There is a segment on the largest land mammals on earth today, elephants, and it spotlights mother-calf relationships, with a little grandmotherly guidance for good measure. The largest mammals on our planet are not elephants, of course, but humpback whales which weigh as much as 40 tons.
Narrator Oprah Winfrey tells us, “No one has ever seen two humpback males mate.” I don’t think that’s a bad thing. “Mammals” concentrates, instead, on the “heat run,” a frenzied, violent mating behavior that pits males against each other, and sometimes results in their injury or death. As a half dozen males fight over one female, we learn the purpose of the battle: the strongest male has the best chance of siring strong offspring. Once the battle is won, the victor and the female submerge. No one knows where they go, no one has seen them mate, and I, for one, am better because of it.
With the wide variety of mammals on earth, this entry into Life makes us hungry for more. Although I am looking forward to encountering other forms of life on the series, I would enjoy meeting a lot more of my fellow mammals. Say 10 or 20 episodes worth...
Life is a co-production of BBC and Discovery Channel. The 11-part natural history series can be seen on Sunday evenings through April 18, and will then be available on DVD and Blu-Ray. It is beautifully filmed and appropriate for most viewers.