Looking back at some of Steve Backshall's favourite creatures, whose jaws, claws, venom and speed prove to be very useful weapons in the battle of the wild.
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My name's Steve Backshall. People call me Steve.
I'm on a mission to find the Deadly 60.
That's 60 deadly creatures from around the world.
You're coming with me every step of the way.
'We've travelled across the world to find animals for my Deadly 60 list.'
Look, look, look.
'Most of these animals are armed and dangerous.
'And that's what this programme is all about - weapons.
'venom and speed.
'We went to South Africa to meet a monster
'with the most fearsome weapons of all - teeth.
'And there's no animal more bristling with terrifying gnashers
'than the great white shark.
'As much as six metres long
'and weighing up to two tonnes,
'this monster can rip apart seals...
'..and bite right through turtles.'
'Despite seriously stormy seas, we managed to get out
'in search of our great white shark.'
A shark! Great white shark!
Well done, Mark!
She is big!
Coming right underneath the boat right now, look at this!
Mike, come round the other side now!
-How big do you think, Mark?
-A good size. At least three and a half.
'Great whites can be almost twice as big as this one,
'but this is still a very big fish.'
She's come back round. She's here again. Look at that!
'3.5 metres of sleek killing machine,
'and using those fearsome teeth,
'she's ripped right through our bait.'
Look! She's shredded the rope on the buoy.
Look, just torn to shreds!
Those teeth have ripped the rope to bits.
That's all that's left of the giant fish that we had on there as bait.
She's come back round. She's here again.
She's going to come up and hit the boat any second.
Oh, yes, right out the water!
Oh, wow, she's right up next to me! Look at this!
This is a much smaller shark, a different one.
It's absolutely death-rolling over the bait.
I think I must have got a shot on the camera. She came right up close.
Despite all the evidence
about how little danger sharks actually pose to humans,
this is still the most feared animal in the world.
'Sharks have rows of teeth that move forward in the jaw
'as other teeth are lost or broken,
'so the great white always has a face full of scalpel-sharp teeth.
'The serrated edge on every tooth helps cut through bone and blubber
'like a chainsaw through chocolate.
'The next animal who is armed with deadly teeth
'is the stuff of nightmares.'
The sun has just gone down
and the creatures of the night are out to hunt.
And I'm sat outside an old, abandoned gold mine
cos tonight we're on a ghost hunt.
CRACK OF THUNDER, SCREAMS
'Our spooky search starts in the depths of a disused goldmine
'in northern Australia.'
Oh, this is hideous.
I hate cockroaches.
'The animal we're after is a terrifying phantom hunter.
'It's called the ghost bat.
'And it's one of the largest carnivorous bats in the world.'
Kill the light.
We've just turned our lights out for a second
to let the bats settle down, so they're not freaked out.
I'm a little bit less worried about them being freaked out than me.
This place is Spook Central.
'We found a small chamber where Damian, our guide,
'thinks the ghost bats may be roosting.'
-When you're ready, shine your light up there. Are you ready?
Here they come.
They're absolutely huge.
'The only way to get a proper look at the ghost bat is to catch one,
'so Damian took us to a spot where the tunnel narrowed
'and we might have a chance to net one.
'Here they come.'
Got it, got one. Yeah, I got one.
That is the most remarkable-looking bat I've ever seen.
We're going to get bombarded by his cousins while we're doing this.
Quite a lot of bats of this kind of size
I would expect to be trying to eat through my arm.
When you're up close to it like this,
you can see first of all where it gets its name from.
I mean, he does look like a little phantom.
I want to show you these teeth
because they are really mean. Look at those incisors there!
If I can maybe show you the bottom jaw as well,
look at those!
-I can't believe you're not getting bitten when you do that.
That is a set of gnashers!
Teeth like that are what allow this remarkable creature
to feed not only on insects,
but on lizards, frogs,
other bats, birds, small mammals.
He really is a flying nightmare.
'Those long, needle-sharp teeth make short work of their prey.
'And the ghost bat's silent, Ninja-like attack means
'that if you're a frog or a lizard and you see a ghost bat,
'it'll already be too late.
'6,000 miles away, we met another critter with no teeth at all,
'but with, pound for pound, one of the most powerful jaws on Earth.'
We're here in Louisiana, USA.
Louisiana is in the heart of the Deep South.
It's hot, humid and very wet,
the perfect breeding ground for all sorts of incredible wildlife.
But our chomping hero is the proud owner
of one of the world's most fearsome jaws -
the alligator snapping turtle.
Most of our snapper's life is spent motionless looking just like a log.
The clever thing is they get their lunch to come to them.
On the inside of their open mouth,
a pink, fleshy growth wriggles like a tantalising worm.
Investigating the bait is the last mistake
this little fish will ever make.
'To help find one in the wild,
'I elicit the help of Mitch who is studying the turtles.
'We'd put out some net traps,
'giving us our only chance of seeing a wild one.'
There's two in there!
Look at the size of it!
We actually have three.
I don't believe it!
Look at the size of the head on that one!
I cannot tell you how heavy this is.
-That is an absolute monster.
-Two enormous males.
'That jaw looks like a medieval weapon of war.'
As we're moving in to the turtle,
we're going to keep our hands a lot further away from the head
than you would expect.
When it strikes, the head extends forward from the front of the shell.
Whereas with the small one here, I'd be in danger of losing a finger,
I think it's pretty safe to say
that if my hand or even my arm were to get too close to the jaws
of this big fella, then I'd probably lose it.
Just make sure your right hand doesn't stray from that spot.
-Good job, man. Good job.
-You got him.
That is a big turtle.
Probably the largest freshwater turtle in the world.
But that isn't really what's so impressive about him.
Look at the size of that head!
It's totally out of proportion to the whole of the rest of the body.
And most of that is just pure muscle power driving that jaw.
At the edge of it is... Well, it's incredibly sharp.
It doesn't have teeth cos it doesn't need them.
It's almost like a great, big, curved kitchen knife.
You can see the hooked snout at the end.
Oh, look at that! You can see I'm really straining to hold him.
But you can see how far the neck extends.
And that's how he hunts.
As soon as a fish gets too close, the head snaps out like that,
the jaws clamp shut incredibly quickly and the fish is history.
Capable of crushing my arm to pulp,
the alligator snapping turtle's jaw is a truly deadly weapon.
There's no doubt that jaws and teeth make for formidable weapons
when defending or attacking,
but check out the claws on this sloth bear.
Claws and talons are used by many animals
for protecting themselves or when out hunting.
The sloth bear's claws are so strong,
they can rip through earth baked as hard as concrete.
And this is Bono, a fish eagle who lives in South Africa.
Look at those. They are like razor blades.
But some of the most vicious weaponry belongs to insects.
These are praying mantises and they have barbs all over their arms
to help them catch and hold their unlucky victim.
It wields its weapons with such skill
that the praying mantis has inspired its own style of kung fu.
If you were to scale a mantis up to human size,
it would take on any other Deadly 60 creature.
They are the perfect insect assassin.
There's no doubt that the praying mantis has vicious weaponry,
but they are also masters of disguise.
It's this combination that makes them such formidable predators.
After searching for nearly an hour, I've finally found one.
I'm guessing you still can't see it
because the camouflage and the colouring is so perfect
to blend in with these leaves.
If I get Johnny my cameraman to zoom in here and I get some light in...
..hopefully, you should see it.
Look at that!
It's like something out of a monster movie.
Look at those brutal spines!
Those are the mantis's chief way of catching its prey.
The forearms are drawn in to the side of the body,
ready to spring open like a steel trap and catch any insect close by.
I've caught these in the wild and had them draw blood from my fingers.
They're that strong. Obviously, if they can draw blood on me,
then there is no insect that is really a match for the mantis.
The praying mantis, a master of disguise,
absolute alien when you look at them close up
and to a flying insect, the equivalent of a great white shark.
Believe it or not, some giant mantids will even attack birds.
Now, that's what I call punching above your weight.
'One of the finest Deadly 60 locations is Borneo
'in South East Asia where we met a namesake of the praying mantis.
'But this fabulous creature lurks in a deep burrow on the sea bed.'
I'm approaching very slowly,
because what lives in this hole here
is an animal I've been trying to find for many years.
'It's called a mantis shrimp.'
Let's see if we can get it out to play.
'With only its eyes and antenna on show,
'the mantis shrimp doesn't look like much, but...'
I've heard it said that that strike can be as fast
and have as much power as a small-calibre bullet.
They come out and catch that shrimp just like a praying mantis would.
'Tempted out by a tasty piece of prawn,
'the mantis shrimp's alien shape and hidden bulk is revealed.
'This one is about the size of my forearm.
'Much like the praying mantis, our shrimp's extendable arms are barbed
'and can fire out in the blink of an eye.'
The mantis shrimp - absolutely awe-inspiring!
'Before its prey has even seen the mantis shrimp,
'he's snapped, trapped and dragged into the darkness.
'So we've seen how teeth and claws can be used as lethal weapons
'and have met some critters who can use them with awesome speed,
'but on our search around the planet, we also met some animals
'with something special to seal the deal - venom.
'And perhaps the creepiest venomous critter we met on Deadly 60
'was deep inside a spooky cave system in Borneo.
'Not a place for anyone who is scared of heights.'
What a place!
Look at that!
'These majestic caves are home to millions of bats and swiftlets.'
Up in the roof of the cave with the bats and birds circling around you,
it's kind of like paradise.
But all those birds and two million bats create an awful lot of poo.
'And a lot of poo attracts animals with filthy appetites.
'Feeding on the cockroaches are some of the most scary,
'spine-chilling creatures that we've come across on our travels.'
Of all of the horrors
that live in this absolutely nightmarish place,
down here is perhaps the most frightening.
And it's the animal that I'm suggesting for the Deadly 60.
Crumbs, I have to say I absolutely hate them!
There you go. Eugh!
That one just ran over my hand.
Right, I'll be more gutsy this time.
This is Scutigera, the long-legged centipede.
I think there's another one on the other side of the rock as well,
so I'm being careful about how I handle this.
It is quite venomous.
One of the guys living in the area here was bitten by one not long ago
and spent a week in hospital, so I'm taking care not to get bitten.
They have, like most centipedes...
Oh, just ran over my arm!
They really are such frightening creatures.
'There are no creatures better equipped for hunting in the dark.
'They can grow as long as a man's hand, have a mightily venomous bite
'and with those long legs, nothing down here can escape them.'
And nothing that's more guaranteed to give you nightmares.
So, Scutigera is going on the Deadly 60
and I'm going somewhere else.
Their powerful venom goes straight to the nervous system of their prey,
causing intense pain and total physical shutdown.
The Scutigera's weapons make it a sure shot for the Deadly 60 list.
'South Africa is home to some of the deadliest snakes on the planet
'and this is where I came face to face with one - the rinkhals.
'Not only is this snake highly venomous,
'but it's also unusually clever.'
This is a fiery snake.
You can see he's rearing up towards me.
Oh, and just flicked venom all down my arm!
Now, look at that... Oh! Perfect.
He actually flicked venom straight at me.
A bit of it went into my mouth.
You can taste it. It has a rusty taste to it.
'The venom can't do me any harm unless it gets into my bloodstream.'
That actually went into my mouth.
What I'm trying to do is restrain the head,
so to give it an impression of what would happen
if an animal was to attack it, what it would do.
And he just spat straight at the camera.
I think there are a few flecks of venom
just on the outside of the lens hood here.
'This gentle pressure doesn't hurt the snake,
'but it will help show how cunning it can be.'
With the head restrained
and the snake really feeling like it has nowhere to go...
..the next thing that the rinkhals does...
..is play dead.
Look at that.
So this is the rinkhals' last line of defence.
It's been fast, it's been aggressive, it's spat venom at me
and now it's just playing dead.
No motion whatsoever.
And any animal that won't take dead prey, it's going to leave it alone.
Anything that will and gets too close
is going to get a nasty surprise and probably a bite.
That's what I call a clever snake.
Using not just venom, but sneaky tactics,
the rinkhals is a snake to be respected.
Teeth, claws and venom are all very well,
but they're not much good if you can't get close to your prey.
To do that, you need speed. These next animals are turbo-charged.
'One of the fastest in the ocean is the tuna fish
'which we encountered in the waters off south Australia.
'The tuna is built for speed. They're incredibly streamlined
'and can accelerate faster than a Ferrari.
'My attempt to travel at tuna speed lost me my dignity...'
'And my shorts.'
He's lost his trunks! LAUGHTER
'More suitably attired,
'I went to meet the real masters of speed.
'Tuna come in many shapes and sizes.
'These bluefin tuna are about the same size as I am,
'but the biggest one ever was heavier than a horse.
'Luckily for me, they eat small fish like sardines.
'If I was a sardine, I wouldn't even have time to finish this sentence
'before I was lunch.
'When tuna corner a shoal of sardines,
'the result is one of the world's great wildlife spectacles.'
'Moving fast through water is actually incredibly hard,
'but these guys make it look easy.
'The ocean's most streamlined speedster is the tuna fish.
'The final animal right at the front of the grid
'is the peregrine falcon.
'Peregrines are resident British birds
'found in mountainous, rugged parts of the country
'and they are the fastest creature that has ever lived.
'Ever. Full stop.
'They have been clocked at an incredible 180 miles an hour
'when they are going into a dive known as a stoop.
'They hunt all medium-sized birds
'and there's nothing can out-fly them, even speeding pigeons.'
A peregrine hunting is one of the most dramatic, explosive,
dynamic sights in the animal kingdom
and to demonstrate that, we've come up with a Deadly 60 experiment.
'As I can't fly, the only way I can pretend to be a peregrine's prey
'is in this super-fast sports car.
'All being well, the peregrine will hunt us down.
'It's time for our peregrine's handler Lloyd
'to jump in with a lure in his hand and the chase is on.'
She can see us. The wings are spread.
-There she goes!
She's heading straight for us.
We're getting faster, we're up to 30, 40 mph.
She's right alongside us. I can see her in my mirror.
-Whoa! Right over our heads!
-Here she comes.
-This is unbelievable.
She's keeping pace with us without even trying.
Whoa! Big fly-by!
Right in close. She's up alongside Mark!
It's incredible. She's a foot away from the camera!
We're out of space.
That was so much fun, I think we might have to try it again.
'We were doing 60 miles an hour
'and she caught us like we were standing still.
'That's not surprising. In a stoop, she could easily triple that speed.
'My hi-tech sports car is totally put to shame by this winged wonder,
'one of the most beautiful
'and the most perfectly developed bird I've ever seen.'
Nearly took my head off!
Oh, my life!
That was too close!
I've just had a quick look at what it must feel like to be a pigeon
with a peregrine coming out of the sun towards you.
Nothing is faster than the peregrine falcon and nothing ever has been.
When you're that fast, what other weapons do you need?
Join me next time for more deadly animal encounters.
Subtitles by Subtext for Red Bee Media Ltd 2009
Email [email protected]
Naturalist Steve Backshall has travelled the world in search of animals for his Deadly 60 list.
Many of the animals he has encountered are armed and highly dangerous. This programme looks back at some of Steve's favourite creatures, whose jaws, claws, venom and speed prove to be very useful weapons in the battle of the wild.