Education / Out in the field

Survivors: Nature’s indestructible creatures

An ex – President of the Geological Society is bound to be one of the survivors. But starting on Tuesday 24th at 9  p.m. I am fronting a BBC4 series about different kinds of survivors – animals and plants whose relatives are known deep in the fossil record.

“Living fossils” was how Charles Darwin described them. It is a label that has stuck, although we now know that even if their morphology has not changed much, interesting things might still be happening at the genetic level.

Based on my new book “Survivors” (Harper Press) the series is a dash around the world to look for some of the animals and plants that time has passed by. If there are secrets to longevity, it would be good to know what they are.

The journey took the crew and the author (twice their age) to watch horseshoe crabs spawning on Delaware Bay, to the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park  (in a blizzard), to Kangaroo Island to search out echidnas, and to Henley on Thames to find liverworts. It was a fine distraction for one who has spent most of his life looking at trilobites.

Don’t forget to tune in tomorrow night, and let me know what you thought in the comments below.

Horse shoe crab fossil

Horse shoe crabs living

Living horse shoe crabs








5 thoughts on “Survivors: Nature’s indestructible creatures

  1. I thought this programme was superb and gave it a big round of applause when it finished. I watch all the nature, science, math programmes. I thought this was especially well-presented. I am put off by the filming gimmicks that accompany some programmes and I have to look away and just listen. Not this time, I was glued to the screen. It was straight forward and professional. There were no jarring, over-jocular conversations with other scientists. Everyone on the programme exuded professionalism and appropriate admiration for the subject of their speciality. I wish I could express myself more clearly but I’m glad I have a chance to express myself about the programme at all. Thank you very much for making it.

  2. An excellent series. But why you do you keep trying to eat these animals that have lasted for over thousands of years! What are you trying to do make them become destructiible. It is disgusting. This is suppossed to be a nature programme not a cookery one.

  3. I agree with davidsimon. What the hell was all this eating bullshit? Fortey talks about an animal that has survived for hundreds of millions of years, and then eats one and pulls ugly stupid faces at the same time. What the f*ck was that all about? That ruined the programs for me.

  4. yes. The eating parts were appalling. The documentary was about these amazing indestructible animals. What was he trying to say… a superior english human and even though they are indestructible i can eat them with a glass of red if i want. Not sure how they taste is relevant. Very misguided to include the eating. Can you imagine attenborough doing a documentary on penguins and then sitting down later to eat and describe the taste!

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