Life: Hunters and Prey, Ingenious Insects

A parent bug inspects a drupe. Photo: BBC

To stay alive, animals must eat and avoid being eaten. This means they must develop hunting and escape strategies, many of which they learn from their parents: “Youngsters who learn from their parents benefit from the knowledge gained by them over their lifetimes, and so in turn inherit a huge advantage over their rivals”, write Martha Holmes and Michael Gunton in Life: Extraordinary Animals, Extreme Behavior, the companion book to the Discovery/BBC series Life. In this Discovery Channel clip from the show, a mother killer whale teaches her baby how to sneak up on elephant seals. The knowledge of how to get into the seal pool has been passed down for generations.

Parenting is a survival strategy for some insects, too, as Holmes and Gunton describe. The parent bug eats only one kind of food: the fruits (called drupes) from a certain kind of tree. To spare her young the risky task of foraging for themselves, the parent bug spends all day searching for drupes and drags them home to her nest. If she brings home rotten or unripe drupes, her offspring may abandon her and find a new nest, thus increasing their chances of survival.

This Sunday on Life, see how the world’s greatest hunters capture their prey, and how prey animals employ equally ingenious methods of escape. Then take a peek into the marvelous world of insects, and see how these creatures have managed to stick around on earth for 400 million years. Life airs Sundays at 8PM on Discovery.

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