Airing Tonight

Airing tonight is the first of three programmes by Richard Fortey. Fortey is a palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum. He is well known as a writer. I have two of his books and have read each of them twice. It strikes me as amazing that it has never occurrred to me to review them, as I would have done had they been novels.

The books are both excellent:

– ‘Life, An Unauthorised Biography’

– ‘Trilobite, Eyewitness to Evolution’

The sub-title of the second is very clever, given the astonishing construction of the trilobite eye.

The programmes air at 9 pm GMT on BBC 4 for three consecutive weeks. For those living outwith the YUK they may be available via the iPlayer. They will be worth watching.Here is what the BBC has to say about the first episode.

‘High in the Rocky Mountains lies a fossilised seabed harbouring remnants from one of the most fascinating periods in the planet’s history. More than 500 million years ago, during the Cambrian explosion, it appears Mother Nature was experimenting with an astonishing diversity of new species. Studying the petrified relics from this era has broadened our understanding about how complex life evolved.

Here, Professor Richard Fortey exhumes evidence of a curious menagerie of marine creatures, from tulip-shaped filter feeders to spiky, wriggling scavengers and titanic predatory shrimps.


1/3. Professor Richard Fortey travels to fossil sites to learn more about the distant past. In the first episode, he visits the Rocky Mountains to explore a 520-million-year-old fossilised seabed containing bizarre and experimental lifeforms that have revolutionised our understanding about the beginnings of complex life. Among the finds are marine creatures with five eyes, worm-like scavengers covered in spikes, and a metre-long predator resembling a giant shrimp.’

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