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Life - BBC Series

Life is another documentary series the by BBC Nature Unit, by many of the same people who worked on Planet Earth. This series has a different focus than Planet Earth -- it is entirely on the different types of living organisms found throughout the Earth. As such, it is an ideal choice for an introduction to biology course. Most of the episodes focus on a different group of living organisms -- from plants to invertebrates to primates.

The worksheets I wrote for this series include a set of conceptual questions that follow each episode. Additionally, at the end of most of the worksheets, there is a chart that students have to fill out to classify the animals in the episode by the relevant order or family.

Tip for teachers: Definitely use the David Attemborough version, as the narration is superior to the Discovery channel version. Use closed captioning! Many of the animals and plants have very unusual names with very unusual spellings. Seeing them in text makes it much easier for the students to follow.


Life - Reptiles and Amphibians

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Download Life - Amphibians and Reptiles Worksheet.

Description: Amphibians and reptiles are both classes of cold-blooded animals in the chordata phylum. This episode shows a wide variety of individuals from each class, including how they escape predation, how they hunt, and reproduction.

Species: Amphibians include the panther chameleon, Namaqua chameleon, waterfall toad, pebble toad, and giant bullfrog. Reptiles include caiman crocodiles, the basilisk lizard, garter snakes, horned lizard, sea krait, and Komodo dragon.


Life - Mammals

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Download BBC Life - Mammals Worksheet.

Description: Mammals are all warm-blooded vertebrates. In general, they have stronger social bonds and interactions than other animals, and this behavior is very much highlighted by this episode. This is one of the classes of chordata with the most orders and can be difficult to classify. A classification chart is included at the end of the worksheet to help with this.

Species: Weddell seal, rufous sengi, aye-aye, hyena, lion, reindeer, fruit bat, Polar bear, meerkat, African elephant, humpback whale.


Life - Fish

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Download BBC Life - Fish worksheet.

Description: Fish were the first group of vertebrates to evolve, thus are the most diverse group on the Earth. This episode covers both marine and freshwater fish, including how they hunt, avoid predation, and spawn. The classification chart at the end of this assignment only covers the major groups of fish -- jawless, cartilaginous, lobe-finned, and spiny-finned.

Species: Sail fish, flying fish, weedy sea dragon, convict fish, sarcastic fringehead, mudskipper, tiny goby, barbel, ragged-tooth shark.



Life - Birds

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Download BBC Life - Birds worksheet.

Description: Birds (class aves) is a group of vertebrates that is evolutionary very close to the reptiles. Birds, however, are warm-blooded and most have the ability to fly thanks to their feathers. One of the major focuses in this episode is the incredibly complex courtship behavior exhibited by some birds and how it relates to their evolution.

Species: Spatuletail hummingbird, lammergeier, red-billed tropicbird, red knot, lesser flamingo, chinstrap penguin, great white pelican, Clark's grebe, sage grouse, vogelkop bowerbird.


Life - Insects

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Download the BBC Life - Insects worksheet.

Description: Insects (class: hexapoda) is actually only one clade within the arthropod phylum, but it is an incredibly diverse one. They have adapted their exoskeletons in a wide variety of ways, using it to fly, as armor,or adapting it into pincers, mandibles, and stingers. A classification chart is available at the end of the worksheet helping students place each insect in its appropriate order.

Species: Darwin's beetle, copper demoiselle damselfly, monarch butterfly, alkali fly, oogpister beetle, honey bee, japanese red bug, Dawson's bee, grasscutter ant.


Life - Hunters and Hunted

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Download the BBC Life - Hunters and Hunted Worksheet.

Description - The Hunters and Hunted episode of the life series is all about the different evolutionary adaptations that both predators and prey have evolved in reponse to each other. Every animal used in this episode is a mammal, so the worksheet is designed similar to the 'Mammals' episode in regards to classification.

Species - Cheetah, ibex, greater bulldog bat, brown bear, Ethiopian wolf, stoat, Bengal tiger, langur monkey, chital deer, elephant seal, orca.



Life - Creatures of the Deep

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Download Microsoft Word Document

Description: This episode is about marine invertebrates, including those around underwater volcanic vents, in coral reefs, and even in the seas around Antarctica.. Phylums represented include cnideria, annelida, mollusca, echinodermata, and arthropoda. The primary focus on this episode is simply survival -- how these organisms find food and conserve energy.

Species: Pompeii worm, Humboldt squid, nemertine worm, Aurelia jellyfish, fried-egg jellyfish, spider crab, sting ray, cuttlefish, Pacific giant octopus, giant sun star, sea urchin, coral polyps, sea slugs, emperor shrimp.


Life - Plants

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Download the BBC Life - Plants Worksheet.

Description: This is the only episode of the BBC Life series that does not focus on animals. Rather, the biodiversity within the plant kingdom is showcased. Plants have many of the same basic needs as all organisms, but the primary one that is unique to them is sunlight. This need for sunlight, along with water and nutrients, is the focus on this episode.

Species: Ivy, cat's claw creeper, passion flower, epiphytes, sundew, Venus flytrap, richea honeybush, sandhill milkweed, Heliconia, Brunsvigia, Alsomitra, saguaro cactus, dragon's blood tree, desert rose, mangrove tree, bristlecone pine, grass.


Life - Primates

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Download the BBC Life - Primates worksheet.

Description: Primates is one order within the mammal class. Mammals within this order show the most complex levels of thinking, problem-solving, and socialization. This is the order humans belong in, and there are a lot of similarities between us and the other primates shown in this episode. A classification chart, cladogram, and other information is presented in this worksheet to help students distinguish between the different families of primates.

Species: Hamadryas baboon, Japanese macaque (snow monkey), Western gorilla, spectral tarsier, Phayre's leaf monkey, ring-tailed lemur, orangutan, Chacma baboon, white-faced capucin, chimpanzee.



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