Night on Earth (2020) s01e03 Episode Script

Jungle Nights

1 Beneath the canopy, the jungle is one of the darkest places on Earth.
Little moonlight penetrates.
It's a mysterious, foreboding place.
But now, using new technology we can reveal the jungle in an entirely new light.
Uncovering a magical nighttime world.
One of spectacle and survival deep in the shadows.
Late afternoon in the Brazilian Pantanal.
This jaguar is almost two years old.
But he's still dependent on his mother.
She makes the kills that feed them both.
Sunset brings respite from the day's heat.
Nighttime will bring the cover of darkness.
Jaguars have excellent night vision.
So it's the ideal time to learn how to hunt.
In jungles around the world, the setting sun triggers change.
Many animals use color vision to find fruit.
Time for one last meal before it's too hard to see.
But some animals work the night to their advantage.
Dusk in the forests of Argentina.
We see little more than silhouettes.
But specialist low-light cameras can peer into the world of our closest nocturnal cousins.
Rarely seen, let alone filmed a family of owl monkeys is just waking up.
The youngest is first up.
But his big brother, like most adolescents wants to lie in.
Now Dad's awake.
It's time to find food.
The baby still needs carrying, but the oldest brother can climb by himself.
Of the many kinds of monkey in South America, only owl monkeys operate after dark.
At night, they have the fruits of the forest to themselves.
The adolescent is growing more independent.
But like all young monkeys, he has a lot to learn.
His huge eyes drink in the light giving him remarkable agility in the dark.
Unlike this howler monkey who can barely see to move.
Under the bright full moon, he ventures further from his parents than usual.
He needs to be careful.
An ocelot can see even better in the dark.
Time to go home.
But there's a problem.
Cloud cover pushes his night vision to the limit.
Now it's so dark our cameras need infrared lights to see what's going on.
These are wavelengths beyond the spectrum visible to humans and monkeys.
He's lost in pitch darkness.
As sight disappears, another sense takes over.
Owl monkeys urinate on their hands and feet so their scent trails them wherever they go.
All he needs to do is follow his nose.
Safe, and a little bit wiser.
Sticking together can be challenging in these dense, dark rain forests.
Deep rumbles roll through the jungles of Borneo.
The calls of hidden animals communicating in the dark.
Below the canopy, only two percent of moonlight reaches the forest floor.
It's far too dark for us to see.
But a thermal-imaging camera can detect body heat.
Most creatures here are small and nimble.
But there are also giants.
A family of forest-dwelling elephants.
The rumbles are their secret code.
This infrasound bounces off the canopy and penetrates the wall of trees.
Long-distance calls through the darkness.
By day, elephants spend most of their time feeding in the shade.
But at night, they move.
Small families draw closer together.
Even a solitary male follows the calls of the herd.
Thermal imaging reveals a network of capillaries close to his skin radiating heat and keeping him cool.
The elephants are heading towards more open space.
And today, roads create clearings in the forest.
Under cover of darkness, friends and families from miles around gather and socialize.
Flush with fresh grass that doesn't grow under thick forest canopy, a roadside verge is the perfect place to meet.
Tonight's get-together is extra special.
There's a new member of the clan to introduce.
A baby, just a few weeks old finally putting shapes to the sounds he's heard through the trees.
Just like human infants, his metabolic rate is higher than the adults', so he generates more heat.
While we sleep, these forest giants make the most of our changes to their world.
The hotter it gets, the more water is released into the atmosphere by trees.
The vapor that builds through the day creates storms that continue into the night.
Temporary forest pools attract water-loving frogs.
Many time their breeding to coincide with the full moon.
Dozens of species, hundreds of frogs, all gather to mate.
This tiny, male túngara frog is only the size of a thimble, but he has a big problem.
For every female here, there are six males, all calling out for attention.
To win a mate, he's got to shout above the crowd.
But it's risky.
There's a predator that hunts túngara frogs by homing in on their calls.
The more distinctive the call, the easier the target.
Silence is the safest strategy.
But túngaras only live for a year.
This could be his last chance to breed.
There's a female close by.
He's got to go for it.
But he isn't the only one vying for her affection.
His neighbor is on to her too.
The tiny male needs to find his voice.
Frenzied croaking still doesn't seem to get through.
He's got to try and sound a little more exciting.
He adds a trill to the end of his call.
She's still undecided.
The rival adds a flourish to his call too.
It's a sing-off.
Dangerous tactics.
Competition silenced, the tiny male wins his mate.
In a noisy world, sometimes it pays to be quiet.
Two-thirds of all rain forest mammals are nocturnal.
At night, the jungle canopy comes alive with fantastic beasts.
A kinkajou has good night vision but on moonless nights, he feels his way with super-sensitive paws.
And uses his nose to find food.
A tarsier has enormous eyeballs, each one bigger than his brain.
They've evolved to absorb every last photon.
But the mammal with the strangest night adaptations is hidden in the forest of Madagascar.
It looks like something made out of spare parts.
But the aye-aye is uniquely equipped to find wood-boring insects in complete darkness.
She taps a long middle finger eight times a second.
Oversized ears listen for vibrations in hollow wood.
A type of echolocation.
She's actually a primate, but has teeth more like a rodent.
They never stop growing.
Perfect for gnawing through wood.
That flexible finger has another part to play.
Packed with nerve endings and blood vessels, it's exceptionally sensitive.
A probe no grub can escape.
The jungle creeps and crawls by night.
This is when many small creatures feel safest to emerge.
But these miniature monsters often hunt each other.
These silken threads are a secret weapon belonging to one of the night's supreme predators.
A curlyhair tarantula's eight tiny eyes see little more than light and shade.
Instead, she feels her world through a network of trip wires.
Trigger just one and the cockroach's fate is sealed.
With chemically receptive hairs, she smells her victim's approach.
Through vibration, she can judge size and speed.
Little escapes the tarantula's surveillance system.
A male curlyhair must tread carefully.
Courtship is a perilous pursuit.
He taps a rhythm to get her in the mood.
If he doesn't get this right, he'll end up as a meal, not a mate.
One bite from those fangs and it will all be over.
She weighs 20 percent more than he does, so it takes all his strength to hold her.
Just long enough to pass a packet of sperm into the underside of her abdomen.
But best not to stick around.
In the Pantanal, the jungle is crisscrossed with waterways, making this one of the most abundant forests in the world.
Jaguars patrol the river bank, stalking capybara and caiman.
Higher up, a heat-sensitive camera reveals another hunter hiding in the darkness.
An ocelot.
An eighth the size of a jaguar, it's much better at climbing and can be perfectly concealed in the canopy.
So much prey makes this an ideal training ground for a young jaguar learning to fend for himself.
His night vision is far better than a capybara's.
But he's easily distracted.
The capybara are onto him.
All these hunting opportunities also attract other jaguars.
A male.
A hundred and thirty kilos of muscle.
Advertising his power with scent.
The female gets the message.
An encounter could be deadly for her boisterous cub.
Best to move on.
Danger avoided this time.
But soon, she won't be around to protect him.
Up in the canopy the ocelot bides her time.
A breeze.
Just what she's been waiting for.
The wind stifles any sound.
Perfect ambush conditions.
Roosting on the thinnest branch possible is the best chance of surviving the night.
But nothing is guaranteed.
A snakebird's eyesight is adapted for hunting fish underwater.
Up here, in the darkness, it's virtually blind.
Few predators are acrobatic enough to make a kill like this.
Something rarely, if ever, witnessed before.
Even by night, the jungle is a crowded and competitive place.
Gaining the edge in the darkness has forced animals to evolve in bizarre ways.
This pit viper can see without his eyes.
Thermal pits on his snout detect heat, instead of light.
It's not the only animal in the jungle to see things differently.
Polka-dot tree frogs have an ingenious way to spot each other at night.
They glow in the dark, absorbing ultraviolet light reflected by the moon and emitting it as fluorescence.
We need specialist equipment to see it, but the frogs' vision is perfectly matched to the fluorescent wavelength.
It's a new discovery.
Built-in night lights to help them keep track of each other.
This living light phenomenon is only beginning to be understood.
But it has sinister uses in this dark underworld.
Pitcher plants live in thin soils where nutrients are sparse.
But they have a grizzly way to supplement their diet.
They're carnivores.
A recent discovery has revealed how they feed through the night.
They glow in the moonlight.
This eerie light is invisible to the human eye.
But to insects, which can see in the ultraviolet spectrum, this is a beacon.
The fly receives a gift of nectar.
But it's not just sweet.
It's slippery.
A trap.
A vat of digestive fluid that will slowly dissolve its prey.
Another potential meal is lured in.
Lucky fly.
Maybe not.
Among densely packed trees, there is little breeze.
Scent hangs heavy on the night air.
Odor is a powerful tool for sending signals through the darkness.
To exploit this, some animals have evolved an incredible sense of smell.
The Atlas moth is the largest in the world.
Its wingspan like the spread of a man's hand.
Many moths live for only a few days as adults.
From the moment they emerge, female moths of all shapes and sizes release chemicals from their abdomens, filling the forest air with pheromones.
This male silk moth tunes into a blend of compounds unique to his species.
He'll use every scrap of energy he has, flying several kilometers in one night.
It's his only chance to mate.
She stays in one place, trusting the male's remarkable sense of smell.
He's close to exhaustion.
But he knows she's near.
His antennae are so sensitive, they can detect one pheromone molecule in millions.
Zigzagging flight helps him pinpoint her position.
He's found her.
But at a cost.
The energy he burned up in flight cannot be replaced.
These moths will never eat.
They have no mouth parts.
This is his last act.
But he's not destined for a peaceful end.
There's a nocturnal assassin down here.
The stuff of nightmares.
A giant centipede.
The length of your forearm.
Highly tuned antennae are hypersensitive to the slightest movement.
At least the moth fulfilled his purpose passing on his genes to the next generation.
In the jungle, life never goes to waste.
Fungi are the recyclers of the forest.
They break down dead matter, making scarce nutrients available again.
But in the warm, damp atmosphere, mushrooms can grow and wither in a single night.
Little time and not a breath of wind to spread their spores.
Some have an enchanting way to call for help.
Bioluminescent fungi make their own light.
Their glow can be enough to read by.
To invertebrates, which see blue and green colors best, they're irresistible.
When they feed, they get covered in their reproductive spores.
Then, as they move from one fungus to the next, they help fertilize them along the way.
A clever way to proliferate down here in the still air.
Even trees need help spreading their seeds as far as possible.
There are plenty of helpers by day, but the work doesn't stop during the night.
A giant squirrel swallows dozens of tiny fig seeds with every mouthful.
And he can glide 150 meters through the canopy.
The ultimate long-distance seed disperser.
Fig trees feed over a thousand species of animals round the clock.
Each bears fruit for only a few days a year.
But a single tree can produce a million figs.
A palm civet is doing his best to keep this tree to himself.
Smelly droppings send a message.
"These branches are occupied.
" It might keep other civets away, but he's in for a surprise visit.
Something completely unexpected.
An orangutan.
What he's doing up at midnight is a mystery.
These great apes usually sleep in leafy nests.
Feeding in the dead of night is extremely unusual.
And it's never been caught on camera.
A midnight feast could be how this young male avoids bumping into more dominant orangutans.
Or perhaps he's struggling to find enough food during daylight hours.
Like us, he cannot see much color in moonlight, so to check for ripeness, he gives each fig a gentle squeeze with his lips.
It is a practiced move.
Maybe orangutans are more nocturnal than we think.
More new species are discovered in jungles than anywhere else on land.
By exploring after dark, we're revealing new behavior, too.
All around the planet night presents animals with obstacles and opportunities.
Our understanding of some of the most iconic creatures on Earth is already being challenged.
Who knows what other surprises are hiding in the dark of a night on Earth?
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