Brazil’s Cerrado

On Brazil’s ancient Cerrado grassland a community of eccentric creatures has evolved to become totally inter-dependent, and all life revolves around mysterious mud-caked monoliths.

Produced by NHNZ

Brazil’s Cerrado is a sea of grass unlike any other on the planet.  The land is dominated by an annual cycle of arid drought, ravaging fire, and rejuvenating rain.  Spotted across the landscape are towering mud pillars.  These monoliths are termite mounds which are the key to all life here.

But aside from these mounds, the Cerrado seems deserted.   Where are the herds of large grazing animals and the predators that hunt them? Strangely they are there. This grassland is teeming with life under the surface

The cast of characters is wide and weird and none behave as expected.  The grazers live underground and emerge only at night, the predator has no teeth, a wolf hunts fruit, monkeys walk upright, and once a year the mysterious mud monoliths are illuminated as if stars have fallen from the sky.

Here, the herds of grazing animals are actually tiny termites.  Each colony harvests a massive amount of grass every night and each colonist retreats to its mud fortress in daylight hours.  The predator is the slow moving Giant Anteater.  It evolved strong claws and a super long tongue… ideal for sucking up termites inside their mound.  But there’s a mystery here.  The anteater only spends a few minutes at each mound, leaving most of the colony behind.  Why not feast on them all?

The Maned Wolf has stilt like legs, allowing it to see over the tall grass.  But strangely this wolf prefers to hunt fruit instead of flesh.  In turn, the tree bearing the fruit depends on the wolf to spread its seeds.  Why would the wolf evolve into a fruit eater?

It’s a unique community of co-evolution where each bizarre creature plays a critical role, keeping the entire ecosystem in balance. The Cerrado’s animals are a tight-knit guild of co-dependent survivors.  Each year they withstand drought, fires, and spectacular rebirth.  But none of the creatures could survive alone…each depends on the others.  How did these evolutionary alliances come to be?

Episodes From This Series

Borneo

48 minutes / 2014

Japan

50 minutes / 2010

Brazil’s Cerrado

50 minutes / 2010

Australia

50 minutes / 2010

New Zealand

50 minutes / 2010

Costa Rica

48 minutes / 2014

Africa’s Albertine Rift

1 hour / 2014

China – Roof of the World

1 hour / 2014

Western Ghats and Sri Lanka

1 hour / 2014

The Arid Namib

1 hour / 2014

Madagascar

1 hour / 2010

Africa’s Rift Valley lakes

1 hour / 2010