Inside an elephant


Inside Nature’s Giants, the Channel 4 TV show I blogged about yesterday, was amazing. It really was a natural science show that went places no other has: this wasn’t just about great photography and animations, this was get-in-up-to-your-elbows gross anatomy. They didn’t explain, they showed.

They showed why an elephant’s digestive system needs to be so incredibly massive (it’s a slow and somewhat inefficient fermentation and absorption chamber).

They showed how elephants – which can’t sweat – keep cool (by pumping blood through their ears).

They showed how elephants can run (big fleshy pads under their heels, like they’re wearing running shoes).

They showed how female elephants actually have tiny tusks (that don’t emerge from their bodies).

They showed how elephants are the only land mammals that have lungs that adhere to their ribs, possibly because they evolved from sea-going mammals who needed to keep their lungs inflated against water pressure.

I cannot wait to see future shows on the whale, giraffe, and crocodile.

TV tonight: Inside Nature’s Giants – Elephant

At 9pm UK time on Channel 4 tonight is the first show in a science series called Inside Nature’s Giants. They’re doing detailed, on-camera dissections of large animals. In this first show they’re pulling the guts out of an elephant. In future shows they’re dissecting a giraffe, a crocodile, and a whale.

At first the ads made me wonder if it was just going to be a bizarre TV freakfeast. But then I noticed that Richard Dawkins makes a couple of appearances and figured it must have some scientific cred.

It looks like Charlie Brooker thought the same as I did, but changed his mind dramatically during his preview screening.

This is a rare thing – a hardcore biological science documentary that will both entertain and enlighten almost anyone who watches.

It’s also strangely moving. Because they chop that elephant to pieces all right – but they do so with palpable love. Watch it. It’s amazing.