Attenborough’s journey begins close to his childhood home in Leicestershire, where the discovery of a 560 million year old fossil transformed our understanding of the origins of life. From here he travels back to a period when the Earth was dominated by single celled bacteria, and investigates clues of a global event that was to change the history of life on Earth: Snowball Earth.
In a very different setting, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, a 600 million year old animal demonstrates how the atmospheric changes triggered by this global glaciation allowed cells to stick together and eventually form the first complex multi-cellular organisms. Attenborough travels to remote fossil sites in Newfoundland’s Mistaken Point and Australia’s Ediacara Hills to explore how some animals faded away as evolutionary experiments but others developed crucial features which laid the foundations for animal life today. 550 million years ago, animals developed the first bilateral (mirror-image) body plan, evolved sexual reproduction and began to move for the first time.
Within time, another great leap in evolution would trigger an explosion in animal diversity. Tiny fossilized embryos show evidence of the first guts and mouths. In the mouth there are teeth, indicating that some animals had developed a new diet: other animals. For the first time there were predators in the oceans.
In fifty years of broadcasting, Sir David Attenborough has travelled the globe to document the living world in all its wonder. Now, in the landmark series First Life, he goes back in time in search of the very first animals. David Attenborough’s First Life is told with stunning photography, state of the art visual effects and the captivating charm of the world’s favourite naturalist. It was first broadcast as a two-part series in the UK on BBC Two in November 2010, and as a two-hour special by Discovery Channel in the US. It will be shown by broadcasters around the world, including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, in 2011.
Filmed over the course of a year, the companion film Attenborough’s Journey is a remarkable portrait of the world’s leading natural history broadcaster as completes his latest series. As he faces the challenges of a complicated filming shoot, David Attenborough revisits parts of the world that have had special meaning for him throughout his career.
From the fog bound coastline of Newfoundland to the deserts of North Africa and the rainforests of Queensland, in First Life David Attenborough finds evidence in fossils and living animals of an extraordinary period in Earth’s history, half a billion years ago, when animals first appeared in the oceans. From the first eyes that saw, to the first predators that killed and the first legs that walked on land, these were creatures that evolved the traits and tools that allow all animals, including us, to survive to this day.
This is a story that can only be told now because in the last few years, stunning fossil finds at sites across the world have transformed our understanding of the first life forms, and the latest technology allows us to recreate the first animals and their environments with photorealistic computer generated imagery (CGI).