Sunday, May 24, 2009

Whale evolution - In Our Time

BBC's In Our Time deserves a review nearly every week. Not always I manage in the same week and as you all know by now: at the end of the week, the podcast has already disappeared from the feed and can only be heard in stream. Such is already the fate of last week's program about The Siege of Vienna. This week's program had me interested immediately and I managed to listen to it this weekend and so here is the review in time.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests addressed The Whale: a History. The whale had long been rather an anomaly in the animal kingdom, a creature that was not easy to fit into any of the categories in the tree of species. New finds and new technologies have helped establish new insights that reveal the evolution of the whale and in a very accessible, concise and interesting way the program orders this for us. At the beginning it is promised, in a way, that we will see how the whale is a kind of champion of evolution and by the end we come full circle and this is summarized completely.

This champion of evolution shows what evolution is capable of. It evolves all the sorts of adaptations it needs in its exceptional environment, the ocean, whereby its appearance takes it far away from its origins and its kin and only series of fossil finds and microbiology and retrace this. And so we learn how the whale is actually part of the strain of hoofed animals, just like horses and deer. In the show it is likened to seals, otters, beavers and eventually we learn what is its closest living relative: the hippopotamus. Very exciting and very well done.

More In Our Time:
Magna Carta,
BBC's In Our Time - always recommended,
Brave New World,
Rafael's School of Athens and the depiction of Plato and Aristotle,
The Boxer Rebellion.

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