NOVA's “Extreme Animal Weapons” Explores How a Secret Biological Code Shapes Nature’s Battleground

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18 November 2017
Extreme Animal Weapons
Courtesy of Anup Shah/
“Extreme Animal Weapons” 
Premieres Wednesday, November 22 at 9 PM ET on PBS
(Check your local listings)

          From lobster claws and dog teeth to bee stings and snake fangs, every creature depends on a weapon. But some are armed to extremes that make no practical sense—whether it’s bull elks with giant 40-pound antler racks or tiny rhinoceros beetles with horns bigger than their body. What explains giant tusks, horns and claws that can slow an animal down and even impair health and nutrition?

          Showcasing astonishing wildlife cinematography, Extreme Animal Weapons investigates the riddle of outsize weaponry and uncovers a bold new theory about what triggers an animal arms race. In creatures as varied as dung beetles and saber-toothed tigers, shrimp and elephants, the same hidden factors trigger the race and unfold in exactly the same pattern. In this enthralling special, NOVA cracks the secret biological code that underlies nature’s battleground.

Experts featured

Prof. Douglas Emlen: Evolutionary Biologist at the University of Montana. He researches Animal Weapons and wrote a book of the same title.

Prof. Stephen Emlen: Behavioural Ecologist at the University of Cornell. He has made pioneering contributions to the understanding of behavioral strategies within animal societies, and has published over 200 peer-reviewed papers.

Assoc. Prof. Mark Loewen: Paleontologist at the Natural History Museum of Utah. He is an acclaimed expert researching Ceratopsid phylogeny and has published over 50 papers about dinosaur ecology.

Assoc. Prof. Brook Swanson: Organismal biologist who researches evolutionary physiology, biomechanics, and biomaterials. He studies fiddler crab morphologies and extreme performance.

Dr. Jack Hogg: Bighorn sheep research scientist for 30 years in Montana.

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