Episode 3 - Big Cats
This week the experts look at two big cats – the lion and the tiger. As well as dissecting the two species at the Royal Veterinary College, they travel to South Africa to see lions in the wild.
From the outside, the lion and the tiger look very different, but once their skins are removed, even the experts find it hard to tell the two apart. At a big cat rescue centre biologist Simon Watt traces the evolutionary history of the feline family, and comes face to face with a liger - a cross between a lion and a tiger – proof of how similar the two species are.
One of the most characteristic features of these magnificent animals – and something that distinguishes them from the small cats - is their ability to roar. It’s something that has intrigued scientists, so the team delve into the lion’s throat to find the voicebox, and make a discovery that helps explain the way the vocal apparatus works like a trombone.
To test the theory, they pass compressed air into the windpipe and - to everyone’s amazement - make a dead lion roar. Meanwhile, in a South African game reserve Mark and Joy to see how wild lions react to pre-recorded roars of intruder males.
The team dissect the anatomy of how these deadly machines work - from the big cats’ powerful forearms and retractable claws, to the powerful killing bite. And Richard Dawkins explains the evolutionary arms race that has arisen between predators and their prey in the struggle to survive.