Science Night 5/15

Nature Great Zebra Exodus at 7 pm
When thunderclouds begin to gather over Botswana’s Kalahari each year, 20 000 zebras begin an ancient journey, as southern Africa’s biggest animal migration gets underway. In a never-ending quest for grass and water, the striped herds make their epic trek across the vast otherworldly landscape of the Kalahari’s Makgadikgadi Pans, through prides of lions, and past families of meerkats, taking on the desert salt pans in their own way. The story of this spectacular annual migration is told through the eyes of zebra stallions, their mares, and their young, revealing the trials and triumphs and the fascinating social bonds that hold zebra families together.

NOVA Decoding Neanderthals at 8 pm
Over 60,000 years ago, the first modern humans—people physically identical to us today—left their African homeland and entered Europe, then a bleak and inhospitable continent in the grip of the Ice Age. But when they arrived, they were not alone: the stocky, powerfully built Neanderthals had already been living there for hundred of thousands of years. So what happened when the first modern humans encountered the Neanderthals? That question has tantalized generations of scholars and seized the popular imagination. Then, in 2010, a team led by geneticist Svante Paabo announced stunning news. Not only had they reconstructed much of the Neanderthal genome—an extraordinary technical feat that would have seemed impossible only a decade ago—but their analysis showed that “we” modern humans had interbred with Neanderthals, leaving a small but consistent signature of Neanderthal genes behind in everyone outside Africa today. In “Decoding Neanderthals,” NOVA explores the implications of this exciting discovery.

Secrets of the Dead Cavemen Cold Case at 9 pm
A tomb of 49,000 year-old Neanderthal bones discovered in El Sidron, a remote, mountainous region of northern Spain, leads to a compelling investigation to solve a double mystery: How did this group of Neanderthals die? And could the fate of this group help explain Neanderthal extinction? Scientists examine the bones and discover signs that tell a shocking story of how this group may have met their deaths. Some bones bear distinct signs of cannibalism. Was it a result of ritual or hunger? Neanderthal experts are adamant that they were not bloodthirsty brutes. What happened here 49,000 years ago will take viewers on a much bigger journey – from El Sidron to the other end of the Iberian Peninsula, where scientists are excavating beneath the seas off Gibraltar in search of Neanderthal sites.