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Natural World

  • Season 36
  • 8 episodes
  • Nature
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Episode 3: Nature's Wildest Weapons: Horns, Tusks and Antlers: Natural World

Summary

Professor Doug Emlen examines how animals use their bodies as weapons in epic battles to gore, stab, crush and batter their adversaries to death, from elephants to rhinoceros beetles, assessing whether they are more than just instruments of blunt force. For the professor this has been a lifetime's ambition to discover the secrets of nature's arms races, what triggers them and what they can teach us about the most formidable weapons on Earth - our own.

Review

A star rating of 4 out of 5.

It's a bit special, this Natural World. As usual there are whoa-worthy sights - from majestic elk to duelling dung beetles - but more than that, it makes you think about nature’s arms races and leaves your head ringing with interesting ideas.

Delivering what amounts to a Ted Talk on evolutionary biology is Doug Emlen, an engaging academic who has worked out why some animals bother to grow enormous weapons. Take that bull elk: a single antler can weigh 20 pounds, and he grows two of them from scratch every year, giving himself seasonal osteoporosis as a result.

It’s all so that the normally peaceable elks can fight over females – though the fascinating jacana birds show it can work the other way around. Lessons emerge about life, love and – unexpectedly – nuclear deterrence.

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Details

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Credits

Cast

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NarratorNina Sosanya

Crew

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ProducerPeter Fison
Series editorRoger Webb

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