Evolution Episode 2: Great Transformations

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Evolution Episode 2: Great Transformations
PBS Documentary

Series Overview

Evolution determines who lives, who dies, and who passes traits on to the next generation. The process plays a critical role in our daily lives, yet it is one of the most overlooked -- and misunderstood -- concepts ever described.

The Evolution project's eight-hour television miniseries travels the world to examine evolutionary science and the profound effect it has had on society and culture. From the genius and torment of Charles Darwin to the scientific revolution that spawned the tree of life, from the power of sex to drive evolutionary change to the importance of mass extinctions in the birth of new species, the Evolution series brings this fascinating process to life. The series also explores the emergence of consciousness, the origin and success of humans, and the perceived conflict between science and religion in understanding life on Earth.

The Evolution series' goals are to heighten public understanding of evolution and how it works, to dispel common misunderstandings about the process, and to illuminate why it is relevant to all of us.

Evolution Episode 2: Great Transformations
What underlies the incredible diversity of life on Earth? How have complex life forms evolved? The journey from water to land, the return of land mammals to the sea, and the emergence of humans all suggest that creatures past and present are members of a single tree of life.

Chapter 1. Prologue (2:56)

Introduction to the show's theme: key transformations in the development of life

Human connections to all animal life
Following the tree of life back four billion years

Chapter 2. The Evolution of Whales (13:43)

The mystery of whale evolution, solved by fossil research

Understanding human evolution through the study of whale evolution
Brief definition and history of mammals
How did land-based mammals return to the sea?
Fossils from "transitional species" trace whale evolution
Studying whale movement to see evolutionary relationship with land mammals

Chapter 3. From Water to Land (10:27)

Understanding the transition from water to land-based life

Paleontological research into early tetrapod fossils
Which came first: leaving the water or developing legs?
The transition from fins to limbs; an evolutionary survival strategy

Chapter 4. The First Animals (5:27)

Exploring the origins of animal life

The Cambrian explosion, the sudden appearance of animal life
The Burgess Shale and its rich fossil record
Trilobites, an extinct arthropod and relative of crabs, insects, and spiders
Pikia, perhaps the earliest ancestor of modern vertebrates

Chapter 5. The Mechanism of Change (14:31)

The search for evolution's genetic mechanism, and the simplicity of the answer

Fruit fly research into evolution and genes
Embryo development and its clues to evolution
The theory that genes are the architects of the body, and a universal set of genes builds all animals

Chapter 6. The Transformation of Humans (9:26)

The crucial transition to bipedal movement

Human abilities are remarkable, yet we are built from the same genes as all animals
Studying primate movement to understand human ancestors and evolution
The existence of homo sapiens was not inevitable