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This is Deadly 360,
the show that pits three of the world's deadliest predators
against their prey,
examining their hunting strategies and their escape tactics
from every angle.
By delving beneath the fur and feathers we find out
why a hunt succeeds
and why they sometimes fail.
One thing is certain,
prey animals are anything but sitting ducks.
Their defensive strategies keep them alive.
And push predators to the limits.
Prepare for Deadly 360.
This is a Deadly 360 mission control,
where all of today's action and analysis takes place.
We have access to some of the most enthralling hunts
that have ever been caught on camera.
I've recreated three of the most exciting
and analysed them from a variety of different angles
in true 360 degree style.
The predators we're looking at have to find and catch food
or they just won't make it.
In the wild world,
simply managing to survive is the greatest challenge of all.
I present to you the crocodiles.
In today's line-up we meet the Nile crocodile,
an armoured ambush hunter.
We also meet the caiman, a fishing expert from South America.
And in the waters of Australia,
we reveal the world's largest crocodilian,
the saltwater crocodile.
A reptile that's not afraid to jump for its prey.
Three crocodiles, three very different hunting strategies,
They look invincible,
but there's a continual arms race going on in nature
which ensures that prey animals are always evolving
spectacular ways of taking care of themselves.
Today's line-up of defenders include the wildebeest,
a long-distance runner with a surprising turn of speed.
And the most feared fish of them all, the piranha.
Plus, in Australia, we investigate the fruit bat's escape techniques.
So, I've introduced you to all of our contenders,
now it's time to meet our first deadly duo going head-to-head.
The first predator is the daddy of all the African reptiles,
the Nile crocodile.
Perfect planned ambushes are their speciality.
And up against it is this, the wildebeest.
They may look like big, bulky beasts, but don't be fooled.
They are extremely agile with some pretty nifty moves.
But which animal has the edge in the race for life?
It's time to go Deadly 360.
We join this hunt to find the wildebeest at the water
taking a well-earned drink after trekking hundreds of miles
across the plains in search of fresh feeding grounds.
But they are unaware of the danger lurking underneath the water.
It looks like the prey is in serious trouble.
But how did it get there and is there any chance it might survive?
To answer these questions,
we're going to have to wind back to the start of the hunt
and find out what's happening that leads up to this strike.
The first thing to show you is where in the world they live.
Well, this hunt happened in east Africa, in the Masai Mara.
The Mara River flows 245 miles through the plains
and is crucial to grazing animals like the wildebeest.
Around 1.3 million cross this river on their annual migration.
The Mara also provides refreshment on their marathon journey
as they are unable to go without water for longer than a few days.
But this also happens to be home to the Nile crocodile.
He's always on the lookout for a meaty meal
and the wildebeest have just wandered into his backyard.
So, we've set the scene,
but how do these animals operate in this environment
and what attributes do they have
that might tip the balance in their favour?
Crocodiles may look prehistoric but they have hi-tech weapons on board.
And don't be fooled by their drowsy demeanour,
crocodiles have explosive speed.
Once they've locked on to their prey, jaws slam shut
with a bite that's probably the strongest in Africa.
With all that to help it hunt,
you'd think our predator would have no trouble making a kill,
but our prey also has some pretty nifty means of defence.
Wildebeest have superb escape tactics.
First, living in a herd has its advantages.
They know that if they stick together
it's harder for attackers to single one out.
Add to that their reactions
and the ability to leap 2.5 metres in the air and it's no easy target.
Well, based on all of that,
I'd say this is going to be a pretty interesting hunt.
Let's see how it unfolds.
We join the beginning of the hunt down at the Mara River.
The crocodiles are ready and waiting
for an event that will last for the next two weeks.
The wildebeest migration needs to cross the flow.
And they've arrived.
But it takes a lot of skill and cunning
to sneak up on this number of wildebeest,
and Nile crocodiles are the masters of ambush.
The crocodile's body shape is critical
in allowing it to hunt prey that's out of the water
while it remains submerged.
The eyes and nostrils are on the top of the head
so the whole body can stay under water but it can still see its prey.
Now it's clocked where the animals are,
it's going to drop under the water, close the eyes
and go into complete stealth mode.
The water is too murky for it to use its sight under water anyway
so it switches to using tiny pressure receptors on the jaw
which pick up vibrations made by animals at the water's edge.
This enables it to sneak right up close.
Meanwhile, having travelled hundreds of miles on their migration,
the wildebeest need to drink.
They are now in the crocodile's sight.
So what means of defence do they have against an attack?
Wildebeest haven't really evolved to escape from crocodiles.
Their main predator is lions so their body shape is very much built
to get away from that land-based predator.
They've got this huge set of horns and very large head
and this huge muscular neck is to support that weight.
But it also means they've got a lot of muscle at the front
which is great for springing away with the front legs.
It can drive backwards with great force and speed
and that's going to give it a real chance of escape,
even from a prehistoric predator like the crocodile.
Let's see what happens.
Right, back to the hunt.
With the wildebeest finally at the river,
the crocodile has just one chance to make a kill.
If he's successful today,
it will be enough food to keep him going for a year.
Even if the croc does manage to catch its prey,
that's only the start of the challenge.
A crocodile's jaws don't move side to side,
they only move in the vertical plane.
They need to take a bite, engage those massive neck muscles
and then start rolling around
to tear chunks of flesh out of their prey.
Sometimes you might have four or five crocs
all getting stuck into one animal.
Each one can devour as much as a quarter of a tonne of meat
in one sitting.
Which is kind of like me eating 150 hamburgers. Nice!
There are very few animals that have skulls as dramatic
as you will find in a large crocodilian.
This one belongs to a Nile crocodile.
I've worked out the length of this animal based on this skull.
About four metres long, which means that it was a male.
Females don't get to be that big. And it is incredibly impressive.
First of all, that's down to the boniness of the skull.
It is incredibly heavy.
But also the massive muscles that drive that bite.
Those are fixed here.
They're like balloons at the back of the jaw
and they come right in to the inside of the skull.
They can close that jaw with phenomenal force.
The teeth are pretty spectacular too.
Crocodiles have between 60 and 80, usually,
and those are continually replaced throughout its life.
A crocodile of this size could have gone through 45 sets of teeth,
continually replacing them as they're broken while it feeds.
Right, let's go back to the hunt.
After positioning himself just a few metres from the wildebeest,
he's now ready to make his move.
A crocodile can capture prey within about a body length,
but he's got to hit his target first time.
He swipes his muscular tail.
This will launch him with explosive speed out of the water.
Wow! That has to be worth an action replay.
OK, you can see the crocodile is pretty much exploding
out of the water, jaws wide open.
To protect the eyes, he has to close them,
and that means he's striking blind.
As soon as one of the animals reacted,
all of the others go off at the same time
and our crocodile has missed.
In fact, he's in danger of getting stomped.
Let's watch that back again. You can see that as the croc lunges,
the wildebeest are leaping about 2.5 metres into the air.
That really is one lucky wildebeest.
This gives a signal to everyone in the herd
and they are all scattering in every different direction.
The croc's cover is pretty much blown.
He's going to have to wait for a long time
before they come back down to drink.
The Nile crocodile's ambush attack is successful about 30% of the time,
which is pretty good, really, especially when you consider
this animal could go without a meal for many months.
It really seems that although the wildebeest was lucky this time,
in the future, he might not get away with it.
So the Nile crocodile may have explosive speed,
punching power and deadly jaws...
..but the wildebeest's safety in numbers, reactions
and agility really prove they are no easy meal.
Now on to our next pair of hunters locked in a battle for survival.
This is the black caiman,
an aquatic athlete with quite a turn of speed.
And up against it is this,
the most feared fish of all, red-bellied piranhas.
But which has the edge in the race for life?
It's time to go Deadly 360.
Once again we join the action in the final stages of the hunt.
The caiman has detected the prey and is ready to strike.
The next few seconds will decide the outcome.
Well, based on size alone, it looks like the prey is done for,
but don't give up hope just yet.
It's very rarely as simple as that.
Let's rewind to the start of the hunt and begin our investigation.
So where are we?
We're travelling west across the Atlantic to South America
and the largest tropical rainforest on earth,
where the Amazon River flows,
bringing with it an abundance of wildlife.
This is home to the caiman.
They live in these freshwater habitats
where there's plenty of prey to hunt.
And piranha are also a common sight in these waters.
Living in shoals of around 20 or 30, they tend to hang about
in the same areas of the river, feeding mostly on fish,
but they're not afraid to attack anything en masse.
So that's our location,
but what sort of attributes do our predator and prey have
that will give them an advantage in this kind of environment?
Firstly, there's the caiman's scissor-like jaws,
designed for snapping at prey.
Add to that a tail that measures 40% of its total length
and propels him through the water at speed.
And, finally, his aquatic tricks.
They really have to be seen to be believed.
So those are the weapons
our predator will be unleashing on its target.
But what about the animal in the firing line?
What has it got to protect itself?
Well, the piranha's first defence are these - scalpel-sharp teeth.
They're designed to slice through and tear off flesh in one movement.
Add to that sheer weight in numbers and nippy speed
and they're certainly no pushover.
OK, now we have all the background, let's get the hunt under way.
It's mid-morning and the caimans are basking in the sun.
Like other crocodilians, caiman are cold-blooded
and rely on the sun to recharge their batteries
and get them moving.
But how does this work?
The caiman has special flat, bony plates that run down its back.
These act almost like solar panels, absorbing the heat from the sun.
This can be used as energy, which the caiman needs to begin hunting.
And when it does go hunting, it demonstrates superlative agility.
The secret to this is in its muscles.
Crocodiles have muscles which are perfect
for short bursts of explosive speed.
That explosive speed is all down to special adaptations
in the caiman's body shape.
OK, I didn't want to bring a fully-grown black caiman
into the studio because they can get to be over five metres long
and they could have eaten the cameraman
so I've got this rather delightful hatchling.
He's no more than a few months old and, at this size,
will just be feeding on insects and aquatic invertebrates,
but the body plan is basically the same so it allows me to show you
where he gets that incredible explosive power.
The tail is flattened and, at the base,
it's very broad and packed full of muscle.
Whereas, at the tip, it's much more slender
and really it's pretty much just scales.
All the force is being generated up here
and the tail moves side to side in a sinuous kind of movement,
but it can be thrashed
to drive the crocodile forward with enormous speed.
Right, let's see them in action.
Back in the hunt, the caiman's patrolling the waters,
keeping an eye out for a meal.
While he's cruising, let's check out the piranha's defences.
The first mechanism the piranha has for evading predators
is sticking together in a shoal.
There are lots of eyes watching out for danger
and it means a predator has to struggle to pick out one fish.
In fact, it's possible that piranhas, en masse,
could attack the caiman, causing it to give up its meal.
Also, the piranha's shape is hydrodynamic.
That means it's very streamlined in water.
If you look at the top and the bottom of the fish, it's keeled,
very like the underside of a boat.
They can accelerate to incredible speeds very quickly.
In fact, they would probably be the equal of any speedboat.
I've had a lot of encounters with piranhas.
They're quite common fish in the area they occur.
But this one in Argentina was probably the one
that showed off those extraordinary jaws and super sharp teeth
to its very best effect. Have a look at this.
I'm now about to show you one of the most awesome sets of gnashers
you'll ever see in the animal kingdom.
Hopefully without losing one of my fingers.
Look at those!
The teeth are fiercely, fiercely sharp
and they interlock with the teeth on the upper jaw here,
forming a vicious trap that it uses to munch into other fish
and animals that are unlucky enough to be struggling in these waters.
And to show you just how sharp their teeth are, watch this.
Did you see how it went through that?
That was like a chainsaw through chocolate!
That's what I call sharp.
It's clear that our predator is up against a formidable prey species
but what can tip the balance in its favour?
Caimans are in the alligator family and have a short and a broad snout
which give them a powerful bite.
If you look inside the mouth, they have between 72 and 76
cone-shaped and very sharp-ended teeth.
These are great for snatching prey but not very good at chewing it
so everything has to be swallowed whole. Not great for a piranha(!)
Let's rejoin the hunt.
The caiman has a potential meal in its sight,
but to pick one out is no easy task.
He relies on a clever tactic to break up the shoal.
It's time for a bit of head-banging.
So what on earth is going on here?
Let's take a closer look at this.
Using huge muscles at the base of the tail,
he's powering himself through the water,
down into the fish and causing total panic
but, in the commotion, has he caught himself a fish?
Success! That hunt was pretty much perfect.
So two of the most feared predators of the Amazon basin
with two of the most impressive sets of teeth came face-to-face
and, this time around, the caiman was victorious.
The piranhas' shoaling, sharp teeth and swift swimming
wasn't enough against the caiman's mix of athletic agility,
This is our last deadly duo locked in a battle for life or death.
For the predators, it's the largest of all living reptiles,
the saltwater crocodile.
Unlike the Nile and the caiman, these guys live in fresh water
and sea water, making them phenomenal predators.
Up against it is this, one of Australia's largest bats,
the black flying fox or fruit bat.
But which animal has the edge in the race for survival?
It's time to go 360.
It's the final moments of the hunt. The bats are roosting, unaware.
The croc has locked on to its prey and is about to spring an attack.
The bat looks like a sitting target.
If we freeze the action at this crucial moment,
who do the odds favour, the predator or the prey?
To find out, let's take it back to the start
and examine the hunt in forensic detail.
First up, let's find out where this is all happening.
We're travelling further south to Australia
and the Northern Territories.
These waters are abundant with wildlife.
It's these animals that attract the cunning salty.
He's an opportunistic hunter, capable of taking anything
that enters his territory, whether that's in water or on dry land.
And along these rivers live Australian fruit bats.
Living in colonies tens of thousands of animals strong,
they enjoy a plentiful supply of fresh food
from the tropical forests.
So that's the location, let's meet the animals.
This is a crocodile who creeps up on his tea.
His tail can measure 50% of the body length
and can launch him three metres out of the water.
The jaw has 68 teeth
that are driven downwards with a force of two tonnes.
It looks like we're dealing with a sophisticated hunter.
How is the prey going to stay out of this predator's clutches?
This fruit bat is one of the largest bats to be found in Australia.
With excellent eyesight,
they can see up to six metres away even in dim light.
They have a wingspan of over a metre
and can fly at speeds of up to 25mph.
Handy when they need to make a quick getaway.
So we have two very different animals,
but which one is going to come out on top in this hunt?
Let's find out.
As day breaks, the fruit bats are returning
after a long night foraging on fruit and nectar.
Many bats roost in holes, out of sight of predators,
but these are too big, so they have to sleep out in the open.
The salty needs to plan his attack as bats are very sensitive prey.
Waiting until they're roosting gives him the best chance.
He'll also have to get much closer to the colony
and to do this, he needs to be invisible,
so he heads underwater.
As the croc starts swimming in deep water, his whole body shape changes.
It pulls the legs into its side to increase its streamlining.
All of the swimming power is coming from the tail.
That is until he gets down to the river bed.
While he's on the bottom, he'll walk along using his feet.
To be able to stay underwater for such a long time,
the crocodile has some very neat adaptations.
A crocodile's mouth, which is bristling with teeth,
is anything but watertight.
While it's at the surface, to prevent it swallowing water,
it shuts off the back of the throat with a valve
and can breathe through its nostrils.
Once the crocodile dives and is completely submerged,
it's going to have to rely on its last breath of air.
To make the most out of that it will slow its heart rate down
to as little as two or three beats per minute.
It also makes sure that the blood is only being sent
to the vital parts of the body.
The rest of it is pretty much in suspended animation.
Because of this amazing ability
to make the most of the oxygen that's left in its body,
they can stay submerged for as much as two hours.
Right, let's see a crocodile in full effect.
The salty has positioned himself under the tree of roosting bats.
He's now got to pinpoint the position of the fruit bat,
and this is where he relies on sight.
Crocodiles actually have three eyelids.
There's the top and the bottom ones.
These protect the eyes, particularly when it's hunting,
but the third one is incredibly clever.
This is called a nictitating membrane.
It's semi-transparent and, underwater,
if the visibility is good,
it can still see using this when it's submerged.
It's almost like a pair of goggles.
With the potential meal in sight, the salty now comes to the surface.
This is the critical moment. If the fruit bat spots him,
he will fly off and, once it's airborne, they'll be gone.
I've actually got a fruit bat in my hand right now.
Unlike the insect-feeding bats, they don't echolocate,
so it means their other senses have to make up for that.
The eyes are much larger and much more acute
than you'd find on an insect-feeding bat
and that's going to be an advantage
if a crocodile is coming flying up at you from below.
But the main weapon this animal has is its powers of flight.
Bats are the only mammals that can truly fly
and they are exceptionally good at it.
So this fruit bat will be hanging upside-down from a branch
using those claws there, on the rear legs.
When it decides it wants to take off, it will let go,
and then spread these sublime wings.
If I open that, you can just see that thin skin membrane
which is in between the fingers.
Using the membrane in between those fingers,
it can flap and fly exceptionally well.
Possibly well enough to escape a crocodile. Let's see.
We're into the final stages of the hunt
and the crocodile's patience has been rewarded.
A bat is roosting several metres above him on a low-hanging branch.
Unaware of the danger below it, the bat is now vulnerable.
But will it spot the crocodile before it leaves the water?
OK, here it goes.
It uses its enormous three-metre tail
to push itself off the riverbed,
generating enough power to propel it vertically out of the water.
Whoa! I'm just going to show you that in slow motion. Look at this.
Look how far that crocodile
has managed to propel its body out of the water. That's phenomenal.
The fruit bat has just noticed the crocodile coming
at the last second but, honestly, he never stood a chance.
A message to the fruit bats out there,
roost a little higher off the water.
The saltwater croc made the most of its opportunity
but there's no doubt that this single, large, noisy strike
will have scattered the entire fruit bat colony,
so he's not going to be eating any more of them today.
It's a very small meal for a saltwater crocodile
so it's difficult to say he's really been victorious.
The fruit bat's sight, nifty flight and speed
meant it wasn't easy prey for the croc.
But his ambush attack, wily skills and crushing jaws
were on target today.
The crocodilians have been around for about 200 million years.
They've seen the arrival of the dinosaurs
and the disappearance of the dinosaurs and they are still here.
There's a reason for that.
These animals are survivors, with speed, power and patience.
That's all we've got time for.
Join us next time as three more pairs of animals go head-to-head
and we analyse the action Deadly 360-style.
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