps the most spectacular, leaping as much as fifteen metres between branches. But the lemurs don't have the trees all to themselves. Living alongside them is the predatory fossa - a sort of giant mongoose - which can match any lemur for agility.

Return to the Water (Episode #107Z)

KQED Plus: Thu, Jan 31, 2013 -- 8:00 PM

As the first signs of life left its watery environment to colonize dry land the race was on in the search for food. After millions of years the increasing competition to survive made some mammals take one of the greatest steps in evolution - they returned to the water. Retaining the fur of their shore bound ancestors' mammals like voles, otters and seals still return to land to breed but yet have the ability to swim to great depths in their search for food. Still breathing air and giving birth to live young, dolphins and whales became the new hunters of the world's oceans. With complex communication, perfect streamlining and great underwater speed these mammals have mastered all the problems that had to be solved to survive in this harsh alien world.

Insect Hunters (Episode #102Z)

KQED Plus: Sun, Jan 27, 2013 -- 8:00 PM

When mammals first appeared, insects were abundant on earth, and mammals made meals of them. Crucially, they were the first creatures able to make and regulate their own body heat, so they could hunt insects in the cool of the night, when most of the predatory dinosaurs were asleep. The modern musk shrew gives us an insight into how these first mammals might have lived. After the dinosaurs so suddenly disappeared, the mammals were free to conquer new territories. We meet shrews that dive under water, moles that swim in sand, and extraordinary creatures that gather their prey by running at speed down trail systems above and below ground.
It's hard to sustain a large body by catching insects one by one but about 50 million years ago, some of them broadened their diet. The hedgehogs and armadillos mix their insects with fruit and birds eggs. Halfway through the history of the mammals, insects started to build huge nests, protected with walls of baked mud - these were impenetrable to any creature of the time. But with pangolins and giant anteaters, the mammals rose to the challenge. These spectacular animals survive entirely on a diet of social ants and termites - they have the biggest claws of any mammals, long tongues and the ability to protect themselves against angry insects and large predators. But many of the insects could fly and were out of reach for ground dwelling mammals.
But way back in mammalian history - probably when the dinosaurs still roamed - one mammal took to the air. Today, the earth holds a bewildering array of insect eating bats. We even meet one - the Natterers bat - that can take spiders from their webs without becoming tangled in the silk. And another, in New Zealand, that has retraced its origins and returned to the ground to forage like a shrew. The insect eating mammals were there at the very beginning of the mammals and are still thriving today, they are one of the great success stories in The Life of Mammals.

Repeat Broadcasts:

  • KQED Plus: Mon, Jan 28, 2013 -- 2:00 AM

Opportunists (Episode #106Z)

KQED Plus: Fri, Jan 25, 2013 -- 2:50 AM

When it comes to food most mammals are specialists - some eat nothing but termites, some just seeds, others eat only flesh, and one species, the giant panda, relies almost exclusively on bamboo. But, there is an alternative strategy for feeding. Instead of being a specialist you can be a generalist - an omnivore - able to eat such a variety of food that you can always make the most of whatever seems to be around at the time. It's the recipe for a successful story, and amongst this diverse group of animals are some of the most charismatic and widespread mammals on the planet.
This strategy does, however, require many specialist skills. Omnivores, for example, need to be inquisitive, like the raccoon which, with its highly sensitive hands, searches for food both on land and underwater. They need to have a strong sense of smell, like the bizarre looking babirusa pig, which can easily detect the scent of ripe fruit wafting gently through dense tropical vegetation. They need to be opportunists, like skunks in Texas which, for a few weeks a year, feast on baby bats that fall to the ground from cave walls. But, above all omnivores need to be adaptable - whether hibernating through periods of food scarcity, like the raccoon dog, or just making the most of whatever food happens to most plentiful at the time, like the grizzly bear which, at certain times of the year, can consume a staggering 30,000 calories a day (that's ten times more than an adult man!).
Many of the world's most specialist mammals are now under increasing threat from human expansion into their habitats. These animals simply cannot adapt quickly enough to change. Not so the omnivores. Raccoons, raccoon dogs, foxes, pigs, rats and even bears have all found refuge in cities and towns across the globe. Their success in our world is a testament to their adaptability and very unfussy diet. Indeed, it's a strategy that has worked exceedingly well for the most successful mammal of all - humans.

Meat Eaters (Episode #105Z)

KQED Plus: Fri, Jan 25, 2013 -- 2:00 AM

From the very first time mammals walked on the planet there has been both hunter and hunted. The pressure to evolve speed, endurance and maneuverability has helped them to outwit each other and occupy their very own niche. For the first mammalian hunters that came down from the trees their small size and agility proved to be a winner, but as they ventured further a field they needed to change to stay as the top hunters.
In the frozen north the artic fox needs to hunt during warmer times and cache this food to survive the winter. In southern climates leopards and tigers have become solitary hunters relying on stealth and surprise to catch their next meal, coming together only to mate. Others around the globe like wolves and lions work in teams and family groups so they can tackle larger prey and better protect their young. But their efficiency as hunters makes it essential that their family life is held together and tightly controlled. With all hunters the aggression of the kill means the difference between life and death.

Opportunists (Episode #106Z)

KQED Plus: Thu, Jan 24, 2013 -- 8:50 PM

When it comes to food most mammals are specialists - some eat nothing but termites, some just seeds, others eat only flesh, and one species, the giant panda, relies almost exclusively on bamboo. But, there is an alternative strategy for feeding. Instead of being a specialist you can be a generalist - an omnivore - able to eat such a variety of food that you can always make the most of whatever seems to be around at the time. It's the recipe for a successful story, and amongst this diverse group of animals are some of the most charismatic and widespread mammals on the planet.
This strategy does, however, require many specialist skills. Omnivores, for example, need to be inquisitive, like the raccoon which, with its highly sensitive hands, searches for food both on land and underwater. They need to have a strong sense of smell, like the bizarre looking babirusa pig, which can easily detect the scent of ripe fruit wafting gently through dense tropical vegetation. They need to be opportunists, like skunks in Texas which, for a few weeks a year, feast on baby bats that fall to the ground from cave walls. But, above all omnivores need to be adaptable - whether hibernating through periods of food scarcity, like the raccoon dog, or just making the most of whatever food happens to most plentiful at the time, like the grizzly bear which, at certain times of the year, can consume a staggering 30,000 calories a day (that's ten times more than an adult man!).
Many of the world's most specialist mammals are now under increasing threat from human expansion into their habitats. These animals simply cannot adapt quickly enough to change. Not so the omnivores. Raccoons, raccoon dogs, foxes, pigs, rats and even bears have all found refuge in cities and towns across the globe. Their success in our world is a testament to their adaptability and very unfussy diet. Indeed, it's a strategy that has worked exceedingly well for the most successful mammal of all - humans.

Meat Eaters (Episode #105Z)

KQED Plus: Thu, Jan 24, 2013 -- 8:00 PM

From the very first time mammals walked on the planet there has been both hunter and hunted. The pressure to evolve speed, endurance and maneuverability has helped them to outwit each other and occupy their very own niche. For the first mammalian hunters that came down from the trees their small size and agility proved to be a winner, but as they ventured further a field they needed to change to stay as the top hunters.
In the frozen north the artic fox needs to hunt during warmer times and cache this food to survive the winter. In southern climates leopards and tigers have become solitary hunters relying on stealth and surprise to catch their next meal, coming together only to mate. Others around the globe like wolves and lions work in teams and family groups so they can tackle larger prey and better protect their young. But their efficiency as hunters makes it essential that their family life is held together and tightly controlled. With all hunters the aggression of the kill means the difference between life and death.

A Winning Design (Episode #101Z)

KQED Plus: Sun, Jan 20, 2013 -- 8:00 PM

David Attenborough makes a world-wide journey of discovery in search of fascinating mammals to illustrate why they are so incredibly successful and diverse. Watching an arctic fox hunting at 20 degrees below, he observes... 'The only reason that it and I don't freeze solid up here is that we are both mammals and have the ability to use our food to heat our bodies - we're warm blooded. The fox also has more of that other mammalian characteristic, hair - its body is insulated by fur'.
In Australia David watches echidnas and platypus, bizarre mammals that share a remarkable link with the reptiles... they still lay eggs! No one had ever seen what happens inside a platypus' breeding burrow before but using the latest optical probe, David catches the astonishing sight of a newly hatched platypus baby with its mother - and it's feeding on that other uniquely mammalian substance - milk.
Most of Australia's mammals give birth to tiny, under-developed babies, which crawl into the safety of a pouch and attach to a rich supply of milk to complete their growth. These are the marsupials and they thrive in an amazing variety of forms, from koalas in the trees and wombats in the snow, to red kangaroos in the desert and rock wallabies on the cliffs. Grey kangaroos might be renowned for their hopping speed but big males are also the kick-boxing champions of the animal world!
Marsupials are also found in Central and South America - mostly possums living up in the trees - although one, the yapok, is uniquely adapted to a watery lifestyle. Rarely observed in their natural environment, our infra-red cameras record how these strange mammals catch fish in the pitch dark, using only their front paws and whiskers to feel for their prey. And when a mother yapok dives underwater, her baby is saved from drowning by a waterproof pouch!
A different kind of mammal, to which we ourselves belong, has come to dominate the rest of the world. Their babies, developing inside the womb, are nurtured through a remarkable organ - the placenta. Giving birth to well-grown babies might be harder on their mothers but does mean that the youngsters are able to look after themselves much sooner - such as running from predators!
As David Attenborough concludes, "Whether mammals lay eggs, or give birth to live young. Whether their babies develop in a womb or a pouch, they have managed to live almost everywhere. The warm blooded, furry, mammalian body - in all its multitudinous variations - really is a winning design".

Repeat Broadcasts:

  • KQED Plus: Mon, Jan 21, 2013 -- 2:00 AM

Chisellers (Episode #104Z)

KQED Plus: Fri, Jan 18, 2013 -- 2:50 AM

Plants usually protect the goodness inside their seeds with very hard outer cases - as David Attenborough testifies after he has tried and failed to crack open a tropical nut by bashing it with a rock. 'Believe it or not,' he proclaims, 'there are mammals here in Panama which can break into these nuts with their bare teeth!'
They are agoutis, terrier-sized rodents, which chisel through the rock hard shells with their remarkable front teeth, as if it was butter. The reward is a protein-rich kernel, and all rodents from the tiniest harvest mice to the mighty beaver, have these special, constantly growing inscisor teeth, with chisel sharp enamel on their front edges, in order to get at food of this kind.
Many rodents, like squirrels, carry away excess nuts one by one to bury them for eating later on. But the seeds of plants in the Mojave desert are so tiny, that kangaroo rats use special cheek pouches, like shopping bags, to carry enough seeds back to their burrows. The Gambian pouched-rat has the largest pouches of all, so that when they're stuffed full of date palm nuts the rats can hardly squeeze through the entrance to their burrows!
Some rodents use their special front teeth to chop off vegetation or chew bark instead. Canoeing in Wyoming, David Attenborough watches beavers fell massive trees with their front teeth and then build dams to rival anything that humans can achieve. In the deep cold-water ponds that are created, the beavers store branches and leaves underwater, so that even when its iced over they have a store of fresh food to take to the safety of their lodge throughout the winter. Naked mole rats stay underground all their lives finding roots and tubers by tunnelling hundreds of metres from their breeding chambers.
Rodents are renowned for being prolific breeders and sometimes, in Australia, mice cause such plagues that the farms and are literally overrun by carpets of running mice! The largest rodents in the world, capybara, also occur in huge numbers on the swampy grasslands of South America. Grazing in great herds, they look remarkably reminiscent of the antelopes to be seen on the grassy plains of Africa, in the next programme.

Plant Predators (Episode #103Z)

KQED Plus: Fri, Jan 18, 2013 -- 2:00 AM

Some of the biggest predators to walk the earth face a constant battle - their prey is heavily armoured, often indigestible, sometimes even poisonous, and what makes this struggle between predator and prey the more remarkable is that these predators do not prey on animals, but on plants... Although we live on a green planet, eating plants presents one of the greatest challenges to mammals, shaping them and their lives in the most extraordinary ways.
The sloth is 'half blind, half deaf' and moves at a snail's pace - an extreme example of what can happen to you if you live on nothing but leaves! Plants arm themselves with deadly weapons, from razor sharp spines to deadly poisons, but plant predators are not deterred. The elusive tapir of the South American jungle visits secret clay licks in search of a natural antidote to the poisons. The pika, or rubble rabbit of the Canadian Rockies has found a way to make poisons work to its advantage, exploiting them as a natural preservative.
But sometimes the problem is not what's in your food, but what is not - we bugged the caves of Mount Elgon to reveal startling images of underground elephants mining for salts deficient in their green diet. Even the great wildebeest migration is now understood to be driven by the need for minerals... The next great battle that plant predators face takes place on the open plains - behind every plant-eater lurks a meat-eater.
For once we see the hunt from the plant predators' point of view; wrap-around vision, ears that rotate 360 degrees and elongated limbs make it harder for them to be caught than most wildlife films would make you think... Plant predators are equipped with dangerous weapons used in the greatest battle of all - with each other. We witness the drama of the annual bison rut in the Badlands of North America, discover the secret of the battering rams of the big-horned sheep of Canada, and analyse the fighting technique of horned animals as they ram, wrestle and stab their opponents. Amazing to think that all these extraordinary behaviours stem from the apparently simple act of eating leaves...

Chisellers (Episode #104Z)

KQED Plus: Thu, Jan 17, 2013 -- 8:50 PM

Plants usually protect the goodness inside their seeds with very hard outer cases - as David Attenborough testifies after he has tried and failed to crack open a tropical nut by bashing it with a rock. 'Believe it or not,' he proclaims, 'there are mammals here in Panama which can break into these nuts with their bare teeth!'
They are agoutis, terrier-sized rodents, which chisel through the rock hard shells with their remarkable front teeth, as if it was butter. The reward is a protein-rich kernel, and all rodents from the tiniest harvest mice to the mighty beaver, have these special, constantly growing inscisor teeth, with chisel sharp enamel on their front edges, in order to get at food of this kind.
Many rodents, like squirrels, carry away excess nuts one by one to bury them for eating later on. But the seeds of plants in the Mojave desert are so tiny, that kangaroo rats use special cheek pouches, like shopping bags, to carry enough seeds back to their burrows. The Gambian pouched-rat has the largest pouches of all, so that when they're stuffed full of date palm nuts the rats can hardly squeeze through the entrance to their burrows!
Some rodents use their special front teeth to chop off vegetation or chew bark instead. Canoeing in Wyoming, David Attenborough watches beavers fell massive trees with their front teeth and then build dams to rival anything that humans can achieve. In the deep cold-water ponds that are created, the beavers store branches and leaves underwater, so that even when its iced over they have a store of fresh food to take to the safety of their lodge throughout the winter. Naked mole rats stay underground all their lives finding roots and tubers by tunnelling hundreds of metres from their breeding chambers.
Rodents are renowned for being prolific breeders and sometimes, in Australia, mice cause such plagues that the farms and are literally overrun by carpets of running mice! The largest rodents in the world, capybara, also occur in huge numbers on the swampy grasslands of South America. Grazing in great herds, they look remarkably reminiscent of the antelopes to be seen on the grassy plains of Africa, in the next programme.

Plant Predators (Episode #103Z)

KQED Plus: Thu, Jan 17, 2013 -- 8:00 PM

Some of the biggest predators to walk the earth face a constant battle - their prey is heavily armoured, often indigestible, sometimes even poisonous, and what makes this struggle between predator and prey the more remarkable is that these predators do not prey on animals, but on plants... Although we live on a green planet, eating plants presents one of the greatest challenges to mammals, shaping them and their lives in the most extraordinary ways.
The sloth is 'half blind, half deaf' and moves at a snail's pace - an extreme example of what can happen to you if you live on nothing but leaves! Plants arm themselves with deadly weapons, from razor sharp spines to deadly poisons, but plant predators are not deterred. The elusive tapir of the South American jungle visits secret clay licks in search of a natural antidote to the poisons. The pika, or rubble rabbit of the Canadian Rockies has found a way to make poisons work to its advantage, exploiting them as a natural preservative.
But sometimes the problem is not what's in your food, but what is not - we bugged the caves of Mount Elgon to reveal startling images of underground elephants mining for salts deficient in their green diet. Even the great wildebeest migration is now understood to be driven by the need for minerals... The next great battle that plant predators face takes place on the open plains - behind every plant-eater lurks a meat-eater.
For once we see the hunt from the plant predators' point of view; wrap-around vision, ears that rotate 360 degrees and elongated limbs make it harder for them to be caught than most wildlife films would make you think... Plant predators are equipped with dangerous weapons used in the greatest battle of all - with each other. We witness the drama of the annual bison rut in the Badlands of North America, discover the secret of the battering rams of the big-horned sheep of Canada, and analyse the fighting technique of horned animals as they ram, wrestle and stab their opponents. Amazing to think that all these extraordinary behaviours stem from the apparently simple act of eating leaves...

Insect Hunters (Episode #102Z)

KQED Plus: Fri, Jan 11, 2013 -- 2:50 AM

When mammals first appeared, insects were abundant on earth, and mammals made meals of them. Crucially, they were the first creatures able to make and regulate their own body heat, so they could hunt insects in the cool of the night, when most of the predatory dinosaurs were asleep. The modern musk shrew gives us an insight into how these first mammals might have lived. After the dinosaurs so suddenly disappeared, the mammals were free to conquer new territories. We meet shrews that dive under water, moles that swim in sand, and extraordinary creatures that gather their prey by running at speed down trail systems above and below ground.
It's hard to sustain a large body by catching insects one by one but about 50 million years ago, some of them broadened their diet. The hedgehogs and armadillos mix their insects with fruit and birds eggs. Halfway through the history of the mammals, insects started to build huge nests, protected with walls of baked mud - these were impenetrable to any creature of the time. But with pangolins and giant anteaters, the mammals rose to the challenge. These spectacular animals survive entirely on a diet of social ants and termites - they have the biggest claws of any mammals, long tongues and the ability to protect themselves against angry insects and large predators. But many of the insects could fly and were out of reach for ground dwelling mammals.
But way back in mammalian history - probably when the dinosaurs still roamed - one mammal took to the air. Today, the earth holds a bewildering array of insect eating bats. We even meet one - the Natterers bat - that can take spiders from their webs without becoming tangled in the silk. And another, in New Zealand, that has retraced its origins and returned to the ground to forage like a shrew. The insect eating mammals were there at the very beginning of the mammals and are still thriving today, they are one of the great success stories in The Life of Mammals.

Repeat Broadcasts:

  • KQED Plus: Mon, Jan 28, 2013 -- 2:00 AM

A Winning Design (Episode #101Z)

KQED Plus: Fri, Jan 11, 2013 -- 2:00 AM

David Attenborough makes a world-wide journey of discovery in search of fascinating mammals to illustrate why they are so incredibly successful and diverse. Watching an arctic fox hunting at 20 degrees below, he observes... 'The only reason that it and I don't freeze solid up here is that we are both mammals and have the ability to use our food to heat our bodies - we're warm blooded. The fox also has more of that other mammalian characteristic, hair - its body is insulated by fur'.
In Australia David watches echidnas and platypus, bizarre mammals that share a remarkable link with the reptiles... they still lay eggs! No one had ever seen what happens inside a platypus' breeding burrow before but using the latest optical probe, David catches the astonishing sight of a newly hatched platypus baby with its mother - and it's feeding on that other uniquely mammalian substance - milk.
Most of Australia's mammals give birth to tiny, under-developed babies, which crawl into the safety of a pouch and attach to a rich supply of milk to complete their growth. These are the marsupials and they thrive in an amazing variety of forms, from koalas in the trees and wombats in the snow, to red kangaroos in the desert and rock wallabies on the cliffs. Grey kangaroos might be renowned for their hopping speed but big males are also the kick-boxing champions of the animal world!
Marsupials are also found in Central and South America - mostly possums living up in the trees - although one, the yapok, is uniquely adapted to a watery lifestyle. Rarely observed in their natural environment, our infra-red cameras record how these strange mammals catch fish in the pitch dark, using only their front paws and whiskers to feel for their prey. And when a mother yapok dives underwater, her baby is saved from drowning by a waterproof pouch!
A different kind of mammal, to which we ourselves belong, has come to dominate the rest of the world. Their babies, developing inside the womb, are nurtured through a remarkable organ - the placenta. Giving birth to well-grown babies might be harder on their mothers but does mean that the youngsters are able to look after themselves much sooner - such as running from predators!
As David Attenborough concludes, "Whether mammals lay eggs, or give birth to live young. Whether their babies develop in a womb or a pouch, they have managed to live almost everywhere. The warm blooded, furry, mammalian body - in all its multitudinous variations - really is a winning design".

Repeat Broadcasts:

  • KQED Plus: Mon, Jan 21, 2013 -- 2:00 AM

Insect Hunters (Episode #102Z)

KQED Plus: Thu, Jan 10, 2013 -- 8:50 PM

When mammals first appeared, insects were abundant on earth, and mammals made meals of them. Crucially, they were the first creatures able to make and regulate their own body heat, so they could hunt insects in the cool of the night, when most of the predatory dinosaurs were asleep. The modern musk shrew gives us an insight into how these first mammals might have lived. After the dinosaurs so suddenly disappeared, the mammals were free to conquer new territories. We meet shrews that dive under water, moles that swim in sand, and extraordinary creatures that gather their prey by running at speed down trail systems above and below ground.
It's hard to sustain a large body by catching insects one by one but about 50 million years ago, some of them broadened their diet. The hedgehogs and armadillos mix their insects with fruit and birds eggs. Halfway through the history of the mammals, insects started to build huge nests, protected with walls of baked mud - these were impenetrable to any creature of the time. But with pangolins and giant anteaters, the mammals rose to the challenge. These spectacular animals survive entirely on a diet of social ants and termites - they have the biggest claws of any mammals, long tongues and the ability to protect themselves against angry insects and large predators. But many of the insects could fly and were out of reach for ground dwelling mammals.
But way back in mammalian history - probably when the dinosaurs still roamed - one mammal took to the air. Today, the earth holds a bewildering array of insect eating bats. We even meet one - the Natterers bat - that can take spiders from their webs without becoming tangled in the silk. And another, in New Zealand, that has retraced its origins and returned to the ground to forage like a shrew. The insect eating mammals were there at the very beginning of the mammals and are still thriving today, they are one of the great success stories in The Life of Mammals.

Repeat Broadcasts:

  • KQED Plus: Mon, Jan 28, 2013 -- 2:00 AM

A Winning Design (Episode #101Z)

KQED Plus: Thu, Jan 10, 2013 -- 8:00 PM

David Attenborough makes a world-wide journey of discovery in search of fascinating mammals to illustrate why they are so incredibly successful and diverse. Watching an arctic fox hunting at 20 degrees below, he observes... 'The only reason that it and I don't freeze solid up here is that we are both mammals and have the ability to use our food to heat our bodies - we're warm blooded. The fox also has more of that other mammalian characteristic, hair - its body is insulated by fur'.
In Australia David watches echidnas and platypus, bizarre mammals that share a remarkable link with the reptiles... they still lay eggs! No one had ever seen what happens inside a platypus' breeding burrow before but using the latest optical probe, David catches the astonishing sight of a newly hatched platypus baby with its mother - and it's feeding on that other uniquely mammalian substance - milk.
Most of Australia's mammals give birth to tiny, under-developed babies, which crawl into the safety of a pouch and attach to a rich supply of milk to complete their growth. These are the marsupials and they thrive in an amazing variety of forms, from koalas in the trees and wombats in the snow, to red kangaroos in the desert and rock wallabies on the cliffs. Grey kangaroos might be renowned for their hopping speed but big males are also the kick-boxing champions of the animal world!
Marsupials are also found in Central and South America - mostly possums living up in the trees - although one, the yapok, is uniquely adapted to a watery lifestyle. Rarely observed in their natural environment, our infra-red cameras record how these strange mammals catch fish in the pitch dark, using only their front paws and whiskers to feel for their prey. And when a mother yapok dives underwater, her baby is saved from drowning by a waterproof pouch!
A different kind of mammal, to which we ourselves belong, has come to dominate the rest of the world. Their babies, developing inside the womb, are nurtured through a remarkable organ - the placenta. Giving birth to well-grown babies might be harder on their mothers but does mean that the youngsters are able to look after themselves much sooner - such as running from predators!
As David Attenborough concludes, "Whether mammals lay eggs, or give birth to live young. Whether their babies develop in a womb or a pouch, they have managed to live almost everywhere. The warm blooded, furry, mammalian body - in all its multitudinous variations - really is a winning design".

Repeat Broadcasts:

  • KQED Plus: Mon, Jan 21, 2013 -- 2:00 AM
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TV Technical Issues

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    • KQET Off Air Sun 8/03 morning

      (DT25.1, 25.2, 25.3) KQET DT25 was off the air for a portion of Sunday morning, due to the transmitter taking a power hit. The signal has been restored. Most receivers should have re-acquired our signal once it returned, but a few Over the Air viewers may need to do a rescan in order to restore […]

    • KQED DT9s Over the Air: beginning Wed 7/09

      (DT9.1, 9.2, 9.3) The PSIP Info part of our Over the Air (OTA) signal for KQED DT9.1, 9.2, 9.3 dropped out of our overall signal early Wednesday 7/09. Once PSIP was restored most OTA receivers moved our signal back to the correct channel locations. However, for some viewers, it appears as if they have lost […]

    • KQED FM 88.1 translator off air Tues 6/03

      The Martinez translator for KQED-FM will be off the air all day Tuesday June 3rd. We are rebuilding the 25 year old site with all new antennas and cabling. This should only affect people listening on 88.1MHz in the Martinez/Benicia area.

To view previous issues and how they were resolved, go to our TV Technical Issues page.

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