The Life of Mammals

Watch The Life of Mammals

  • 2002
  • 1 Season
  • 9.1  (4,227)

The Life of Mammals is a documentary series produced by the BBC Earth and narrated by David Attenborough. It aired from 2002-2003 and explores the incredible variety of animals within the mammal class, from the tiniest shrew to the largest whale. Throughout the series, Attenborough takes viewers on a journey around the world to witness the diverse ways in which mammals adapt to their environments and survive in the wild. The series is divided into ten episodes, each focusing on a particular aspect of mammal life.

The first episode, A Winning Design, begins exploring the physical characteristics and evolution of mammals. From the unique features of their skulls to their hair and ability to regulate their own body temperature, Attenborough explains how mammals’ evolutionary adaptations have allowed them to become one of the most successful groups of animals on earth.

Subsequent episodes dive deeper into the diverse ways in which mammals live and interact with their surroundings. In episode two, Insect Hunters, Attenborough showcases mammalian hunters who have evolved to feed mainly on insects. He travels to South America to witness bats hunting termites in the night, and to Madagascar to see lemurs with specially adapted fingers for extracting insects from tree bark.

Episode three, Plant Predators, explores how herbivorous mammals have adapted to feed on plant life, including teeth modifications, long digestive tracts, and specialized diets unique to certain species. The series then moves on to explore how mammals communicate, both vocally and through scent marking in episode four, The Chisellers.

In episode five, Meat Eaters, Attenborough moves to the dramatic and sometimes terrifying world of mammalian predators such as lions, tigers, and wolves. The episode showcases hunting tactics, social structures, and the evolutionary adaptations that have allowed carnivorous mammals to become some of the most successful hunters on earth.

Episode six, Opportunists, spotlights mammals who possess a remarkable capacity to improvise when it comes to feeding and survival. This skill is particularly useful in a changing environment, where being adaptable can be the difference between life and death.

Throughout the series, Attenborough introduces viewers to an incredible array of mammalian species, many of which are unfamiliar to most viewers. Episode seven, Return to the Water, explores how some mammals have adapted to aquatic environments, such as dolphins, whales and manatees.

Next, episode eight, Life in the Trees, explores the lives of arboreal mammals that have made the canopy of trees their home, from spider monkeys to orangutans. Episode nine, Social Climbers, explores how social mammals such as meerkats and chimpanzees live and interact together for mutual benefit.

Finally, episode ten, Food for Thought, explores the intricate relationships between mammals and their food sources. Attenborough showcases the complex and often specialized mechanisms that mammals have evolved to acquire food and how their diets reflect the range and diversity of ecosystems they inhabit.

Overall, The Life of Mammals is a visually stunning and informative series that provides a comprehensive exploration of these incredible creatures’ lives. Attenborough’s narration is engaging and accessible, and the footage is both breathtaking and informative. It’s a must-watch for anyone interested in natural history, conservation or animal behavior.

The Life of Mammals
Filter by Source
No sources available
Food for Thought
10. Food for Thought
February 5, 2003
The last programme of the series sees David Attenborough compare the foraging skills of humans with those of our distant relatives, the great apes. As bipedal mammals, humans have come to dominate their surroundings and, through the exploitation of the food sources available to them, evolved with larger brains.
The Social Climbers
9. The Social Climbers
January 29, 2003
David Attenborough continues his documentary series. He looks at monkeys from all over the world, including red howler monkeys in Venezuela, capuchin monkeys in the Costa Rican swamps, and guenon monkeys in West Africa.
Life in the Trees
8. Life in the Trees
January 22, 2003
Climbing is just the start - the challenge is to move between trees. To get close to the creatures, David Attenborough must climb into the canopy. His subjects range from the squirrels to lemurs, the latter able to leap 15 metres. More unfamiliar animals, including the Indian slender ioris and the fossa, Madagascar's largest arboreal predator, are filmed for the first time in the wild.
Return to the Water
7. Return to the Water
January 15, 2003
David Attenborough discovers that while mammals such as manatees and sea otters left dry millions of years ago, the blue whale has always had its home in the sea. And though some marine mammals such as seals and sea lions still come ashore to breed, many conduct their mating rituals in the water.
6. Opportunists
January 8, 2003
Omnivorous mammals run the gamut from human beings to rats and, though they are generalists with their diet, each is equipped with very specialised skills. In the sixth part of his ten-part series, David Attenborough witnesses the feeding secrets of the North American raccoon, the babirusa pig in Africa and skunks in Texas, and shows how they perform astonishing feats to stay alive.
Meat Eaters
5. Meat Eaters
December 18, 2002
From artic foxes and leopards to the Siberian tiger, carnivores feature in the fifth of David Attenborough's epic ten-part series. Travelling down from the frozen north into India, Attenborough learns of the dangers they pose to other animals - and the threat they face from man.
4. Chisellers
December 11, 2002
Rodents are the most numerous mammals on the planet, comprising an incredibly diverse variety of species. They range from the naked mole rat, which spends its entire life below ground, to the world's largest rodent, the capybara, which grazes in herds across the vast grasslands of South America. In the fourth of his ten-part epic series David Attenborough shares his fascination with these animals, which stop only at his pet hate - rats.
Plant Predators
3. Plant Predators
December 4, 2002
Heavily armoured, indigestible and even poisonous, plants pose problems for some of our biggest predators. David Attenborough learns why eating plants is one of the greatest challenges for the planet's mammals.
Insect Hunters
2. Insect Hunters
November 27, 2002
Mammals that hunt insects shared the planet with the dinosaurs, but when the giant reptiles disappeared, these creatures seized their chance to conquer new territory. David Attenborough meets strange bats, dim-witted anteaters, less familiar pangolins, moles that swim through sand and the garden hedgehog in the second part of his new series.
A Winning Design
1. A Winning Design
November 20, 2002
First in a ten-part epic series in which David Attenborough explores why mammals, including humans, are the most successful and diverse animals on the planet. His journey begins in Australia where he encounters the bizarre egg-laying platypus and the country's many marsupials - mammals like the possum, kangaroo and wombat that protect their young in a pouch.
  • Premiere Date
    November 20, 2002
  • IMDB Rating
    9.1  (4,227)