Saturday, March 24, 2007

Planet Earth

A hundred years ago, there were one and a half billion people on Earth. Now, over six billion crowd our fragile planet. But even so, there are still places barely touched by humanity. This series will take you to the last wildernesses and show you the planet and its wildlife as you have never seen them before.
Let's all geek out for a second -- tomorrow night Planet Earth starts on the Discovery Channel!!

You MUST see the preview if you haven't. I'm a huge sucker for nature shows but even the preview is dazzling. Apparently 4 years were spent filming "from pole to pole" for this BBC documentary. It explores 10 different natural ecosystems including Mountains, Fresh Water, Caves, Deserts, Ice Worlds, Great Plains, Jungles, Shallow Seas, Seasonal Forests, and Ocean Deep. I'm really excited about Ocean Deep and Caves in particular. Being from a Great Plains (the North American prairie), I'll probably skip that one but HOW COOL DOES CAVES LOOK:

This is from the recently discovered Lechugilla Cave in Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico. It's 120 miles long (GOOD GOD) and has really ornate interesting stalagmites and stalactites from where sulphuric acid carves gypsum crystal formations.

I thought this picture was a close-up until I spotted the man standing right underneath it. This is the Chandelier Ballroom.

There's also a huge lake down there which one of the scientists went scuba-diving in it and found an air-filled room and 200 feet of submerged passage before finding an end.

So anyway, stuff like this is super-exciting to me, and I think I have a decent sense of adventure, but I read about the scientist going on a lone scuba-dive just to s ee what was at the bottom of the lake and I assumed he was on crack. I'd be way too afraid of running into some as-yet-undiscovered subterranean eyeless giant salamander or something. Clearly I've watched Lord of the Rings way too often.

Speaking of weirdo animals, I can't wait for Ocean Deep because I'm fascinated by all those cool deep sea creatures.

Like the vampire squid, which likes to live in the dark and freezing cold ocean depths. It has crazy eyes and its own light-producing apparati, much like this creature, which we may remember from that gem of a movie, Finding Nemo:

Like, what if you ran into THAT in your unexplored underground lake?

Also, read about how the anglerfish mates (Oh how I love you, Wikipedia. You endlessly find ways to distract me for hours straight daily.):

Anglerfish have a unique mating method. Since individuals are rare and encounters doubly so, finding a mate is a problem, especially at a time when both individuals are ready to spawn. When scientists first started capturing ceratioid anglerfish, they noticed that all of the specimens were females. These individuals were a few inches in size and almost all of them had what appeared to be parasites attached to them. It turned out that these "parasites" were the remains of male ceratioids.

When a male of one of these species hatches, it equipped with extremely well developed olfactory organs that detect scents in the water. They have no digestive system, and thus are unable to feed independently. They must find a female anglerfish, and quickly, or else they will die. The sensitive olfactory organs help him to detect the pheromones that signal the proximity of a female anglerfish. When he finds a female, he bites into her flank, and releases an enzyme which digests the skin of his mouth and her body, fusing the pair down to the blood vessel level. The male then atrophies into nothing more than a pair of gonads that release sperm in response to hormones in the female's bloodstream indicating egg release. This is an extreme example of sexual dimorphism. However, it ensures that when the female is ready to spawn, she has a mate immediately available.


Anonymous said...

I saw part the Planet Earth series when I was abroad last summer, and it's truly some of the most awe-inspiring TV I have ever see. And you learn all sorts of cool/random facts, too.

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