Blue Planet, the global “splash” hit documentary series that made its debut back in 2001, has finally come to BBC AMERICA! Narrated by the inimitable David Attenborough, Blue Planet II uses cutting-edge technology to take you deeper than ever before, where you’ll explore alien landscapes and meet the fascinating animals who live there. Let’s dive right in by taking a look at some of the show’s sublime footage:
Millions of us gathered together to watch Planet Earth II, making it the most-watched natural history show in 15 years, and Blue Planet II was already the biggest show of 2017 in the U.K. Now, it’s our turn. Let’s go deeper with some of the most mind-blowing creatures featured in the all new Blue Planet:
1. Kobudai Fish Transforms from Female to Male
Here, we meet the kobudai fish, a resident of the western Pacific Ocean, during mating season. Blue Planet II producer, Jonathan Smith thought to himself, “It is an incredible and unusual fish, but does it do anything?” Upon further investigation, the short answer is: oh yes, indeed. The 10-year-old females in the group aren’t all that bothered by the males looking to partner-up, and we soon find out the reason for that. The older females go into a resting state, certain enzymes stop working and they begin to generate male hormones, resulting in a full female-to-male sex change. This is a transformation you really need to see for yourself.
2. Giant Trevally Flies Through the Air
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Nope. It’s a giant trevally fish launching itself out of the water in an attempt to grab some lunch. BPII sequence director, Miles Barton, set off with his team to a remote reef in the Seychelles, a cluster of islands in the Indian Ocean, to learn about these missile-like fish. Barton describes the fishes’ airborne antics as happening “so quickly and randomly,” that it was almost impossible for the cameraman to capture the moment. But they managed to figure out the trevallies’ hunting patterns and eventually catch them in-flight. But, as seen in the clip below, the trevally weren’t always successful in catching those slick birds:
3. Grouper Communicate with Octopuses
According to BPII researcher, Yoland Bosiger, coral grouper are some of the most common coral reef inhabitants. So, how did this workaday fish land up in a post about mesmerizing sea creatures? Because, while common, they’re not unremarkable: “Their behavior is so sophisticated that some aspects of their intelligence might rival that of chimpanzees,” says Bosiger. The grouper, which feeds on small coral reef fish, is too large to catch critters hiding in the plentiful cracks and crevices. But it’s managed to come up with a cunning solution: a buddy system. The fish team up and communicate with a more maneuverable marine animal — the octopus — and, working together, they’re able to pluck prey from smaller spaces. The grouper guides its more nimble friend by shaking its head above the spot hiding a small fish, and the octopus snatches it up.
4. Cuttlefish’s Sneaky Mating Maneuver
Every winter over 100,000 cuttlefish get together in the northern Spencer Gulf, in South Australia to reproduce. Only, the male fish outnumber the female eleven to one. So, in other words, there’s quite a lot of competition for the lads; the ladies are totally calling the shots. If the female cuttlefish is approached by a suitor she doesn’t particularly fancy, she’s able to create a white line on her back to tell him to shove off. But when she meets a cuttlefish she is sweet on, she simply turns off the white stripe.
5. Pacific Blenny Playing Chicken with Waves
Producer Miles Barton asked himself, “How do you film a three-inch long creature just above the tideline as waves break along the rocky shore?” He’s referring to the Pacific leaping blenny, which appears to be “playing chicken” with the waves it meets in the splash zone. As every wave arrived, the tiny, camouflaged fish would leap away by flicking its powerful tail. Cameraman Rod Clarke spent hours pitched on a stool in the water, observing and filming the blennies and capturing the moment for viewers. So, in answer to Barton’s question: with patience.
6. Tuskfish Work Cleverly to Get Ahead
You may be picking up on a theme here: underwater life is ferociously competitive. The tuskfish has to work extra hard to feed and, according to BPII producer Rachel Butler, gets ahead of the competition by using tools. Dr. Alexander Vail, who lives on Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef, was recruited to look into the tuskfish’s tactics. After many dives, he found one particular specimen (named Percy by the BPII staffers) who used an ingenious method to open clam shells. Percy would take the shell in his mouth, then slam it against the coral, which acted as an anvil. The team spent over 100 hours with Percy, and every time he swam back to the same exact spot, which the crew dubbed his “castle.”
7. False Killer Whales Socialize with Dolphins
Any creature with the word “killer” in its name is foreboding. But in the case of false killer whales, the word you should pay most attention to is: “false.” Because they’re actually dolphins. The creatures, whose scientific name is Pseudorca, are black and up to six meters long, and really look a lot like pilot whales, hence the name. The aquatic mammals travel to New Zealand for a few months of the year, where they meet up with bottlenose dolphins to search for prey. But for BPII, the challenge to find and capture this interspecies collaboration was almost insurmountable. Lucky for us, they eventually managed to grab footage of the animals traveling and hunting together, and even witnessed socialization between the groups. They appeared to be… friends!
8. Spider Crabs March Across the Sea Grass Plain
“Around the first full moon of winter, an army materializes,” says David Attenborough. The veteran broadcaster and naturalist is describing hundreds of thousands of spider crabs, marching on the ocean floor. They’re not seeking mates or food, however, but actually, looking “to grow.” Their bodies are enclosed in rigid shells and the crabs need some space. During this “mass molting,” they’re able to break out of their unexpandable casing, reemerging with a soft shell, which after a few days will harden.
9. Portuguese Man O’ War Paralyzes with a Single Touch
Let’s just say, if you see a Portuguese man o’ war… go the other way. A member of the Physaliidae family, whose nickname is “floating terror,” the deadly critter is armed with venomous tentacles. The man o’ war floats with the help of a gas-filled bladder, topped by a vertical membrane that acts like a sail. The creatures are found in Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Ocean… they get around. You can see how a tentacle catches a fish and reels it in. It’s rare for a human to be killed by a man o’ war, but we’re not going to chance it.
10. Clownfish are All Business When Making a Home
The clownfish in the above clip is ready to nest, and he’s found the perfect house: a coconut shell. But, the location is all wrong, and he can’t move it by himself. That’s OK, he has his family to help out. The two bigger fish do the heavy lifting while the babies look on and give moral support. Relocation achieved, the female clownfish now has somewhere safe and snug to lay her eggs. Aw. Coconut sweet coconut.
You can look for Blue Planet II on BBC America, Saturdays at 9/8c.
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