“Blue Planet II”: the series (and trailer)

David Attenborough surely has one of the best jobs in the world: circling the Earth (and, in this case, going under the seas) and documenting the wonderful plants and animals produced by evolution. (I wonder if he writes his own narrative.) The BBC excels at nature series, and here’s the video prequel for the newest one, “Blue Planet II”. The trailer itself has some stunning photography.

Keep your eyes open for the yeti crabs (Kiwa hirsuta) and other deep-sea creatures, as well as the spitting dolphin. Sadly, the thing I most wanted to see, but wasn’t in the prequel, was described in the Torygraph‘s piece on the series, a series that apparently brought to light several new scientific phenomena. I desperately wanted to see this in the trailer:

Among the most astonishing discoveries was made in the Seychelles where filmmakers found that predatory Giant Trevally fish leap into the air, to grab sooty terns on the wing.

“A fish that launches itself, missile-like, to take birds from the air, sounded too extraordinary to be true,” said Miles Barton, Producer for the Coast episode.

“Despite it being a fisherman’s tale there was no photographic evidence to back it up. I haven’t been out on a shoot in 20 years where I haven’t had at least a still picture of the behaviour to go on. So I was sceptical, to say the least.

“We arrived and got very excited because yes, there were splashes everywhere, the fish were leaping out of the water and they did seem to be grabbing birds. They’re amazing shots. A genuine bird-eating fish.”

The new footage proved for the first time that the fish have the intelligence to spot moving birds in the air from underwater, and calculate the light shift so they can leap at just the right time to catch their moving target.

The team has broken such new ground that there at least a dozen scientific papers are already planned on the back of the series.

The Wikipedia article on the show is actually more informative than the BBC’s site. The series comprises seven hourlong episodes; the first, “One Ocean”, will be broadcast on October 29 from 8-9 pm on BBC One. The second, “The Deep” is on November 5, and the other episodes aren’t yet booked but you can check with Wikipedia or the BBC. This would be a great time to be in the UK!

Here’s a short video on the yeti crab, which is associated with hydrothermal vents:

There are apparently two species of yeti crab, with one associated with vents off Antarctica. To see a National Geographic video of thousands of these bizarre animals (and other species), click on the screenshot below:

h/t: pyers


  1. yazikus
    Posted October 22, 2017 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    I’ll never forget the morning when kiddo woke up early and popped on some Attenborough doc and sighed sweetly, “I love the sound of David Attenborough in the morning!”. Me too, kiddo, me too.

    • Blue
      Posted October 22, 2017 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      … … and Me, Too, Too / You Two … … Three !

      That, yazikus, is a sweet tale in re kiddo !


  2. Posted October 22, 2017 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Very excited by this.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 23, 2017 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      After seeing the preview clip, me too. Aside from any other aspects of it the visuals alone qualify as some very fine art. The video imagery is gorgeous.

      • Posted October 23, 2017 at 11:56 am | Permalink

        I agree – the visuals are astoundingly beautiful. Many kudos to the BBC’s photographers/videographers, their work is incredibly good.

  3. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted October 22, 2017 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    I… think I will find time to watch this series.

  4. Posted October 22, 2017 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Meanwhile, here’s a guy fishing for Giant Trevally using a lure that looks like a bird:

  5. Matthew North
    Posted October 22, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    The BBC’s nature programs, and The Blue Planet series in particular, are absolutely amazing. And in no small part because of Sir.David Attenborough’s narration.

    Every series has something new and surprising that you couldn’t have dreamed of.


  6. Matthew North
    Posted October 22, 2017 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Giant Trevally are extremely aggressive predators of the flats. They voraciously attack in groups usually going for relatively small fish but will tackle fish the size of tuna. Like this..

  7. Randall Schenck
    Posted October 22, 2017 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    This series will be on BBCA as well. Saturday evenings I believe.

  8. Matthew North
    Posted October 22, 2017 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    And this..

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted October 22, 2017 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

      Ye gods. That’s more like what I’d expect (going by their reputation) from barracuda or sharks. Or piranha.

      Do trevalli ever attack people? Because – looking at that video – they look quite capable of it.


      • Stephen Barnard
        Posted October 22, 2017 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

        I once hooked a very large one — probably 100 lbs at least — in the surf at Alphonse Island, Seychelles. It went 3 yards at the speed of light to take the fly, and swam right at me with its mouth open, the large black fly clearly visible. It turned into the surf and wrapped around a coral head. (They’re dirty fighters.) My guide went nipple-ring deep into the surf, freed it, and I thought I was home free, but the fly came out.

      • Matthew North
        Posted October 22, 2017 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

        They will go for anything they think is food. Their teeth aren’t very big because they generally,(generally, mind you),target relatively small fish, but they hit soo hard they can really tear up prey. It’s unnerving,(and exhilarating)to be fly fishing in waist deep water when a group of fifteen or more GTs, that are twenty to a hundred pounds in weigh, come directly at you. I always say,if Giant Trevallys had teeth like sharks, you would stay out of the water because they’d tear you to pieces like huge piranhas.

  9. bonetired
    Posted October 22, 2017 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    The Beeb are keeping that particular scene thoroughly under wraps ….

  10. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted October 22, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    The new footage proved for the first time that the fish have the intelligence to spot moving birds in the air from underwater, and calculate the light shift so they can leap at just the right time to catch their moving target.

    I’m not sure how much intelligence has to do with this. Spotting the birds is a matter of visual acuity, and gauging the leap would seem to require no more conscious calculation than a frog snapping at a flying bug. Compensating for light refraction happens automatically as part of the trial-and-error feedback loop.

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 23, 2017 at 4:03 am | Permalink

      After all, archer fish spot flying insects and “calculate” the trajectory needed to shoot them down with a stream of water.

  11. Posted October 22, 2017 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    The BBC does a lot of good documentaries but only Attenborough achieves the water cooler moments that you normally only get from the best drama.

  12. Stephen Barnard
    Posted October 22, 2017 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    I’ve caught giant trevally, including some large ones, fly fishing in the Seychelles and Christmas Island (Kiribati). They are like no other fish I’ve ever seen in their level of aggression and speed.

    • Matthew North
      Posted October 22, 2017 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

      De da gangsters of da flats Man. Especially when the tides move in, they’ll attack anything, even sharks.

  13. Posted October 22, 2017 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been a fan of Sir David Attenborough for a great many years, he is blessed in that he does what he loves the most, and does it with passion.

    I get BBC One on cable, and I’ve seen their trailer for this series… I can hardly wait for October 29 and the first instalment. It will feel like a birthday present because I will turn 70 on November 1!

    • Mike
      Posted October 23, 2017 at 7:48 am | Permalink

      I have been watching his programmes for over 50+ years,ever since he made Zoo Quest, when he used to travel the world capturing Animals for London Zoo,( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoo_Quest)thankfuly a big no no these days. I believe he writes his own Script,for me he’s one of the greatest Broadcasters on the Planet, his twiiter feed is very good,he posts a lot of animal antics.

      • Posted October 23, 2017 at 11:54 am | Permalink

        Lucky you, to have seen all his work from the beginning! I agree with you that he’s one of the greatest Broadcasters on the Planet. Long may he live and give us many more of his brilliant series and commentaries.

    • Genghis
      Posted October 24, 2017 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      There are few people whom I unreservedly admire but, for me, Sir David is a true hero.

  14. Joseph O’Sullivan
    Posted October 22, 2017 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t know a second Blue Planet was coming out. I’m sure it will be great. I didn’t know fish will jump out of the water to eat birds mid-air, but fish like dolphin will grab flying fish while they are flying.

  15. Posted October 22, 2017 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    For most of his wildlife series David Attenborough is credited as writer.


  16. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted October 22, 2017 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Loved the sea otter at 1:17.

    Question – is the sea otter the only animal that floats on its back? I guess you’d have to have ‘hands’ capable of holding things for it to be a useful trick.


  17. Mike
    Posted October 23, 2017 at 5:12 am | Permalink

    It wouldn’t be the first fish documented eating birds out of the air. Tigerfish have been filmed eating swallows in Africa: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ld_7_GC1Wyw

  18. Posted October 23, 2017 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Do any of these leap-and-catch fish have relatives who do the spit-the-water thing? I was thinking about how many times “angle calculation” evolved.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted October 23, 2017 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

      I’m not convinced that “angle calculation” as such is a thing that evolved, any more than swinging a baseball bat or catching a fly ball.

      Seeing airborne creatures as potential prey is probably a thing that evolved. But accurately targeting them is, I’m guessing, a learned skill, and the only “calculation” involved is the muscle memory of successful attempts.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 23, 2017 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

        It also seems to me that, if ‘angle calculation’ is an evolved and not learned thing, it is the sort of thing that would evolve automatically and independently as soon as a species starts practicing an activity that depends on it.


      • Posted October 24, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

        Beats me. The “artificial neural network” folks make a big deal of the “position a crab like pincer” network, which involves one literally, whereas the “catch a ball” doesn’t seem to calculate an angle per se, so lots of possibilities.

    • Joseph O’Sullivan
      Posted October 27, 2017 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

      The spitting fish are archer fish. They are a small family of fish in the coastal areas of Southeast Asia. I kept one as a pet when I was a teenager. They have specialized morphology they evolved for spitting water. I don’t know how they account for the bending of light for targeting prey outside of water. Trevally are members of a much larger family of fish that live in tropical and temperate waters across the globe and aren’t related to archer fish. I’m assuming archer fish have evolved characteristics the allow them to accurately see above water because they do it regularly, and the trevally are exhibiting learned behavior because the rarity of eating birds wouldn’t result in much evolutionary pressure to change.

  19. Posted October 24, 2017 at 12:54 am | Permalink

    I have wondered why there are many birds on the water in the north sea but not in Bali. The giant trevally may be a reason. Now I wonder why no fish (or seal) here in the north eats birds.

  20. Posted October 26, 2017 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    BBC posted the trevally clip on Twitter. Here’s the link: https://twitter.com/bbc/status/923494109196767232

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