Planet Earth II Recap: The One With the Deserts

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Photo: BBC 2016/Copyright BBC 2016
Planet Earth II

Planet Earth II

Deserts Season 1 Episode 4
Editor's Rating 5 stars

Imagine a world with no access to sunscreen … or beach umbrellas … or water. This isn’t that one time at that awful all-inclusive Sandals resort in Jamaica, it’s the desert. Animals have to deal with this arid nonsense all of the time; in fact, they have to live in spite of it. If extremely hot days and extremely cold nights sound quite uncomfortable, it’s because it is. But then again, you’re not a lion getting owned by a giraffe:

Don’t feel bad! Sure, she’ll probably die before finding her next meal, but the desert takes no prisoners.

Speaking of taking no prisoners, do you want to hear something really messed up? There’s a bird that gruesomely impales its kills on the spikes of desert plants. Why? To help butcher its prey. They call it the Butcher-bird, but can I suggest American Psycho Serial Killer–bird? Is that not as catchy?

Next up are hoppers, which are definitely not suitable to the bug-phobic, so look away unless you want to experience phantom itches and chirps for months. These locusts, numerous and voracious, travel in packs along the desert, in search of newly sprouted grass after rainfall.

I warned you.

I warrrrned you.

Oh, God, they’ve grown wings.

We’re moving on. You can uncover your eyes now.

How about a palate cleanser? A cute elephant, perhaps? Fun fact: The whole “an elephant never forgets” thing is totally real. Elephants can lead their packs to water holes just by memory, specific spots they haven’t visited for decades.

Just a bunch of chill friends hanging out at the local swimming hole.

Unless, of course, you’re a sandgrouse. To keep away from danger, chicks hatch far from the swimming hole. But those babies are quite thirsty, so daddy sandgrouse flies every morning to gather water for the family. What’s fun is that his breast feathers can soak up water like a sponge. What’s not fun is that he has to soak up before getting attacked by a hawk. Not great, Bob.

Our sandgrouse made it, though! His chicks will not be thirsty. At least for today.

What follows is my favorite moment from this episode, in which an adorable shovel-snouted lizard avoids burning his legs by doing a little dance.

Meanwhile, a snake snuggles into the sand. Under the surface, it’s slightly cooler.

But if it’s really too hot for you during the day — and you’re a total creep like this desert long-eared bat — you can hang out at night.

You’re gonna have to hunt on the ground. And blind. Oh, and you have a taste for deathstalker scorpions. So it isn’t going to be easy.

Set your alarm because early darkling beetles get the fog (at the top of the dunes). Up you go!

When a beetle reaches the top, it’ll stick its bum into the air so that the fog will condense on its body. The water is then directed toward its mouth, and it will drink 40 percent of its body weight. It’s not the only smart creature up there, either. Here’s a web-footed gecko, also collecting water from fog.

But was it all for naught?

Looks like someone had a brunch reservation.

Planet Earth II Recap: The One With the Deserts