Life in the Undergrowth
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Life in the Undergrowth (Dbl DVD) (WS)
David Attenborough guides the viewer through a miniature universe teeming with life, never normally seen, yet all around us. New technology reveals surreal vistas and their extraordinary inhabitants -- swarming antler moths, desert locusts and a mountain of cockroaches -- up close and personal. The bizarre and the beautiful are represented and their habits, lifestyles and characteristics explained in David Attenborough's inimitable style. Though small, these creatures are as ferocious as any seen before.]]>
By getting up close and personal with Life in the Undergrowth, this extraordinary BBC series sets a new standard of excellence in wildlife cinematography. Hosted by veteran nature expert David Attenborough and utilizing the latest advances in macrophotography, the five-part series is dedicated to bugs of all shapes and sizes, from microscopic gnats to cave-dwelling millipedes so large they can capture bats in mid-flight and feast for hours thereafter! The patience involved in filming such previously unseen marvels must have been grueling (as confirmed by producer Mike Salisbury in a splendid bonus interview), but the results are nothing less than astonishing, with a parade of sequences so impressive that even insect-haters will pause in amazement. With an emphasis on reproduction and mating behaviors, each program focuses on a different, generalized group of creatures, many of them never filmed before, so that lay-persons and entomologists will be equally enlightened by discoveries made in the process of filming.
As always, Attenborough serves as an expert witness, cordial, fearless, and quintessentially British as he explains what we're seeing, from the nocturnal fluorescence of scorpions (glowing at night in ultraviolet light, they perform a mating dance playfully described as "a nuptial pas de deux") to the mysterious, 17-year life cycle of the cicada. Throughout, we see everything, both frightening and beautiful, from an intimate, bug's-eye view, in detail so vividly colorful that you'll never view the insect world in quite the same way again. (Likewise for the diverse variety of critters on view in episode 3: "The Silk Spinners," which according to Salisbury is capable of curing arachnophobes from their irrational fear of spiders.) Just when you think Life in the Undergrowth couldn't get any more fascinating, it does: episode 4, "Intimate Relations," shows how many insects symbiotically depend on other species for food, shelter, or completion of their reproductive cycles, and episode 5, "Supersocieties," focuses on the social complexities of insect colonists like ants and termites. Enough to give you the creeps for days, you say? Think again, for after seeing Life in the Undergrowth (a perfect companion piece to the Nova episode "The Unknown World"), you may find yourself in the garden, on your knees, eager for a better look at the countless millions of tiny creatures that surround us every day. --Jeff Shannon
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So, as a replacement, I tried this set. I was not disappointed. It is marvelous to be able to see these fascinating creatures clearly and up-close. I especially appreciate this set as it presents creatures we would probably never see, living as many of them do, mostly underground or being too tiny to be noticeable.
Sir David is just as I remember him (albeit with more grey hairs): charming, witty, eloquent, warm and engaging. I think his personality alone would be enough to turn non-nature enthusiasts into great fans. In fact, I frequently was reduced to tears of joy observing his tremendous love of nature and of life in general. If only all people harboured a similar feeling of unity with all creation, what a world this could be!
As is to be expected from a BBC production featuring Attenborough there is some top quality footage. Naturally they can't document all insects, but they give is a great variety across the five episodes between the two DVD's. This is a great introductory piece to the insect world if you are interested in using it for a biology class or something along those lines. They cover insects like moths, butterflies, spiders, aphids, centipedes, millipedes, ants and bees. Episodes touch upon aspects of how insects evolved and how they adapted to their specific locations in the world. They also go into detail about the insect's specific environment as well as how some insects develop symbiotic relationships with other insect species or the trees in which some make their homes.
As Attenborough points out, the only reason we are able to get some of this amazing footage is because prior to this we didn't have the micro cameras necessary to really capture some of these tiny insects in their environment. "Life in the Undergrowth" brings us into the burrows of ants and termites so we can see what goes on below ground. We also get an inside look on how bees interact with each other within a hive. The footage is truly breathtaking and we can view spiders making incredible webs in just a couple of minutes with the camera sped up. One of the most impressive footage is the night camera footage of a giant centipede hunting for bats at the top of a cavern. Truly an intimidating insect!
If you are looking for a wonderful introduction to the insect world then this is a superb place to start. While it may not cover the precise insects you find in your back yard, it will definitely touch upon some species variant of some kind. The footage is absolutely amazing and I learned a lot about the different insects shown here, since I am just starting to introduce myself to this kind of material. Honestly, I don't think you even have to be a major insect enthusiast to truly find this documentary interesting. Attenborough's narration makes this series very fun to watch providing wonderful anecdotes amidst the information he's trying to present to the viewer. A must watch in my opinion.