Tuesday, 11 October 2016

The Life of Mammals (2002)

Although he was in his mid-70s by the time it was made, The Life of Mammals finds Sir David Attenborough once more travelling around the world to explore the many and varied forms of life on this planet.

As the title makes obvious, this time the topic at hand is the class of organisms that includes ourselves, as well as those species that were are most familiar to us from their roles as pets or livestock.

As usual with the Life series of documentaries, Attenborough takes a structured approach to the subject.  He begins with a basic overview of what mammals are, and then further explores the distinguishing features of the three main types: monotreme, marsupial and placental.  From there he explores the various diets that mammals can have, giving over an entire episode to herbivores or carnivores, for instance.  Once he reaches omnivores, he diverts into looking at the specialised examples of aquatic and arboreal mammals, before turning to monkeys, apes and humans to round things out.

I didn't find The Life of Mammals quite such compelling viewing as some of Attenborough's earlier series, but I think that was at least in part because of the familiarity I mentioned before.  Even animals we've likely never encountered outside of a zoo, like lions or leopards, are pretty well-known to us from media.

Which is not to say that this is in any way a bad show.  It's very informative, Attenborough remains an enjoyable host, and modern technology allows them to get footage of things never seen before - such as the interior of a platypus burrow, or the nocturnal hunting habits of a lion pride.  It's just that (with a few exceptions like the desman or the naked mole rat) mammals seem a little less weird and wonderful, on the whole, than birds or plants were.

Overall, if you've an interest in the natural world, this is worth your time.

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