Series N, Episode 10 - Nature/Nurture
- Some bees hum to shake pollen out of flowers in order to collect it. They hold on to a flower and beat their wing muscles, producing forces up to 30G, which is about three times greater than the G experienced in a fighter jet making a tight turn. Bees have something called a "corbicula", which is a little basket they keep their pollen in. Bees can also harness electrostatic forces, by causing friction when flying through the air and thus making a positive charge. The flowers normally carry a negative charge, so when the positive bee approaches the pollen jumps from the flower to the bee. Bees can distinguish the different electrical fields around different flowers, so they can tell which flowers have been nearly depleted of their pollen and they know not to bother with them.
- XL Tangent: A study from the Jiangxi Argicultural University in Nanchang, China, saw RFID (radio frequency identification) tags attached to 300 honeybees, turning them into drones. The study aimed to see how much foraging the bees did, and discovered they forage in anticipation of a rainy day. However, they don't need to save at all.
- Tangent: You can hear bees having sex. Upon completion of mating with the queen, the drone bee's whole phallus ejaculates and tears away from the body, making an audible pop. The phallus plugs the queen's vagina to prevent the semen from escaping. Cariad says that this relationship is like that of Beyonce and Jay Z: "So many want Queen B, she chooses one who lets her down and then she steals his phallus and makes an album about it."
- XL Tangent: Bee sex lasts between 10-80 minutes, and is sometimes done while they fly.
- Nature's top gear belongs to the immature planthopper. These are insects that are 3mm long that normally move really slowly to avoid attracting attention, but they can jump up to 1m from a standing start, which is 300 times their own body length. However, if they don't get the timing right between their legs the planthopper can spin out of control. To avoid this they have gears with cog-like teeth on the top of each hind leg, which lock together and synchronise the limbs within 30 millionths of a second.
- XL Tangent: In 2011, a weevil was found in Papua New Guinea whose legs are screwed into the body. The weevil is able to tighten its legs, pull along the length of the leg, and make the leg rotate in its socket. The back legs rotate as much as 130 degrees and the front legs by 90 degrees in order for the weevil to grip better.
- In order to make sure that your cows meet emission standards you can fit them with a cow equivalent of a catalytic converter. These are a device that go up the noses of cows, but can also be used in sheep and goats. They are retained in the nostrils by one or more springs, or a similar mechanical device, and are configured to ignite in the presence of methane. The converters can also be fitted with a GPS tracker so the cows don't get lost. However, this converter is a brand new notion and thus the results of its effectiveness are not yet known.
- Tangent: Cariad claims she is a very gassy person, while Sandi claims that she has never farted once in her life.
- Tangent: One bovine medical procedure that is working is fistulating cows by fitting them with holes into their stomachs that a human can easily see through or reach into. The hole is sealed with a rubber cannula on the side of their body that can be unscrewed. One advantage is that you can easily access bacteria from a healthy cow, which you can then use to treat an ill cow. You can also check exactly what nutrients the cow is eating.
- XL Tangent: The panel are shown a picture of a cow with large white stripes painted on it and are asked what the stripes are for. The stripes were there so that cows would show up at night, so they were not run over during World War II blackouts. By the end of the first month of the war, 1,130 human road deaths were attributed to the blackout.
- The point of licking your own eyeballs is to keep them moist or clean. One eyeball-licking animal is the palmato gecko of the Namib Desert in Namibia. To get moisture, it perches on sand dunes in the morning, waits for the early morning fog to condense as water droplets on its eyes, and then licks off the moisture.
- XL Tangent: The fogstand beetle uses its backside to collect moisture in the Namib Desert. It props itself up at a 45 degree angle and fog condenses onto its hard wing cases before rolling down into the beetle's mouth. Other life in the Namib Desert include the Welwitschia plant, some examples of which are about 2,000 years old. It has roots about 30 metres underground and absorbs water through its pores and huge frayed leaves.
- In Namibia, a "ship of the desert" is a ship. The Skeleton Coast in Namibia is a menace to shipping and they are loads of shipwrecks there. However, due to silting and encroachment of the desert, some ships end up 500m inland. (Forfeit: A camel)
- The world's fussiest eater only eats the skin around a hippopotamus's bottom. The placobdelloides jaegerskioeldi is a type of leech, and as hippos have very tough skin the rectal region is the only place on a hippo's body where it can easily access blood. Hippos are also noted for the violence of their bowel movements, but the leech has front and rear suckers so they can hold onto the skin. One story told by the San people, a group of hunter-gatherers in South Africa, says that when the creator assigned each animal its place, hippos really wanted to live in the water, but it was feared they might eat all the fish, so the creator allowed them to live in the water on condition they would eat grass instead of fish and would fling their dung so it could be checked and inspected for fish bones.
- Tangent: Hippos can weigh up to 3,000kg.
- XL Tangent: Vultures' beaks are designed for ripping and tearing, so they cannot get into a carcass first. The vulture has to wait for another animal to open the carcass for them. It the carcass is not opened they must find a soft entry point, meaning they thrust their heads into eye sockets and nostrils. An article from "National Geographic" describes this thus: "A Ruppell vulture is eight inches into the wildebeest's anus before another bird wrenches it away, then slithers its own head, like an arm into an evening glove, up the intestinal tract. It's dirty work sticking your head up someone else's bottom, but the vulture's sparsely-feathered head and neck are just what is needed to keep gore, guts and faecal matter from clinging after a deep carcass dive."
- XL: The panellists are shown a picture of a bird in a crocodile's mouth and are asked what the bird is up to. The bird is actually doing nothing, because the image is Photoshopped, something that the creator of the image openly admits to. Birds do not go into crocodiles' mouths to clean them. The notion that they do goes back to writings of Herodotus in the 5th Century BC: "When the crocodile comes ashore and opens its mouth, the trochilus flies into its mouth and eats the leeches. The crocodile is pleased by this service, and takes care not to hurt the trochilus." The "trochilus" is considered to be the Egyptian plover. However, this has never happened, partly because crocodiles shed their teeth and thus don't need to clean them. (Forfeit: Cleaning the croc's teeth)
- XL Tangent: The cleaner wrasse fish clean other fish. They set up their own "cleaning station" and do a dance to attract attention. They clean the teeth and gills of the "client". If a Napoleon wrasse eats a hard-boiled egg, all the shell comes out of the gills.
- XL Tangent: Ugandan warthogs are groomed by mongooses. Between 1975-77, the Elephant Hills Golf Course in Zimbabwe had special rules to deal with warthog-related matters. If you hit a warthog, "It does not entitle the player to replay the shot, except when the ball strikes the upright tail, in which case it shall be deemed to have struck a miniature moving flagpole."
- XL: The nilgai lives in Northern India and its name means "blue bull". Its scientific name is Boselaphus tragocamelus, meaning, "ox-deer-goat-camel". It used to be called the "nilgor", meaning "blue horse". However, it is actually a kind of antelope. The nilgai is probably the most inaccurately named animal in the world. The scientific name was first used by English zoologist Philip Sclater in 1833, who was actually a trained ornithologist. Other inaccurately named animals include the nine-eyed eel, which is a two-eyed Scottish lamprey with an eye-like pattern on its body: it has seven gills, one eye and one nostril on each side.
- XL Tangent: Every year the Queen is sent a lamprey pie by the people of Gloucester, while Henry I died from a surfeit of lampreys.
- You cannot describe a bearded tit because the closest such bird is a bearded reedling, which is not related to the tit, and has what Sandi describes as a "Fu Manchu" moustache. It is a unique songbird, and no other living species seems to be related to it.
- Tangent: David wonders if the person who coined the word "tit" to describe the bird would be annoyed to know that now it means "breast", although Cariad suggests it might be the case that "tit" meant "breast" first and actually the person was having a laugh. Ross then suggests the same person suggested that chickens should be called "cocks", leading Sandi to talk about men's cocks being so undependable, because men are always moving them around, unlike women with their tits. Ross however says that his grandmother was always moving her tits around, miming her in a way that leads David to suggest that Ross's grandmother was Les Dawson.
- XL: Naked mole-rats eat royal excrement. They live in colonies led by a queen and all the other members of the colony are infertile. But the mole-rats eat the pregnant queen's hormone-rich faeces, which gives them oestrogen and makes them more attentive to the needs of the young. Baby elephants also eat the dung of their mothers and other members of the herd in order to gain bacteria to help with digestion. Humans also consume "poo pills" and can have a faecal transplant. This has been done in China as far back as the 4th Century, where it is known as "yellow soup".
- The animal that can jump the highest is the shortfin mako shark, which can jump 20 feet out of the water. It is also one of the fastest fish in the world, swimming at 35kmph / 22mph. The flea is the highest jumper relative to its size, to a height of seven inches vertically. Another insect, the frog hopper, can jump four times further than fleas and weighs more. Red kangaroos can jump up to ten feet over a pile of timber. (Forfeit: Flea; Kangaroo; Planthopper)
- XL Tangent: Elephants are not the only animal that can't jump. Other animals that can't jump include hippos, rhinos and burrowing animals such as moles.
- Wolves howl at each other. They howl to communicate. It just so happens that they sometimes howl when the Moon is out. (Forfeit: The Moon)
- Tangent: Ross dislikes the idea of the wolf whistle because wolves cannot whistle.
- Tangent: The southern grasshopper mouse of south-western USA and Mexico does howl at the Moon, and is thus nicknamed the "wolf mouse". They are extremely aggressive hunters, catching and killing all sorts of prey, and have a resistance to poison so great that they can catch and eat a scorpion while the scorpion repeatedly stabs it in the face.
- A reversal of a classic QI question: how many Earths does the Moon have? The answer is two, according to most scientists. The most widely believed theory as to how the Moon was formed is the "Big Splat" theory, where about 4.5 billion years ago there was a collision between the Earth and another Mars-sized planet called Thea. The collision was a relative glancing blow causing Thea to spin off into space, and the debris left formed into the Moon. A more recent and increasingly popular idea is that the collision was head-on, in which case the Earth is a fusion of two planets, and thus the Moon has two Earths. (Forfeit: One)
- XL Tangent: The original recording of the first Moon landing on 20th July 1969 is missing. In 2006, NASA admitted they couldn't find the original videos, and they later discovered that the tapes had been erased and reused in the 1980s to save money. An 11-year-old Sandi was at Mission Control at the time of the Moon landing, because her father worked for Danish news as a foreign correspondent. Sandi asked if one woman was all right, and the she replied: "I'm kinda nervous - my boss is about to step out onto the Moon." Sandi said she would hold her hand to comfort her; when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon, Sandi was holding onto the hand of Armstrong's secretary.
- Friday 30th December 2016
- BBC Two
- 30 minutes
Cast & crew
|Sandi Toksvig||Host / Presenter|
|Alan Davies||Regular Panellist|
|James Harkin||Script Editor|
|Ben Dupré||Question Writer|
|John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE)||Series Producer|
|Sohail Shah||Executive Producer|