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'This is Absolute Genius!
'Dive into a world of action...
'Each show, we'll introduce you to a different genius.'
'An amazing person who had a genius idea which shaped the world.'
'And they will inspire us to come up with our own genius idea
'at the end of each show.'
'But will it be any good?'
'Will it be any good?!
'Today, we'll be looking at all kinds of creatures...'
'..from the pickled and preserved...'
Why is it after me?!
'..to the live and dangerous...'
'..as we tackle a genius
'who transformed the way we understand nature.'
Today we bring you a man who, 150 years ago,
changed the way we understand the entire world around us.
Yeah, if there was ever a Champions League of Geniuses,
this guy would qualify every season.
Ladies and gentlemen, we bring you the great,
the incredible, Charles Darwin!
Inspired by this man's sheer brilliance and genius,
we're going to be coming up with our own daring genius idea
later on in the show.
We'll be taking the plunge, going face-to-face
with one of the most perfectly evolved predators on the planet.
But first, let's find out a bit more about this revolutionary chap.
Charles Darwin was born in 1809.
From an early age, he was fascinated in the world around him.
He became a naturalist, someone who studies everything in nature.
He would gaze for hours at rocks, plants and flowers,
and loved collecting all kinds of living things.
From wiggly worms to feisty little critters like this.
Then, in 1831, Darwin went on a five-year voyage,
in a ship called the Beagle, to South America.
What he learnt on his travels and the years of research that followed
would lead him to come up with
one of the most important ideas there has ever been.
And the idea is STILL amazing now!
Darwin said that everything in nature
was connected in a kind of giant family tree,
and started from a single living organism
that lived millions of years ago.
His genius idea is known as the theory of evolution.
It's based on something he called "natural selection".
Different kinds or species of animal, insect, fish, bird, plant -
every living thing - would, over thousands of years,
adapt and slowly change,
until sometimes an entire new species would come into being.
Ah, good morning!
Evolution was a revolutionary idea
because, in Darwin's day, most Europeans believed
that EVERYTHING was created by God, as told in the Bible.
To start to find out how Darwin came up with his theory of evolution,
we've come here, to the magnificent Natural History Museum in London.
In here are some of the actual things he collected
on his travels and lots more besides.
This is the Tank Room.
And, to show us some of the amazing creatures in here,
it's Genius Helper Jon Ablett.
What is THAT?!
These are some of our fish specimens
that we keep in the Tank Room of the Natural History Museum.
And I just breathed in through me nose!
-Is that like just pickling vinegar?
Yeah, well, we use alcohol and they should keep for hundreds of years.
But why do you preserve them?
Scientists from inside the museum and around the world
can come here and study them.
Are we...? Are we allowed?
You're not going to touch one of them. Don't do it!
It feels like...leather.
Let it swim away. Let it swim away.
Right, swim away.
DEEP VOICE: "All right? My name's Dave."
All right, Dave?
Argh...it's heavy! What is that?
It's me mother. THEY LAUGH
What's she doing in this tank?
-It's a monkfish?
-It's a monkfish, yeah.
These are brilliant, but have you got anything
that Darwin brought back from his travels all those years ago?
Yeah, we've got lots of different specimens. Let's go.
This is Darwin's pet tortoise.
-This is actually...
-This is it?
-This is HIS pet tortoise?
And what about the octopus in this jar?
Pet octopus? It's not very cuddly, is it?!
It's one of the first things that he collected on his Beagle voyage.
Darwin wanted to know how the octopus
fitted into his theory of evolution.
Octopuses are part of a group of creatures called molluscs
that also includes squid, slugs and snails.
But how do we know that?
What we do is we look at the shared characteristics they had.
On a snail, for example, it's very easy to see they have a shell.
All right, fellas?
But squid and octopus are a bit more like a slug.
The shell has been reduced through evolution -
it's actually on the inside of the body.
So these have a shell inside them.
Look, it's part of your family.
-It's a bit older than you, though!
Darwin was fascinated by the way different animals were related.
But there was one bizarre sea creature,
with over 1,000 species, that he was obsessed with.
To show us is Miranda Lowe, Curator of Crustacea.
These look like birds' claws. What are they?
These are actually barnacles.
-What exactly are barnacles?
-They're creatures that live in the sea.
They're in the family crustacea,
which include shrimps, crabs, lobsters.
Darwin studied them obsessively for eight years.
He studied them so much that his children
actually thought that everybody's dad did that.
So, when they went to visit their friends,
they would say, "Where does your father do barnacles?"
Yeah, "Where's your dad's barnacles?"
Why for so long?
He studied them for so long
because he wanted to accurately describe them or classify them.
And, from that, he found out there was one barnacle
that was the basis for all the other species.
So, if you trace back time far enough,
there would be one grandaddy of all barnacles
-and that's where it all started, right?
That idea - of every living thing
being descended from a single ancestor -
was a key part of Darwin's theories.
And there's one interesting thing about barnacles.
When they're small, they secrete something similar to concrete,
which will attach them to a rock for the rest of their lives.
And, because of that, it's very difficult for them to reproduce.
Yeah, of course, cos you need to contact each other to reproduce.
So, if they're separate here and here, what happens?
They are known in the animal kingdom of having the largest willy
so that they can reproduce with other barnacles...
Hold on a minute, Miranda!
Are you saying that the barnacle...?
The reproductive organ came out of here
and travelled all the way round, to one round here and...?
Because they're cemented to a rock, so that's the only way to reproduce.
DOM, AS DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: And here we see the barnacle mating.
A lovely example of evolution there!
Barnacles evolved so they could mate whilst stuck to a rock.
In the same way, giraffes have evolved long necks
to reach food that other animals can't,
and some lizards have grown very long tongues to catch insects.
OK, so Darwin was onto something pretty big back then.
Yeah, because Darwin's evolutionary theories
weren't just about octopuses and barnacles.
Oh, no, no!
It was about every living thing on the planet,
including human beings.
This is the Grant Museum of Zoology in London.
Here there are tons of preserved animals and skeletons -
more examples of how different species
are connected through evolution.
Show us your teeth.
That's it. Lovely. CAMERA CLICKS
Meet Professor Steve Jones.
He's an expert in biology
and knows all about how one species can evolve into another.
So, Steve, obviously Darwin's theories changed the way
that we look at animals, humans, the human race, biology.
But what did we think of animals beforehand?
I mean, if you look at this lion, for example.
Now, when you look at it,
that looks like a very big cat when you think about it, a domestic cat.
And, of course, it is.
There's evidence now that cats are related to lions.
And we know that dogs have evolved from wolves.
But these were radical new ideas in Darwin's time.
To people of that day, either God had done it
or, somehow, it just kind of happened.
It just was.
People interested in lions knew a lot about lions
but they didn't know anything about wolves.
And what Darwin did was to connect everything together.
And he connected them together with his genius idea, natural selection.
Natural selection, remember, is Darwin's way
of explaining how evolution can change one creature,
so much so that it becomes a whole new species.
Like this one, called the dugong.
Believe it or not, this used to be a completely different animal
that lived on land and even had arms and legs.
But, through evolution, it slowly lost them over millions of years.
And the evidence is these rather eccentric-looking bones here.
And what that is is what we call the pelvis.
The part of your body which your legs are attached to.
But there's nothing attached to the pelvis here.
It's been reduced to almost nothing.
And you can see another example.
If you look at a living dugong,
it's got nice flippers, a bit like a seal.
But, if you look at the bones, that flipper is in fact a hand...
..with one, two, three, four, five digits and a little tiny thumb.
Now in this glass case is a series of skulls
showing how human beings have evolved from apes.
And today there's lots of evidence that we are related to chimpanzees.
But, back in Darwin's time, this was a difficult idea to accept.
Why were people uncomfortable with the idea
that humans were related to apes?
I think it's because they seemed to think that this dragged them down,
this made them less human than they had thought they were.
But we have all kinds of things that these creatures simply don't have.
As far as we can tell, they're unique to us.
We have a sense of beauty, a sense of history, a sense of the future.
Some people have a sense of religion.
To me, you needed the theory of evolution
to make us feel truly human.
Darwin's theories were really controversial at the time
because they conflicted with religious views,
like those in the Bible about the creation of the world
and the creatures in it.
And his ideas can still cause controversy today
for the same reasons.
So I'm starting to understand Darwin's genius idea
and this process of natural selection,
but we could do with seeing it in action.
Yeah, if only Fran, our friendly scientist, was here to help.
'This is Fran.'
'She just loves experimenting...'
'..to help explain the ideas of our geniuses.'
'And she's sure to pop up just when you really need her.'
Fran, what on earth are you doing in there?
I'm testing my camouflage.
-So camouflage... You know camouflage, right?
Characteristics that a lot of animals use to try and blend in
with their background to hide from their predators.
What's this got to do with natural selection?
Well, I've got an experiment that involves camouflage
that's going to show us exactly how natural selection works.
Lots of animals have natural camouflage.
And, over years and years, nature "selects" the best kind.
Creatures with good camouflage are more likely to survive.
We're going to play a kind of experimental hide-and-seek
to show how this works.
Right then, Fran, what do you think?
-Well, you-you're camouflaged, sort of.
-By the way, you look ridiculous.
-I mean, look at that.
Imagine we're a species of woodland creature.
-Quite a timid woodland creature.
-We're scared of the Predator.
-So meet the Predator.
Ooh, this is going to be nasty, isn't it?
All right, mate? Apparently, there's a predator turning up in a minute.
Where is it? Eh?
THEY LAUGH YOU'RE the Predator?!
Look - little fella, wearing an orange jumper!
-Brilliant, can't wait for this.
Well, this Predator is going to hunt us.
So we're going to see who's selected the best camouflage.
'While we look for hiding places...'
'..the Predator counts to 100.
'He's going to try to find us
'and splat us with orange paintball pellets.'
'Fran's camouflage hides her really well.'
He can't see me - it's brilliant!
'But pink camouflage can't hide you for long in these woods.'
He's seen me.
'My yellow camouflage is better than pink in these surroundings.
'But it's only a matter of time...'
Ah, yes. Now, Tom, you see, I know I was taking the mick earlier.
But, to be honest, I love orange. It's my favourite colour.
Get away...! Ooh! ARGH!
-Gentlemen, you've been splatted!
What does that all mean?
This is natural selection in action.
So it means that, in our species,
animals with my colouring would be more likely to survive -
because I didn't get shot - to an age where we could reproduce.
This means that, over time,
our species would all have Fran's colouring.
We've seen how important camouflage is to survive in the wild.
So which creatures have the best camouflage?
It's the Genius Top Five.
At five, the polar bear.
That furry white coat is perfect for hunting in the snow.
Let's get out of here!
Four, the slipper sole.
A sandy-coloured flatfish
that blends in brilliantly with the sea bed.
Three, the leopard.
Dark spots and a yellowy-brown coat
for hiding under the hot African sun.
Yum, yum, yum, yum.
Two, the walking leaf.
This isn't part of a tree, it's actually an insect.
That's a leaf, or I'm a monkey!
One, the chameleon.
A lizard that changes its colour depending on how it's feeling.
Greeny-brown is great camouflage in the jungle
but red means, "Danger! Keep your distance!"
You should be seeing red, mate!
So we're starting to understand Darwin's theory of evolution,
how everything in nature is connected and changes over time.
And, later on, we'll be coming face-to-face
with a perfectly-evolved predator.
THEY BOTH YELL
It's got the pole!
When Darwin got back from South America,
he continued his naturalist studies here in Britain.
Yeah, he settled down, had a family, got married
and lived HERE for 40 years, in this beautiful house.
This is Down House in Kent,
where Darwin worked and where he lived...
with his wife and ten children.
Darwin's little 'uns used to like to play a trick on their dad.
Yeah. Now, Darwin was the kind of guy
that liked a fixed daily routine.
And, every single day, he would walk around this part of the garden
five times, which meant he would have walked exactly one mile.
He measured his walk by placing five stones at a certain point
and then kicking one away each time he went round.
His children, though, would hide in the undergrowth,
sneak out once he had gone by and replace the stone.
But, when he was at home,
Darwin spent most of his time in this study.
It's here that he wrote down all his ground-breaking ideas.
And giving us access-all-areas is Annie Kemkaran-Smith,
Curator of Down House.
Annie, it's incredible being in this room.
But it's actually quite... small and modest,
considering the amount of AMAZING work that came out of here.
He spent an awful lot of time in this room.
He wrote all of his 19 books in this room,
including this one, On The Origin Of Species,
which was published in 1859.
-Don't touch it with your finger!
"When on board HMS Beagle as a naturalist,
"I was much struck with certain facts in the distribution
"of the inhabitants of South America."
-That's enough for today. More tomorrow!
'On The Origin Of Species
'is Darwin's most famous book about evolution.
'But he delayed publishing it for 15 years.'
Annie, why have you taken us to a cupboard under the stairs?
This is possibly one of the most important cupboards in history,
because, in here, Darwin put his rough version of his book -
On The Origin Of Species -
and, in 1844, packaged it up, put it under the stairs,
with a note to his wife, Emma, saying,
"If I'm to die, you're to get this published,"
because he realised how important it was.
What he had here in this package was the very beginnings
of questioning the story that the Bible set out.
He knew that people weren't going to be very happy about that.
So he needed to have absolute 100% evidence to back that up
before he put it in the public domain.
Darwin realised that his theories would only be accepted
if he could explain the relationship of everything in nature.
He had to show how even the really weird stuff fitted in.
Why, for instance, would a plant evolve to eat insects?
Like this one, the Venus fly trap.
Meet Rowan Blaik, Head Gardener at Down House.
He works here, in Darwin's original greenhouse.
Why was Darwin so interested in carnivorous plants?
What was he trying to discover about them?
He knew that carnivorous plants live in really poor soil
with very few nutrients,
and he wanted to show that they're just like other living plants -
they need nitrogen to survive.
But they're getting their nitrogen from the bugs that they catch.
Darwin tested lots of carnivorous plants
including this one, called the sundew.
We're going to do an experiment to find out
how the sundew is related to other plants
and why it evolved into a meat eater!
With the sundew, what Darwin did was he would feed them cheese,
and cooked meat, and toenail clippings.
Ah, right. Well, it just so happens
I've got my ham sandwich here from lunch.
-Can we feed the plant a bit of this ham?
So we've got meat for our sundew plant.
That's got nitrogen.
And so have my nail clippings.
There we go.
And, believe it or not, something else Darwin tried with the sundew
was his own urine.
Yes, piddle is full of nitrogen!
Time for a tinkle.
Oh, I know. Do bogies have nitrogen?
-They do a bit, yeah.
It's all in the name of science.
Hold your wee in one hand. Hold my nails here.
Sorry, viewer, it's all in the name of science!
'Don't try this at home.'
It's black! You've got black bogies!
I work down the mines.
Now to put the ham,
and piddle on the sundew and see if it tries to eat them.
To compare, we're also putting sugar on the plant
because that doesn't contain nitrogen.
While we wait for the sundew plant to do its stuff...
..it's time for the Not So Genius Idea!
Darwin's great ideas came from hours of thinking,
often on long walks on his own.
But thinking can be dangerous.
One time, he was so preoccupied in his thoughts,
he walked right off the edge of a wall and fell.
Fortunately, the drop wasn't very far and he wasn't seriously hurt.
But he was thinking while falling! Later, he wrote...
"The number of thoughts which passed through my mind
"during this very short but sudden and wholly unexpected fall,
24 hours later, has the sundew plant experiment worked?
Well, yes. Mostly.
Unsurprisingly, it didn't fancy nitrogen-free sugar or the nails.
But, on this special camera,
we can see how the sundew's hairs wrap greedily around my bogey
and slurp up the nitrogen from Dick's wee.
So, Darwin's experiment shows why the sundew evolved
into a carnivorous species and how it's related to other plant life.
-It was great to recreate one of Darwin's experiments.
And I think it's given us some ideas for our own Genius Challenge!
It really has. When Darwin was off on his voyage,
he got up close and personal
with all of the wildlife he was documenting.
Yeah, I think we need to find an animal that's hungry, more ravenous,
-top of the food chain!
-I know it!
But where will we find sharks? Where do we go?
-Do we go to Sydney, Australia?
-Do we go to the Caribbean?
-No. I've got somewhere better in mind.
-'I love Cheshire.'
Our Genius Idea, to go diving with sharks.
These terrifying fish are one of the most perfect examples
of evolution in the animal kingdom.
Our challenge - to come face-to-face with these mighty marine predators,
to find out for ourselves why they're top of the food chain!
Our problem - can we pluck up the courage to get in the water
with these fearsome fish?!
-OK, I'm coming.
-All right, yes.
Helping us with our challenge is marine biology dude,
and heavy rock fan, the Blowfish.
His favourite shark is, of course, the guitar shark.
That's just one of eight different kinds of shark
here at the Blue Planet Aquarium in Cheshire.
But before we get in the water with these fellas,
Blowfish is going to show us some other examples of perfect evolution,
creatures that brilliantly adapted to their environment
millions of years ago.
First up is the spider crab.
This is a crustacean and, believe it or not,
these guys are related to the gooseneck barnacle.
Ah! Darwin's favourite little pet.
That's the one!
Next, a reptile that's as old as the dinosaurs.
These guys are cayman. They belong to the alligator family.
They look like dinosaurs, right?
Well, essentially, they ARE dinosaurs.
They're not as big as they used to be
but they have not changed in any other way.
And they share their pond with this turtle.
-You cheeky so and so!
-Look at that!
Believe it or not, long, long ago, snakes used to have legs.
This reticulated python is perfectly evolved for slithering.
WHY...?! DICK LAUGHS
Why is it after me?!
But, just like the dugong we saw earlier, it once had legs,
but lost them through evolution.
And so to the kings of perfect evolution.
HE GASPS What the...?!
Sharks have been around for an incredible 420 million years -
that's long before the dinosaurs even arrived.
So they've spent all that time on the planet being honed by evolution.
But very, very quickly, they hit a winning formula.
The thing that really changed the game was those jaws -
when a shark opens its mouth,
special muscles on either side of its jaw lock into place,
throwing the mouth forward, up and down.
Just about the size of your head.
Time to see those jaws in action.
That fish is surrounded. It's got no chance.
Oh, my goodness! Look at the size of that.
Oh, look. Look, look, look, look.
It's got the pole.
Look at the teeth!
-It's ripped the bit of wood!
Like a saw!
We've seen that they like their food
and that they're very feisty predators.
we're going to swim with them.
This is it. The moment of truth.
I am absolutely terrified.
For the first time on this show,
I'm looking forward to doing a challenge.
I'm not that scared.
HE is in my boat for once.
Mm. Yeah. It's absolutely awful.
'But there's no turning back now.'
There he goes, look at him. He's gone!
Underwater, it's a whole new world...
Oh, no, my turn. All right.
-See you on the other side, Dom.
Down on the bottom, we look out for our first shark.
Here it is -
a massive sand tiger shark!
It looks terrifying.
And it's not just sharks swimming around our heads.
That is a deadly stingray.
But, after a few minutes down here,
you realise that the sharks aren't really interested in us.
Knowing that, I finally begin to relax
and admire all these fantastic creatures.
All of them the result of millions of years of evolution.
And, soon, we forget about the danger altogether.
But, when our air runs low, it's time to come back to the surface.
-How was that, Dom?
Really, it was.
It was like being in someone else's universe.
Here he comes.
Wasn't that AMAZING, eh?!
-I'm almost speechless.
-Like walking into a different world.
And they didn't care.
And there's us being really stressed before and it was actually possibly
-one of the most peaceful things you could ever do.
'What a journey this has been!
'We've seen pickled monsters and live snakes...'
Why is after me?!
'..and creatures Darwin brought back from his travels.'
'We've learned how Darwin's theory of evolution
'explains how every living thing on the planet has evolved...'
'..how humans came from apes, how barnacles have babies...
Clever old chap, really!
'..but how some, like sharks,
'got everything just right a long, long time ago...'
Boys, you've just been in the water with 420 million years of evolution!
-Thank you, Charles Darwin.
Yeah. I think you're an Absolute Genius!
Jolly kind of you to say so.
It smacked me in the face!
What are you doing?!
-Let me get it straight!
Oh, what's all that?! What's all the black stuff?!
DICK SCREAMS AND LAUGHS