I’ve missed watching ITV’s cat series on a Sunday, so am happy to have found a new documentary show that includes our feline friends on BBC One. Another three part series, Life in the Air explores how animals effortlessly beat gravity – from African cats like the caracal, which also featured in ITV’s The Story of Cats, and Borneo’s leaping snakes to the UK’s insect population and even kangaroos in Oz.
The first episode of the BBC’s Life in the Air – ‘Gravity Defying’ – discussed the amazing acrobatics of the cat family and asked why they are always able to land on their feet. It showed, as proof, the flawless mid-flight 180 degree turning that a caracal can make to ensure it lands feet-first no matter what position and height it fell from.
Scientists have been baffled for years about how large cats like lions and tigers can turn themselves so effortlessly – like domestic kitties can too – to manoeuvre their bodies into perfect positions to land on their paws. The first episode had a short clip that showed in slow motion exactly what the caracal can do as it flies through the air and it was nothing short of impressive!
The cat demonstrated how it manages to lands on its feet thanks to a remarkable body design giving it a flexible spine, which allows the caracal cat to rotate its front and back ends in opposite directions at the same time. So, as it falls back to earth, this great big cat creates a clockwise rotation in the front half of its body while the back spins in the opposite direction.
The second episode in the series – Masters of the Sky – was be on BBC One this Sunday, 10 April, at 5pm. This episode will take a look at how animals take to the air, defying the force all airborne animals must conquer – gravity. There are unlikely to be any flying cats in that one but it will instead reveal why peregrine falcons can top 200 miles an hour, how a hummingbird is a slave to its own rather manic lifestyle and that the albatross’s secret to flying for free is its nose.