Nature's Great Divide

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Nature's Great Divide

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THE WALLACE LINE: EXPLORING THE IMPACT OF WORLD’S MOST FASCINATING NATURAL BARRIER

Australia’s wilderness is a world unto itself, made possible by the protection provided by the Wallace Line. One of the most important boundaries in nature, it divides wild Australia from the rest of the world – and in doing so, has ensured that the incredible creatures of the great southern land have stayed, at an evolutionary level, completely distinct and separate from the rest of the world.

This captivating 3-part natural history series tells the story of this remarkable natural border. A narrow strait, deep and fast flowing, the Wallace Line runs between the Indonesian islands of Bali and Lombok.

Named for the naturalist who first identified it, the Wallace Line separates the wild worlds of Australia and Asia. On one side of the line, tigers stalk monkeys, and elephants shape the course of rivers. On the other side, mobs of kangaroos roam vast grasslands, and giant lizards hunt across arid plains. On each side of nature’s great divide, evolution has shaped species to fit their habitats, often in surprising ways.

It’s strange to think of an Australian forest filled by monkeys instead of koalas, of tigers roaming through the Daintree rainforest, and of elephants cooling themselves by the banks of the Murray River. Yet all of this would be possible if it wasn't for the Wallace Line, truly a ‘nature’s great divide’. Also astounding is that way that, separated by the line, very different species on each side of the divide evolved to play eerily similar roles in the landscape, filling ‘ecological niches’.

Behind the barrier that is the Wallace Line, Australian marsupials were safe from the big cats of Asia. In the forests and on the plains, marsupials were able to diversify like nowhere else on earth. In Australia there are no primates, so possums, sugar gliders and koalas were able to claim what would have been their territory. With no large predators to compete with, the Tasmanian devil was able to thrive on Australia’s most southern island. It's just one of the many species whose evolution tells a broader story about the epic forces that have shaped our world. Sometimes, species even shape each other. On both sides of the divide, species have co-evolved with the plants that support their life.

On each side of nature’s great divide, the lives of wild animals are tied to their environment. In the forests of Borneo, Orangutans teach their young to open the nessia fruit with rudimentary tools. Also on the Asian side of the line, on the volcanic island of Anuk Krakatoa, fig trees dominate the landscape. But they can only propagate thanks to a tiny species that has co-evolved alongside the figs, the fig wasp. This strange species lives, breeds and dies within the fig itself, the females only venturing outside the world of the fig fruit to spread pollen to another plant. While this co-dependency has developed over millions of years, powerful forces of nature can sometimes change a landscape in the geological equivalent of the blink of an eye.

Through the lens of the Wallace Line, we can see flora and fauna we thought we knew in a completely fresh way. Nature’s Great Divide is a celebration of the miracle that is the natural world, and of the geological accidents that preserved land masses as a separate ‘versions’ of creation. This is the story not just of individual species, but of the wild worlds they inhabit in parallel.

Presenterless version available.

Credits

WILDBEAR ENTERTAINMENT