QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Sandi Toksvig. Copyright: TalkbackThames


  • TV panel show
  • BBC Two / BBC One / BBC Four
  • 2003 - 2024
  • 312 episodes (21 series)

Panel game that contains lots of difficult questions and a large amount of quite interesting facts. Stars Sandi Toksvig, Stephen Fry and Alan Davies.

  • Due to return for Series V
  • Series R, Episode 1 repeated at 10:35pm on Dave
  • JustWatch Streaming rank this week: 836

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Series O, Episode 2 - Organisms

QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Cariad Lloyd, Sandi Toksvig, Nish Kumar, Holly Walsh. Copyright: TalkbackThames
Sandi Toksvig looks at multiple Organisms. Where else are you going to meet the world's deadliest hunter, a photographer hidden inside an ox, and a juggling otter, all in the same room? With Nish Kumar, Cariad Lloyd and Holly Walsh.

Preview clips


- The animal that gets the lion's share of online viewing is dogs. YouTube has more dog videos (65.9 million) on it than cat videos (65.3 million), mainly because people own more dogs than cats. However, on Google there are 2.2 billion cat pages and 1.8 billion dog pages. The reason people watch animal videos is because we like looking at something fun and you feel fewer negative emotions. (Forfeit: Blue whale)

- Tangent: Alan had a cat that used to watch TV. The cat once watched an entire documentary on urban foxes, and watched the same programme again when it was repeated six months later.

- XL Tangent: The other thing Alan's cat would watch on the TV was football. The cat would follow the ball on the screen.

- Tangent: Cariad doesn't like cats because she is allergic to them.

- Tangent: Holly once worked with an editor who told her that there was an experiment to find out where people's eyes went when watching a movie. When they had a shot with a topless woman, most people would watch the topless woman, until the point a dog walked into shot and then they looked at the dog.

- Tangent: The panel are shown a video of an otter juggling stones, although Nish jokingly suggests that the otter is actually trapped under the stones.

- Otter hounds hunt rats. While first bred to hunt otters, new laws then banned otter hunting so they were retrained to hunt mink. But then the law was changed again and mink hunting was banned. Otter hunting was popular in the Middle Ages, and the king would have his own otterer, who had his own estate in Aylesbury called "Otterer's fee". The hunt died out when otter populations feel, but then it had a revival in the 20th century, until otters became protected and a ban on hunting came into force in 1978. Then mink hunting was banned, so the hounds hunt rats. One of the most prized items to be hunted from otters was their baculum, which is the penis bone. Sandi has on her a pair of earrings made out of mink bacula. (Forfeit: Otters; Mink)

- Tangent: "Mink" is slang for a backhander.

- Tangent: According to mythology, the reason humans don't have a baculum is because rather than one of Adam's ribs, Eve was made out of Adam's baculum. The actual scientific reason is because most animals mate for long periods of time so need to keep the erection for longer, whereas as humans don't need what Sandi calls: "prolonged intromission".

- XL Tangent: The sea otter has the densest fur of any mammal. They have more hairs per square centimetre than hairs on an entire human head. The Chinese used to call their fur "soft gold". Sea otters are very easy to hunt because they float in rafts of up to 2,000 individual otters holding hands. Because the baby otters can float but not swim, the mothers wrap the baby otters in kelp and put the baby to one side. "Otter rubs" is a form of play where the otters slide down snow.

- The best job for a beetle is eating flesh off skeletons. Museums use dermestide beetles to eat the flesh, preserving the bones perfectly. These beetles only live for six months.

- XL Tangent: At school, Holly's careers advisor told her to be a horticulturalist. In comparison the attitude of Cariad's advisor was basically: "Sainsbury's is that way, good luck." Nish claims his advisor told him to go to prison. Sandi's daughter is a great photographer and her advisor told her to be a baggage handler at Gatwick Airport.

- XL Tangent: Before using beetles, the flesh was removed from skeletons by boiling them and scraping the meat off by hand.

- The panel play a game of: "Name That Skeleton". They are given pictures of skeletons and are asked what they are the skeletons of.

- 1: A child's skull, indicated by the presence of baby teeth. The adult teeth have not emerged yet so the skull has two rows of teeth.

- Tangent: Holly recently moved house and found that behind the sink u-bend was a tobacco tin full of children's teeth. Holly assumed they must be teeth belonging to the children who previously occupied the house, so she found the new address of the previous owner and sent the teeth to them. However, it turned out that the previous owner had no children.

- 2: An owl skeleton, which has 14 neck vertebrae which allow the owl to rotate its head at great angles.

- 3: A bat skeleton. Bats knees face backwards, but despite this some are still very good walkers. Vampire bats can chase their prey on foot.

- 4: A dik-dik skeleton. Their name comes from their warning cry. They have the driest poo and most concentrated urine of any ungulate.

- 5: A whale fin skeleton, which looks remarkably like the skeleton of a human hand, including a thumb bone.

- 6: A camel skeleton, which does not have a hump because the hump is made up of fat. You can tell it is not a horse skeleton because camels have no hooves.

- XL: The circumstances in which an ant equals a cow is when you take into account the total number of organisms on Earth. We think we know of about 8.7 million species of organism, but scientists then examined over 1,000 different environments where things live, and counted the total number of species in those areas. They put these figures into an equation, from which they were able to estimate the total number of organisms in the world. In this equation, ants and cows are exactly equal. The result was there are around 1 trillion species of organism currently living on Earth. Thus, we have discovered only one thousandth of 1% of all the species on the planet. It is also estimated that 99% of all species to have ever existed on Earth are now extinct.

- The beast that is the world's most successful hunter is the dragonfly, which come from the order "Odonata". Scientists believe their hunting success is between 90-95%. Dragonflies do not track their prey, but instead intercept it by calculating where the prey is going to be. Male dragonflies have two penises and before they inseminate a female they have to inseminate themselves. The male transfers sperm from his testes to his pouch, and then into his shovel-shaped penis, and scrapes out any sperm from other males out of the female, (Forfeit: Orangutan; Otter; Ostrich; Octopus)

- XL Tangent: In comparison to dragonflies, lions have a kill rate of about 25%, Bengal tigers about 5%, and great white sharks about 50%.

- XL Tangent: Dragonflies have 360 degree vision. They can pick out a single insect from a swarm, hunt it down and still avoid other neighbours. They can operate their four wings independently of each other, and can still hunt if they are missing one wing.

- Tangent: There is a theory that the human penis is shaped like it is to scrape out sperm.

- XL Tangent: Dragonflies first appeared 300 million years ago, in comparison to humans who appeared 200,000 years ago. Dragonflies are even older than dinosaurs.

- A zookeeper's worst nightmare is orangutans, because they have a habit of escaping. They learn very easily, are patient and determined, and check out the zookeeper's routine to see if there is a flaw. One orangutan, Ken Allen, escaped repeatedly from San Diego Zoo in the 1980s, and was nicknamed "The Hairy Houdini". Ken would escape all the time and wonder around the zoo, looking at the other animals. He had a fan club called "The Orang Gang" which made T-shirts and bumper stickers devoted to him. The zoo could not figure out how Ken was escaping, so they sent in plain clothes zookeepers to spy on him, but Ken was always able to spot them. Ken made nine major breakouts with his fellow inmates. One local paper reported of, "crowds cheering the apes on as keepers ran after them."

- XL Tangent: If you accidentally leave a tool in an orangutan's cage, it will not pick up the tool straight away. They will wait until no-one is watching, then will secrete it and wait to use it later.

- XL Tangent: There is a goat that repeatedly escapes from London Zoo. The zoo has a double gate that is tricky to get out of, but the goat just stands by the gate, looking as if it is allowed to be let out, and so visitors let the goat loose. Nish says this is the most British thing he has ever heard, in that British people must think the goat is allowed out if it is queuing properly.

- XL: An orangutan may will see something they like in Nicole Kidman. Hsing Hsing, an orangutan in Perth Zoo, Australia, is attracted to red-haired orangutans. He saw a picture of the red-haired Kidman in a magazine, and took the picture thinking she was attractive.

- The panel are shown a photo of a man holding what looks like an entire dead ox on his shoulder and are asked where he is going, and what he is going to do when he gets there. The man in question is Richard Kearton, the world's first wildlife photographer, and the ox is a disguise to allow him to get up close to photograph oxen. He worked with his brother Cherry, and together they purchased an ox from a butcher, got a taxidermist to hollow it out, and hid themselves inside it, in a field of ox with their camera lens sticking through a hole. One day during a shoot, Richard fainted inside the ox and the ox fell over. Cherry turned up an hour later and took a photo of the ox before freeing Richard. Before the Keartons, most nature photos were of stuffed animals place in natural surroundings.

- XL Tangent: At the time, photographers were interested in "instantaneous photography", wanting to catch things that have never been seen by human eyes before. One thing they did was photo an exploding mule. The United States School of Submarine Engineers strapped 6oz of dynamite to its forehead, put the shutter of the camera and the fuse for the dynamite on the same circuit, both went of simultaneously, and an article was written up about it in "Scientific American".

- Ostriches are useful in car factories because their feathers are the best things to dust with. They use devices akin to machine car washes, but instead using ostrich feathers, to clean the cars. Female ostrich feathers are considered the best.

- XL Tangent: In 1838, South African farming for ostrich feathers had developed to the point that the feathers could be removed without killing the bird. Most of the feathers were used to decorate hats. Ostrich meat was almost a by-product from the feather industry. During World War I, a pound of ostrich feathers were worth not much less than a pound of diamonds. In the 1990s, there was a boom in Britain for ostrich meat farming. Farmers observed ostriches doing courtship displays, but they were not laying many eggs. The reason was that captivity confused the ostriches, and that they were trying to seduce the farmers rather than the birds.

- XL Tangent: A friend of Alan's was in Australia and went to a wildlife park. The friend was told that if an emu should come towards them, they had to act like an emu themselves and then they will back off. Thus, you should put your arm up in the air and mime the emu's mouth with your hand. It turns out that the park rangers were just winding them up. One girl tried to using this "trick" when an emu became interested in her, but everyone else was crying with laughter too much to help.

General Ignorance

- XL: Between cats and birds, it is the birds who are winning. There is no scientific evidence that predation by cats is having any impact on the UK's bird population. The birds caught by cats are probably dying anyway. Cats kill 55 million birds per year, but blue tits, which are recorded as the No. 2 thing cats catch have increased in population by more than a quarter in the last century. The only time cats are a major threat is when there is a new housing development that is near a vulnerable population.

- The reason there is so much oestrogen in water because of the run-off from livestock manure. This makes up 90% of the oestrogen in water supplies. According to an American study, the pill is responsible for just 1%. (Forfeit: The pill; Urine)

- XL Tangent: Although oestrogen is the primary female sex hormone, it is also present in men, and women also have testosterone. If men had no oestrogen, then they get something akin to the male menopause, putting on weight and having a diminished libido.

- XL Tangent: When you are breastfeeding girls, the girls can have periods in the first month because they have taken then mother's oestrogen.

- XL: During World War II the Allies planned to use oestrogen against the Nazis by giving some to Hitler. The Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner to the CIA, concluded that on the male/female spectrum, Hitler was somewhere in the middle, and that if they could push him over the edge the Germans would stop following him. They planned to get Hitler's gardeners to inject his vegetables with oestrogen. Nobody knows what happened with this plot.

- Cows lie down because they are tired. Cows get up and down about 14 times a day, so the idea they lie down because it is going to rain is nonsense.


- Cariad Lloyd: -5 points
- Nish Kumar: -6 points
- Holly Walsh: -22 points
- Alan Davies: -35 points

Objectionable Object Prize

- Cariad wins the pair of mink bacula earrings.

Broadcast details

Friday 27th October 2017
30 minutes
  • Tuesday 25th April 2017, 15:30 at The London Studios


Show past repeats

Date Time Channel
Friday 16th March 2018 10:00pm BBC2
Wednesday 3rd October 2018 8:00pm
60 minute version
Saturday 5th January 2019 9:00pm
45 minute version
Monday 25th February 2019 9:00pm
60 minute version
Saturday 8th June 2019 1:00am
70 minute version
Wednesday 18th September 2019 10:40pm
60 minute version
Thursday 19th September 2019 2:45am
50 minute version
Monday 7th October 2019 11:40pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 8th October 2019 7:00pm
60 minute version
Sunday 5th January 2020 10:00pm
60 minute version
Monday 6th January 2020 6:00pm
60 minute version
Friday 6th March 2020 9:30pm BBC2
Saturday 9th January 2021 11:20pm Dave
Thursday 19th August 2021 8:20pm Dave
Wednesday 17th November 2021 9:40pm Dave
Thursday 18th November 2021 2:20am Dave
Saturday 4th December 2021 9:30pm BBC2
Monday 27th December 2021 10:00pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 19th January 2022 9:00pm
60 minute version
Thursday 20th January 2022 12:40am
60 minute version
Saturday 30th April 2022 9:00pm BBC2
Tuesday 3rd May 2022 11:40pm Dave
Monday 27th June 2022 8:20pm Dave
Thursday 11th August 2022 1:00am
60 minute version
Thursday 11th August 2022 9:00pm
60 minute version
Friday 23rd September 2022 12:40am Dave
Sunday 9th October 2022 8:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 7th February 2023 9:00pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 8th February 2023 5:00pm
60 minute version
Sunday 11th February 2024 8:00pm
60 minute version

Cast & crew

Sandi Toksvig Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Cariad Lloyd Guest
Holly Walsh Guest
Nish Kumar Guest
Writing team
James Harkin Script Editor
James Harkin Researcher
Will Bowen Researcher
Anne Miller Researcher
Anna Ptaszynski Researcher
Alex Bell Researcher
Stevyn Colgan Researcher
Ben Dupré Researcher
Andrew Hunter Murray Researcher
Ed Brooke-Hitching Researcher
Alice Campbell Davis Researcher
Mat Coward Question Writer
Production team
Ian Lorimer Director
John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE) Series Producer
Piers Fletcher Producer
Kalpna Patel-Knight Executive Producer
Justin Pollard Associate Producer
Nick King Editor
Jonathan Paul Green Production Designer
Mike Sutcliffe Lighting Designer
Howard Goodall Composer


Name that skeleton

Sandi Toksvig asks the teams to play along with the parlour game 'Name that skeleton'.

Featuring: Sandi Toksvig, Alan Davies, Cariad Lloyd, Holly Walsh & Nish Kumar.

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