Sir David Attenborough Set to Present BBC Documentary on Climate Change
The show, to be titled Climate Change—The Facts, will be a 60 minute documentary that will air in the spring, The Guardian reported. The news comes little more than a year after Attenborough helped raise the alarm about plastic pollution as part of his Blue Planet II BBC series.
"We're running out of time but there's still hope." Sir David Attenborough will present a landmark climate change… https://t.co/GQjN6U4QgY— BBC One (@BBC One)1553292000.0
"There is a real hunger from audiences to find out more about climate change and understand the facts," BBC's Director of Content Charlotte Moore told BBC News. "We have a trusted guide in Sir David Attenborough, who will be speaking to the challenging issues that it raises, and present an engaging and informative look at one of the biggest issues of our time."
The documentary will show footage of the impacts of climate change and include interviews with climate scientists and meteorologists, who will explain how global warming has already influenced extreme weather events like the California wildfires of November 2018.
The 92-year-old Attenborough, who made his first nature documentary series for TV 50 years ago, has increasingly spoken out on climate issues. He delivered the "People's Address" at the UN climate talks in December of last year and spoke with Britain's Prince William about the issue in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland this January.
In that interview, Prince William asked Attenborough why he had held back from speaking out on environmental issues for much of his public career.
Attenborough responded that when he started his career, he didn't think there was anyone "who thought that there was a danger that we might annihilate part of the natural world."
"Now, of course, we are only to well aware that the whole of the natural world is at our disposal, as it were," he said in the interview. "We can do things accidentally that exterminate a whole area of the natural world and the species that live within it."
The climate change documentary is part of a BBC series called Our Planet Matters that kicked off with Blue Planet Live Sunday night.
Julian Hector, the head of BBC's Natural History Unit, which has been the force behind most of Attenborough's shows, said that climate change had changed both the tone of the unit's documentaries and the practicalities of filming.
"Not a single development goes on in the Natural History Unit where we're not talking about a conservation element or the difficulty of filming because of climate change," Hector said. "This nervousness about the state of the natural world is omnipresent."
In one example, Hector talked about filming in Kenya for the program Dynasties. Hector said in the past it was easier to predict what would happen on location, but parts of Kenya has been impacted by drought for many years, which makes it harder for wildlife to find food.
"Climate change is increasingly the backdrop to our films, and so the causes of it are worth exploring," Hector said.
Hector said a shift in tone from wonder at the natural world to concern about its survival started with Blue Planet II. That program featured a heartbreaking segment on the fate of albatross chicks who ingest plastic.
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The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.
"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."
The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.
They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.
They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.
But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.
"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.
What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.
It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.
To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.
First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.
Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.
University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.
"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."
Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.
"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.
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