The Trials of Life: A Natural History of Behaviour was a BBC nature documentary series written and presented by David Attenborough, first transmitted in the United Kingdom in October 1990.

A study in animal behaviour, each of the twelve 50-minute episodes features a different aspect of the journey through life, from birth to adulthood and continuation of the species through reproduction.

The Trials of Life: A Natural History of Behaviour - Netflix

Type: Documentary

Languages: English

Status: Ended

Runtime: 50 minutes

Premier: 1990-10-04

The Trials of Life: A Natural History of Behaviour - Evolution - Netflix

Evolution is change in the heritable characteristics of biological populations over successive generations. Evolutionary processes give rise to biodiversity at every level of biological organisation, including the levels of species, individual organisms, and molecules. Repeated formation of new species (speciation), change within species (anagenesis), and loss of species (extinction) throughout the evolutionary history of life on Earth are demonstrated by shared sets of morphological and biochemical traits, including shared DNA sequences. These shared traits are more similar among species that share a more recent common ancestor, and can be used to reconstruct a biological “tree of life” based on evolutionary relationships (phylogenetics), using both existing species and fossils. The fossil record includes a progression from early biogenic graphite, to microbial mat fossils, to fossilised multicellular organisms. Existing patterns of biodiversity have been shaped both by speciation and by extinction. In the mid-19th century, Charles Darwin formulated the scientific theory of evolution by natural selection, published in his book On the Origin of Species (1859). Evolution by natural selection is a process first demonstrated by the observation that often, more offspring are produced than can possibly survive. This is followed by three observable facts about living organisms: 1) traits vary among individuals with respect to morphology, physiology, and behaviour (phenotypic variation), 2) different traits confer different rates of survival and reproduction (differential fitness), and 3) traits can be passed from generation to generation (heritability of fitness). Thus, in successive generations members of a population are replaced by progeny of parents better adapted to survive and reproduce in the biophysical environment in which natural selection takes place. This teleonomy is the quality whereby the process of natural selection creates and preserves traits that are seemingly fitted for the functional roles they perform. The processes by which the changes occur, from one generation to another, are called evolutionary processes or mechanisms. The four most widely recognised evolutionary processes are natural selection (including sexual selection), genetic drift, mutation and gene migration due to genetic admixture. Natural selection and genetic drift sort variation; mutation and gene migration create variation. Consequences of selection can include meiotic drive (unequal transmission of certain alleles), nonrandom mating and genetic hitchhiking. In the early 20th century the modern evolutionary synthesis integrated classical genetics with Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection through the discipline of population genetics. The importance of natural selection as a cause of evolution was accepted into other branches of biology. Moreover, previously held notions about evolution, such as orthogenesis, evolutionism, and other beliefs about innate “progress” within the largest-scale trends in evolution, became obsolete. Scientists continue to study various aspects of evolutionary biology by forming and testing hypotheses, constructing mathematical models of theoretical biology and biological theories, using observational data, and performing experiments in both the field and the laboratory. All life on Earth shares a common ancestor known as the last universal common ancestor (LUCA), which lived approximately 3.5–3.8 billion years ago. A December 2017 report stated that 3.45 billion-year-old Australian rocks once contained microorganisms, the earliest direct evidence of life on Earth. Nonetheless, this should not be assumed to be the first living organism on Earth; a study in 2015 found “remains of biotic life” from 4.1 billion years ago in ancient rocks in Western Australia. In July 2016, scientists reported identifying a set of 355 genes from the LUCA of all organisms living on Earth. More than 99 percent of all species that ever lived on Earth are estimated to be extinct. Estimates of Earth's current species range from 10 to 14 million, of which about 1.9 million are estimated to have been named and 1.6 million documented in a central database to date. More recently, in May 2016, scientists reported that 1 trillion species are estimated to be on Earth currently with only one-thousandth of one percent described. In terms of practical application, an understanding of evolution has been instrumental to developments in numerous scientific and industrial fields, including agriculture, human and veterinary medicine, and the life sciences in general. Discoveries in evolutionary biology have made a significant impact not just in the traditional branches of biology but also in other academic disciplines, including biological anthropology, and evolutionary psychology. Evolutionary computation, a sub-field of artificial intelligence, involves the application of Darwinian principles to problems in computer science.

The Trials of Life: A Natural History of Behaviour - Common descent - Netflix

All organisms on Earth are descended from a common ancestor or ancestral gene pool. Current species are a stage in the process of evolution, with their diversity the product of a long series of speciation and extinction events. The common descent of organisms was first deduced from four simple facts about organisms: First, they have geographic distributions that cannot be explained by local adaptation. Second, the diversity of life is not a set of completely unique organisms, but organisms that share morphological similarities. Third, vestigial traits with no clear purpose resemble functional ancestral traits and finally, that organisms can be classified using these similarities into a hierarchy of nested groups—similar to a family tree. However, modern research has suggested that, due to horizontal gene transfer, this “tree of life” may be more complicated than a simple branching tree since some genes have spread independently between distantly related species.

Past species have also left records of their evolutionary history. Fossils, along with the comparative anatomy of present-day organisms, constitute the morphological, or anatomical, record. By comparing the anatomies of both modern and extinct species, paleontologists can infer the lineages of those species. However, this approach is most successful for organisms that had hard body parts, such as shells, bones or teeth. Further, as prokaryotes such as bacteria and archaea share a limited set of common morphologies, their fossils do not provide information on their ancestry. More recently, evidence for common descent has come from the study of biochemical similarities between organisms. For example, all living cells use the same basic set of nucleotides and amino acids. The development of molecular genetics has revealed the record of evolution left in organisms' genomes: dating when species diverged through the molecular clock produced by mutations. For example, these DNA sequence comparisons have revealed that humans and chimpanzees share 98% of their genomes and analysing the few areas where they differ helps shed light on when the common ancestor of these species existed.

The Trials of Life: A Natural History of Behaviour - References - Netflix