The Future Is Wild
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|The Future Is Wild|
|Genre||Documentary, Speculative science|
|Starring||See Scientists below|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||13 (list of episodes)|
|Producer(s)||Jo Adams Television|
|Running time||20–25 minutes|
|Original network||BBC, Arte, ZDF, ORF, Mediaset, Animal Planet, Discovery Channel|
|Original release||April 2 – June 25, 2002|
The Future Is Wild is a 2003 thirteen-part documentary television miniseries. Based on research and interviews with several scientists, the miniseries shows how life could evolve in the future if humans were to disappear from the Earth altogether through extinction. The version broadcast on the Discovery Channel modified this premise, supposing instead that the human species had completely abandoned the Earth and had sent back probes to examine the progress of life on the planet as time progressed. The show took the form of a nature documentary. It is narrated by John de Lancie in the Discovery Channel version.
The miniseries was released with a companion book written by geologist Dougal Dixon, the author of several speculative evolution books, or "anthropologies and zoologies of the future" (such as After Man: A Zoology of the Future), in conjunction with natural history television producer John Adams. For a time in 2005, a theme park based on this program was opened in Japan. In 2008 a special on the Discovery Channel about the development of the video game Spore was combined with airings of The Future Is Wild.
Twelve ecosystems were presented, four in each of three future periods.
5 million years' time
The early episodes describe a world after an ice age, when giant sea-birds roam the beaches and carnivorous bats rule the skies. Ice sheets extend as far south as Paris in the northern hemisphere and as far north as Buenos Aires in the southern hemisphere. The Amazon rainforest has dried up and become grassland. The North American plains have become cold desert, and Africa has collided with Europe, enclosing the Mediterranean Sea. Without water to replace it in the dry climate, the Mediterranean has dried out into a salt flat dotted with brine lakes, as it has been in the past. Most of Europe is frozen tundra. The part of Africa east of the African Rift Valley has broken away from the rest of the continent. Asia has dried up and is now mountainous. The once warm, tropical area of Central America has been transformed into a dry area. Australia has moved north and collided with eastern Indonesia.
- Profiled species
- Hypothesized species
- Babookari, a ground-living New World monkey descended from the present-day Uakari;
- Carakiller, a giant, 2 meter (7 foot) tall, flightless bird of prey, descended from the present-day Caracara;
- Cryptile, a lizard that inhabits salt flats and has a sticky neck frill for catching flies;
- Deathgleaner, a giant, carnivorous bat descended from the spectral bat of South and Central America;
- Gannetwhale, a large, flightless, seal-like seabird descended from the present-day gannet;
- Rattleback, an armoured rodent descended from the present-day Paca or Agouti; there are two species, one in the Amazonian grasslands and the other in the northern deserts;
- Gryken, a slender terrestrial mustelid descended from the present-day pine marten;
- Scrofa, a wild pig living on the Mediterranean salt flats descended from the wild boar.
- Shagrat, a giant, capybara-like rodent found in the tundra of northern Europe; descended from the present-day marmot;
- Snowstalker, a large, white, saber-toothed mustelid from northern Europe, descended from the present-day wolverine;
- Spink, a small, mole-like, burrowing bird found in southern North America, descended from the present-day quail.
100 million years' time
In the scenario for 100 million years in the future, the world is much hotter than at present. Octopuses and enormous tortoises have come on to the land, much of which is flooded by shallow seas surrounded by brackish swamps. Antarctica has drifted towards the tropics and is covered with dense rainforests, as it was 300 million years before, in the Carboniferous period. Australia has collided with North America and Asia, forcing up an enormous, 12-kilometre-high mountain plateau much taller than the modern Himalayas. Greenland has been reduced to a small, temperate island. There are cold, deep ocean trenches. The Sahara has once again become the rich grassland it was millions of years ago.
- Profiled species
- Red algae, a protist that is alive today and evolves into a plant-like shape to form reefs in the absence of corals and forge a symbiosis with the Reef Gliders.
- Hypothesized species
- Falconfly, a giant predatory wasp descended from the sand wasp;
- Grass Tree, a plant species of the Great Plateau, harvested by Silver Spiders to feed the Poggles; descended from bamboo;
- Great Blue Windrunner, a giant, blue, 3 meter (9 foot) wingspan, four-winged crane whose legs have flight feathers that can act as gliding surfaces; it is descended from a present-day crane;
- Lurkfish, a giant, big-mouthed, charge up with 1,000 volt, electric fish descended from the electric catfish;
- Nursery Vase, a plant that traps water within it and is used as a nursery by the Swampus in a very close symbiosis. It is similar to the present-day pineapple and bromeliad and is possibly a descendant from their lineage.
- Ocean Phantom, a giant descendant of the Portuguese man o' war;
- Poggle, the last mammal, living inside mountains and descended from a species of social rodent;
- Reef Glider, a giant, swimming sea slug;
- Roachcutter, a swift species of Flutterbird, a variety of birds unique to Antarctica that descended from modern-day tubenosed seabirds;
- Silver Spider, a large colonial spider
- Spindle Trooper, a giant sea spider that lives in Ocean Phantoms, which they defend against enemies;
- Spitfire Bird, a species of Flutterbird that shoots acidic flower nectar from its nostrils as a defense;
- False Spitfire Bird, a Flutterbird species that mimics the Spitfire Bird to frighten such predators as the Falconfly;
- Spitfire Beetle, a cooperative, predatory beetle that preys on Spitfire Birds;
- Spitfire Tree, a flowering tree that makes two chemicals collected by Spitfire Birds, which pollinate the tree in the process;
- Swampus, a semi-terrestrial, brackish swamp-dwelling octopus;
- Toraton, a giant tortoise that grows to 120 tons.
200 million years' time
The hypothetical world of 200 million years from now is recovering from a mass extinction caused by a flood basalt eruption even larger than the one that created the Siberian Traps, wiping out 99% of the species on the planet. Fish have taken to the skies, squid to the forests, and the world's largest-ever desert is filled with strange worms and insects. All the continents have collided with one another and fused into a single supercontinent, a second Pangaea. One large global ocean with a single-current system gives rise to deadly hurricanes called hypercanes, which batter the coastlines of the continent all year long. The northwestern side of Pangaea II, drenched with an endless supply of rain, has become a temperate forest. Mountains resting at the end of the coast prevent most of the rain's moisture from reaching a long line of scrubby rainshadow deserts. The very center of the continent receives no rain at all and has become a barren, plantless desert. Only fish, arthropods, worms and mollusks were left to repopulate the Earth.
- Hypothesized species
- Bumblebeetle, a fast-flying beetle that lives and breeds inside the carcasses of dead Ocean Flish;
- Deathbottle, a carnivorous plant living in the Rainshadow Desert;
- Desert Hopper, a hopping snail with a modified single foot;
- Forest Flish, a small, forest-dwelling, hummingbird-like fish that no longer lives in the oceans but instead flies like a bird (Flish being a portmanteau of flying and fish);
- Ocean Flish, another type of Flish which relies on the ocean more than does the Forest Flish; like the Forest Flish, it is a descendant of cod;
- Garden Worm, an algae-filled worm that feeds only on sunlight;
- Lichen Tree, a descendant of living lichens that has grown gigantic due to the high levels of moisture in its environment, reaching 10 feet (3 meters) in height;
- Megasquid, a 5-meter-high (16.5-feet-high), 8-ton, omnivorous, terrestrial cephalopod; its eight arms have evolved into walking legs like an elephant's; it uses its two long tentacles for feeding;
- Rainbow squid, a 25-meter-long (82-feet-long), gentle, ocean-going cephalopod descended from the giant squid;
- Sharkopath, a bioluminescent shark that hunts in packs, descended from the spined pygmy shark;
- Silverswimmers, fish-sized neotenous crustaceans;
- Slickribbon, a cave-dwelling, 1-meter-long (3.2-feet-long), predatory worm with a striking resemblance to Opabinia of the early Cambrian;
- Slithersucker, a large, predatory slime mold;
- Squibbon, a terrestrial cephalopod that swings from tree branches; it is highly intelligent and the likeliest ancestor for future life that may allow civilization to once again reestablish itself on Earth; like the Megasquid it is a descendent of the Swampus;
- Terabyte, a highly specialized colonial descendant of termites;
- Gloomworm, a primitive-looking, bacteria-eating worm.
Each episode generally focuses on just one food chain within a particular ecosystem.
- "Welcome to the Future" (a summary of the coming episodes);
- "Return of the Ice" (5 million years' time, in the newly frozen wasteland of Europe);
- "The Vanished Sea" (5 million years' time, in the Mediterranean salt desert);
- "Prairies of Amazonia" (5 million years' time, in the grassland where the Amazon rainforest once was);
- "Cold Kansas Desert" (5 million years' time, in the cold desert of Kansas, in North America);
- "Waterland" (100 million years' time, in the huge network of swamps of Bengal);
- "Flooded World" (100 million years' time, in the shallow seas edging the lowliness of the continents);
- "Tropical Antarctica" (100 million years' time, in the rainforests of Antarctica, which is now at the equator);
- "The Great Plateau" (100 million years' time, at the Great Plateau, the spot where Northern Asia, North America and Australia have collided);
- "The Endless Desert" (200 million years' time, in the vast desert of central Pangaea II);
- "The Global Ocean" (200 million years' time, in the world's global ocean);
- "Graveyard Desert" (200 million years' time, in a rainshadow desert);
- "The Tentacled Forest" (200 million years' time, in the rainforest situated at the northwest of the newly formed supercontinent);
- "The Future Is Wild and the Making of Spore" (a special on the Discovery Channel about the development of the video game Spore was combined with airings of The Future is Wild; made and broadcast 6 years later).
The Future is Wild is a £5-million co-production of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the Franco-German channel Arte, the German ZDF, the Austrian ORF, the Italian Mediaset, and Animal Planet and Discovery Channels Inc of the United States.
The BBC intended that the miniseries would repeat the success it had with its prehistoric documentary series Walking With Dinosaurs, which attracted 17 million viewers in 1999. The program used computer-generated imagery to show the possible future of life on Earth. The 13-part series was produced in four years by independent producer John Adams, who conceived it in 1997.
Scientists involved in the project include the following:
- R McNeill Alexander, zoologist
- Leticia Aviles, evolutionary biologist
- Phillip Currie, paleontologist and paleoornithologist (the study of prehistoric birds)
- Dougal Dixon, geologist
- Richard Fortey, paleontologist
- William Gilly, cell biologist, developmental biologist and marine biologist
- Stephen Harris, mammalogist
- Kurt M. Kotrschal, zoologist
- Mike Linley, herpetologist
- Roy Livermore, palaeogeographer
- R. McNeill Alexander, specialist in biomechanics
- Karl J. Niklas, botanist
- Stephen Palumbi, marine biologist
- Jeremy Rayner, zoologist
- Robert Stephen John Sparks, geologist
- Bruce H. Tiffney, palaeobotanist
- Paul Valdes, paleoclimatologist
The Future is Wild doubled the previous ratings record for the Animal Planet channel when it was aired in the United States. The series was shown on BBC2 in late 2004.
ZDF Enterprises sold the television rights of the series to 18 markets: Belgium, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Japan, Korea, Mexico, the Middle East, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovenia and Venezuela.
The series was released on three DVDs: episodes 1–5, episodes 6–9 and episodes 10–13. The three DVDs have also been released together as a set. Both the single DVDs and the three-DVD set are available for DVD regions one and two. Although the singles are available for region four, the three-DVD set is not.
An educational CD-ROM entitled The Future Is Wild was produced by Sherston Software in 2006. It is designed to fit in with international school curricula for science, mathematics, geography and history.
A book version was released in 2003, published by Firefly Books.
- Tezer, Adnan (2 October 2009). "Warner sees the 'Future'". Monsters and Critics. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
- Mainz (26 November 2003). "The Future is Wild is ZDF Enterprises’ bestselling documentary in 2003". ZDF Enterprises. Retrieved 19 October 2011.
- Byrne, Ciar (30 March 2004). "Fish in trees and elephant-sized squid - the future as seen on TV". The Independent. Retrieved 19 October 2011.
- Future Evolution by Peter Ward
- Life After People
- The World Without Us
- After Man: A Zoology of the Future
- Man After Man: An Anthropology of the Future
- Alien Planet