Segments in this Video

Experiments in Natural Selection (02:26)


Experts believe fire and titanic upheavals attributed to the creation of islands which account for one-sixth of the land mass on Earth. Professor Richard Fortey describes the importance of tropical islands in understanding evolution. Geology, geography, time, and the life cycle of islands play a part in the evolutionary history of the Earth's islands.

Madeira (02:54)

Fortey visits the subtropical island late in its life cycle; it is a refuge to species that are elsewhere extinct. Located 500 miles south of Europe and 360 from the west coast of Africa, Madeira is a volcanic island millions of years old.

Laurisilva (02:30)

Fortey embarks on a quest through an underground tunnel where spiders live. The tunnel comes out in a forest that is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. He joins paleobotanist Carlos A. Góis-Marque to examine ancient plants in a forest named for its laurels.

Plant Evolution (03:04)

Endemic plants evolved to enormous size alongside the laurel species in Laruisilva. Plants evolved woodiness to compete for light; see a garden spurge, a foxglove, and a fossil bramble.

Island Gigantism (03:57)

Transported by the wind, nocturnal wolf spiders have likely lived on Madeira for millions of years. On Deserta Grande, wolf spiders evolved into the Hogna ingens, Europe's largest spider.

Ancient Ark (04:11)

Beneath the Laurisilva forest lays a subterranean world created by volcanic activity. Hot basalt magma cooled and created tubes that were isolated from the outside world for a million years, creating a habitat for creatures like the Thalassophilus pieperi beetle.

Insect Adaptations (01:40)

Many insects become dwarves in order to survive subterranean environments. A tiny snail in Madeira adapted to a different environment: the island's high peaks where food is hard to come by.

Bird Diversification (02:19)

The Madeira chaffinch is one of few native birds on the island and is considered a subspecies of the European finch. The Honeycreepers finch is also native to Madeira.

Species Immigration (02:16)

Madeira is 360 miles from Africa and 500 miles from Europe, allowing migrating species to move into the island's ecological niches. Humans have lived on Madeira for over a half a millennium, creating a significant impact on the island.

Lizard Shangri-La (04:05)

The Madeiran wall lizard cohabitates with the large concentration of humans on Madeira. Dr. Jose Jesus explains the diversity of the lizards.

Island Creation (03:35)

Madeira and its surrounding islands rose from the sea floor 18 million years ago and continued to grow another 17 million years; only four percent of Madeira is above the waterline. Explosive eruptions built Madeira, creating basalt rock formations that weathered away over long periods of geological time.

Madeira Fish (02:53)

Fortey examines native deep water fish at the Funchal fish market. At the Marine Biological Station of Funchal, he views an angler fish, the largest specimen ever found. The specimen has a lure atop its head to attract its prey.

Human Impact on Species (02:42)

The Marine Biological Station of Funchal measures the extent of human effects around Madeira. Divers search for species like starfish and sea urchins. These creatures help indicate the healthiness of the sea.

Invasive Species (02:05)

Joao Canning-Clode leads a marine biology team investigating Madeira's bryozoans. Shipping containers introduce bryozoans to Madeira; some are problematic.

Environmental Changes (04:10)

Fortey views a lancet fish dissection. Manuel Biscoito locates invasive species and pieces of plastic in the fish's stomach. Biscoito reveals dissection records dating back to March 1945.

Unique Global Overview (04:10)

The waters surrounding Madeira were once the site of prolific whaling, but are now a popular place for dolphin and whale watching. Climate change is glaringly evident on Madeira. Fortey reviews the other islands studied in the series, Hawaii and Madagascar.

Credits: Madeira, Island Ark: Episode 3—Nature's Wonderlands (00:28)

Credits: Madeira, Island Ark: Episode 3—Nature's Wonderlands

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Madeira, Island Ark: Episode 3—Nature's Wonderlands

Part of the Series : Nature's Wonderlands: Islands of Evolution
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $300.00
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $450.00
3-Year Streaming Price: $300.00



In this third and final installment, Professor Richard Fortey travels to Madeira to examine what happens to a volcanic island as it nears the end of its life-cycle and starts sinking back into the sea. Here, in the island’s laurisilva forest, he examines the remains of an ancient forest that once carpeted all of Europe; island lizards that live to be four times older than their mainland counterparts, and the largest wolf spider in Europe. With the help of local divers, he also discovers an unexpectedly rich marine habitat populated by whales, dolphins and unusual deep-sea species that have much to tell us about the changing nature of our seas.

Length: 50 minutes

Item#: BVL124942

ISBN: 978-1-63521-824-4

Copyright date: ©2015

Closed Captioned

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