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29 October 2014
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Life In The Undergrowth
David Attenborough with desert scorpion (Hadrurus arizonensis) in the Mojave desert © Keith Brust

Life In The Undergrowth - from Wednesday 23 November 2005 at 9.00pm on BBC ONE



David Attenborough lifts the lid on a miniature universe never before seen on television, this autumn on BBC ONE.


Just when you thought there was no more of the natural world left to film, Sir David Attenborough returns to the screen in a new landmark series revealing that he has yet to show viewers most of the animals in the world.


First he gave us Life On Earth, then The Private Life Of Plants, followed by The Life Of Birds and The Life Of Mammals.


Now, David turns his attention to a group of creatures he has yet to tackle in depth – insects and their allies. Although they are all around us, these animals' lives often go virtually unnoticed.


In Life In The Undergrowth, David lifts the lid on a miniature universe living right beneath our feet.


Using the latest cameras, BBC ONE takes viewers into their world to discover the amazing stories of the most successful creatures on Earth: the invertebrates.


It's not just ants and beetles, but centipedes, butterflies, dragonflies and a host of incredible animals never before seen on television.


The invertebrate world is one of magnificent spectacles.


David takes viewers to Taiwan to see thousands of swarming purple Crow butterflies, to Africa to witness an army of Matabele ants raid a termite colony, and to North America in time for the great emergence of 17-year cicadas.


It's a series of incredible colour and beauty, such as iridescent butterflies and rainbow spider webs.


Life In The Undergrowth has been a passionate project for David and a series that he has wanted to make for a long time.


He says: "The tiny creatures of the undergrowth were the first creatures of any kind to colonise the land. They established the foundations of the land's ecosystems and were able to transcend the limitations of their small size by banding together in huge communities of millions.


"If we and the rest of the back-boned animals were to disappear overnight, the rest of the world would get on pretty well. But if the invertebrates were to disappear, the land’s ecosystems would collapse.


"Wherever we go on land, these small creatures are within a few inches of our feet – often disregarded. We would do very well to remember them."


Just over 400 million years ago, creatures left the seas to move on to what was then a barren and lifeless land.


Since that first foothold, the invertebrates have dominated every corner of the Earth and the air with their numbers and diversity.


For every human, there are 1.6 billion invertebrates.


Night vision cameras, thermal cameras and tiny lenses allow David to investigate behaviour that is normally invisible to the human eye and reveal breathtaking stories, many of which are new to science.


At the end of each programme a ten minute short will examine the science and technology used to bring these stunning images to the screen.


Sally Crompton, Head of Open Broadcast Unit, said: "The Open University has a number of courses in natural sciences and we are thrilled to be involved in a BBC flagship programme like Life in the Undergrowth.


"Our Fly on the Wall shorts illustrate the remarkable imagery that new technology can provide."


Invertebrates have always dominated 'our' world. Now, for the first time, we can enter their beautiful, bizarre, ferocious and super-organised world.


Executive Producer - Mike Gunton, BBC Natural History Unit

Series Producer - Mike Salisbury, BBC Natural History Unit


A BBC/Animal Planet co-production for BBC ONE

Fly on the Wall is a BBC production for The Open University


An accompanying BBC Book, Life In The Undergrowth, is published on 10 October 2005, priced £20. In this seventh book in his Life series; David reveals the evolution of life on Earth through the lives of the invertebrates.


Life In The Undergrowth and The Life Collection are available to buy on DVD on 5 December from BBC DVD.


For further information on the series, to order a free Open University Life In The Undergrowth wall planner, and find out more about courses in natural sciences visit and


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