Triumph of Life

About

Overview
Despite overwhelming obstacles, life on Earth has evolved from the most humble of beginnings to a level of diversity that challenges human comprehension. The fittest have indeed survived — even in places where no living creatures could be thought to exist. NATURE’s six-part series TRIUMPH OF LIFE presents the remarkable story of evolution and its survivors.

About the Series

In a stunning six-part miniseries narrated by stage and film actor Liev Schreiber, Thirteen/WNET New York’s NATURE series presents a compelling new vision of the epic forces that have shaped every aspect of existence on our planet, in TRIUMPH OF LIFE.

More than three years in the making, TRIUMPH OF LIFE combines dramatic storytelling with powerful, groundbreaking scientific ideas in a sweeping story about survival and the survivors — the winners, for the moment at least, in an eternal battle.

Life on this planet has fought a ceaseless battle for survival since it first appeared some four billion years ago.

Yet out of this eternal conflict has emerged the overwhelming richness and diversity we see around us. Exploring this paradox, TRIUMPH OF LIFE begins with a penetrating look at the process of evolution and the driving force behind it — genes.

Sex is the key to the immortality of genes, and any tactic necessary will be deployed in the cause of reproduction — even if it’s suicidal to the participant. This episode explores many of the most ingenious, complex, and dramatic methods that animals employ to ensure the continuation of their genetic line.

Since the dawn of life, an evolutionary arms race has imbued predator and prey with ever more sophisticated weaponry. Teeth and jaws are merely the low-tech side of the struggle. Bats have evolved sonar, and moths have devised a way to jam it; squid create smoke screens, caterpillars concoct poisons, and the race escalates from eon to eon.

It’s not always a dog-eat-dog world. The struggle to survive has spawned a remarkable array of cooperative relationships involving families, extended families, and even entire communities.

In this episode, viewers get a glimpse of the virtues and rewards of cooperation as a path to survival, as animals team up to hunt, dodge predators, and build homes.

The growing study of animal intelligence — from the use of tools by chimps to the apparent abilities of many species to communicate among themselves in ingenious ways — casts a vibrant new light on the evolution of the mind. The development of brain power, in fact, has been one of the most fascinating and successful innovations in the history of evolution.

Some 65 million years ago, the dinosaurs were wiped out when their gene machines failed to cope with the cataclysmic changes that followed a comet’s collision with Earth. But with extinction came new life, and surviving mammals evolved to seize the territory left vacant by the vanquished. The concluding episode explores the factors that make winners and losers in the game of life, and poses the question: who will triumph in the long run?

Online content for Triumph of Life was orginally posted January 2001.

Production Credits Print

Web Credits:

Producer: Ronnie Godeanu

Design Director: Sabina Daley

Designer: Lenny Drozner

Writer: David Malakoff

Animation: Lenny Drozner, Radik Shvarts

Page Building: Brian Santalone

Production Artists: Leela Corman, Meiza Fleitas

Production Assistant: Peter Tierney

Technical Director: Brian Lee

Scientific Consultant: Gianna Savoie

Thirteen Online is a production of Thirteen/WNET New York's Kravis Multimedia Education Center in New York City. Anthony Chapman, Director of Interactive & Broadband. Carmen DiRienzo, Vice President and Managing Director, Corporate Affairs.

© 2001 Thirteen/WNET New York

All Rights Reserved

About the Writer

David Malakoff is a journalist covering research discoveries and the politics of science for SCIENCE MAGAZINE in Washington, D.C. His writing has appeared in a wide range of venues, including THE ECONOMIST, THE WASHINGTON POST, and ABCNews.com. He lives with his wife and three children -- NATURE lovers all -- in Alexandria, Virginia.

Television Credits:

A co-production of Green Umbrella Ltd., Thirteen/WNET New York, Trebitsch Produktion International GmbH, and Devillier Donegan Enterprises

Funder Credits

Funding for the TV series NATURE is made possible in part by Park Foundation. Major corporate support is provided by Canon U.S.A., Inc., Ford Motor Company, and TIAA-CREF. Additional support is provided by the nation's public television stations.