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How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin

Just So Science, Series 1 Episode 4 of 5

Duration:
15 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 17 January 2013

Vivienne Parry presents the science behind some of Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories, with wondrous tales of how things really came to be.

In Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories, we're told how the leopard got his spots, the camel his hump, the whale his throat and so forth. But what does science make of these lyrical tales? For the most part, just-so stories are to be dismissed as the antithesis of scientific reasoning. They're ad hoc fallacies, designed to explain-away a biological or behavioural trait, more akin to folklore than the laws of science. But on closer inspection, might Kipling's fantasies contain a grain of truth? And might the "truth" as science understands it, be even more fantastic than fiction?

In Just So Science, Vivienne Parry meets researchers whose work on some of Kipling's 'best beloved' creatures is helping us to answer a rather inconvenient question: how do traits evolve? Why are some animals the way they are?
Excerpts from five of the Just So Stories are read by Samuel West
4. How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin. Rhinos and horses have much in common. John Hutchinson studies both, but just don't ask to look inside his freezer.
Producer: Rami Tzabar.

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