Inside Nature's Giants

Inside Nature's Giants premiered January 2012.
Watch full episodes of Inside Nature's Giants on the PBS Video Portal

A team of experts dissect the largest animals on the planet to uncover their evolutionary secrets in Inside Nature's Giants. In each episode, veterinary scientist Mark Evans, comparative anatomist Joy Reidenberg, biologist Simon Watt and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins explore the anatomy of a distinct giant predator to reveal how it works.

Sperm Whale

Premiered January 18, 2012 
The team exposes the organs of a sperm whale that became stranded and died on Pegwell Bay in Kent, England to reveal the secrets of the 45-foot deep-sea giant. Despite its enormous size, very little is known about the sperm whale because it normally lives hidden deep beneath the waves. The program examines how the whales can survive diving down thousands of feet for more than an hour on one gulp of air in conditions that would freeze our blood and crush our bones.

Evans and Reidenberg also discover how sperm whales use the largest nose in creation to hunt giant squid in the dark. Meanwhile, biologist Simon Watt tracks sperm whales in the Azores with Malcolm Clarke, a modern-day Jonah, who gives him a sniff of his prized whale rectum samples and shows him the huge number of squid beaks in a whale's stomach.

Monster Python

Premiered January 25, 2012 
The ING team ventures into the swamps of the Florida Everglades in search of the giant Burmese python. No one knows for sure how snakes native to South East Asia ended up in the Everglades, but now these giant reptiles are thriving in southern Florida's swamps and driving some native species into extinction.

Evans and Reidenberg join local "python hunters" on the front line of the battle against the snakes. At a swamp camp in the heart of the Everglades, they meet up with reptile expert Jeanette Wyneken to dissect two captured pythons — a 9-ft. male and an enormous 14-ft. female. The team explores the anatomy that allows pythons to sense, strike, squeeze and swallow their prey. And while investigating the remains of the snake’s last meal, they make an amazing discovery — ovaries bulging with 40 egg follicles ready to be fertilized. Richard Dawkins describes how snakes evolved from four legged lizard-like ancestors, and biologist Simon Watt gets first-hand experience of what it feels like to be constricted by a python.

Great White Shark

Premiered February 1, 2012
Along South Africa’s KwaZulu Natal coast miles of beach protection nets have been put in place to safeguard humans from a deadly threat: the great white shark. In 2010, the nets trapped a giant shark that weighed in at 1,984 lbs. and measured nearly 15 ft.; the largest great white caught since 2002. It presents an international team of experts with a rare opportunity to explore this hunter's anatomy to find out how it has evolved into the oceans most feared predator. 

Joy Reidenberg uncovers the shark's incredible array of senses, and in a dramatic cage dive encounter, she goes eye-to-eye with a great white. Mark Evans investigates the origins of the shark’s infamous killing bite, while white shark biologist Enrico Gennari conducts a bite force test on a live great white to show how powerful its jaws really are. Richard Dawkins tells the surprising story of how the shark's teeth and jaws evolved from its outer skin and gill arches. Using a massive tooth from a prehistoric shark, he estimates that once there were sharks three times bigger than today's largest great whites. 

During the dissection, the team uncovers a gigantic organ that has played a key role in the shark becoming the biggest fish in the sea. They also examine its intestines to see how great whites digest the huge chunks of food that they swallow and find out how their muscles have turned them into a warm-blooded predator. When they finally dissect the brain of this super predator, they discover whether this fish lives up to its reputation as a killing machine.

Big Cats

Premiered February 8, 2012 
In Big Cats, the team dissects a lion alongside a tiger at London's Royal Veterinary College and travel to South Africa’s Welgevonden Game Reserve to see the lion in the wild. One of the first things they tackle is the anatomy of the roar, which is the characteristic that separates big cats from small ones. They delve into the lion’s throat to find its voice box and make a new scientific discovery that helps explain how the vocal apparatus works like a trombone.

To test their theory, compressed air is pumped into the windpipe and to everyone’s amazement, it makes the dead lion roar. From the outside, the lion and the tiger look very different, but once their skins are removed, even the experts find it hard to distinguish between the two. At Welgevonden, the team gets a chance to see the cat's weaponry — powerful forearms, protractile claws and powerful bite — up close on an anesthetized lioness, before watching a huge male devour a dead wildebeest. Richard Dawkins explains the evolutionary arms race that has arisen between predators and their prey in the struggle to survive. In the final part of the program, the team analyzes the contrasting social lives of the two big cats to try and find out why male lions have a mane.

Giant Squid

Premiered June 20, 2012 
Thought by many to be the stuff of legend, it was only in the late-19th century that the giant squid was first officially recorded by scientists, after one leviathan washed up on a New Zealand beach. Related to slugs and snails, this monster from the deep, along with its cousin the colossal squid, is the largest invertebrate in the world. 

It's never been filmed in its natural habitat, thousands of feet underwater, but occasionally specimens are brought to the surface by deep-sea trawlers. In Giant Squid, the team travels to New Zealand to join other experts to dissect a rare giant squid. They learn that it has a razor sharp beak, teeth on its tentacles and tongue, a throat that dives through the middle of its brain and three hearts that power blue blood through a muscle filled jet-propulsion cloak. The team piece together the puzzle of how giant squid hunt, how they jet through the water, how their quick-fire beak pulverizes food, why they have such enormous eyes and how they reproduce.

Camel

Premiered June 27, 2012 
Australia may not come to mind as home to camels, yet in the middle of this vast continent there are more than one million feral dromedaries roaming around. European settlers introduced them more than a century ago to help build Australia’s railways and explore the Outback. But with the advent of roads, cars and trucks, camels were no longer needed, so their owners released them into the desert.

Camels have adapted so successfully that they're playing havoc with the environment, so the government has introduced a program to limit their numbers. The ING team braves the baking desert to dissect a camel. They uncover the secret of the camel’s hump and investigate how its elastic legs, stretchy lips and pedestal (a strange bump on its chest) are among the many surprising adaptations that enable the animal to thrive in such a dry and hostile environment.

Related Links

Nature: Fellowship of the Whales (Video)
Nature: Humpback Whales
Nature: Invasion of the Giant Pythons (Video)
Nature: White Shark/Red Triangle: Great White Myths
Nature: Episodes by Animal: Lion
Nature: Episodes by Animal: Tiger
Nature: Encountering Sea Monsters

Produced by: ingi-000000-producer-logo.jpg © Windfall Films. All Rights Reserved. Photos courtesy of Windfall Films and Peter Carroll.

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