University of Bristol: Bristol researchers feature on captivating BBC Two wildlife series

Fascinating research by two University of Bristol academics features in a new BBC Two wildlife series.

Over six episodes, Chris Packham’s Animal Einsteins looks at how Earth’s savviest species have sharpened their skills to thrive in the animal kingdom.

Their cunning tricks and unique techniques are being brought to BBC Two with some help from Bristol University’s Dr Martin How and Dr Stephanie King. It is produced by the BBC Studios Natural History Unit, based in Bristol.

Dr King will show viewers how dolphins copy the calls of their peers to increase feelings of team bonding – a type of shared experience we used to think was unique to humans.

Dolphins can form alliances that last decades and they advertise these relationships with synchronised body movements. Dr King found that synchronised calls also play a vital role.

She developed her research using acoustic data from Shark Bay in Western Australia, although scenes for the upcoming programme were filmed on Clevedon beach.

She said: “It’s fantastic to be able to share our research findings with a large audience and to introduce people to the innovative ways that animals overcome their own unique set of challenges.”

Meanwhile, Dr How will be showcasing his research on animal vision in the marine environment.

He will reveal how some species such as cuttlefish and mantis shrimp use ‘polarization’, a property of light that is invisible to humans.

New camera technology allows viewers to see the world through the eyes of these animals, and Dr How will show that some polarization patterns are used as secret channels of communication deep beneath the waves.

Dr How said: “This weekend millions of people will get a glimpse of what life is like for sea creatures that were thriving in our oceans millions of years before humans evolved.

“This will be one of the first times that an audience has experienced the polarized world around us, which we hope will be an eye-opening experience.”

Each 60 minute of Chris Packham’s Animal Einsteins explores a different skill and showcases the animals that have honed that skill to perfection.

Chris Packham’s Animal Einsteins airs on BBC Two on Sunday nights and will be available afterwards on BBC iPlayer.

The first episode, which aired on Sunday, was watched by more than 1.4 million people.

Both researchers feature on episode 2 of the series, which airs at 8pm on Sunday, February 28.