A fresh look at some of the most supreme predators in the animal kingdom. A cheetah, a dragonfly and a peregrine falcon go head-to-head in a race to eat.
Browse content similar to Speed. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
Welcome to Natural Born Hunters,
the show where three of the world's top predators go head-to-head
in a race to eat.
To be the fittest, the healthiest, and at the top of their game,
they all need food.
Without it, they'll die.
We compare how they hunt
and why eating today really does matter.
But even for top predators,
meal times aren't always guaranteed.
Success and failure hangs in the balance.
Three will hunt but only one will be crowned today's Natural Born Hunter.
The question is, who are you backing?
-And I'm Barney.
We'll be commentating on all the action you're about to see.
Today's natural born hunters have one thing in common.
When they hunt, their chief weapon is speed.
Wow, I can see that. These guys look fast!
Yep, Barney, they are the speediest creatures in the business.
This is our first contender, the cheetah,
an electric predator.
Wow! Look at her go!
With an acceleration that puts a car to shame,
they can go from 0 to 60 miles an hour in just three seconds!
I don't think even Lewis Hamilton can do that in a Formula One car!
You may be right. And with a top speed of 71 miles an hour,
that makes the cheetah the fastest land mammal.
Now that is gonna take some beating!
Well, armed with some impressive weapons...
Look at them!
..it's a peregrine falcon.
I'm loving it. It looks like the bad boy of the bird world!
He certainly is. And a fast one at that.
When it locks on to an airborne target,
it can reach a diving speed of 200 miles an hour!
200 miles an hour? That speed knocks spots off the cheetah!
Yep. That makes her not just the fastest bird in the sky,
but the fastest animal on Earth!
I wouldn't want to be that pigeon!
And how's about this?
-It's a dragonfly.
-Yes, an Emperor dragonfly.
-He may sound posh, Barney, but he's a precision killer.
With the manoeuvrability of a helicopter,
this dragonfly can move with ease in any direction.
Travelling at speeds of 35 miles an hour,
it really is the fastest insect on the planet.
Hey, look! His fly's open!
OK, we've got our line-up.
All speed merchants, all with their own unique design.
But who gets to eat today?
What do you reckon, Barney?
Well, the peregrine's the fastest, so I'm backing him.
Yeah, but there's loads of other things to think about.
-Luck is important. Don't forget the weather.
They're hunting outdoors, so they're exposed to the elements
and performances might be affected.
-Right. Keep an eye on this fuel gauge.
Whichever of our contenders fills that all the way up, wins.
To help everyone decide, we'll get to know our contenders a bit better
by recreating a day in their lives as they prepare to hunt.
Sounds like a plan!
Right. Let's kick proceedings off with the cheetah.
-And one, two, three, four!
-What are you doing?
-Counting her in.
-She doesn't need your help, Barney!
-Dawn breaks on the African plains...
-Wow, that was quick!
-We can't hang about. There's only 25 minutes left!
-There's our cheetah.
-She's got two cubs!
She's a first-time mum. Raising those cubs, she's on her own.
It's her job to feed and protect them.
Protect them from what? Surely nothing would dare come near her?
She may be a big cat, but there are bigger ones.
A lion wouldn't think twice about attacking this family,
not to mention hyenas, wild dogs, baboons.
-So only 10% of cubs survive their first six weeks.
Don't worry. These guys are nearly eight weeks old,
and the odds are much better.
-But check out Mum's fuel gauge.
-It's nearly on empty!
This family haven't eaten since yesterday morning.
That's like eating breakfast, then nothing else all day.
Yeah, but cheetahs can survive on one meal a day.
But any longer and Mum just won't have the energy to hunt.
Those cubs totally rely on her. We'll come back to them in a minute.
Now, the day is just beginning for this guy, too.
The Emperor dragonfly.
Ah, the posh one. What's his story?
Well, believe it or not, this guy is only one day old!
-Now you're joking! Only a day?
-Well, I am teasing you slightly.
This is the first day he's looked like this.
-For the last seven years, he's lived under there.
Under here. As a very different beast.
Meet his younger self -
-a dragonfly larvae.
-He couldn't look any different if he tried.
This is how dragonflies start out in life.
-A bit like a caterpillar/butterfly thing.
During this part of its life, the dragonfly is an ambush predator,
feeding on anything that's smaller, like tadpoles and shrimp.
Now that is impressive!
He extends his lower lip at lightning speed
and impales prey on those sharp mandibles.
-Well, jaws, to you and me.
Thanks. Well, that is impressive. Gross, but impressive.
And then comes the day for the larvae to leave the pond
and begin a magical transformation.
Yeah, but what... I mean, why... How does it change...
This natural world thing defies me.
Don't ask. Just admire nature at work.
The Emperor will only live like this for a month and then he'll die.
He dies in a month? The poor thing! I feel sorry for him already.
OK, so that's the dragonfly and the cheetah.
On to our final contender.
The peregrine falcon.
Ah, yes. A fine bird of prey. My favourite. Who's that?
-That is her chick.
-Ah, he's cute!
If you think that's cute, check him out when he was a few days old.
There's two chicks. What happened to the other one?
-I'm afraid he died.
That's the sad reality of these birds.
Two out of three chicks don't make it to their first birthday
-because of lack of food.
-Well at least he seems to be growing up nicely.
-Yes, luckily for him,
Mum has just brought his breakfast.
-So the peregrines won?
Look at the fuel gauge.
It's only a quarter full.
Mum needs to catch enough for her and her chick to share.
And a nice, plump, juicy pigeon will do just that.
While she's in the air, we can see why she's such a great hunter.
Look at the way she moves. She's like a jet!
Exactly. Think of this animal as a mini jet fighter pilot
and everything will make sense.
To cope with those extreme aerial manoeuvres, she has this -
-a semi-transparent third eyelid.
-Something else that's gross.
-It's protection against the wind.
-Like a pilot's helmet and visor?
On-board safety doesn't end there
because breathing can be a real problem at high speeds.
So here's the solution. Each nostril has a central cone
which acts like a wind break,
slowing down the incredible rush of air before it hits the lungs,
-a design used in jet engines today.
Now, while Mum's looking out for dinner, let's check out
her hungry chick.
Even at eight weeks old, he's armed and dangerous.
-He looks pretty vicious.
-What better built-in cutlery to use
to enjoy your main course than this?
A hooked bill, perfect for tearing meat.
-I suppose those terrifying claws are for catching it?
This is the business end of the beast.
Each toe has a talon, a sharp, curved claw
used to seize prey. It's so well designed,
the more the prey struggles, the tighter the grip becomes.
Pretty nasty. So with such good weapons,
that chick might get to eat after all.
Back in France, let's catch up with the dragonfly.
Is it just me, but this guy seems in no hurry to get hunting.
-That's because he can't yet.
The first thing he needs to do is warm up those flight muscles.
It's those that power his enormous wings.
Look at this. Those muscles are so big,
they make up two-thirds of the dragonfly's total weight.
But they won't work until they reach 40 degrees centigrade.
-By comparison, our bodies work at around 37 degrees.
But unlike us, insects get much of their body heat
-from the sun.
-Like a holiday in Spain. Sunbathing, then lunch.
-Sounds like a perfect day to me!
He'll be ready to take to the air soon. Let's come back in a bit.
Back on the savannah, with hungry cubs to feed,
there's no time to sit around.
Mum's on the move. This gives us a good chance
to take a closer look at what makes her a contender
for the title of natural born hunter.
First up, there's that distinctive spotted coat.
What makes it distinctive?
It helps her to blend in to the high grasses here on the savannah.
I thought you meant it had pockets! Ooh, look! Is that a gazelle?
Yes. One of those would win this race for her and her cubs.
-Now, most of these ungulates...
-That means hoofed animals that eat grass.
-I see. Got it.
Most of these ungulates see in black and white. To give you an idea,
watch what happens to our cheetah when we take out the colour.
Wow, that's cool. She nearly disappears.
Yes, and that's why the gazelles so often appear on the cheetah's menu.
Despite the fact they're looking straight at her,
they just can't see the killer coming.
-What about our cheetah's eyesight?
-Nothing wrong with her vision!
In fact, her eyes are so good,
she can take in a view that's twice as wide as our own.
It's so good that she could detect a group of gazelles on the horizon
-three miles away.
-Has she got binoculars?
Mind you, our peregrine has almost got built-in binoculars.
Huge eyes take up half of its skull.
That's got to come in handy.
Also, its eyes can track three moving objects simultaneously.
and this one!
-Can you do that, Barn?
-Just tried. Got a headache.
Right. Have a look at this.
Here's the regular binocular image - that's what we'd see.
But these are two magnified images our peregrine sees on top of that.
They show exactly what's going on over to her left and her right.
Little wonder that peregrines can spot prey from over six miles away.
Six miles? That's twice as far as the cheetah can see.
I definitely made the right choice with this girl.
Ah, finally the dragonfly's all warmed up.
Now the competition is underway. How's his eyesight?
Sight is our dragonfly's most important sense.
Each eye contains up to 30,000 tiny lenses.
30,000? Am I right in thinking we've only got one in each eye?
Yes. And even with one, our eyesight's pretty good.
But with all those lenses, it means the dragonfly can see
in a complete circle.
Like teachers, who have eyes in the back of their heads!
And the sides of their heads, too. It's uncanny!
The Emperor can fly at 35 miles an hour in any direction.
Forwards, backwards and sideways.
He's a full-on stunt pilot, with the manoeuvrability of a helicopter
and the speed of a jet fighter, who provides his own sound effects!
-The dragonfly's ancestors date back 300 million years,
long before the dinosaurs roamed.
That is old!
His breathtaking air combat skills
are down to wings that are hinged onto the body with flexible pivots
that can twist in flight. Each one is controlled separately
giving precision movement.
Look at that, it can even hover.
All of these skills are very useful
when he's out looking for these - damselflies. To keep alive,
he needs to eat one fifth of his bodyweight every day.
-So what's that, then?
-Well, one of these damselflies.
He needs it. His fuel gauge is on empty.
But he's got some impressive armoury to help him.
An Emperor's jaws are razor sharp
and act as shears, to slice through his prey.
OK, Steve, I get the idea. Can we cut now - I'm scared!
Those damselflies are pretty nippy.
Wait a minute - I think he's got away.
Yeah, that was pretty unimpressive.
Our dragonfly needs to polish up his skills if he's to get some dinner!
OK. All our contenders have started to hunt.
-Our new mum, the cheetah.
-She's got two cubs.
They haven't eaten for 24 hours
and they're relying on her to keep them alive.
Then there's our peregrine.
My favourite. Her chick's already eaten.
Yes, but that's not enough to keep her chick happy.
Mum needs to catch another meal to feed the family.
-And finally, the dragonfly.
-Who's on empty.
That's right. To survive today,
he needs to catch one damselfly.
That'll fill up his fuel gauge.
Looking at those stats, the peregrine's in the lead.
It's still early, so it's anybody's game.
We're back with our cheetah.
And she's spotted a gazelle. Now she's in stealth mode.
And this is how all hunts begin.
She has to get as close as possible to her victim.
But you said she was the fastest legs on land.
-Why can't she run from there?
-She's a sprinter, not a marathon runner.
She can only run really fast for a short period of time.
She needs to get within 30 metres before launching her attack.
Right. This is exciting.
She's off on her first chase of the day.
That burst of acceleration gives her an immediate advantage.
No wonder she has a top speed of 71 miles an hour.
Nothing on earth runs faster.
It's unbelievable. How can she run so fast?
It's all down to her sleek design and some very powerful muscles.
Let me show you.
Wow, they're enormous. I'd like a set of pins like that.
All the energy from those muscles pushes down on the ground,
powering her forwards.
She even leaves smoke trails! I'm well impressed!
Yeah, but she needs to catch that gazelle within 300 metres.
Any longer and she'll be just too tired.
She could even overheat and possibly even die.
-Oh, she's slowing down!
-That's the problem.
Like I said, she's a sprinter. She just ran out of gas.
Can't she just catch her breath and go again?
No, she needs to cool down. The recovery could take half an hour.
By then, the gazelles will have gone. She's back to square one.
Look at those poor cubs. I hope they get to eat today, Steve.
While we're waiting to find out,
let's check on our dragonfly.
Unlike our other contenders,
this fella has only himself to worry about.
-No family ties.
-You mean no family flies!
Ha! Sorry. Living the easy life, then.
Well, not quite.
That is a rival male, and he looks intent on taking our guy's patch.
-Should our guy be worried?
-Yes, this rival could spell serious trouble.
Are you gonna tell me it's a fight to the death?
This is a fight to the death.
I'm gonna need a lie-down at the end of this show. Oh -
hang on, something tells me they're not cuddling here.
-Oh - man down! Which one is it?
Our dragonfly is safe.
The intruder, though,
is in big trouble.
Our hero will have many more punch-ups to protect his patch.
But for now, he's resting up at the edge of the pond.
It's high noon on the plains
and the heat is intense.
Let's see how the fastest land mammal copes.
-Has Mum overheated after that last race?
-She's just resting.
It's midday and in Africa it's the hottest part of the day,
far too hot to go hunting.
You wouldn't go out in that hot sun, let alone run in it.
Ah, you did say the weather could be a problem.
-What about the dragonfly?
-He's got troubles of his own.
Events have been put on hold for the dragonfly, too.
A storm's moved in, and he struggles to fly in the rain.
It's only a bit of rain.
Yes, but those fragile wings wouldn't stand a chance
against an aerial bombardment of watery bombs.
He's got to sit there until the storm passes.
And get very soggy, yes.
With two out of three hunts on hold, the peregrine could steal the show.
Talking of which...
Ah, here we go. Mum's on the move.
She hunts by soaring high above her prey.
Once her target is singled out,
she folds her wings and drops headlong towards it.
This is known as a stoop.
And they start from half a mile away.
That's my girl! She looks like a missile.
Right now, she's in freefall.
It's the equivalent of you or I jumping out of a plane
before we pulled our parachutes.
I've never done it, but I'm guessing it's fast.
But the peregrine is the master.
She's so much faster than us, that at this speed,
200 miles an hour, we'd black out and die.
-That would make landing a bit messy!
As she reaches her prey, her wings are extended in a braking motion,
while the legs are thrust forward.
-That pigeon was lucky!
But here's a surprising fact. Only one in three chases is successful.
So the odds are against the peregrine.
But still, her chick's gonna need feeding.
So it's tough, and they're supposed to be the best.
-Looks like rest time is over.
-Our cheetah is tracking the herd.
In a few minutes, this gazelle will have to run for its life.
This is the whole circle of life thing.
Think of the cubs, Barney, the cubs.
-Quiet! She's just about to go.
..the chase is on!
Millions of years of evolution
have honed the cheetah into the perfect athlete.
Her agility and light step means she can turn at a moment's notice
in pursuit of her prey.
Remember, she has to do it within 300 metres or she'll be too tired.
It has to be said, though, that gazelle is no tortoise!
-It's got a spring in its step!
-But it's not as fast as the cheetah.
It does, however, have an advantage. And that's stamina.
How does stamina help a gazelle?
It means it can run for longer periods of time than the cheetah.
They can also turn more sharply.
Every second this race carries on works to the gazelle's advantage.
Our spotty friend will begin to overheat very soon.
And then it's all over.
All the cheetah has to do is trip up the gazelle
then it's certain death.
It looks like those hungry cubs might get to eat after all.
I have to say this is amazing to watch.
She's got a back leg! She got kicked in the head, then!
It's a dangerous business, this hunting.
She's got it! It's down!
She's nailed it. She must be our winner, Steve?
Great news for those cubs. They must be starving.
No wonder they're excited to join their mum.
Wait a minute, who's that?
That is a hyena.
Things are gonna get interesting now. Hyenas are scavengers.
There's nothing they like more than getting their paws on an easy meal.
It's going to steal the gazelle the cheetah has caught?
Yes, and he's succeeded!
Oh, this doesn't look good.
While she may have made a kill, the prize was not hers to keep.
So the cheetah is not today's winner.
Can't she have another go later?
By the time she's recovered, it'll be getting dark.
That's when the other big cats come out to hunt,
and it's far too dangerous for a cheetah to be out with her cubs.
Oh, Steve, what's gonna happen to them?
Mum will do everything she can as soon as it's morning.
Let's just hope they have more luck.
So that's one down, two to go.
For the peregrine and the dragonfly, the battle continues.
So far, the peregrine's had an unsuccessful attack on a pigeon
which gave our peregrine a slip at the last moment.
That chick hasn't eaten now for nine hours
so getting a meal is becoming pretty critical.
The dragonfly had a late start,
waiting for his wing muscles to warm up. Almost immediately,
he had to fend off a rival male.
After a failed hunt for a damselfly, rain stopped play.
He hasn't eaten since he was a larvae, so he's losing vital energy.
Time for them to go head-to-head, in the final round of the day.
We're back with our Emperor dragonfly.
The storm's passed and he's on a mission to hunt down a damselfly.
Meanwhile, the peregrine's ready for another attempt.
Look at what he's checking out - all those lovely pigeons,
going about their daily business, unaware.
The peregrine has to single one of these out.
Pigeons are really fast and have great stamina.
They have a top speed of 65 miles per hour
and in level flight, a peregrine can't go any faster.
This isn't a time for jokes, but that is fast food, if ever I saw it!
By the lake, the Emperor dragonfly is closing the gap on his victim.
That precision turning really coming into its own.
Yeah, I wouldn't want to be that damselfly right now.
Over the beach, the pigeon gives our peregrine a run for its money!
The pigeons have some flash moves for getting away.
Oh, that was close!
At the last moment, they dive, confusing the peregrine.
-How about the dragonfly?
-He's doing really well.
He's hot on the tail of another damselfly.
That is one crunchy stick of protein if ever I saw one.
So that's our winner, Steve?
Well, hang on a second. The peregrine is still in the race.
He's banked around for another pass and singled one pigeon out.
He's in the firing line! She's got it!
His luck has totally run out.
It's a draw! Can we have two winners?
Oh, hang on. No, our peregrine's having another go.
-No, we're in France and this is another bird of prey.
This is the hobby, a falcon and a dragonfly slayer.
Soaring through the summer skies, it picks off flying insects
on the wing, and it's headed straight for our Emperor dragonfly.
Steve, I didn't expect a twist in events.
One of our natural born hunters is now being hunted.
I haven't taken a breath for five minutes. Am I going red?
-Our dragonfly's empire vanishes in an instant!
Can I come out from behind the sofa now?
Come on, let's announce the winner.
Well, this is our victor, the peregrine falcon.
Didn't she do well? Great show. Legendary performance.
Tuck in, son. You deserve it.
Not a great day for the dragonfly and the cheetah.
Both of them showed great skills, but not enough to take the title.
The cheetah is super speedy, but also vulnerable.
And while the dragonfly may be a precision hunter,
it's often hunted itself.
But with an impressive air speed of 200 miles an hour,
the peregrine is our natural born hunter.
And without doubt the fastest natural born hunter
on the planet.
-Is that it?
-Yep, it's all over.
-Thank goodness for that!
Join us next time when we seek out three more contenders
to earn the title of natural born hunter.
I'm going for a lie-down!
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
A cheetah, a dragonfly and a peregrine falcon go head-to-head in a race to eat. The first to get his or her daily intake of food is the winner. The three contenders have one thing in common: when it comes to hunting they all use speed to help catch their prey. The cheetah is the fastest land mammal reaching speeds of 71mph, the dragonfly is the fastest insect with a top speed of 35mph and the peregrine falcon can fly at over 200mph making it the fastest animal on earth ever.
It's action all the way, with a few surprises thrown in for good measure, in a typical hunting day in the lives of these natural born hunters. Steve Backshall and Barney Harwood commentate on the action as it happens.