Facts and myths about butterflies and moths---"flying flowers" whose wings, notes narrator Martin Sheen, are actually scales. There are 15,000 species of butterflies and 150,000 moths. Included: scenes of the creatures eating and being eaten.
Surveying mountains and "the massive forces of uplift and erosion" that shape them. Also: mountain wildlife; how the British mapped the Himalayas (Mount Everest was named for a British surveyor general). Scott Simon narrates.
Examining the weather. It was a "plaything" to the Greek gods, says narrator Martin Sheen---but it was a Greek, Aristotle, who invented meteorology. Included: facts and myths about rain, snow, hail and lightning, which, Sheen speculates, "sparked the Earth into life."
Probing the oceans, which cover two-thirds of Earth's surface and are constantly growing (the Atlantic is a ship's length wider than it was in Columbus's day). The program also looks at aquatic wildlife. Scott Simon narrates.
A survey of frightening beasts includes spiders and snakes---and mosquitos, which have killed half of all humans since the Stone Age, narrator Scott Simon says. The program also explores the psychology behind scary creatures.
A look at birds, beginning with the archeopteryx, the evolutionary link between reptiles and today's 8500 species. Also: the origin of the phrase "swan song"; the reason why water rolls off a duck's back. Martin Sheen narrates.
The shark, one of the oldest (at 400 million years) creatures on Earth. There are 375 shark species, but only five are known to attack humans. In fact, there's evidence that sharks don't like the taste of human flesh. Martin Sheen narrates.
What science knows---and doesn't know---about dinosaurs, those "terrible lizards" that dominated the planet for 160 million years. For instance, science knows that their skin was scaly but doesn't know whether their blood was hot or cold. Martin Sheen is the series host.
Buzz about insects, which "exist in more varieties than any other animal group," according to host Martin Sheen. Also: they all have six legs and no lungs, and their food, adds Sheen, is "color coded."
A profile of cats---"from tabby to tiger"---surveys their anatomy, evolutionary history and predatory nature ("from tooth to tail, cats are walking weapons," says narrator Martin Sheen). Also: a look at reasons why cats have thrived in domestication.
The skeleton, both a symbol of death and "the foundation of the living body," according to host Martin Sheen. An adult human skeleton consists of 206 bones; the spine provides support and the skull is "the blueprint of lifestyle.'
A Baedeker on bears---from teddies to grizzlies. There are eight species (not counting teddies), six of which are endangered. The most common: the American black bear (which can be brown or even white). Scott Simon narrates
Facts and legends about islands and their inhabitants. Among the stops: Greenland, the world's largest; Madagascar, where 80 percent of the wildlife is unique to it; and Tristan Da Cunha in the South Atlantic, the most isolated. Scott Simon narrates.
A primer on reptiles looks at why their skin is scaly and their blood cold (they're "solar-powered," notes host Martin Sheen). Also noted: sea turtles can stay underwater for three weeks at a clip; Australian aborigines believe that "the mother and father of all humans is a snake."
A canine primer examines how, as narrator Martin Sheen puts it, dogs have "strayed into human culture" as everything from gods to pets and hunters, whose noses contain 40 percent more smell-sensitive cells than a human's.
The seashore, "prime real estate for thousands of creatures," according to narrator Martin Sheen. They're all buffeted by 8000 waves a day, but that doesn't bother kelp, which can grow three feet in a day.
The tropical rain forest, "the greatest show of genetic diversity on Earth," says host Martin Sheen, and home to 50 percent of the world's plant and animal species, including some 2000 cancer-fighting plants.
Following amphibians, whose transformation from water to land creatures is "a journey of evolution itself," says host Martin Sheen. Included: the difference between toads and frogs: toads walk and frogs jump. And frogs can jump 36 times their own length.
Navigating rivers and ponds, which contain one millionth of Earth's water, yet support 50 percent of its species. One species is the mosquito, which has been responsible for half of all human deaths since the Stone Age. Martin Sheen narrates.
Visiting the Arctic and Antarctic. In the north are huskies, walruses and polar bears, while the south is home to penguins. Arctic terns summer in both places, and spend almost all of their lives in daylight as a result. Martin Sheen narrates.
Facts and lore about shells, which have provided shelter for hundreds of thousands of species since before the age of the dinosaurs. Among the creatures observed: tortoises, lobsters, mussels and clams. Actor Martin Sheen narrates.
Apes---"our closest relatives," says narrator Martin Sheen, who notes that "humans are closer to chimps than zebras are to horses." Also: Malay and Chinese myths about apes; a look at the social structure of apes.