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The Life of Mammals, Vol. 3
The Life of Mammals Vol 3
Actor: David Attenborough
Genres: Special Interests, Television, Educational, Documentary
NR     2003     1hr 40min

Vast in scope and stunning in imagery and detail, The Life of Mammals is the epic story of 4,000 species that have outlived this dinosaurs and colonized the farthest reaches of the Earth. In this volume: Return to the Wate...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: David Attenborough
Creators: Michael deGruy, Paul Atkins
Genres: Special Interests, Television, Educational, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Nature & Wildlife, Television, Educational, Documentary
Studio: BBC Warner
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 05/13/2003
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 40min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Beautiful, excellent, highly worthwhile natural history film
Tim F. Martin | Madison, AL United States | 03/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Volume Three of _The Life of Mammals_, hosted by David Attenborough, contained episodes seven and eight of this truly excellent BBC series.

_Return to the Water_ covered the world of aquatic mammals. The opening sequence is with Attenborough and several Asian elephants along a beach. He said a number of mammals, including ones that might seem unlikely, are quite good swimmers. Asian elephants if they so desire can easily cross rather deep channels at sea, a point illustrated by footage of them swimming in the ocean.

Noting that the elephant's trunk may have evolved as an adaptation for aquatic locomotion, the show segued to another aquatic mammal with a flexible trunk, only much, much smaller - the shrew-like desman. One of several mammals that exploit the rich food resources of freshwater, thanks to its long, dense fur it is able to hunt insects in streams and creeks, though because it is extremely buoyant it cannot stay underwater for very long and it must return to land to eat.

Many aquatic mammals though are able to eat while in the water, such as the marine otter, the next animal depicted. Shown hunting shellfish in a kelp forest and floating on its back, smashing them open against a rock, otters thanks to their webbed feet, graceful movements, and extremely dense fur (there are more hairs in a square centimeter of otter fur than there is on an entire human head) are quite well adapted to their environment (they are even able to sleep in the kelp forest, wrapping themselves in the seaweed so they won't drift).

Still better adapted for life at sea is the sea lion. Their limbs are more paddle-like, they have developed thick blubber for warmth in cold waters, and their external ears are small. The show contained good footage of a mother and pup negotiating a kelp forest in New Zealand to go swimming in the waves beyond.

Even further adapted to life at sea are the true seals, such as those found in Antarctica. They have no visible external ear and their hind limbs are not capable of being maneuvered forward.

Attenborough made some interesting points about seal mating habits. The sea lions for instance required gentle sloping shores to come ashore to breed, shores where they won't be battered to death by waves, and shores that are relatively safe from land predators. Such places are few and far between and male seals are able to exploit this and create big harems. The Antarctic seals on the other hand are able to get on top of sea ice to give birth and raise young, which can be done just about anywhere, and are not exploitable by male seals and not susceptible to land predators.

However seals in the Arctic are vulnerable to predation. Attenborough showed the caves above the sea ice but not breaking through the snow that seals create to give birth and raise their pups - some such as the harp seal cannot swim for several weeks - places that are occasionally discovered and raided by Arctic foxes and polar bears, which were shown.

Hooded seals were shown with their bizarre mating rituals, as were harbor seals, which apparently do something Attenborough referred to as competitive choral singing, which after having seen the footage is an apt a term as any.

After spending several minutes on the Florida manatee we are shown the Ganges River dolphin, an animal that lives in very dark waters, a segue into a discussion on echolocation. From there Attenborough showed some interesting feeding behavior of dolphins along the coast of Georgia, USA, behavior that implied intelligence, communication, and teamwork. To continue that particular point he showed a huge pod of common dolphins at sea working together to corral a large school of fish to feed upon.

The episode closed with some wonderful CGI of the interior of a blue whale, footage of a blue whale at sea, beautiful photography of humpback whales (and discussion of their haunting songs and use of sound in navigation and communication), and southern right whales (which were shown mating).

_Life in the Trees_ showed the numerous different mammal groups that live an arboreal existence. Opening up with some humorous footage of meerkats - which will climb anything they can (including the host) in their sentry duties - Attenborough as the show progressed gradually showed mammals that were better and better adapted to life in the trees. First we see the hyrax, which uses something akin to rubber soled feet which provide some suction, then the coati, which uses claws and long tails for balance.

Climbing high into a rain forest tree, Attenborough showed the rich variety of foods - insects, leaves, fruit, birds, and eggs - that are to be had in the trees; even water, thanks to bromeliads (with footage of coatis and woolly monkeys drinking from them).

Next, we see the sun bear, which climbs trees in pursuit of fruit, an arboreal species of anteater, which has a prehensile tail, and the familiar gray squirrel, which are nimble, acrobatic - able to leap between branches - and lightweight (capable of going to nearly the end of even small branches). Able to leap - or glide really - even further is the flying squirrel, a nocturnal mammal that was shown moving about in some truly wonderful footage. Some arboreal mammals fly instead of glide, like the flying fox (the footage of the huge flocks and the predation on them by crocodiles when they came to drink and eagles while in flight and at rest was amazing).

Most of the remainder of the mammals shown are primates. We see wonderful, eerie footage of nocturnal slow lorises, more frenetic lesser bush babies, and a rich variety of lemurs in Madagascar. Chasing one species of lemur is the fossa, a mongoose-like predator. Finally we see some awesome footage of the gibbon, a consummate aerialist from Southeast Asia. Along the way Attenborough discussed the adaptations in fingers, wrists, tails, backbones, and vision to life in the trees.
Water dwellers, tree climbers
RR | Brooklyn, NY United States | 06/05/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This, the third volume of an excellent four-volume series on mammals, balances the expected with the unexpected, the large with the small, and the well-known with the less well-known. It contains two hour-long episodes: _Return to the Water_, which focuses on aquatic mammals such as otters, seals, manatees and whales; and _Life in the Trees_, which discusses primates and other arboreal mammals. Attenborough has obviously filmed these animals extensively, and his films benefit from being viewed multiple times.Because he is able to find beauty in things other people would not notice, Attenborough is at his best when he describes behaviors and animals which are neglected by other popular filmmakers. His awe of all creatures great and small is apparent in every movie in the series. _Return to the Water_ discusses the large whales with awe, but also takes care to mention the many other groups of mammals that have taken to the water. _Life in the Trees_ also divides its time about right between primates and non-primates. Overall, I highly recommend this video, which is densely packed with outstanding footage and fascinating information."