There was a fantastic hour long documentary programme transmitted on Channel 5 last Sunday, a fact almost worth reporting in itself given the dire quality of most of that channels programming. The reason I am mentioning it is that it appeared to be a Discovery Channel documentary and may well be repeated at some point in the future and is well worth keeping an eye out for. The programme was called ‘The World’s First Predators’, and was an examination of the origins of the chordates and how our phylum had been kept in check by the arthropods in the Cambrian, and the nautiloids in the Ordovician. The programme argued the chordates did not emerge as top predator until the extinction of the sea scorpions, and up until this point had been largely a prey animal. The argument was basically that creatures such as Pikaia in the Cambrian had to adopt survival strategies such as burying in the silt in order to avoid becoming prey to the Dinocarids (e.g Anomalocaris). Thus it is quite conceivable that vertebrates would not have evolved to become the (arguably) dominant creatures on the planet if the top predators had evolved slightly different hunting strategies. The programme then went on to depict a huge (unnamed) orthocone nautiloid preying on a conodont, another fish like animal with a primitive spine and almost certainly on the lineage that led to us. The quality of the computer graphics was very good, not quite Walking With Dinosaurs, but nonetheless high quality. It was fantastic to see creatures such as Anomalocaris, Opabinia, Canadaspis, trilobites, nautiloids and many others reconstructed in a living believable ecosystem. The programme did have a couple of faults, there were rather too many shots of a bald man staring at a snail and beetle on a table (don’t ask) and a rather silly bit at the end where a computer mock-up was made of an ‘evolved’ man-sized insect but otherwise top notch programming. I just wish I could show you all!