Natural History

Life Episodes: Challenges of Life

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Kicking off Life, this episode provides an overview of the extraordinary strategies our planet's animals and plants have developed to stay alive as individuals and as species.

In Kenya, three cheetah brothers have invented a new way of hunting: Rather than tackling small prey on their own, they have learned that by joining forces they can bring down big game such as ostriches.

A pod of bottlenose dolphins in Florida has also made a breakthrough. To catch their fast-swimming prey, one dolphin creates a "mud-ring" by beating its tail in the soft silt as it swims in a circle. As the mud mushrooms in the water, the ring gets smaller and fish become trapped. Panicking, they jump out of the water — right into the waiting dolphins' mouths.

In Brazil, brown-tufted capuchin monkeys demonstrate an extraordinary level of skill when cracking open the palm nuts they love to eat. They pick the nuts, strip them of their husks and leave them to dry. After a few weeks they transport them to a huge anvil-like rock and smash them with a harder hammer stone. It can take eight years for a capuchin to perfect the complex art of nut-smashing.

In every animal's life there comes a time when its mind turns to breeding. The stalk-eyed fly has a mind-boggling technique: It sucks in air bubbles and blows them through its head to push its eyes out ... on stalks! These are vital for winning females, because males with the widest eye span gets the most attention.

TELEVISION FIRSTS

  • Three cheetah brothers hunting as a team, stalking and bringing down an ostrich twice their size.
  • Stalk-eyed flies "growing" their eyes out on long stalks.
  • Dolphins filmed from the air as they go "mud-ringing:" creating circles of mud to entrap fish.
  • Killer whales working as a team to hunt seals in Antarctica, filmed from the air and sea.
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