New BBC Two NHU series explores super senses of animal world in Beyond Human

Under the expert guidance of Helen and Patrick - putting the surprising and weird ways that animals sense the world around them under the spotlight - BBC Two audiences can gain a greater understanding of the complex science behind the senses of our planet’s animals.Kim Shillinglaw, Head of Commissioning, BBC Science and Natural History
Date: 08.04.2014     Last updated: 09.04.2014 at 14.16
This summer, BBC Two will air new Natural History Unit series Beyond Human, exploring the extraordinary world of animal senses. Presented by physicist Helen Czerski and biologist Patrick Aryee, Beyond Human explores how animals sense their world in ways far beyond our human capabilities.

Each episode will focus on a central theme: sight, sound and scent. Taking science out of the lab, Helen and Patrick travel five continents, getting up close to some amazing creatures. They conduct an array of demonstrations and experiments out in the wild that reveal the amazing ‘super senses’ of the animal world.

Kim Shillinglaw, Head of Commissioning, Science and Natural History, says: “Beyond Human is a truly fascinating production from the Natural History Unit. Under the expert guidance of Helen and Patrick - putting the surprising and weird ways that animals sense the world around them under the spotlight - BBC Two audiences can gain a greater understanding of the complex science behind the senses of our planet’s animals.”

Helen Czerski says: “I’m fascinated by the everyday physical world around us, and this series was a reminder of how much is out there that we cannot detect. All organisms face the problem of how to sense their world, and I was frequently surprised and delighted by the elegance and effectiveness of evolutionary solutions to that problem - and it was a lot of fun to bring a physicist’s perspective to the topic of natural history.”

Patrick Aryee, says: "There were so many moments of disbelief throughout our filming, turning a camper van into a giant speaker, walking alongside a six-tonne African Elephant, being mesmerised by the unsuspecting Golden Mole and defying gravity with the power of sound. The way animals sense their environment is, more often than not, beyond our human perception, but I feel we've managed to capture a glimmer of this beautiful and alien world.”

Exploring the extraordinary sense of sight in the animal world, the team put ‘eagle-eyed’ birds to the test to see how sharp the super-high-definition eyesight of a Peregrine Falcon really is, and demonstrate just why it's so difficult to swat flying insects.

The episode on sound sees Helen and Patrick reveal great insight into animals’ abilities to hear both the highest and the lowest frequencies. The team converts a 1960s camper van into a giant speaker, giving off sounds too low for humans to hear, which Patrick uses to 'talk' with elephants, while in Puerto Rico, Helen discovers how a tiny frog the size of a two-pence piece is capable of producing ear-splitting sounds – with a call so loud it should deafen itself.

And in the episode focusing on the power of scent in the wild, Helen jumps into shark-infested waters off the coast of the Bahamas, with only a small pouch of liquid as her defence. Releasing the 'smell of death' into the water – the sharks quickly flee – demonstrating an incredible new technology in shark repellents. And Patrick experiences first hand why skunks smell so bad, and the lengths that predators will go to to avoid them.

Beyond Human airs on BBC Two later this year.

Production Credits

Beyond Human is a Natural History Unit production. The executive producer is Tim Martin, and the series producer is Alex Williamson.

SH6