The next film in the BBC’s longest-running wildlife series, NATURAL WORLD, breaks new ground by including a US nuclear missile base among its locations and proposing common origins for the evolution of super-sized weapons in nature and the human arms race.
© BBC: Nature’s Wildest Weapons: Horn, Tusk and Antlers - Prof Doug Emlen
Nature’s Wildest Weapons: Horn, Tusk and Antlers (showing on Tuesday 18 April, on BBC2, at 9pm) focuses on the discoveries and theories of Montana-based biologist Professor Doug Emlen who has spent more than 30 years investigating why some species have developed extreme ways to gouge, gore, bite or batter each other using the most extravagant weapons.
He introduces viewers to a diverse range of weapon-bearing animals, examining what the evolutionary advantages might be in beetles having pitchfork horns almost as third as long again as their bodies; elks depleting their own skeletons to grow huge antlers, and the United State Air Force developing Earth’s most lethal weapon yet: the long-range Minuteman III nuclear missile.
The film’s director/writer Peter Fison says: “What makes Doug’s work fascinating is that he asks us to look at the animal kingdom from a fresh perspective. We’ve all seen horned, tusked and antlered animals before but I suspect few of us have considered what it is like to carry around an appendage weighing nearly as much as the rest of you everywhere you go, or why it’s worth it.
Doug’s explanations of this are eye opening and unexpected. His radical theory is that all weapons - animal or human - develop under the same conditions and are produced for the same reasons. If Doug is right the existence and function of nuclear warheads and elk antlers is the same and, potentially, just as vulnerable to cheats.”
Professor Emlen’s ideas are outlined in Nature’s Wildest Weapons: Horns, Tusks and Antlers, a BBC in-house production for the series NATURAL WORLD. The documentary gets its first transmission on Tuesday 18 April, 9pm, BBC2. The narrator is W1A, LAST TANGO IN HALIFAX, LOVE ACTUALLY and MARCELLA actress Nina Sosanya. The original score is by Paul Hartnoll, the composer of the PEAKY BLINDERS music and one half of electronic duo Orbital. The film’s writer/director is Peter Fison and the series editor of NATURAL WORLD is Roger Webb.
© BBC: Natural World
Natural World – www.bbc.co.uk/naturalworld - began in 1983 and is UK television’s longest running wildlife series.
Douglas J ‘Doug’ Emlen is a professor of biology who runs a laboratory at the University of Montana investigating the evolution of animal weapons. He is also author of the Phi Beta Kappa Award for Science Writing book Animal Weapons: the evolution of battle.