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About the series

A world in miniature...

It’s time for the little guys to take centre stage.

With a cast of miniature marvels all less than a foot in size, the heroes of Hidden Kingdoms may be small but they’re able to pack a punch well above their weight. This is drama on a different scale, designed for maximum energy and emotion.

From chipmunks to beetles, they’re all at the mercy of the elements, which can blow their world apart in an instant. When you are just a few inches tall, raindrops fall like meteorites, dust stings like gravel and a sudden gust of wind feels like a tornado.

Time also has a different meaning here and the pace of life is dramatically altered. A tree shrew, for example, must eat every three hours in order to survive. Every second counts and from dawn to dusk, the clock is ticking...

It’s ‘mini meets mighty’ as these tiny heroes face huge adversity and epic adventure.

Filmed against a backdrop of the planet’s most iconic landscapes – savannah and desert, jungle and forest, and metropolis – Hidden Kingdoms reveals these worlds in a completely new, hyper-real way, and from a whole new perspective.

Meet the cast

Hidden Kingdoms

Grasshopper mouse

Grasshopper mice live in the deserts of western America. Their territories can be over 300 metres wide and are marked with a distinctive scent so they can follow their noses home.To defend their territory, they stake a claim with a warning howl.

Their enemies include scorpions, rattlesnakes and Harris hawks.

They are nocturnal, preferring to avoid the dangerously high daytime temperatures of the desert as much as possible. If they get caught in the rain, their small bodies mean they chill very fast. The mouse can shake 30 times a second, generating forces of 70 g – four times more than a shaking dog.

Grasshopper mice hunt scorpions whose venom could kill a human and whose sting causes us crippling pain. Not only are these mice immune to the venom, but they can block the pain of the sting. Scorpions are hardly enemies to attack with your eyes closed, and yet a grasshopper mouse does just that, approaching it with nothing but its whiskers to home in on, and react to, its deadly prey.

Hidden Kingdoms

Sengi

The elephant shrew, or sengi, lives in the African plains and is related to aardvarks, hyraxes, sea cows and even elephants. This tiny mammal must survive in a world beneath the feet of some of the largest animals on earth.

Unlike most small mammals, the sengi doesn't construct burrows for protection and shelter, but instead rests for only 2-3 minutes at a time. The key to its survival is its incredible speed, as it constantly races through the miniature jungles of the savannah’s grasslands.

The cheetah has long been thought to be the fastest animal on land, but when it comes to a 'truer' measure of speed – body lengths per second – the sengi wins hands down.

They owe their speed to a network of miniature racetracks they build in the savannah, spending as much as half their waking hours sweeping aside every last piece of debris to create the perfect, pristine racetrack on which to exhibit their cheetah-beating speed.

Dung beetle - Hidden Kingdoms

Dung beetle

Dung beetles can sniff the whiff of dung half a mile away.

They saw up the dung with serrations on their head and their legs, like spades, shape it into perfect balls. They use these balls as both food for themselves and to provide for a growing family.

Male dung beetles attract females by building the biggest balls of dung they can. Females then lay their eggs inside the balls.

Dung beetles roll their balls by pushing ‘backwards’, so head down with their back legs doing the work. When rolling a dung ball, they travel in straight lines and keep going in the same direction, no matter what's in their way.

Pound for pound, a dung beetle is stronger than an elephant: it can push the equivalent of a truck.

Hidden Kingdoms

Chipmunk

Chipmunks are small, striped rodents that live in the wild woods of North America, with the exception of the Siberian chipmunk, which is found primarily in Asia.

They have enormous power and flexibility and are able to twist their upper and lower bodies in opposite directions, even in mid-air.

A chipmunk's diet consists primarily of seeds, nuts and other fruits, but they also commonly eat grass, fungi, insects, worms and bird eggs. They stuff food into their generous cheek pouches and carry it to their burrow or nest to store.

Chipmunks may tunnel 10 metres down to keep their nuts safe and they need to, because as winter approaches, it’s every chipmunk for himself – they have no concerns about stealing each other’s supplies.

Hidden Kingdoms

Tree shrew

The tree shrew is a small squirrel-like mammal that lives in the tropical rainforest. They live in the canopies of the trees and are extremely agile, helping them jump from tree to tree in search of fruit to eat.

They have one of the largest brains for their body size and also have a very fast metabolism, so need food every few hours.

There are more tiny creatures in the rainforest undergrowth than anywhere on Earth, so competition is fierce. The tree shrew must also compete for fruit with animals such as orangutans, which are 500 times their size.

Their predators include pythons, which can follow the trails of small mammals in the dark using heat sensors.

You might also think that the largest meat-eating plant in the world, the pitcher plant, might also be a predator to watch out for. But strangely enough, the plants are more interested in the tree shrew's dung.

The plants lure tree shrews with their sweet-tasting sap, which contains a laxative. They then collect the feeding mammal's droppings and collect the nitrogen from the dung.

Hidden Kingdoms

Marmoset

Most marmosets are about 20cm (8in) long and are native to South America.

They're most at home in the treetops of the forest and are superbly adapted to run through the tree canopy, using branches thinner and flimsier than most other tree-dwelling animals.

Marmosets live in groups and are daytime animals. At night they retreat to the tree tops and huddle together for safety.

They're also known to roam the city of Rio de Janeiro in gangs – sticking together makes it easier for them to look out for each other.

In the city, they face unfamiliar predators such as cats and dogs – in the forest they are prey to larger mammals, snakes and birds.

Hidden Kingdoms

Rhinoceros beetle

The rhinoceros beetle is among the largest of beetles, reaching more than 15cm (6in) in length. Despite their huge size, they're completely harmless to humans because they cannot bite or sting.

They get their name from the characteristic horns that the males display. Each has a horn on the head and another horn pointing forward from the center of the thorax. They use their horns to fight other males during mating season, and for digging.

For their size, they are the strongest creature on Earth and are able to lift 100 times their body weight.

They can take off vertically and can fold their wings to drop suddenly from the sky to avoid predators.

Their natural habitat is the forest, but in Tokyo, rhinoceros beetles often confuse the city lights for moonlight.

In the wild, beetles bury themselves in the ground to sit out dangers that the day brings. Despite its strength, it cannot burrow through concrete, making it a potential target for predators such as crows, which can crack the beetle’s armour with their beaks.

Hidden Kingdoms

Jumping spider

Jumping spiders are known for their good vision, which they use in courtship, hunting and navigation.

They don't build webs to catch their prey like other spiders. Instead, they stalk their prey and, using a very precise measure of perspective, leap onto their victims, judging the distance to perfection and injecting a rapidly-acting venom before their victim has much time to react.

Jumping spiders are generally carnivorous, preferring to eat insects, like flies, bees and grasshoppers. But there are some species that have a sweet tooth and who include nectar in their diets.

Jumping spiders have four pairs of eyes – three secondary pairs that are fixed and a principal pair that they can move. However, their compound eyes only work in the right wavelength of light.

In Tokyo, when bathed in the red light of a traffic light, their distance perception is out of alignment and every jump misses the target. It's only when the lights turn green that everything snaps back into focus.