I love this series. Animal autopsy might not be something which a lot of viewers find comfortable to watch, but this series is informative and interesting, even to a natural history documentary junkie like me. Presented very ably by Mark Evans and now in its fourth series, I have by now got to really like the regular contributors. The most well known of them is probably Richard Dawkins who always pops up to talk about an animal’s evolutionary history. There is also biologist Simon Watt who is usually travels to other locations, such as an animal’s natural habitat for example, while the dissecting is done by a team with anatomist Joy Reidenberg. She’s probably my favourite, I love her enthusiasm.
The fourth series opened with dissecting a hippo.
One fact they said was that hippos kill more humans than lions, elephants and crocodiles combined despite looking “deceptively docile”, although I wonder if it’s partly because of that. Just like there are more people killed by dogs than by wolves, perhaps the fact we are less wary of some creatures might account for errors in judgement people might make. I never knew before that at night is when hippos graze, for good reason as during the day it is far too hot. The popular image of hippos is them lazing in water in the hot sun like holiday makers in a swimming pool, but that’s just how it appears on the surface. Underwater, hippos are much busier, as it is where they raise their young. While the underwater footage wasn’t groundbreaking, it is always amazing how graceful hippos are underwater, not like the ballerina hippos in Fantasia either. Similar to penguins, they seem much more at home underwater than the comparatively clumsy way they appear on land.
They also revealed that a hippo’s closest living relative is the whale. That in itself wasn’t a huge shock, as if you saw the whale episode of Inside Nature’s Giants it revealed that it has a layered stomach, similar to a cow and indeed a hippo, which is a left over from when it evolved from a land mammal. Also, while they are obviously very different animals, you can see some resemblance, especially when they are underwater. The big surprise they revealed was recording some of their communication underwater, and they even click like whales!
It does seem to have got to the stage where they are having to experiment with the formula a bit. The ‘giant’ of the last episode was the Jungle, which is a bit of a cheat in a way, and not only that they had began going in the opposite direction from dissecting giant creatures to dissecting insects. It makes me wonder if they may give this show a new title one day. However, whichever form the series takes I hope to see it continue for a while.