Saturday, May 08, 2010

LIFE IN THE UNDERGROWTH - Part5: Supersocieties (2005)

Successfully completed the wonderful wonderful series Life in the Undergrowth. Although my favourite episode of the series is the 3rd one named The Silk Spinners (mostly because of my love towards spiders), this episode Supersocieties is a very very special one because of the similarity to our society and these societies of superorganisms.

After watching this episode, you really feel that at some point of time there was some connection to us. I mean, apart from intelligence there are a lot of similarities between us and these superorganisms. (It is another matter altogether that by seeing some of the actions of our species, I some times feel that we are less intelligent than some of these invertebrates.)

At the start of this episode Attenborough states that "The superorganisms such as ants, bees or termites are not the blindly mechanical robotic slaves that we once thought they were, indeed we now know every insect society is full of conflict, power struggles & mutinies".

Power struggles & mutinies! I never thought that could happen in other species apart from ours.

So in this episode we go into these super societies to see how they work. There is one superb footage showing the rise (from scratch) of a bumblebee society, its functioning and finally its end when the worker bees revolt and kill the queen bumblebee.

The wood ants squirting Formic acid when threatened is another good shot. After a flood, the mud ants quickly saving their eggs and moving them to a higher ground is another thrilling sequence in this episode.

The specialty of this particular episode is that most of the sequences in this episode are like from a thriller movie. Check this clip and see whether this reminds you of an old James Cameroon movie.

Or check this clip to see the power of unity displayed by the Central American army ants. Beastly.

The giant structures in the following snap belong to the termites. The specialty of these termite hills is that every one of these are pointing to the north-south direction aligning to the earth's magnetic field. This is to control the heat inside the structure.

They shot a full blown battle between the termites and matabele ants which once again reminded me of our battles. After the battle, the winning ants carry the dead termites to their home. The following snap shows a few of the thousands of ants collecting the dead bodies.

All in all, Life in the Undergrowth is one of the best science documentaries that I've seen in my life more so because never before were the invertebrates shot in such an amazing detail.

The closing statement for the series from Sir David Attenborough is
"If we and the rest of the back boned animals were to disappear overnight, the rest of the world would get on pretty well. But if they were to disappear, the land's ecosystems would collapse. The soil would lose its fertility. Many of the plants would no longer be pollinated. Lots of animals, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals would have nothing to eat. And our fields and pastures would be covered with dung and carrion. These small creatures are within a few inches of our feet, wherever we go on land — but often, they're disregarded. We would do very well to remember them." 

You can watch the best bits from Life In The Undergrowth as chosen by the TV production team at this BBC page.
Also some snaps/clips from episode 1 Invasion of the Land.
Few snaps/clips from episode 2 Taking to the Air.
Few snaps/clips from episode 3 The Silk Spinners.
Some snaps/clips from episode 4 Intimate Relations.  

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