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Supersocieties

Episode 5 of 5

David Attenborough uncovers an intriguing network of incredible partnerships as he continues to explore the world of the invertebrates.

It is easy to be dismissive of invertebrates because they often pass us by unnoticed due to their small size. Yet some invertebrates have overcome the limitation of their small size by banding together in huge numbers. Many of these societies are so finely tuned in the way they operate that it is as if they were a single being - or, in the words of David Attenborough, a 'super-organism'.

By working together these tiny creatures can achieve great things. African termite mounds act as huge ventilation systems and are so sophisticated in their structure that humans are only just unravelling how they work. Yet insect societies are not all shining examples of cooperative utopias. As a bumblebee colony reaches its maximum size towards the end of summer, conflict spreads among the female workers and eventually they turn on their mother - the queen - and sting her to death. The programme also reveals what happens when two insect societies meet head-on, as matabele ants raid a nearby termite mound. The ensuing battle lasts just 15 minutes and ends with a most horrific scene of carnage.

1 hour

Last on

Fri 28 Nov 2014 13:10

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Credits

Role Contributor
Presenter David Attenborough
Producer Stephen Dunleavy
Series Producer Mike Salisbury

Broadcasts

  • Wed 21 Dec 2005 21:00
  • Tue 31 Jan 2006 19:00
  • Thu 9 Mar 2006 01:05
  • Mon 13 May 2013 16:15
  • Fri 28 Nov 2014 13:10