Alaska: The Nutrient Cycle by wildlife filmmaker Paul Klaver.
Once they enter fresh water chum salmon stop feeding and morph into an aggressive creature intent only on mating. After spawning, they die and their bodies become a source of nutrients for everything in the forest and sea.
This 14 minute video had the kids riveted and shows how the end of the salmon’s life directly benefits the animals and ecosystem around them. A note a warning for more sensitive viewers: this video includes a lot of creatures eating very dead-looking fish.
There are more videos tagged with life cycle and death in the archives, including Radiolab’s excellent Whale Fall.
Via jtotheizzoe, watch Return of the Cicadas by Samuel Orr, a beautifully shot film that shows the insect’s unique 17-year life cycle in detail.
With soil temperatures along the East Coast now above the mid-60’s, the Brood II cicadas are up and chirping! Check out WNYC/Radiolab’s real-time Cicada Tracker map to see where they have been observed:
The video above is a jaw-droppingly superb look at the rise of the magicicada from its underground lair, their mass ascent to the trees, their monstrous metamorphosis into adults, and their brief mission to avoid being eaten and reproduce…
More cicada stuff:
If any of you on the East Coast have photos or video of abandoned shells, climbing juveniles, or chirping adults, I’d love to see them! Tweet me or email them to itsokaytobesmart at gmail dot com.
Sir David Attenborough with cicadas and so many insect videos(!) in the archives.
Amazing Cicada Life Cycle, presented (and bewitched) by the amazing Sir David Attenborough in this clip from the BBC’s Life in the Undergrowth.
“Magicicada Brood II will make its 17-year appearance when the ground 8” down is a steady 64°F,” reports Radiolab in this excellent Cicada Tracker DIY project page. And why 17 years underground? From Scientific American:
The curious phenomenon of the cicada’s periodical life cycle is the subject of much debate among scientists, who are limited to no small extent by the infrequency of the insect’s visits to the surface. Most agree, however, that climate shifts — notably the rapid warming following the end of the last ice age — have played a role.
There are seven species of periodical cicadas in North America, four bound to a 13-year cycle, three in a 17-year cycle. All are characterized by black and orange bodies, and males woo their mates with species-specific choruses that can be deafening in large numbers.
The genetic similarity of these seven species suggests a common ancestor in the last 8,000 years. And because emergence seems closely linked to soil temperature and moisture, it is likely that climate has played a role in both regulating their life cycles and cueing their appearance.
Cicadas don’t sting or bite. After a few weeks making noise up in the trees (measured at 94 decibles), eggs will be laid and will hatch. After feeding on sap, these hatchlings will drop down to burrow and live underground, next seen in the year 2030.
Premier Automne, a short film by French studio Je Regarde, is beautiful and emotional journey that explores nature’s balance: life, death, and the seasons.
Abel and his skeleton puppies live in an eternal winter. Apolline and her summer puppies frolic in the green. Keepers of their own seasons, they first encounter each other with curiosity before they both realize how different their worlds are, and how their worlds respond to each other.
This story sparked a lot of discussion in our house, and the simple last scene has become an instant favorite. If you want to see how the animation was made, there is also a Premier Automne: Making Of video that shows some beautiful detail.
More nature, more seasons, and more animation in the archives.