Finding Stories For Creatures Both Big and Small

Posted by Steve Greenwood on
A tiger salamander in the Rockies.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author. 

As well as telling the stories of the iconic big animals that live in mountains – the grizzlies, snow leopards and puma – we wanted to surprise the audience with the little critters that also make their home above the clouds. In the Himalaya it was the Himalayan jumping spider – the highest living creature in the world. The team had to trek up to Everest base camp to find and film these creatures.

For the Andes film it was the remarkable shape-shifting frog, only recently discovered. They are so well camouflaged that even finding these creatures was a serious challenge. For the Rockies film it was the tiger salamander. These are creatures who can adapt their bodies for a life in water - or a life on land. More dramatically, they can even metamorphosize into cannibals when conditions dictate.

For this story we worked very closely with a team of scientists who have been studying the metamorphosis of these salamanders for over twenty years. Together we set up an artificial pond with glass walls so we could use our specialised macro camera to film these tiny creatures. Their needle sharp teeth are less than a millimetre long so it took some careful focussing to get the shot! Their new home was just a few metres away from their pond so the scientists could return the creatures after the filming.

The salamanders that turn into cannibals felt like a story that 10 year olds would relish!

When I was young it was watching natural history films that made me decide to study biology – and nowadays one of my aims in wildlife filmmaking is to attract a new generation of children to the wonders of wildlife. The salamanders that turn into cannibals felt like a story that 10 year olds would relish! It was great fun pulling out the stops to make this sequence feel like a classic gothic tale. Hopefully, there are some kids watching who will be inspired to become salamander biologists – and find their own stories about these remarkable creatures.

— Steve Greenwood, Series Producer

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