Naturalist Steve Backshall investigates the Pacific's giant cuttlefish, the elusive duck-billed platypus, and the lethal yellowfin tuna.
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My name's Steve Backshall.
You can call me Steve.
I'm on a mission to find the Deadly 60.
That's 60 deadly creatures.
I'm travelling all over the world.
And you're coming with me every step of the way.
We're skimming over chilly South Australian seas.
Around about here.
Although my crew's about to take off at the moment!
Today's programme has something of a watery theme
though there are gonna be a few surprises.
Stick with it, guys!
First up is an animal that's deadly because it's quick.
You're looking at the fastest fish in the seas.
They're all submarine speedsters,
but the fish I'm after is turbo-charged,
clocking up speeds of over 70km an hour.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you...
But first, a bit of Deadly 60 science.
The big enemy of anything trying to travel fast in water is drag.
That is the force of the water holding you back
as you try and move forwards.
To get around that you have to be streamlined.
In the air that's aerodynamic, in the water hydrodynamic.
The tuna is just about the most perfect example
of a hydrodynamic fish.
I, on the other hand, am not that streamlined.
So, theoretically, if I was to get in there and try and travel fast,
I should be hammered by drag.
So, we already know that tuna can travel up to around 70km's an hour,
which equates to about 38 knots.
OK, Captain, hit it!
You can see as we start to build up speed,
automatically the water's pushing back against me
and I'm really struggling to hold on.
I'm actually already losing my trunks!
Ha-ha, I don't think I tied them on quite strong enough!
Go a bit faster!
I've got one hand holding my trunks on
and the other one holding onto this rope!
What speed are we at, boys?
That's 4.7 knots, Steve.
Well, I've still got hold of the rope but I've only just got...
How fast now?
-You've got nice buns, Steve.
-Seven miles an hour.
-I've lost my trunks!
-Lost his trunks!
This is not good. I hope you can't see my bottom!
OK, so we're now going about a tenth of the speed
that a tuna can go full whack.
It's almost pulling my arms out my sockets!
And I'm absolutely naked!
Ha-ha! My trunks disappeared hours ago.
And, um, I really hope there's no one watching round here
cos I'm gonna get arrested.
How fast now, Mark?
He's gone, Mark, he's gone.
Shall we just leave him in there?
See you, Steve!
He's got a nice bum though, hasn't he?!
Yeah, I noticed. He must work out.
What was our final speed when he let go, Mark?
8.5, oh, he did quite well.
Not bad for a beginner.
I think that pretty much proves that unless you're streamlined
you ain't going nowhere in the water.
And it also proves why fish don't wear swimming costumes!
You better not film this when I try and get out the water.
So, so far we've proved that I can't swim.
As well as a tuna!
But I can't dry off yet
cos I still wanna get in the water with these amazing creatures.
Growing up it never really occurred to me that the fish in these tins
are some of the most special and some of the fastest in the seas.
Unfortunately they're prize food which means they're becoming rare.
Fishermen, attempting to make sure they don't become extinct,
have started keeping tuna in these big nets,
giving me a unique opportunity to get close to them.
There are lots of different types of tuna.
The ones swimming round in here are about as big as me,
but the biggest ever was heavier than a horse!
This is extraordinary! There's hundreds of them.
Each one of these tuna weighs almost as much as me
but they swim effortlessly.
Just gliding past me.
They're barely swimming, look!
I feel like fish food!
Look at that!
Being up close to them under water
makes it easy to see why they're deadly predators.
They are the perfect shape, nothing sticks up of it to slow them down.
So they move with just a flick of their tail.
Luckily, tuna fish eat small fish like sardines,
if I was a sardine now, I'd last about a second.
Tuna accelerate faster than a sports car.
And they've got the best eye sight of any bony fish.
So, if there are sardines around, things are gonna get pretty hectic.
The tuna is as close to a torpedo as you'll find in the animal kingdom.
Look at them go!
They'll pick out the stragglers on the outside of the shoal.
If a sardine loses his buddies for even a second, WHAM! Munched.
I feel like I've been in a subaqua version of Top Gear!
The tuna is kind of like the Porsche of the seas.
They accelerate faster and can be almost as big
and they can even cost more.
And they're definitely going on my Deadly 60!
The world's most hydrodynamic fish.
A streamlined super speedster of the sea,
the tuna is on the Deadly 60.
Now, there are some pretty odd animals in Australia.
If you're more used to foxes and badgers.
I mean really, really odd.
But the animal we're really looking for
is probably the weirdest animal we'll have on the whole Deadly 60.
In fact, I reckon it's probably the weirdest animal in the world.
Now, I've tried to them once before and, to be honest,
it was just about impossible.
They pop up to the surface for a couple of seconds
and then completely disappear.
So, this time round we've got a bit of an advantage.
we're actually gonna try and catch one.
With our nets set, now it's a waiting game.
But what are we waiting for?
Yes, you are looking at a real animal. It swims like a beaver,
it paddles with webbed feet and it's even got a bill like a duck.
Except this bill is packed full of electroreceptors.
And why deadly? Well, it's got highly venomous spines
and if a platypus stings you with one of these
it's gonna really, really hurt.
The sun's just setting and this time of day, dusk,
is when platypus are the most active,
out foraging and looking for food.
The guys think there's a platypus burrow under these logs over there
and a fair few adults use this pond regularly so we're really hoping,
with the net in the water, we stand a good chance of catching one.
Our challenge to find one is that they are very rare,
very shy and very difficult to spot.
So, no problem there, then.
After hours of looking, early next morning we think we spot one.
Oh! What's that in the middle there?
There it is, Steve.
Awesome! Well spotted, James.
Look, it's quite close.
-This is great.
It's just after dawn and our first platypus has finally popped up, just in the middle of the lake.
James, our director, spotted it.
-He's looking very chuffed with himself.
-Thought it was a duck!
-No, it wasn't!
-It's a duck!
It is, it's a duck!
Stupid idiot, I told you it was a duck!
They look similar, don't they?
It's the bill, it's the bill!
If it's a duck it's just gone completely under water
and come back up again. Yes, it is!
-It's a duck.
-It's a duck!
I thought I'd spotted something.
He's eminent biologist!
It's my eye, it's a bit of sunlight reflecting.
It's very hard to actually determine whether it's a duck or a platypus.
How stupid do you feel now?
Oh, well. No platypus.
But then, a surprise.
Wildlife watching out here,
you get a more interesting class of local turn up.
Just come here to check us out and drink some of our leftover coffee.
You do know that you're taking our attention away from platypus?
Honestly, look, no.
There'll be none of that stuff going on with my boom.
-How many sound booms...
I think this kangaroo's getting quite friendly with Richard's boom!
Seems to like it, Rich! I think they're becoming pals.
It looks like me granny!
Still no platypus, but there are lots of other cool animals about.
Max here is lucky enough to live here at the sanctuary,
surrounded by amazing animals everyday.
They've found and captured something really cool for us.
What's here, Max?
If you haven't seen one of these before, this is really awesome.
Mark's got his special close up camera to get a look at this.
Let's unveil it.
There he is.
Oh, look at that!
That is an absolute monster!
This is only a tiny little spider
but you can see it really means business.
Um, the fangs, what do you think of that, Max,
look at the size of those fangs. Aren't they huge!
-Do you think that would hurt if it bit you?
I think it would too.
I think that would be very, very sore.
This one at the moment, I'm certainly not gonna put this
on my hand because I would definitely get bitten
and actually you can see,
look at that on the left fang, is that venom beading up,
dripping down the end of the fang! You see that about to drip off?
I love your little camera, Mark. It's absolutely amazing.
It's coming in for some use today, isn't it?
Look, a side shot there.
The size of the head and those chelicerae,
the jaws that drive the fangs are massive.
They're really like enormous muscles,
if you can imagine the chelicerae being huge biceps
that are driving those fangs home.
This is a mean little spider.
Of course the really wild thing about this
is that you don't usually find them just out wandering like this.
Let's see if we can get it up onto this piece of bark, here.
The really cool thing about the trapdoor spider is,
I mean although now it looks like an utter monster,
the way it hunts is in a burrow that's covered up
with a little disc shaped door and when an insect wanders past
it will come shooting out at a great speed.
Grab the insect and kill it.
It is very, very big, isn't it?
I tell you what, though,
I think we should let this fella disappear off into the bushes.
-What do you reckon, Max, let him go?
Let him go.
One of the most venomous spiders in Australia, and the world.
There's just so much to choose from round here!
We're now 25½ hours into our search for platypus
and still haven't seen a single one.
We have seen some wonderful wildlife around here
but we're all beginning to get a little bit sick
of just staring out at this lake and seeing nothing!
Problem is the burrows are usually quite deep
and could be anywhere along here.
That's where they're spending the majority of the day,
but they usually spend about 10 or 11 hours every day
out searching for food
so it's pretty amazing we haven't seen one yet.
Just hope that if they do come out feeding, it's quite soon.
But just because we can't find any,
that doesn't mean you don't get to see one.
Here's a platypus in action.
They may look cute, but if you were an insect or a crustacean
living in a stream, then this would be your worst nightmare. Trust me!
The platypus is so good at hunting it even does it with its eyes shut.
But that's not because it's trying to give its lunch a sporting chance,
it just doesn't need them.
Underwater, it's bill can detect the tiny electrical pulses given off
if a crayfish so much as twitches a muscle.
Imagine that, you're a crayfish hiding under a rock
and you just twitch once and you're a goner.
So the beaver-tailed, rat-bodied, swan-footed, electro-sensing
duck-billed platypus is a truly weird and wonderful predator
that also just happens to be almost impossible to find.
Still, I'm glad we tried.
The duck-billed platypus.
With its electro-super sense
it can catch a crayfish with its eyes closed,
and it's one of the only venomous mammals in the whole world.
Definitely weird, definitely on the Deadly 60.
OK, so I know we didn't find one.
But it's one of the only venomous mammals in the world,
and the duck-billed platypus has got to be on the Deadly 60.
We've been here for a couple of days now
and no sign whatsoever of a platypus.
They are very shy and secretive creatures.
But we're starting to wonder if there really are any here at all.
Think it's just a question of waiting.
If you ask any naturalist working out in the field
which animal causes them the most strife,
they won't say snakes or spiders or scorpions,
they'll say ants.
I know that seems ridiculous,
I mean, back home in the UK, all an ant really does is
perhaps spoil a picnic for you.
But there are many places around the world where that isn't the case.
Here in Australia, is one of them.
I'll show you why.
There's a little hole here,
and I'll see if I can bring out the ant that lives inside.
Usually just a bit of vibration is enough to bring them out.
Ah, here we go.
Got one coming out.
This is a jumping jack ant.
It's got absolutely huge mandibles.
Very, very aggressive, these little ants.
But the dangerous thing about them isn't their bite,
it's their sting.
Ants are in the same insect group as bees and wasps,
and like them, a lot of their venoms have stuff in them
that people are very, very allergic to.
Here in Australia, people actually die from bites from these ants.
These ones here are all in defence of their colony.
I've got two of them now
coming right for me.
Look at this one!
They are like little bulldogs.
This one's savaging the front of the camera, look!
Look at that!
They're totally fearless...
..and they really have got an attitude way beyond their size.
Apart from anything else, they'll jump
after what they see as being a threat to their colony.
Look at that! He's stinging the lens!
Getting right stuck into it!
Look at that!
I'm glad that isn't my finger.
Look at this one. He's coming after me.
That doesn't matter that the camera is many times his own size,
Ooh! That one jumped!
That one just made a big jump, right at the lens.
How cool is that?!
It just keeps leaping at me.
It's like a little insect rottweiler.
Look at that! Look!
It just sticks its jaws open and just goes, "I'm 'aving ya!"
And just makes a big leap at the lens.
I don't think I've ever seen a creature quite so aggressive.
Jumping jack ants.
The jumping jack ant.
One of the world's most venomous, and truly dangerous ants.
A really fiery, feisty customer,
that definitely deserves to go on the Deadly 60.
The next animal I'm hoping to find
is probably the closest thing in the natural world to an alien spaceship.
I'm not really that worried about finding them
because this time of year, for just a couple of months,
tens of even hundreds of thousands gather in these seas
to mate and breed.
At first, I could only see rocks and weed.
But then, odd shapes caught my eye
and I got the distinct feeling I was being watched.
It may only be metres from the beach, but I was entering into
a completely alien world.
And the aliens in question are giant cuttlefish.
This really is one of the most remarkable scenes on the planet.
There are giant cuttlefish absolutely everywhere.
I mean, you can't move without seeing 30 or 40 of them,
I think, actually, one's slithering on my leg!
The giant cuttlefish is almost like an underwater chameleon.
They can change their colours through camouflage
to match their background.
But also, they can do it to describe their mood.
Just like a chameleon can.
It's a way of saying, "I'm big, I'm vibrant, I'm bright.
"You don't want to mess with me!"
This is what we've been looking for.
Two males fighting.
Displaying against each other.
You see, the larger one's blocking itself out...
..and the smaller one seems to have moved away,
to have decided that it's got too much on its hands
to take this big one on.
Look at the colour display there!
This is amazing!
If a fight gets serious, things get way out of hand.
This is when you see the dark side of the cuttlefish.
There are no rules when these boys fight.
And they can seriously damage one another.
That is a SERIOUS colour display!
What I've never seen before
is that they can take their mantle -
what looks like the outside of their back -
and they can kind of flicker it up,
creating these ridges that run all the way
down the back of their shell.
Well, I did tell you there were gonna be
some surprising animals on this show!
And you don't get much more surprising
than the giant cuttlefish!
This genuinely is one of the weirdest creatures in the sea.
But it also is a devastating predator.
These incredible hunters deploy a range of deadly weapons and tactics.
Their eyes are among the most highly developed in the animal kingdom.
Cuttlefish can detect polarised light,
allowing them to detect the smallest of movements,
even in the dark waters of the ocean.
Once they're locked on,
the cuttlefish deploys its next deadly tactic.
They're masters of disguise,
literally changing shape and colour
to creep up on their unsuspecting prey.
This sneaky cuttlefish has changed itself
to look like a piece of floating weed
that floats slowly along the ocean floor.
Then once it's close enough
the cuttlefish engages its next deadly weapon.
Two long, lightning-fast tentacles
that smash into their prey.
On the end of those super-quick tentacles
are strong suckers that snare the victim,
meaning there's no escape.
Even an armoured crab is no match for the cuttlefish's deadly strike.
THAT was quite something!
They've got the fastest colour change in the animal kingdom
and a strike that could smash a crab into pieces.
The giant cuttlefish is on the Deadly 60.
It's the chameleon of the seas,
with lightning-fast colour change,
and striking like a missile.
The giant cuttlefish is on the Deadly 60.
Next time on the Deadly 60...
Just keep your arms up!
(This place is spook central!)
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
The wildlife action moves to the south coast of Australia as naturalist Steve Backshall and the Deadly 60 team take the plunge in the waters of the Pacific. Steve has heard that yellowfin tuna are super-fast lethal killers, but what makes them so special? He witnesses their missile-like streamlined bodies for himself and is left in no doubt as to their turbo-charged credentials when he dives with over a thousand of them. He then tests his own body's streamlined capabilities, with hilarious results.
Strange alien-like giant cuttlefish also await Steve in the warm Pacific waters. It is then a short hop up the coast to try and track down perhaps one of the weirdest animals on Steve's list, the elusive duck-billed platypus.